Heat fells Indy 500 fans, but celebs stay cool

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Elise Dennis and three college friends sat in the borrowed shade of a stranger's tent, sipping beer as they watched a parade of shirtless men and shoeless women stroll by in the oppressive heat of Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

The 22-year-old from Chesapeake, Va., and her friends — all chemistry graduate students at Indiana University — were watching the passing characters more than the race from their perch in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's third turn.

"Everybody has their shirts off and they're drunk. This is the best seat. We're in the shade and just saw a guy pass out," Dennis said amid the roar of the track.

Many fans found relief in the shade under grandstands or at scattered misting stations Sunday as the mercury neared 90 and temperatures close to the track went even higher.

Track officials said more than 1,500 people sought treatment at the infield medical center, a majority of them for heat-related illnesses. About 35 who were stricken by the heat were taken to local hospitals for additional evaluation.

Tammy Barrett of Columbia, Mo., had her 60-year-old mother rushed to the track's infield hospital after she showed signs of heat exhaustion in their second turn seats in the full sun.

"Usually she's pretty good about not being bothered by the heat, but it's just so hot today," Barrett said. "We're all hot."

With the race halfway over, Barrett left her mother in the cool of the track's hospital and led her young son and niece back to the family's seats.

The National Weather Service said Sunday's high in Indianapolis was 89, but Speedway spokesman Paul Kelly said the track's paved surfaces pushed the ambient air temperature to 96 midway through the race. The track surface itself was a sweltering 131.

The hottest Indy 500 in history was 92 degrees in 1937.

Not everyone let the heat slow them down.

Driver Tony Kanaan, who started 33rd and ran as high as second before finishing 11th, said he was sweating but "had no problem" as he made his way toward the front of the field.

"I'm Brazilian, man," he said. "I was cool."

Jason Green, who made a marathon 18-hour drive from his current home in Orlando, Fla., to his hometown, held court in a 10-person tent he had set up in the track's infield. He arrived Thursday morning and had been entertaining high school friends ever since in his fancy tent.

"It's kind of like a condo. I've got lamps, pictures, I got a Salvador Dali painting in there. This is like a mancation," said Green, who left his wife and daughter at home.

Celebrities strolling the red carpet seemed to keep their cool, too.

Reality television stars Kim and Khloe Kardashian created a stir as they visited the pits with film crews recording their every move. They wore gray and purple shirts promoting QuickTrim, the sponsor for driver Graham Rahal.

Just after the race started, the sisters strolled along a second-story walkway, cameras trailing, prompting a male fan to yell from below, "Kim, we love you guys!"

The Kardashians' stepfather, Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner, said he was excited to be attending his first 500.

"This is the big granddaddy of them all here in the United States," said Jenner, who has raced cars himself.

Actor Jack Nicholson blew kisses and tipped his hat to fans before slashing the air enthusiastically with the green flag. His only comment on the race was, "It's good to be here."

The die-hard Lakers fan didn't react when a fan bellowed out from across the track, "Celtics in four, Jack! Celtics in four!"

Singer Naomi Judd, shielded from the heat in a wide-brimmed hat, arrived with daughters Wynonna and Ashley, saying she was thrilled to see the race and cheer on Ashley's husband, Dario Franchitti, the eventual winner of Sunday's race.

"We are so stinking proud of him," she said.


Associated Press Writer Tom Davies contributed to this story.