In 1908, four men got together in Indianapolis to
build a 2.5-mile testing track for the local
flourishing automobile business. One of these
men was Carl Fisher. Fisher is also famous for
getting a national road to Florida made and for
the creation of Miami Beach.
After having a hot-air balloon race and a
motorcycle race at the track, three days of auto
racing was held beginning on August 20th, 1909.
When the track was created, it was not paved
with bricks, but was made up of crushed stone,
shale and tar. This surface would prove to be
insufficient, and the whole 2.5 miles of track
would be paved with 3.2 million red bricks for
the second race in 1909, held on December 17.
This led to the Speedway becoming known as
The Wright Brothers showed up for the first US
Aviation Show in 1910. After having invented
the airplane in 1903, they began teaching others
to fly and their students flew around above the
Three weekends of 3-day auto racing events
were held in 1910. The first was during
Memorial Day weekend (then known as
Decoration Day.) One event was held over
Independence Day weekend and the other over
Labor Day weekend. These racing fests
included races on the Speedway's 2.5-mile ribbon
of bricks, but many were only a few laps; the
longest being 80 laps / 200 miles.
It was decided that there would just be one big
500-mile race held the following year - and the
Indy 500 was born! However, back then, it was
known as the International Sweepstakes.
It would take 200 laps around the track, in a
counter-clockwise direction, to go 500 miles.
The first races took over 6 hours to run.
In the 1990's average speeds reached the 235
mph zone. Various measures are taken as
needed to slow the cars a bit, not only for safety,
but for competitive racing.
Today's track is the same dimensions as the
original. The turns are only banked 9' 12"
degrees. The brick surface lasted through the
decades. In 1958, they began paving parts
of the track. Today, only one yard (1 meter) of
bricks the bricks remain - across the start/finish
The race was not ran during 1917-1918 due to
WWI. Nor was it ran from 1942-1945 because
Eddie Rickenbacker raced in the Indy 500 as a
youth. He joined the army and went to Europe
to learn to be a fighter pilot. After returning
from the war as the most decorated American
flying ace, Rickenbacker bought the Speedway
from the four men who had formed it.
When WWII began, Rickenbacker rejoined the
armed forces. When the war ended, Famous
race driver, Wilbur Shaw, brokered a deal for
Rickenbacker to sell the track to Terre Haute
businessman, Tony Hulman.
Capt'n Eddie went on to run Eastern Airlines.
Tony Hulman ran the speedway until his death in
1997. The Speedway continued to be ran by his
In 2020, Businessman and race team owner
Roger Penske purchased the speedway along
with the IndyCar series.
In the early days, a mechanic would ride around
with the drivers during the race. This situation
was phased out in the late 1930's.
Up until the 1960's, the race cars had been
roadsters - big heavy cars with the engines in
front of the driver. Those cars were phased
out during the 1960s by smaller, lower, lighter
rear-engined cars. There were also fantastic
new designs that appeared during that era,
such as the famous whoosh-mobiles - 4WD
cars powered by a turbine engine.
In the 1970s, the tires got wider and wings
began to be used for aerodynamics.
One of the factors that has separated the Indy
500 from other races is the amount of time that
is spent building up to the race. Other big races
might take 3 days for practices, qualifying and
the race. The Indy 500 race teams spend
around three weeks at the Speedway gearing
up for the race. Qualifying, for instance, takes
the entire weekend the week before the race,
and it used to take two weekends!
Various open-wheel sanctioning bodies have
been present at the track over the years (AAA,
USAC, CART and INDYCAR, but the 500 has
always attracted others to try and compete as
well. Drivers from other series may appear and
special teams are put together just for the Indy
500. While over 70 cars have sometimes
entered the race, only 33 cars can race in the
|Jim Rathman in a Roadster
|The Marmon Wasp won the 1st Indy 500 in 1911
|1968 - Gordon Johncock in rear-engined racer
The founders: Arthur Newby, James Allison,
Carl Fisher and Frank Wheeler.
|Video: the First Indy 500, Colorized, 2-minutes
|INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY HISTORY
|Tony Hulman Purchased IMS in 1945
The Indy 500 crowd is the largest one-day
sporting in the world and is widely touted as
something everyone should see at least once in
For many folks, attending the Indy 500 is an
annual tradition. Race tickets get passed down
through generations of families.
Surprising perhaps is that only one yearly event
was held at the huge facility from 1911 - 1994,
the Indy 500. These days, many different
racing series and car events are held there.
Since the creation of the speedway, countless
improvements have been made to the facility
and this tradition has shown no signs of slowing
|2021 - Juan Pablo Montoya
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