More than 225,000 people, the largest crowd in modern Formula One history, were on hand at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sept. 24, 2000, as Michael Schumacher won the SAP United States Grand Prix.
The milestone event, the first Formula One race in this country since 1991, was run on a 13-turn, 2.605-mile road course that incorporated the speedway’s iconic front straightaway, a new infield section and turn one of the oval track.
After IMS and Formula One officials announced in 1998 that Formula One would return to the United States in 2000, Indianapolis Motor Speedway embarked on a multi-million dollar construction project that involved building the new road course, pit-side garages and suites, a new media center and a new pagoda-style control tower.
Schumacher added to the lore of his victory by spinning and winning like Danny Sullivan did in the 1985 Indianapolis 500. The Ferrari driver, who started from the pole, looped his car with five laps to go, but quickly recovered and maintained the lead.
“I was really a bit too far inside and I touched the grass,” Schumacher explained. “Honestly, I wasn’t going really flat out. I was really cruising and making sure nothing goes wrong; and you lose a bit of concentration.”
Even though it was his 42nd Formula One victory, the significance of winning at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway was not lost on the two-time champion.
“Being here on the podium, being the first Formula One driver winning the race in the States in 10 years means quite a lot to me,” Schumacher said. “I was going around the last couple of laps and thinking about that — that I’m in the books after 10 years — and it’s the first time I will be the winner of the race (here in Indy); and that is quite impressive.”
Schumacher averaged 118.202 mph as he completed the 190.138-mile distance in one hour, 36 minutes and 30.883 seconds. He was 12.118 seconds ahead of Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello at the finish.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished third with 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve fourth and David Coulthard fifth. Twenty-two cars started the race and 12 were still running when the checkered flag was waved.
Frentzen’s Jordan was the first car on the track when practice opened on Friday and Giancarlo Fisichella had the dubious honor of being the first F-1 driver to crash on the Indy road course when he slid into the turn-11 tire barrier 19 minutes into the opening practice session.