Countdown to 101st Indy 500 begins 101 days out

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SPEEDWAY (WTHR) – About 1,800 Indianapolis 500 fans gathered at the speedway in the middle of February for a pizza party celebrating just 101 days until the 101st running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The excitement of the centennial sellout last May will be hard to match.

“Last year was special,” said IndyCar team owner and driver Ed Carpenter. “It was the 100th running. It was a huge crowd. They shut it off, which has never happened before. It had been growing. Every year leading into the 100th was growing and I think you're going to see that again this year. Will it be like the 100th? I don't know. But will it be better than the 99th? I think so.”

Defending champion Alexander Rossi started the countdown Thursday morning by unveiling the ticket for the 2017 race at a ceremony at the Cummins Distribution Headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. The ticket features a victory circle photo of Rossi enjoying his unlikely fuel strategy win with his Andretti Autosport car owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta. Several other team members can also be seen in the photo, which shows Herta dumping a bottle of milk on Rossi’s head.

“My 98 crew had to come up with some pretty creative solutions for the hole we dug ourselves in,” said Rossi. “So it's great that it's not just me and there’s guys I can name who are on this ticket as well who can be part of this for the 101st running."

IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden has joined the top team in IndyCar, Team Penske, hoping to put his face on the Indy 500 ticket next year.

“It would be a huge deal,” said Newgarden. “I'm going to try to for sure. Being a part of Team Penske with the Verizon 2 car, I feel a little extra pressure. These guys at Team Penske, they know how to get it done. They've won 16 Indianapolis 500s. I'm going to try to do those guys proud. You know this year might be our year."

Fans using a computer simulator to take virtual reality laps were the only drivers on track Thursday, but the Indy racing community is gearing up for May.