In America, car racing usually comes in one form; NASCAR. Events such as the Daytona 500 or the Indy 500 hold a special place in American racing culture, and the NASCAR Cup Series is one of the most-watched sporting events every year. Talladega Superspeedway is home to the longest NASCAR oval track and can hold up to 175,000 spectators. Racing dates back throughout human history, from marathons on foot to chariot races, horse races, and car races. Here, we’ll talk about the most prestigious races globally, the Triple Crown of Motorsport, a title so difficult, so rare, so incredible, that only one person in almost a hundred years has claimed it.
Starting with the oldest of the three races, the Indianapolis 500 was first to run in 1911. Called the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, it consists of two hundred laps of the two-and-a-half-mile track and is held annually in the aptly-named Speedway, Indiana. Up to 300,000 spectators watch it every year, and it is perhaps the most important race in the American side of the sport. These vehicles produce up to 700 horsepower and can reach speeds of 237 miles per hour. The first winner was pioneer Ray Harroun in 1911. The race itself is limited to thirty-three drivers in the field, further marking the race’s prestigious nature. Perhaps the most endearing quality of the event is the traditional singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana,” which is sung before the start of every race. Actor and singer Jim Nabors had the honor of leading the crowd in a song from 1972 until 2014.
24 Hours of Le Mans
The Indy 500 is a race of speed and precision, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a grueling endurance test. Beginning in 1923, the event is won by the car and driver that covers the most miles in a twenty-four hour time period. Modern races can cover over 3,000 miles in a single day, with the record being 3,360 miles in 2010. This is more than six times the length of the Indy 500. Another difference is that the Le Mans track consists of public roads instead of a closed track, with numerous small curves and sharp turns for the drivers to navigate. At one point, the race entered the town of Le Mans! The 24 Hours of Le Mans is also the first recorded instance of a champagne bottle being sprayed over the audience in 1967.
Monaco Grand Prix
In the middle of the second-smallest country globally, the final leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport takes place. The race itself is only 161 miles long, consisting of 78 laps around Monaco’s streets, but the narrow lanes and tight turns make it one of the more dangerous races. Starting in 1929, the event would eventually become one of the premier races in Europe, surpassing the Grand Prixes of other countries. It wasn’t until 1969 that barriers were put in place to prevent cars from crashing into Monaco’s buildings – or, sometimes, even into the country’s harbor! Because of the narrow track and twisting lanes, the drivers do not reach the top speeds of other racing; but this can lead to surprising results and make the Monaco Grand Prix one of the most exciting races in the world.
The only driver to win the full Triple Crown was Britain’s Graham Hill, winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1966, Le Man in 1972, and Monaco in 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968, and 1969.