Among the traditions for the Indianapolis 500 — “Back Home Again in Indiana,” a cold bottle of milk for the winner — there’s one that isn’t loved. The yearly fear of rain on race day.
As of Thursday morning, three days before the 103rd running of the Indianapolis, the current forecast for Sunday’s race has a 60% chance of rain through the day, according to the hourly forecast on the Wunderground.com website. It rained for much of Thursday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will play host to Media Day.
Of course, forecasts can change. There still is a good chance of green-flag racing.
Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on-time, with the race scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. ET on NBC. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.
So what happens if it does rain? Some options:
The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official if heavy rains halt all on-track activity. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain coming out.
The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped for rain nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over when rain once again forced the race to come to a halt at the 415-mile mark.
If less than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans off-work on Monday due to Memorial Day, a partial postponement would not be the end of the world to fans at the track and watching on NBC.
The race has only been partially postponed twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.
Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day, with start time dependent on the forecast.
The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday, before rains once again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and 1986 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.