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Spectacle begins at Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Thousands of fans are filing into Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will get the green flag at 12:17 p.m. Eastern time – with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban getting the honor.

That comes after some of the storied traditions at the biggest race on the IndyCar Series schedule, including Jim Nabors singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the crowd. The 83-year-old actor best known as Gomer Pyle has been singing the unofficial Indiana state song most years since 1972 – and he says this is his last performance at the big race.

Actress Florence Henderson will perform “God Bless America.” Martina McBride is expected to perform “America the Beautiful,” and fellow country star LeAnn Rimes will sing the national anthem.

The defending race champion is Tony Kanaan, who last year on his 12th attempt. Hometown favorite Ed Carpenter is on the pole and the field includes six former Indy 500 winners and Kurt Busch, the NASCAR driver who is trying to become just the second driver to complete the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in North Carolina on the same day.