Record heat takes aim at Indy 500 fans, drivers

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tens of thousands of fans glistening with sunscreen and toting coolers filled with ice and water descended on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday for what could be the hottest Indianapolis 500 on record.

Temperatures were forecast to climb into the mid-90s during the afternoon’s race, and track officials spent much of the week urging fans to take precautions against the heat. The track has brought in portable misting stations and cooling stations, but spokesman Doug Boles said track medical personnel expected to treat more than 1,000 fans before the race’s conclusion.

The hottest race day on record was in 1937, when the National Weather Service said the temperature hit 92 degrees.

Even before the start of the race, those in attendance were feeling the heat. Pace car driver Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” said Sunday was hotter than when he was practicing in the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 pace car the past few days.

Fieri said he thought that heat will be a factor in the race but that the drivers could handle it.

“I don’t think I could do it — I’ve got air conditioning in the ZR1,” Fieri said.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said he was glad he was going to be in the air conditioning for his first Indy 500 — and felt for the race drivers.

“With the equipment they wear, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really tough,” Lasorda said. “I feel sorry that they have to do it when it’s this hot, too.”

Laurie Smith, 47, of Fishers, Ind., and her 14-year-old son, C.J., weren’t fazed.

Smith packed hats, bottles equipped with fans and misters, and collapsible coolers that included plastic bags containing a damp washcloth and ice to cool down their necks. She also had a secret weapon: a black umbrella.

Smith said she’s taken the umbrella on outings to amusement parks and other places to provide shade on hot days, but this was the first time in her four trips to the 500 that she’d brought it to the track.

“It brings (the temperature) down maybe 5, 6 degrees,” she said. “It makes it just a little cooler.”

Smith planned to use the umbrella while walking around but said she wouldn’t open it during the race unless they move to a higher vantage point where she wouldn’t obstruct anyone’s view.

“If I need to scoot up to the back couple of rows with my umbrella, that’s an option,” she said.

If that’s not possible, she has a backup plan.

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