The 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 is set to kick off on May 28, and during the most storied race in motorsports, the cars and drivers cover 200 laps of the 2.5-mile track at blistering speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. They rip along a course which remains very nearly the same as it was the year it was constructed back in 1909. At a capacity of 250,000 permanent seats, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the largest sporting facilities in the world, and on race day, it has drawn crowds of more than 400,000.
When the flag drops to start the race, 33 cars will peel away in eleven rows of three on the way toward glory – or disaster.
But a little-known fact is that more than half of the Indy field will share a common friend and a product they don’t want to discuss – life insurance agent Darren Hickey at Gregory & Appel Insurance of Indianapolis and his wares.
“They all want to make sure that if something happens, they’re properly insured. But they don’t want to think about it. They can’t. They can’t be going 200 mph and thinking about getting hurt. We don’t dwell on it, but yeah, it’s very serious,” Hickey says.
Among his clients is James Hinchcliffe, and the famed driver once survived a near-fatal crash during practice in 2015.
“It’s one of those mental things, right?” Hinchcliffe told the Indy Star. “A guy who’s in our profession doesn’t want to think that could happen and doesn’t want to think he needs that. It’s almost like jinxing it. It’s a difficult mindset to get over, but you have to get over it. I had to do that before 2015, and it holds so much truer now.”
Hickey says many drivers are covered by what’s called an accident-medical policy aimed at helping with any medical bills, but many opt for a life insurance policy which includes a flat surcharge added on to a standard policy. According to Hickey, a $1 million term policy includes a surcharge of around $8,000 annually for a typical IndyCar driver. Hickey has seen the horror of the race and was at a race once when a driver was killed.
Fortunately, the driver was insured “but it still doesn’t replace him.”
According to Hickey, 80 percent of the drivers in the Indy 500 field this year will have life insurance.
Five Interesting Facts About the Indianapolis 500
As the track was constructed, a postcard was produced which depicted large grandstands filled with fans and cars on the 2.5-mile rectangular track and the infield road course. The infield track was delayed some 90 years to allow airplanes to take off and land.
In 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway offered parking spaces for 10,000 cars – and 3,000 hitching posts for horses.
Canadian driver Wilfred Borque and his onboard mechanic, Harry Holcomb, were the track’s first fatalities when their car flipped. Borque became the first of 40 drivers to date to lose their lives at IMS. Holcomb was the first of 13 “riding mechanics” killed at the track.
Two days after the Borque-Holcomb deaths, an accident in turn one caused the deaths of riding mechanic Claude Kellum as well as those of spectators James West and Homer Jollif. The five fatalities in just three days led the media called for a ban on auto racing there.
The deaths led to safety measures, principally among them the repaving of the track with brick, and it’s said that some 85 percent of the 3.2 million bricks used at the time are still in place beneath layers of asphalt.