The Indy 500 has a rough day on ‘Jeopardy!’

Published On February 29, 2016 » 3438 Views» By Jeff Vrabel » Blogs, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500

We’re chronicling 100 days of Indy 500 history on #SpeedRead leading up to the historic 100th Running. With 90 days to go, Jeff Vrabel continues to exploring the many tie-ins between the Indy 500 and pop culture.

More Vrabel: David Letterman, pit reporter | Indy 500 on Atari 2600 | More 100 days blogs

First, the good news: The Indy 500 has featured in at least 23 episodes of “Jeopardy!” At least that’s what the internet says, and we’re going to accept that figure because it’s not like we’re going to go counting it ourselves. (We have a race to prepare for.) Of those 23 episodes, at least two have featured an entire category related to the race. An April 2015 episode dedicated an entire category to “Indianapolis” and one to its immediate right was titled “500.” We’ll put a rimshot sound effect right here for you.


But here’s the bad news: The show’s history with the 500 is a little, shall we say, checkered:

  • A 1998 episode featured a whole category based on “Indy 500 Flags.” (For $500, “When waved, a flag of this color lets you begin Mile 1.”)
  • A 2004 episode featured an entire Indy 500 category, in which clues were read by members of the show’s traveling “Clue Crew.” (For $400: “A 1911 Stoddard-Dayton was one of the first of these cars that lead others around the track but don’t race.”)
  • But most absurd of all was this nightmare from 2008, in which the “Final Jeopardy!” question was (clears throat, shuffles papers): “With an estimated sellout crowd of 267,925 people, it claims to be the best-attended single-day sporting event in the U.S.” This went badly. A contestant named Alison wrote “What is the Rose Bowl?”, shockingly overestimating the size of the average college football stadium (and building), but whatever, she only lost $500. Two contestants named Pat and Steve both bombed out with the uproarious “What is the Daytona 500?” Steve blew $3,000 and Pat wagered a full $8,800, which she fully deserves for mixing up the two, frankly. As it happened, Alison and her Pasadena answer ended up winning the game. And she probably never watched football or auto racing again.



About The Author

Jeff Vrabel

I’m an Indiana native and former resident of Chicago and Hilton Head Island who’s written for for such outlets as GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post and my hometown Indianapolis Monthly. I spent decades listening to the 500 on the radio and have run two Mini-Marathons around the IMS track, but only dropped a packet of energy beans on Turn 3 during one of them. And I live near Indianapolis with my family; my oldest son just stole bacon off your plate and the youngest was personally approved by Springsteen (long story). Find me at the cleverly named or