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Everything To Know about the Indy 500

From start times to the drivers favored to win, here's everything racing fans should know about the 2024 Indianapolis 500.

By Chris Phelan

It's never too soon to start the hype train for one of the racing world's most prestigious events, the Indianapolis 500!

The 500-mile race has been the gold standard in racing for well over a century, and its importance to the sport is similar to the Super Bowl's impact on the NFL, WrestleMania on WWE, and the World Series on Major League Baseball. Predictably, expectations for this year's event are higher than ever. We'll be honest; if last year's race is any indication, IndyCar fans are in for a treat in 2024:

However, as exciting as the 2023 Indy 500 was, it's time to look ahead to this year's race. Here's everything you need to know about the 2024 Indianapolis 500:

When is the Indy 500?

The 2024 edition of the Indianapolis 500, which marks the 108th time 33 drivers compete for the top crown in IndyCar racing, is scheduled for Sunday, May 26, 2024. Mark your calendars, race fans: the 2024 Indy 500 will be the highlight of your Memorial Day weekend!

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Patricio O'Ward leads teammate Felix Rosenqvist during the NTT IndyCar Series 107th Indianapolis 500

What Time Does the Indy 500 Start?

Coverage on NBC begins at 11 a.m. ET, with the race officially slated to start at approximately 12:45 p.m. ET. Historically, the race takes around three hours.

In other words, clear your Memorial Day Sunday schedule now; tell the family you'll be locked in to NBC until mid-afternoon!

General view of cars on the track during The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500

Where Does the Indy 500 Take Place?

Fittingly, the Indianapolis 500 takes place at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway in (you guessed it) Indianapolis, Indiana.

Constructed in 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first American racetrack to be coined a "speedway." Boasting more than 250,000 seats, the venue is the ideal place to take in the most prestigious event in IndyCar racing. 

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How Many Laps is the Indy 500?

Contrary to what casual fans may believe, drivers do not make 500 revolutions around the track during the Indy 500. The Indianapolis 500 consists of 200 laps. That's right; the Indy 500 is named after the number of miles each driver must complete before being crowned the winner, not the number of laps.

Drivers knock two-and-a-half miles off their to-do list every time they complete a lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's simple, straightforward, and representative of the nature of Indycar racing: it's a no-frills race to the finish that's easy to understand, watch, and cheer on.

Felix Rosenqvist leads the race during The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500

Who Has Won the Indy 500?

Over the race's 107-year history, 75 different drivers have taken home the checkered flag. Last year, American Josef Newgarden won the Indianapolis 500 in a thrilling finish over Sweden's Marcus Ericsson. This tiny bit of trivia is important because, in 2022, Ericsson won the entire thing – and ultimately couldn't run it back in 2023.

Ericsson aimed to be the first person since Hélio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002 to be a back-to-back Indy 500 winner. (Who knows, though? Perhaps he can win two races in three years with another dominant performance in the 2024 race.)

Notable past winners include IndyCar legends like Mario Andretti (1969), Al Unser (1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987), and his son, Al Unser, Jr. (1992 and 1994).

Josef Newgarden posing for a photo with his wife Ashley Newgarden after winning the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500

Who Are the Top Contenders For the Indy 500?

Even though a race like the Indianapolis 500 is increasingly difficult to predict (especially in the ultra-competitive modern era of IndyCar), there is still a general consensus of which drivers are favored to win this year's event.

Spain's Alex Palou, Mexico's Pato O'Ward, and the U.S.'s Josef Newgarden are the consensus betting favorites to win the checkered flag, and for good reason. 

Palau is the IndyCar Series 2021 and 2023 champion, and he would love nothing more than to add an Indy 500 win to his already impressive trophy case. O'Ward, 24, is regarded by many as the future of IndyCar racing, and many believe it's only a matter of time before he captures a coveted Indianapolis 500 victory. Newgarden was Series champion in 2017 and 2019 – which feels like an eternity ago. A second consecutive win at the Indy 500 would catapult him back into the spotlight, where many racing fans think he belongs. 

Is Kyle Larson Racing in the Indy 500?

Fans of one of the most popular NASCAR drivers on the planet will be happy to know that Kyle Larson will be in the field of 33 at the Indy 500 on May 26. In 2023, Larson completed the IndyCar rookie orientation program and qualified for the Indy 500, officially entering rarefied air.

Larson has a busy day planned for May 26 – he'll be attempting the legendary Memorial Day "Double," which involves racing in the Indy 500 in the early afternoon, followed by competing in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, North Carolina, later that day. (Yes, it's as unbelievable as it sounds, but that's how Larson operates!)

Kyle Larson enters his car for the NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 07, 2024 in Martinsville, Virginia.

Only five drivers in racing history can boast of completing the Memorial Day "Double" – although none have won the Indy 500. On May 26, Larson looks to take his place in the history books as the rare NASCAR driver to win the Indianapolis 500. It's a win-win for racing, regardless of what genre you cheer for. For those wondering, Larson is not only aware of the immense pressure on his shoulders during Memorial Day weekend, but he's embracing it wholeheartedly.

An Indy 500 victory by a driver primarily known for his NASCAR prowess would rock the racing world to its core, to say the least. (In other words, get your DVRs ready, race fans!)

How to Watch the Indy 500

Race fans have two fantastic options to watch the flagship event of the 2024 IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis 500: live on NBC or live on Peacock.

Since 2019, NBC has been the official home of the event known as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," and the 2024 iteration promises more of the trademark nonstop action the IndyCar Series is known around the globe for.

Remember, although the official race is Sunday, May 26, Indianapolis 500 qualifying coverage – including determining the starting grid of the big race itself – begins a week earlier, at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 19, on NBC and Peacock. Hardcore fans know that the drama doesn't begin at the start of the Indy 500, but during the qualifying coverage!

Now that you have all the information you need, there's nothing left to do except secure the most comfortable spot on your living room couch on May 26. Our guts tell us it will be a race for the ages. 

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