Gasoline Alley: the final stop before the cars grid up in their traditional rows of three. Gasoline hasn’t been used in Gasoline Alley during the Month of May for over half a century. All fuels have been an alcohol blend since 1964 when gasoline was banned after a horrific, fiery crash that claimed the lives of two drivers.
It really is hard to describe just how many people attend the 500 every year. The entire pitlane and front stretch are packed with fans and even two hours before the race, the stands are filling up. Note the clouds in the sky. On Carb Day, the weather was forecast for 90% chance of rain on Race Day starting at noon. By 8am Sunday, that had changed to 40% chance of rain, and it wasn't to arrive until 4pm or so. This would give just enough time to run the full race distance…if the weather man was right that is. So not only would the drivers be racing each other, they would be racing against Mother Nature.
Pre-race in the pitlane is a busy affair with teams working around the massive crowd that is filing into the stands. Crew members stand guard to ensure their cars aren’t damaged as the fans take pictures and ask questions.
At 12:20, the famous command was given to fire up the engines. All 33 cars started up and pulled away in formation. Row 1 lines up beautifully for the first of the three parade laps.
While Takuma Sato and Fernando Alonso can both trace their roots through Formula 1, this was Sato’s eighth 500 start and his seventh full season: he is quite used to Indy’s flying starts. Alonso in the middle has never performed a flying start, much less one that is three wide down a literal tunnel of screaming fans. This is the one part of the race that you simply can’t practice. You have to hit the gas hope for the best. Every single driver who has done it can tell you that there is absolutely nothing that compares to the start of the Indianapolis 500.
And, hit the gas they did! Polesitter Scott Dixon used his advantage and snapped up the lead as the field headed into Turn 1.