WORST (or BEST) of the Indianapolis 500 Infield People Watching

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The Indianapolis 500 is the world’s highest attended single day event. Its total capacity is approximately 400,000 with about 125,000 located in the cheapest and most “festive” seats of the infield.

All newbies marvel at the sheer size of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway upon entering it the first time. The modern day answer to Circus Maximus is large enough to hypothetically house the Vatican, Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl all at the same time.

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All seems right at 96th Indianapolis 500

The Month of May has come and gone again with the completion of another 500-mile stroll around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

There have been plenty of Mays in the last 16 years — the time in which U.S. open-wheel racing endured a crippling 12-year civil war and its aftermath — that have gone by without much of the luster that traditionally has accompanied the Indianapolis 500, that have left observers wondering if the race could ever again truly live up to its billing as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

I’m here to tell you this: On Sunday, the 96th running of the 500, which Dario Franchitti claimed for his third career Indy victory, it did. In every way imaginable.

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The 96th Indianapolis 500 ushers in a new era

Perhaps what truly makes the Indianapolis 500 “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is tradition.

Indeed, few things change about the most significant annual event in motorsports. Whenever you enter the storied 2 1/2-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you often feel as if you have never left.

As firmly steeped in tradition as the 500 is — the festivities during the Month of May, the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the race, the drinking of ice-cold milk in Victory Lane — one of those very traditions is evolution.

We’ll get just that in this, the 96th running of the race, which begins at noon Sunday. New cars, new stars, new hope — a new era.

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Indy 500 starting point to see rule changes

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IndyCar racing officials have decided to eliminate double-file restarts this season at three major ovals: Indianapolis, Texas and Fontana. Race director Beaux Barfield said the decision was made for two reasons: the location of the acceleration point at those particular tracks and drivers’ concerns.

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Danica Patrick to do Coca-Cola 600 instead of Indy 500

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For the first time since 2004, the Indianapolis 500 will not include Danica Patrick. She is skipping it to do the Coca-Cola 600 instead; giving up her self-described favorite race in order to focus on her full-time shift to NASCAR.

Patrick never won the race, but she finished in the top 10 in all but one of her seven starts. She is also the first and only woman to have ever held a lead in that race.

More from Fox Sports:

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Indianapolis 500 Winner Dan Wheldon Dies in Crash During IndyCar Finale

It was supposed to be a great day for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Instead, it was one of the worst, darkest days in the recent history of U.S. open-wheel racing.

Mere laps into the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, an horrific accident collected 15 of the 34 cars, including that being driven by Dan Wheldon, the winner of this year’s Indianapolis 500. Wheldon’s car was launched over the back of another machine and went airborne, was collected in the catch fence along the back stretch of the 1.5-mile oval, and rendered Wheldon unresponsive. He was airlifted to a nearby health center where he was pronounced dead from “unsurvivable injuries.”

It’s a heartbreaking and crushing loss. INDYCAR, a professional sporting organization that seemingly has experienced more than its fair share of misfortune, was robbed of one of its best drivers, ambassadors and, most importantly, one of its best people.

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Indianapolis Colts — And Fans — Need to Prove Themselves Against Pittsburgh

After two bad losses to open the 2011 NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts are close to confirming everyone’s worst fears about the team without Peyton Manning.

Tonight’s prime-time matchup with the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at Lucas Oil Stadium can either establish one and for all that the Colts can’t contend without their four-time MVP starting quarterback, or it can be a proving ground for them to show that they can.

But the Colts aren’t the only ones who have something to prove at tonight’s game. Colts fans do, too.

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J.R. Hildebrand, Dan Wheldon and Crazy Indy 500 Ending (Video)

Are you familiar with the German word “schadenfreude?” It’s notoriously untranslatable because no other language has word for enjoying the suffering of others.

Then again, us Americans have reality show television. But we certainly saw this concept in action Sunday at the Indianapolis 500.

J.R. Hildebrand took the lead in the Indy 500 into the last turn when the rookie driver made a huge mistake. (You’ll hear the announcer say “he’s this close to winning the Indy 500”) In an attempt to pass, Hildebrand went and smashed into the wall.

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100th-Anniversary Indianapolis 500 Could be a Transformational Race

Call me delusional. Call me naive or caught up in the fanfare. Call me whatever. All I can do is go with a gut feeling.

And that gut feeling is that this Indianapolis 500, which falls on the 100th anniversary of Ray Harroun’s inaugural victory in 1911, is going to be different.

The centennial running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” which takes the green flag at noon today at the venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has incredible potential compared to its predecessors of the last few years — maybe even the last few decades. Amidst honoring and celebrating the history of the Indy 500 and the opening of a gateway to a new era in U.S. open-wheel racing lies an opportunity to instill the excitement, the buzz that has been missing from this race for far too long.

By Drew Allen

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Indianapolis 500 Pole Day Preview