The history behind the hottest temperatures at the Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Deep in the Indianapolis 500 archives are scorching tales of the hottest races on record. Temperatures testing every ounce of each driver — and that was May.

In 2020? This is August.

“After days like that you definitely feel the effects afterwards of a 500-mile race in those conditions,” Ed Carpenter said. “In all likelihood it is probably going to be a little bit more so now (in 2020).”

Three-time Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter knows the humid Hoosier heat better than any active driver. 

Outside of Carpenter, who is cool, calm and collected under any circumstances, how do IndyCar’s other stars feel about the move to August?  

“I have thought a lot about how hot it is going to be, that is the one thing I am not looking forward,” Alexander Rossi said. “But, it will be that way for everyone.”

“The heat, it is a concern but it is something we can’t control,” Tony Kanaan said. “But, it is Indy, it is 80 degrees one day but it could be 45 degrees the next. You could have snow the day before…you never know.”

Obsessing over the weather maps is an Indianapolis 500 tradition for race fans across the state. 

Three chapters stand out when it comes to excessive heat on race day. 

In 2018, Will Power surged past a 91 degree day to claim his first victory at the 500. Historically, 91 degrees is tied for the second highest temperature on record on race day.

In 1953, the front straightaway’s then brick surface reached 130 degrees.

After the race, victor Bill Vukovich sat exhausted, covered in muck and whatever else spewed out of his race car.

However 1937 is still the hottest on record. Despite 92-degree heat, Wilbur Shaw, the last native Hoosier to win the 500, conquered the field. 

Will the 104th running top them all?

“I don’t think we are going to break the record,” WISH-TV Chief Meteorologist Ashley Brown said. “When I look at the averages in the 80s, and you see the 90-degree days that happen in August, a lot of them have happened in the beginning of August.”

“I think we can tie the record, but I don’t think we can break it.”

If the heat alters history in 2020, the victor joins a special club.

We wait for August to make its entrance.


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