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.


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