500 miles of history – How the Indy 500 works

Thirty-four drivers have their eyes on glory at the Racing Capital of the World in 2023


The Indy 500 is the headline event of the IndyCar calendar every year and the one race that the whole motorsport world looks forward to.

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the 107th edition of the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is roaring into life with practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Every year sees thousands of new people to the race so for those who are hoping to watch the race for the very first time, here is how the Indy 500 works.

Indy 500 Schedule

The Indy 500 is scheduled for May 28 but the practice sessions actually began on May 16. From then until May 20, all teams get plenty of time to test everything and anything ahead of the qualifying weekend.

For those who want to watch loads of cars on track at once during practice, it is best to wait until the final hour of each day which is dubbed ‘Happy Hour’ by the IndyCar community.

It’s as the sun begins to set that all the teams look to run together in a big pack and learn about their race car. The final hour also sees some drivers put up their fastest times of the day to send a statement to the rest of the field.

Two days of qualifying then follows before the final two practice sessions on May 22 and May 26, bookending a week of media activities.

The race on May 28 then ends the festivities for another year and IndyCar head off around the country to continue their season.

Race format

It’s quite simple really, 200 laps (which equals 500 miles on the 2.5-mile oval) and whoever completes them the fastest wins. Well, maybe it’s not that easy.

The race actually starts with a three-by-three rolling start but the cars can only do between 25 and 35 laps on one tank of fuel which means there will be at least five pit stops per car and possibly even more if cautions come around.

You will often see the driver at the front forced to pit first due to not being able to save much fuel and the further back in the queue you are, the more fuel you can save and pit later than the rest.

Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis is a motorsport journalist with experience working in BTCC. He is the resident IndyCar correspondent for Total-Motorsport.com and a top class F1 writer.
- Advertisment -


Liam Lawson prepares for free practice at the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix | Peter Fox/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull bosses agree on Liam Lawson F1 prospects in 2025

Christian Horner and RB CEO Peter Bayer refused to back Liam Lawson's prospects for a full-time Formula 1 drive...
Carlos Sainz looks on at the 2024 Monaco GP | Ferrari

After Carlos Sainz’s Mercedes denial, why does his future remain an enigma?

Ferrari swinging the axe on Carlos Sainz's career in scarlet must have stung, but the Spaniard at least had...
Charles Leclerc dives into the Monaco harbour | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Where does Charles Leclerc rank 2024 Monaco Grand Prix win?

Charles Leclerc is a race winner for the first time in almost two years as the Ferrari ace crushed...
Charles Leclerc celebrates winning the 2024 Monaco GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

What we learned from the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix

The 2024 Monaco Grand Prix may not have served up a classic, but it wasn’t short on storylines as...
Sergio Perez talks to his engineer Hugh Bird and team principal Christian Horner in the garage | Mark Thompson / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Look away Checo – Horner praises Perez’s F1 rival as star fights for Red...

Christian Horner insists Red Bull will make a decision about Sergio Perez's Red Bull future "in the fullness of...
Max Verstappen during 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Winners and Losers of 2024 Monaco GP

Charles Leclerc vanquished his Monte Carlo demons to finally take victory at his home race, while Red Bull continued...
Daniel Ricciardo of Visa Cash App RB during the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Driver Ratings – Monaco GP 2024

Charles Leclerc was in dreamland as the Ferrari driver finally celebrated an elusive victory at home race at the...
Josef Newgarden drinks his milk after winning the 2024 Indy 500 | Penske Entertainment: James Black

2024 Indy 500 Race Results

Josef Newgarden joined an elite group of drivers by winning the Indy 500 for the second consecutive year in...
Josef Newgarden celebrates winning the 2024 Indy 500 | Penske Entertainment: Amber Pietz

Newgarden takes sensational Indy 500 win after epic battle for glory

The Indianapolis 500 never fails to excite and even a four-hour rain delay couldn't dampen the drama for IndyCar's...
Tom Blomqvist crashes in Lap 1 at the 2024 Indy 500 | Penske Entertainment: Aaron Skillman

2024 Indy 500: Results and Highlights as Newgarden wins

Welcome to this Total Motorsport live blog for the 2024 Indy 500, is among the most prestigious motorsport events...
- Advertisment -