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Exclusive Sneak Preview: Historic Indy 500 "Class Photo"

This just in: Indianapolis Motor Speedway will include a historic, unpublished photograph in its 2012 Indianapolis 500 program. May Madness and have an exclusive sneak preview.

Here’s the backstory:

Just a few years ago, IMS officials were having difficulty even filling out a starting field of 33 drivers for the 500-mile race. So what on earth made them think they could get every living Indy driver on the planet to show up at the track on the same day?

Call them crazy. But last year, preparations for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 had them thinking big. “I thought our attention should be on the participants rather than celebrities, politicians, and reality-show stars,” says IMS historian Donald Davidson. “One thing led to another, and we started saying, ‘Let’s see if we can get everyone together for one super-duper class photo.”

When Mari Hulman George, daughter of legendary former IMS owner Tony Hulman, started mailing out letters in November 2010, the list of living drivers who had raced in at least one 500 ran to nearly 270 names. When the morning of May 28, 2011 rolled around—the day before the race—161 of them, including rookies who’d qualified for 2011, were gathered behind the Pagoda, waiting to say “cheese.”

It was the largest group of Indianapolis 500 drivers ever assembled.

The photograph, which organizers are calling the “Class Photo,” includes many of the biggest names in the sport, such as four-time winners A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser—all sitting together—and current stars like Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti.

The May Madness and preview of the iconic image includes bonus detail shots and bios for 33 of the most notable, most recognizable, most memorable faces from that historic day.

Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.