Two years ago, USA Today polled its readers for their bucket lists of sports events they most wanted to attend at least once.

The top vote-getter wasn’t the Super Bowl or the Masters or the Olympics.

It was the Indianapolis 500.

The iconic race returns Sunday for the 100th running of the Memorial Day weekend classic, which draws more than a quarter of a million spectators captivated by its speed, danger and tradition.

Sunday’s race is sold out. The track doesn’t divulge exact numbers for spectator capacity, but the number of grandstand seats is about 250,000 and the track reportedly sells at least an additional 70,000 infield general-admission tickets.

There’s plenty of room. The speedway likes to boast that the Rose Bowl, Yankee Stadium, Vatican City, Churchill Downs and more would fit inside the massive infield of the 2.5-mile rectangular track that sits in a residential neighborhood.

The speedway – dubbed “The Brickyard” because long ago it was paved with 3.2 million bricks – also said it has suspended its practice of blacking out the race on local television in Indianapolis. It’s the first time since the early 1950s that the race will be televised live in central Indiana.

It has remained one of the nation’s pre-eminent sporting events despite a 12-year civil war between the sport’s leaders that ended in 2008, a decline in the popularity of IndyCar racing overall, a dearth of American drivers and a long history of tragedy on the track.

“The Indy 500 is part of the beautiful essence of America,” said 1998 Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever, now an analyst with ABC. “Wherever I am in the world, I never have to explain to people what it is. They know.”

For the 33 drivers in the race, many say they would rather win the Indy 500 than the championship of the Verizon IndyCar Series, a stance heightened by knowing this is the race’s 100th running.

“This place makes careers and changes lives,” said Ed Carpenter, an Indianapolis native and driver/team owner who sat on the pole in 2013 and 2014 and who starts 20th this year. “It’s been my dream to win this race for a long, long time.”

Veteran Tony Kanaan, 41, a fan favorite who finally won his first Indy 500 in 2013, said the Indianapolis speedway “is magical” and that the “buzz around the city, it’s unbelievable” this year.

“I thought I had seen it all, but I haven’t seen this place sold out,” Kanaan said.

The first Indianapolis 500 was held in 1911 and won by Ray Harroun. The race has been held ever since except during six war years: 1917-18 and 1942-45.

This year’s race already has one heartwarming story: James Hinchcliffe, the 29-year-old Canadian who nearly died from injuries in a practice crash a year ago, won the pole position during qualifying last Sunday.

The betting public is on Penske’s side as well. His four drivers – Will Power, defending Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud and three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves – have the best odds to win, according to the gambling website Bovada.

Castroneves is trying to become only the fourth driver in history to win the race four times. The others are A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

NASCAR: Joey Logano has shown he has a pretty good feel for the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Now the question is whether he can go the distance – 600 miles, that is.

Logano looks to complete a “Joey sweep” at CMS at the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night after winning last October’s 400-mile playoff race and the Sprint Cup All-Star race here last weekend.

The 26-year-old will start on the front row alongside pole sitter Martin Truex Jr. for the longest and most grueling NASCAR race of the year.

He’s hoping the momentum from winning the All-Star race carries over after his previous three Sprint Cup races ended with crashes.

“It is nice to break through after three tough weekends and be able to break through and get that first victory of the year,” Logano said. “Even though it was the All-Star Race and it didn’t count for points, we really want to win this Coca-Cola 600.”

Denny Hamlin passed Kyle Larson and Joey Logano in overtime to win the Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.