33 Dreams of Indy – Explained

by The Earl of Indy, Robert Earl |

33 Dreams of Indy represents the 33 spots that are available for drivers each year in the Indianapolis 500.

33 cars. 33 drivers. 33 Stories. 33 Dreams.

Each year hundreds of drivers and dozens of teams have a dream to start the Indy 500.

During the 2019 qualification process, the small team of Juncos Racing “bumped” the powerhouse McLaren team, driven by the past Formula One Champion Fernando Alonso. The drama of the final minutes was riveting.

It is these stories, these dreams that make the Indianapolis 500 so special. These dreams do not just take place in May. They occur throughout the year. During the entire IndyCar Season. Race by Race. They also continue during the offseason as well. Between races, teams are formed, contracts are signed, funding is sought and secured and dreams either come true or fade away as they never come together.

Dreams can become nightmares. Dreams can come true.

Hundreds dream – yet only 33 come true.

Welcome to the 33 Dreams of Indy.

My focus is to follow these dreams, as they happen. To try to tell the stories the best I can. I will be using my perspective, or I will be compiling the views and reporting of others that follow the IndyCar Series.

I love the underdogs because I love a good story. I also love the winners. The dynasties and the master drivers and teams that are creating history. All of this makes up the tapestry that is unique to IndyCar Racing and particularly the Indy 500. I am a fan just like you.

Tune in to our podcast. Follow along on social media. Send me a question.

Enjoy the 33 Dreams of Indy.

The Earl of Indy – Robert Earl

How did they come up with the number 33 for the number of cars that start the Indy 500?

When the Indy 500 started, because of the size of the 2.5-mile track, the American Automobile Association (AAA) that was acting as the sanctioning body for the race at the time developed a formula. This formula leaned towards safety, considering that auto racing was a newer venture. The method determined that the safe distance between each car spread equally around a course would be 400 feet, thereby limiting the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway to 33 vehicles.

We now know that cars run within inches of each other during the race. The track is capable of handling more cars, but the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is rooted in tradition. Therefore the 33 number has been used for years.

33 has not always been the starting number for the Indianapolis 500

40 cars started in the inaugural race in 1911.

Speedway President Carl Fisher placed a limit of only 30 cars for the “500” between 1912 and 1914 and did not adopt AAA’s 33 maximum until 1915.

There were numerous occasions between 1912 and 1928 when the field was less than 33 cars.

The allowed number was increased during the Depression years to 40 cars between 1930 and 1932 (only 38 made it in 1930) and further to 42 in 1933.

The maximum has been at 33 ever since 1934, although exceptions were made to expand the field to 35 starters in 1979 and 1997.

Other than those years, the starting field is set at 33 Drivers.

Puffy Lux