Participating solo in the first Indy 500, Ray Harroun was faced with a dilemma. Unlike all the other drivers taking part, he did not have a companion to warn him of any cars closing in from behind. He thus fashioned a makeshift rearview mirror on the spot, something that was unheard of at the time. Not only did he invent the first rearview mirror, he ended up winning the race.
But this was not the only time something was invented at the Indy 500, as the following years saw various innovations take root during the event. As the glorious Indy 500 reaches its 100 runs, more viewers will be able to witness the technological innovations that occur right in front of their eyes.
Grounds for Innovation
The harsh conditions, coupled with the minute scrutiny that is required during these races, provide fertile ground for tire manufacturers, automakers, and oil companies to test their new technologies. The recent replacement of steel parts in cars with lighter plastic alternatives, such as dashboards, was also an innovation made first on the racetrack. Moreover, car caring has also been responsible for introducing a number of safety features to road cars. Some of these include seatbelts, fire suspension, and impact systems.
Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, physicist and author of "The Physics of NASCAR", explains in her book how many of the safety features involved in race cars work, and how they have been developed over time.
Much More than a Race
Revolutionizing driving is not the only way the Indy 500 has served people since its inception. As the glorious Indy hits its 100, it has been touching the lives of about 500,000 people annually with its plethora of social, cultural, and educational events. Part of the 500 festival, the IPL 500 Festival Parade and OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon are aimed at bringing together various members of the community from diverse backgrounds and allowing them to connect with one another. Moreover, the festival is self-funded and the revenue is collected from sponsorships, ticket sales, corporate memberships as well as event registrations. With so many people coming from all over to socialize at one place, it is bound to result in improved social interactions.
Shaping Young Minds
The 500 Festival, with help from the Indianapolis 500 Education Program, teaches fourth-graders in Indiana about Indy 500’s history, in collaboration with Indiana University Health. The number of students that participate annually is a whopping 25,000. The number of students who have taken these history lessons in recent years is over 175,000. In addition to this, a further 71,000 have visited the celebrated oval for learning purposes. Not only does the 500 employ a number of people, an additional 7,000 volunteers provide devote their time to the Festival on an annual basis.
As Indy 500 hits its glorious 100, it’s safe to say that it has not only been a source of joy for its audiences but has also been giving back to the people at local, regional and national levels with its community services. The trend it set for beginning technological innovations all the way back in 1911 persists till date, giving back today at a global level.