Indianapolis 500 in film and media

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Promotional movie prop for the motion picture Turbo.

The Indianapolis 500 auto race has been the subject for several motion pictures. It has also received countless references in television, film, commercials, books, and other media. The following is a list of such references.

Highlight films[edit]

Official highlight films for the Indianapolis 500 date back to about 1949. However, newsreel films and highlight films for races prior to WWII also exist, including footage of the inaugural 500 in 1911. Currently, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway produces an official release. Previously, it was not uncommon for multiple films to be produced annually. Among the companies that sponsored films were Firestone, STP, Bowes Seal Fast, Ford, Chrysler, and Ashland Oil.

Narration for the films was performed by several individuals, including Sid Collins, Bud Lindemann, Ralph Camargo, Stan Richards, Marvin Miller, Charlie Brockman, Tom Carnegie, Paul Page, and Bob Jenkins. In some of the films, IMS Radio Network audio is used, featuring Jenkins, Mike King, and others.

The Legends of the Brickyard[edit]

In 1987, ESPN re-packaged the Indianapolis 500 highlight films into a television series. The episodes from 1975-1986 were included in a series titled The Legends of the Brickyard, which was hosted by Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber. The duo would appear at the beginning and end of each episode, and at commercial bumpers to add brief commentary about the race. All of the segments were recorded at the Speedway, and most were done in the pit area during practice for the 1987 Indy 500. Additional episodes were added in subsequent years for the races of 1987-1996. Jenkins and Nuber hosted the episode for the 1987 race, but for 1988-1993, only Jenkins appeared since Nuber was no longer with the network. The episodes for 1994-1996 featured no host. Some of the episodes were slightly edited for content and time, and were made to fit a 30-minute broadcast window. The final original episode that aired highlighted the 1996 race, and the series was rerun on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Classic through 2000.

Indy 500: A Race for Heroes[edit]

Starting in 1989, ESPN started producing a second Indy 500-related program, Indy 500: A Race for Heroes. Similar to The Legends of the Brickyard, but each episode focuses on one particular driver, and their career at Indianapolis. It aired in reruns through about 2000. The drivers featured were Sam Hanks, Jimmy Bryan, Mauri Rose, Wilbur Shaw, Tony Bettenhausen, Dan Gurney, Bill Vukovich, Roger Penske, Mark Donohue, Tom Sneva, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Troy Ruttman, Jim Rathmann, Louis Meyer, Johnny Rutherford, A. J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser, Sr., Al Unser, Jr., Bobby Unser, Gordon Johncock, Arie Luyendyk, Emerson Fittipaldi, Rodger Ward, and British Invasion. Several episodes were made available on, and the Foyt episode was included on a 2007 DVD release.

Indy 500: The Classics[edit]

Speedvision re-packaged the Indianapolis 500 highlight films from 1960-1989, with the exception of 1967, and aired them in a 30-minute format. The show was hosted by Mike King and Donald Davidson. When Speedvision reorganized into SPEED, the program was no longer aired.


The ESPN documentary series SportsCentury has featured several Indy 500 drivers. The original top 100 voting included A. J. Foyt (#80) and Mario Andretti (#92), but episodes were not initially created for those two drivers.

After the original run, the series was expanded, and eventually included episodes for the following Indy 500 drivers: A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Sr., Bill Vukovich, and Rick Mears. Brickyard 400 winners Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, and Tony Stewart have also been featured.


  • Racing Hearts (1922) - silent film featuring actual drivers Edward Heffman, Jerry Wunderlich, Jimmy Murphy, Tommy Milton and Ralph DePalma.
  • Speedway (1929) - starring William Haines, Anita Page. Bill Whipple (Haines) is a cocky racer and mechanic, on the track, and chases Patricia (Page) around longing to impress her.
  • The Crowd Roars (1932) - starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell
  • Speed (1936) - starring Jimmy Stewart
  • Indianapolis Speedway (1939) - Also known as: Devil on Wheels, remake of The Crowd Roars
  • Sport Chumpions (1941) - final scene is set at the "Indianapolis Speed Classic." The race's name is a reference to the Indianapolis 500.
  • The Big Wheel (1949) - starring Mickey Rooney Thomas Mitchell. Racer Billy Coy (Rooney) is the son of a great auto racer who was killed at the Indianapolis 500. He is branded a daredevil after causing the death of another driver, and strains to rebuild his career and personal life.
  • To Please a Lady (1950) - starring Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck. Columnist Regina Forbes (Stanwyck) writes an article about driver Mike Brannan (Gable) claiming he is reckless and blames him for the death of another driver. Brannan then tries to clean up his act, and at the same time, win Regina's love.
  • Roar of the Crowd (1953) - starring Howard Duff, Helene Stanley. Racer Johnny Tracy (Duff) wants to race at the Indianapolis 500, but his girlfriend wants him to retire. He agrees to retire after the race, but gets injured in a crash. He then works to get back to the track, and get her to change her mind about his retirement.
  • Winning (1969) - starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Robert Wagner. Frank Capua (Newman) is a rising star on the race circuit who dreams of winning the big one - the Indianapolis 500. But to get there he runs the risk of losing his wife Elora (Woodward) to his rival, Luther Erding (Wagner), and strains the relationship with his stepson Charley (Richard Thomas).
  • Turbo (2013) - computer-animated film starring Ryan Reynolds as the title character, a snail who dreams of being the greatest racer in the world and to win the Indianapolis 500, but his brother, Chet (Paul Giamatti) will try to hinder Turbo's dream.

Film references[edit]

  • A Christmas Story (1983) - During the flat tire scene, the narrator, Jean Shepherd, explains that the Old Man always dreamed of being "in the pits at the Indianapolis Speedway in the 500."
  • The Brave Little Toaster (1987) - During the junkyard scene, one of the cars sent to the crushing machine claims he "once ran the Indy 500."
  • Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) - Closing credits show a Motor Trend magazine reporting "Reaper wins Indy 500."
  • Grease (1978) - During the "Greased Lightnin" scene in the garage, an accurate, authentic period Firestone Indianapolis 500 advertisement poster is located on the wall in the background.
  • Apocalypse Now (1979) - Captain Willard states that "Charging a man with murder in this place (VietNam) was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500."
  • Platoon (1986) - Bunny states that "Ain't nothing like a piece of pussy, except maybe the Indy 500."
  • JFK (1991) - Susie Cox states that she had spoken to a car salesman who had accompanied Lee Harvey Oswald on a test drive who said that Oswald "took the curves like A.J. Foyt at the Indy 500."
  • Days of Thunder (1990) - When asked what his goal was in open-wheel auto racing, Cole Trickle said, "Indianapolis, but you can't win in Indy without a great car and my name's not Andretti or Unser."
  • Speed Racer (2008) indirectly references the Indy 500 with the winner of the Grand Prix drinking from a bottle of milk.
  • The Blob (1958) - The scene where the Blob absorbs two mechanics working in a garage, an Indianapolis 500 poster on the wall. It is visible while one of the mechanics takes a phone call.
  • Gangway for Tomorrow (1943) features a flashback sequence with character Joe Dunham (Robert Ryan) reminiscing about almost winning the "500". He suffered a blown right front tire in the closing laps. The film shows some historical footage of the race.
  • Godzilla vs Megalon (1973) - A photo of Al Unser's 1970 Johny Lightning Indy 500 winning car can be seen in Dr. Ibuki's lab, as well as Indianapolis Motor Speedway stickers on his car on each of the side windows.
  • Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)

-The junkyard owner sarcastically say that Herbie winning the Ugly-annapolis 500, making a pun of the "500"


  • On the May 18, 1991 episode of Saturday Night Live, a sketch featured Bill Swerski's Superfans discussing the prospects of the Chicago Bears entering the Indianapolis 500 with Mike Ditka driving the team bus. On the December 12, 1998 episode, a "Bill Brasky" sketch starring Alec Baldwin, John Goodman, and Will Ferrell included dialog by Goodman's character (Ted): "Did I ever tell you about the time he taught his son how to drive? He did it by entering him in the Indy 500. The kid wrecked and died. Brasky said it would've happened sometime". They also did a 'pick the winner' in an imaginary scenario between Rick Mears, and the Chicago Bears in the aforementioned school bus. All but Pat (Mike Myers) picked the Bears. (Rick Mears won the 500 the following weekend.)
  • The sitcom Home Improvement had many references to the Indy 500 during its eight-season run. During DVD Audio commentary for the Pilot episode, co-creator David MacFadzean revealed that the Indy 500 and racing was a key theme to the show. His father-in-law worked for Thomas W. Binford, who at the time was the chief steward for the 500. MacFadzean thought that the name "Binford" was a perfect fit for a tool company, and decided to use it for the fictional Binford Tools.[1]
    • During a 1995 episode, a friend of Tim Taylor announces he's planning his wedding for Memorial Day weekend. A stunned Tim quickly whispers to him that's the weekend of the Indy 500, and the friend quickly corrects himself, and scheduled it for the following weekend.
    • In many other episodes, Tim's garage features an authentic "Gasoline Alley" street sign, an official Indianapolis Motor Speedway souvenir.
    • Indy drivers including Mario & Michael Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, Sr., Al Unser, Jr., and Robby Gordon, along with broadcaster Jack Arute, have all guest-starred on the program at one time.
  • On the Season 4/episode 15 of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Mr. Peabody takes Sherman in the WABAC machine to "meet the man who won the first Indianapolis auto race," Barnaby Victor.
  • On the December 10, 1964 episode of The Flintstones, Fred and Barney enter the "Indianrockolis 500" with Fred driving under the name "Goggles Pisanno."[2]
  • The Indy 500 was referred to at least twice in the television series M*A*S*H. In one instance, Corporal Klinger is driving Major Winchester to the Kimpo Airfield. Winchester demanded to know if the Jeep they were riding in could go any faster. Klinger replied, "There's a reason you don't see these things racing at Indianapolis". In another episode, an ambulance overturns when it is leaving the compound too quickly. When Radar informs Col. Potter about the incident, Potter exclaims "When are these boys gonna realize this isn't the Indianapolis 500!"
  • In an episode of The Brady Bunch ("The Wheeler-Dealer," October 8, 1971) where Greg gets a car, he says it's ".. the hottest set of wheels this side of Indianapolis!"
  • On an episode of The Jeffersons, a friend, who is interested in automobiles, states he desires to be the "first black driver in the Indianapolis 500."
  • Three 1999 episodes of COPS were filmed in the city of Indianapolis during race weekend of 1999. Footage of the 500 Festival Parade was shown, as well as police action outside the track the days leading up to the race.
  • On the March 27, 2001 episode of That '70s Show ("Eric's Naughty No-no"), Eric's aunt Paula tells about how she was "waving the starting flag at the Indy 500."[3]
  • On the November 19, 1999 episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the fastest finger question was "Put the following races in order according to their length, from the shortest to the longest." The Indianapolis 500 was one of the four answers. The correct player with the fastest time was John Carpenter, who would go on to become the first player on the U.S. version of the show to win the $1 million prize.
  • At least 23 episodes of Jeopardy! have featured Indy 500-related clues,[4][5] including two episodes which featured an entire category related to Indy,[6][7] and one episode that featured an Indy-related Final Jeopardy clue.[8]
  • On the November 12, 2006 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, host Ty Pennington was shown on the mainstraight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the opening sitting in an Indycar.
  • The pilot episode of Show Me the Money which aired November 14, 2006 featured the question: "Who finished 4th in the Indianapolis 500 in 2005, her rookie year in the Indy Racing League." The correct answer was Danica Patrick, and the contestant responded correctly.
  • In 2006, the Food Network hosted a Food Network Challenge cake decorating contest at the track. It was held in the infield the morning of the race. The winner was invited to compete in a later episode.
  • 2001 and 2002 Indy 500 winner Hélio Castroneves was a contestant on and won Season 5 of Dancing with the Stars. That ensuing May, his professional partner, Julianne Hough, sang the National Anthem and Season 6 champion Kristi Yamaguchi was the starter of the 2008 race.
  • On the series Roswell, the character Michael has a sign in his apartment, reading "Indy 500 fan parking only."
  • In the Jem episode "Intrigue at the Indy 500", rock star Jem races in and wins the Indy 500.
  • On the Beavis and Butt-head episode "Bus Trip," the school bus driver becomes angry when he is cut off by a reckless driver, and yells "this isn't the Indy you moron!"
  • Reality shows which include scenes filmed or featuring the race include: Man v. Food ("Indianapolis, Indiana"), American Chopper ("Window World Bike"), and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
  • Indy Racing League and Indianapolis 500 decals and souvenirs, and related content, have appeared in the background on shows including According to Jim, Grounded for Life, Everybody Loves Raymond, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, Family Foreman, Malcolm In The Middle and The King Of Queens.
  • During the 2010 season, the opening credits for NBC Sunday Night Football featured an image of Indy cars racing down the mainstrech at Indianapolis.
  • On the January 10, 2011 episode of Million Dollar Money Drop, the couple's first question was "Traditionally, winners of the Indianapolis 500 drink what kind of beverage in victory lane?" The choices were: A) "One made by Anheuser-Busch," B) "One made by Dom Pérignon," C) "One made by an Atlanta soft drink company," D) "One made by cows." The couple put all $1 million on "B," and lost all their money on the first question.


  • The Beach Boys song "Fun, Fun, Fun" includes the line "She makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now."
  • Rap duo Binary Star released a song titled "Indy 500" on their 2006 album Masters of the Universe.
  • "Indie 500" is a song by The Wrens on the 1996 album Secaucus.
  • An Indianapolis Motor Speedway sticker can be seen on a case in the video for Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey." The video itself was filmed during a concert which was held at Laguna Seca Raceway, a former Champ Car track.
  • The music video for the song "Real American" by Rick Derringer features a shot of Hulk Hogan superimposed over a photo of the start of the 1984 Indianapolis 500.
  • The Puerto Rican band Menudo made a song titled Indianapolis, promoting the Indianapolis 500.
  • Mark Knopfler wrote a song about a season of racing titled "Speedway At Nazareth" that includes a verse about going onto Indianapolis, Indiana, in May. "Well the Brickyard's there to crucify anyone who will not learn/I climbed a mountain to qualify/I went flat through the turns/But I was down in the might-have-beens and an old pal good as died/And I sat down in Gasoline Alley and I cried." The song appears on Knopfler's second solo album, Sailing to Philadelphia, released in September 2000.



Program cover art[edit]

Since the inception of the race in 1911, a collectible Official Program has been sold by the track each year at the race. The cover art for the program is typically created by a notable painter, illustrator, or photographer. With the exception of a period from roughly 1954-1976, each annual program has featured a unique cover, many commissioned by a renowned artist.

Recent program covers/artists: