IMS Pagoda
IMS Pagoda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Good morning, Race Fans! at 4am at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the track is already bustling, anticipating the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. All the Yellow Shirts are in place and/or being shuttled to their posts. The TV people are in place to broadcast live feeds from their varying sites around the 2.5 paved oval. The myriads of media are schlepping in from their far-away parking sites. Teams are coming in their designated gates and breaking off towards their respective garages.

Outside the track the eager fans are lined up for blocks awaiting the track opening. The cannon goes off at 6am and the sunrises at 6:23 am.

Based on the large crowds every day, Sunday’s attendance could be better than the past few years.

Today’s prizes include the BorgWarner Trophy, the Victory Lane wreath and a bottle of milk. Everything is steeped in tradition at The Brickyard for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The BorgWarner is more than five feet tall, weighing in at 110 pounds, 80 pounds of which is sterling silver, and is worth $3.5 million (more than the figure I quoted yesterday.) It has 100 individual faces, representing 10 countries and 20 US states.

The Victory Lane Wreath has 33 white orchids, with various foliage, weighs 30 pounds and takes seven hours to assemble. The only wreath not assembled for Victory Lane was created to honor two-time Indy 500 Champion, Dan Wheldon, at is Memorial.

The bottle of milk has been off and on since 1936 and ongoing since 1956. It is presented by the American Dairy Association, which sponsor a purse for the drinking of it in Victory Lane.

The Honorary Starter for Sunday’s race will be actor/racer, Patrick Dempsey.

The Pace Lap will be driven by NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, Jeff Gordon. He is on a tight schedule, coming in from Charlotte to drive the Corvette Pace Car and then flying back to Charlotte for Sunday’s Coca Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This is Gordon’s final year as a full-time active Cup driver. Next year he assumes a new full-time role as a NASCAR TV Analyst for Fox Sports. He will join Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip in the booth. He is the only Cup driver to have hosted Saturday Night Live. Gordon will be doing some in-car race reporting this season.