[tubepress mode=”playlist” playlistValue=”F6259D05D99483E5″ thumbHeight=”80″ thumbWidth=”120″ orderBy=”position” embeddedHeight=”340″ embeddedWidth=”550″ autoshowInfo=”false” showRelated=”false”]Indy Motor Speedway
Indy Motor Speedway
It has existed since 1909, and is the original Speedway, the first racing facility so named. With a permanent seating capacity for an estimated 257,325 people, and infield seating raises capacity to an approximate 400,000, it is the highest-capacity stadium-type facility in the world.
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Considered relatively flat by American standards, the track is a two-and-a-half-mile, nearly rectangular oval with dimensions that have remained essentially unchanged since its inception: four 1/4-mile turns, two 5/8-mile long straightaways between the fourth and first turns and the second and third turns, and two 1/8-mile short straightaways, termed “short chutes,” between the first and second, and third and fourth turns.
A modern infield road course was constructed between 1998 and 2000, incorporating the western and southern portions of the oval (including the southwest turn) to create a 2.605-mile (4.192 km) track. In 2008, the road course was modified to replace the southwest turn with an additional infield section, for motorcycle use, resulting in a 2.621-mile (4.218 km) course. Altogether, the current grounds have expanded from an original 320 acres (1.3 km2) on which the Speedway was first built to cover an area of over 559 acres (2.3 km2). Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, it currently remains the only such landmark to be affiliated with automotive racing history.
In addition to the Indianapolis 500, the speedway also hosts NASCAR‘s Brickyard 400. From 2000 to 2007 the speedway also hosted theUnited States Grand Prix for Formula One. The inaugural USGP race drew an estimated 400,000 spectators, setting a Formula Oneattendance record. In 2008, the Speedway added the Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix, a Grand Prix motorcycle racing event.
Since August 19, 1909, 248 automobile races have taken place, with 137 separate drivers winning. After winning his fifth United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2006, Formula One driver Michael Schumacher holds the record for most victories among the three major events (Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and the F1 USGP), with all taking place on the Formula One version of the road course. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears each won the Indianapolis 500 four times on the traditional oval, and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have also won four times on the oval in the Brickyard 400. No driver to date has won any combination of the three major events, with only two drivers, (Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve), having competed in all three, with Montoya winning the Indy 500, finishing 4th in the US Grand Prix, and finishing 2nd in the Brickyard 400. Villeneuve also won the Indy 500, had a best finish for 4th in the US Grand Prix, and a 29th place in the Brickyard 400. Johnny Aitken holds the record for total wins at the track, with 15 victories (all on the oval), during the 1909, 1910 and 1916 seasons.
On the grounds of the Speedway is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, which opened in 1956. The museum moved into the current building located in the infield in the short chute between turns one and two in 1975, from a building outside of the speedway at the corner of 16th Street, and Georgetown Road (that building no longer exists, having been razed for the construction of current speedway administration offices), and the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort, which originally opened as the Speedway Golf Course in 1929. The golf course has 14 holes outside of the track, along the backstretch, and four holes in the infield. The Speedway was also the venue of the opening ceremonies for the 1987 Pan American Games.
Carl Graham Fisher (1874–1938) of Indiana, an American vehicle parts and highway entrepreneur, co-founder and first President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. May 1909.
Indianapolis businessman Carl G. Fisher first envisioned building the speedway in 1905 after assisting friends racing in France and seeing that Europe held the upper hand in automobile design and craftsmanship. Fisher began thinking of a better means of testing cars before delivering them to consumers. At the time, racing was just getting started on horse tracks and public roads. Fisher noticed how dangerous and ill-suited the makeshift courses were for racing or testing. He also argued that spectators didn’t get their money’s worth, as they were only able to get a brief glimpse of cars speeding down a linear road.
Fisher proposed building a circular track three to five miles (8 km) long with smooth 100–150 ft wide surfaces. Such a track would give manufacturers a chance to test cars at sustained speeds and give drivers a chance to learn their limits. Fisher predicted speeds could reach up to 120 mph (190 km/h) on a five-mile (8 km) course. He visited the Brooklands circuit outside of London in 1907, and after viewing the banked layout, it solidified his determination to build the speedway. With dozens of car makers and suppliers in Indiana, Fisher proclaimed, “Indianapolis is going to be the world’s greatest center of horseless carriage manufacturer, what could be more logical than building the world’s greatest racetrack right here?”
Fisher began looking around the Indianapolis area for a site to build his track; he rejected two potential sites before finding level farmland, Pressley Farm, totaling 328 acres just five miles (8 km) outside of Indianapolis. In December 1908 he convinced three partners; James Allison, Arthur Newby and Frank Wheeler, to join in purchasing the property for $72,000. The group incorporated Indianapolis Motor Speedway company on March 20, 1909 with a capitalization of $250,000, with Fisher and James Allison in for $75,000 apiece and Frank Wheeler and Arthur Newby on board for $50,000 each.
Construction of the track started in March 1909. Fisher had to quickly downsize his planned three-mile (5 km) oval with a two mile (3 km) road course to a 2.5 miles (4.0 km) oval to leave room for the grandstands. Reshaping of the land for the speedway took 500 laborers, 300 mules and a fleet of steam-powered machinery. The track surface consisted of graded and packed soil covered by two inches of gravel, two inches of limestonecovered with taroid (a solution of tar and oil), one to two inches of crushed stone chips that were also drenched with taroid, and a final topping of crushed stone. Workers also constructed dozens of buildings, several bridges, grandstands with 12,000 seats, and an eight-foot perimeter fence with a white-with-green-trim paint scheme used throughout the property.
The first event ever held at the speedway was a helium gas-filled balloon competition on Saturday, June 5, 1909, more than two months before the oval was completed. The event drew a reported 40,000 people. Nine balloons lifted off “racing” for trophies, a balloon by the name of Universal City won the race, landing 382 miles (615 km) away in Alabama after spending more than a day aloft. The first motorsports event at the track consisted of 7 motorcycle races, sanctioned by the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) on August 14, 1909. This was originally planned as a two-day, 15-race program, but ended before the first day was completed, due to concerns over suitability of the track surface for motorcycle use. These early events were largely planned by one of the top names in early auto racing promotion, Ernest Moross, who earned fame for his bold and sometimes outlandish barnstorming events at fairgrounds tracks with racing star Barney Oldfield.
On August 19, 1909, fifteen carmakers’ teams arrived at the track for practice. The track surface again became a concern with drivers being covered in dirt, oil, and tar and with ruts and chuckholes beginning to form in the turns. Speedway workers oiled and rolled the track prior to the gates opening to the public. Fifteen to twenty thousand spectators showed up, paying at the most $1 for a ticket. Halfway through the first 250 miles (400 km) event, race leader Louis Chevrolet was temporarily blinded when a stone smashed his goggles. Wilfred Bourque, driving in a Knox, suffered a suspected rear-axle failure resulting in his car flipping end over end on the front stretch before crashing into a fence post. Both he and his mechanic, Harry Halcomb, died at the scene.
The first day of car racing resulted in four finishes and two land speed records, but concerns over safety led AAA officials to consider canceling the remaining events. Fisher promised the track would be repaired by the next day and convinced officials that the show would go on. The second day saw 20,000 spectators, no major incidents and additional speed records broken.
On the third day of racing, 35,000 spectators showed up to watch the grand finale 300 miles (480 km) race. At 175 miles (282 km) into the race, the right front tire blew on Charlie Merz’s car. His car mowed down five fence posts and toppled dozens of spectators. Two spectators and his mechanic, Claude Kellum, were killed in the crash. Ten laps later, driver Bruce Keen struck a pothole and crashed into a bridge support. The race was then halted and the remaining drivers given engraved certificates instead of trophies. The race resulted in the AAA boycotting any future events at the speedway unless significant improvements were made.
Fisher and his partners began looking into the idea of paving the track with bricks or concrete. Paving in 1909 was still relatively new with only a few miles of public roads paved, leaving little knowledge of what would work best. Traction tests were conducted on bricks, proving they could hold up. Only less than a month after the first car races, the repaving project began. Five Indiana manufacturers supplied 3.2 million ten-pound bricks to the track. Each was hand laid over a two inch cushion of sand, then leveled and gaps filled with mortar. At the same time, a 33-inch-high concrete wall was constructed in front of the main grandstand and around all four corners to protect spectators. The final brick added to the track was made of gold and laid in a special ceremony by Governor Thomas R. Marshall. Before the work was completed, locals nicknamed the track “The Brickyard.” Today, 3 feet (0.91 m), or one yard, of original bricks remain at the start/finish line.
In December 1909, eleven drivers and a few motorcyclists returned for speed trials. Drivers soon reached speeds of up to 112 mph (180 km/h) on the new surface. Racing returned in 1910, with a total of 66 automobile races held during three holiday weekends (Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day). Each weekend featured two or three races of 100-mile (160 km) to 200-mile (320 km) distance, with several shorter contests. Each race stood on its own and earned its own trophy. All races were sanctioned by the AAA (as were the Indianapolis 500 races up through 1955). 1910 also saw the speedway host the National Aviation Meet, featuring Wilbur and Orville Wright and highlighted by Walter Brookins setting a then world record by taking a plane up to 4,938 feet (1,505 m).
A change in marketing focus led to only one race per year beginning in 1911. An estimated 80,000 spectators attended the first 500 miles (800 km) race on Memorial Day May 30, 1911. 40 cars competed with Ray Harroun winning at the brisk average speed of 74.602 miles per hour (120.060 km/h). While all the other drivers in the race had a riding mechanic in their car, Harroun figured he could save weight and go faster if he drove solo. So, to be able to see what was happening behind his #32 Marmon “Wasp”, he installed a Rear-view mirror. It was the first time such a device was used in an automobile. “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was born.
The Golden Age (1912-1929)
A classic race followed in 1912 when Ralph DePalma lost a five lap lead with five laps to go when his car broke down. As DePalma pushed his car around the circuit, Joe Dawson made up the deficit to win. Three of the next four winners were European, with DePalma being the exception as an American national, though originally Italian born. These races gave Indy a worldwide reputation and international drivers began to enter. The 1916 race was shortened to 120 laps, for a number reasons including a lack of entries from Europe (there were so few entries the Speedway itself entered several cars), a lack of oil, and out of respect for thewar in Europe.
On September 9, 1916, the Speedway hosted a day of short racing events termed the Harvest Classic, composed of three races held at 20, 50 and 100-mile (160 km) distances. Johnny Aitken, in a Peugeot, in the end triumphed in all three events, his final victories at the facility. The Harvest Classic contests were the last races other than the Indianapolis 500 to be held on the grounds for seventy-eight years.
Racing was interrupted in 1917–1918 by World War I, when the facility served as a military aviation repair and refueling depot. When racing resumed, speeds quickly increased.
In 1921, Speedway co-founder Wheeler committed suicide.
In 1926, Fisher and Allison “were offered a fortune” for the Speedway site by a local real estate developer. They refused, selling instead to former racing driver (and World War One fighter ace) Edward V. Rickenbacker in 1927. (How much he paid was not revealed.) Rickenbacker built a golf course in the infield. The next year, Allison died from pneumonia.
The ‘Junkyard’ Formula (1930s)
With the Great Depression hitting the nation, the purse dropped from a winners share of $50,000 and a total of $98,250 in 1930 to $18,000 and $54,450 respectively. It’s a common misconception the rules were “dumbed down” to what was called the “junkyard formula” to allow more entries during the depression. The rules were indeed changed, but it was due to an effort by the Speedway to get more car manufacturers involved in the race by discouraging the entry of specialized racing machines which dominated the 500 during the mid- to late-’20s. The rule changes in fact were already being laid out before the market crash.
In 1933, a record 42 cars started the 500. For 1934, a maximum fuel consumption limit was imposed, 45 US gal (37 imp gal; 170 l). It became 42.5 US gal (35.4 imp gal; 161 l) in 1935 and 37.5 US gal (31.2 imp gal; 142 l) in 1936. When the limits saw “several top competitors running out of fuel in the closing stages”, the limits were abandoned, though use of pump gasolinewas still mandatory.
By the early 1930s, however, rising race speeds began to make the track increasingly dangerous, and in the period 1931–1935 there were 15 fatalities. This forced another repavement, withtarmac replacing the bricks in parts of the track. In addition, during the 1935–36 seasons the inside wall was removed in the corners, the angle of the outside wall in relation to the track was changed to keep cars from launching over, hard crash helmets became mandatory, and the first yellow light system was devised around the track. The danger of the track during this period, however, didn’t stop Louis Meyer or Wilbur Shaw from becoming the first two three-time winners, with Shaw also being the first back-to-back winner in 1939 and 1940.
Start of the Hulman Era (1940s)
At the beginning of the 1940s, the track required further improvement. In 1941, half of “Gasoline Alley,” the garage area, burned down before the race. With US involvement in World War II, the 1942 500-Mile race was cancelled in December, 1941. Late in 1942, a ban on all auto racing led to the canceling of the 500-Mile Race for the rest of the war for a total of four years (1942–1945). The track was more or less abandoned during the war and was in bad shape.
Many of the locals conceded that the Speedway would be sold after the war and become a housing development. With the end of the war in sight, on November 29, 1944, three-time 500 winner Wilbur Shaw came back to do a 500-mile (800 km) tire test approved by the government for Firestone. Shaw was shocked at the state of the Speedway and contacted owner Eddie Rickenbacker, only to discover that it was for sale. Shaw then sent out letters to the automobile industry to try to find a buyer. All the responses indicated that the Speedway would be turned into a private facility for the buyer. Shaw then looked around for someone to buy the Speedway, who would reopen the racetrack as a public venue. He found Terre Haute, Indianabusinessman Tony Hulman. Meetings were set up and the Speedway was purchased on November 14, 1945. Though not officially acknowledged, the purchase price for the Speedway was reported by the Indianapolis Star and News to be $750,000. Major renovations and repairs were made at a quick pace to the frail Speedway, in time for the 1946 race. Since the record 42 cars that started the 1933 edition of the 500, the field size has been set at 33 drivers, with only three exceptions to this rule, the first being 1947, when only 30 cars started due to a strike by certain teams affiliated with the ASPAR drivers, owners and sponsors association.
Since then the Speedway has continued to grow. Stands have been built and remodeled many times over, suites and museums were added, and many other additions helped bring back Indy’s reputation as a great track.
The Fabulous Roadsters (1950s)
In the 1950s, cars were topping out at 150 mph (240 km/h), helping to draw more and more fans. The low-slung, sleek cars were known as roadsters and the Kurtis, Kuzma, and Watson chassis dominated the field. Nearly all were powered by the Offenhauser, or “Offy”, engines. The crowd favorite Novi, with its unique sound and look, was the most powerful car of the decade that dominated time trials. However, they would never make the full 500 miles (800 km) in first place, often breaking down before the end or having to make too many pit stops because of the massive engine’s thirst for fuel and the weight that went with the extra fuel.
The track’s reputation improved so much the 500-Mile Race became part of the Formula One World Championship for 11 years (1950–1960), even though none of the Indy drivers raced in Formula One and only Ferrari’s Alberto Ascari of the F1 drivers at the time raced in the 500. Five time World Champion Juan Fangio practiced at the Speedway in 1958, but ultimately decided against it. The 1950s were also the most dangerous era of American racing. Of the 33 drivers to qualify for the 1953 race, nearly half, 16, were to eventually die in racing accidents.
Rear Engine Revolution (1960s)
In October 1961, the final remaining brick sections of the track were paved over with asphalt, with the exception of a distinct three-foot-wide line of bricks at the start/finish line. The “Brickyard” thus became known for its “Yard of Bricks”. Ironically, after being almost ignored by Formula One drivers when it was a World Championship event, a wave of F1 drivers went to the Speedway in the 1960s, and the mid-engine revolution that was started by the Cooper in F1 team changed the face of the 500 as well, with 1959 and 1960 World Drivers’ Champion Jack Brabham of Australia qualifying his Cooper in 13th for the 1961 race, though many doubters claimed the rear-engine cars were for drivers who liked to be pushed around. A. J. Foyt‘s 1964 Indianapolis 500 win was the last ever for a front-engine car and since Jim Clark‘s win driving the rear-engine Lotus 38 in 1965, every winner has driven a rear-engine car. Graham Hill won the following year in his first attempt, eventually to become the only driver to date to achieve auto racing’s “Triple Crown of Motorsport” of winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, and Le Mans 24 Hours. There were enough Americans to compete with them, with A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and the Unser brothers Bobby and Al leading the charge in the 1960s and 1970s, of whom Foyt and Al Unser would eventually become, respectively, the first two of three drivers, to date, to win four times each, while Bobby Unser won the race three times, with Andretti only ever winning the race once in 1969. Andretti though would go on to race in F1 and win the World Championship in 1978, ironically withTeam Lotus who had been the first rear-engine winners at Indy with Clark in 1965.
From 1970 to 1981, Indianapolis had a twin in the city of Ontario, California by the name of the Ontario Motor Speedway. This track was known as the “Indianapolis of the West” and the home of the California 500 but was a financial failure due to bad management and not holding enough races on the racetrack.
1979 saw the second exception to the 1934 33-driver field rule. By the late 1970s there arose some resistance from certain car owners and drivers as to the direction being taken by USAC, the auto racing sanctioning body that among other things, governed the Indianapolis 500 event. Some of the dissident teams formed their own racing body, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). USAC responded by barring six of the most famous teams in the sport from qualification (including Roger Penske and Dan Gurney), for “undermining the well-being of USAC”. The ruling would sideline former Indy winners Bobby Unser, Al Unser Sr., Gordon Johncock, and Johnny Rutherford. After a court injunction in favor of CART, and a controversy where exhaust pipe rules were clarified after qualifications began and certain teams with an altered exhaust pipe were “locked into” the field, USAC held an additional qualification round on the day before the race, announcing that any driver who could post a faster speed than the slowest qualifier (Roger McCluskey) would be allowed to start the race. Bill Vukovich and George Snider were added to the lineup, bringing the field to 35. A crisis was averted for the moment, but USAC’s handling of both issues was seen as bungling by some people, and as outright manipulation by others, and that year spelled the beginning of the end for USAC’s governance of the Indy Car series.
The 1980s brought a new generation of speedsters, led by four-time race winner Rick Mears who also broke the 220 mph (355 km/h) speed mark in qualifying (1989) and won six pole positions. Other stars of the decade included Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal, and F1 veteran Emerson Fittipaldi. The 1989 race came down to a final ten-lap, thrilling duel between Fittipaldi and Al Unser, Jr., culminating in Unser crashing in the third turn of the 199th lap after making contact with Fittpaldi’s right front tire.
The early 1990s witnessed Arie Luyendyk winning in what was then the fastest 500 to date, with an average speed 185.981 mph (299.307 km/h). That record was not eclipsed for almost a quarter of a century, until Tony Kanaan won the 2013 race with an average speed of over 187 mph (301 km/h). Rick Mears became the third four-time winner after a late-race duel with Michael Andretti in 1991, and in 1992, Al Unser, Jr. eked out a hard-fought victory by defeating last-place-starting driver Scott Goodyear by 0.043 of a second, a margin that is still the closest finish in race history. The 500 got a new look in 1996 when it became an Indy Racing League event, formed as a rival to CART.
There was another qualifying controversy in 1997, arising over the IRL’s “25/8 rule” which locked the previous years top-25 points finishers into the Indianapolis race, regardless of their qualifying speed, leaving only eight spots open for entries to qualify on speed alone. The rule effectively guaranteed that IRL cars would get precedence over CART cars in the qualifying for the Indy 500. Two CART drivers who posted qualifying speeds fast enough to make the race were bumped to make room for slower IRL cars with more 1996 racing points. USAC complained to the IRL that the field would not include the 33 fastest cars. It was decided to add the two cars, driven by Johnny Unser and Lyn St. James, back into the field, once again bringing the number of starters to 35. This marked the last time the 500’s starting field has been larger than 33 drivers.
NASCAR and IROC at Indy
From 1919 to 1993, the 500 was the only race run at the Brickyard. When Tony George (Hulman’s grandson) inherited the track, he brought more racing to the Speedway, with NASCAR in 1994 (the Brickyard 400, known from 2005 to 2009 as the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard), and an International Race of Champions (IROC) event in 1998.
Starting in 2012, the Brickyard 400 was supported by both the NASCAR Nationwide series and also the GRAND-AM ROLEX series. From 1998–2003, an IROC event was held as a support race. Since 1982, nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park has held a NASCAR Nationwide Series event which, since the Brickyard 400 in 1994, has been held the night prior to the IMS event. Since 1995, a Camping World Truck Series race has also been held at IRP.
The early 2000s saw drivers from the rival CART series begin to cross over to compete at the Indianapolis 500. In the 2000 Indianapolis 500, multi-time CART champion team Chip Ganassi Racing brought his drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmy Vasser to Indianapolis. Montoya qualified 2nd, led 167 laps and won the race going away, becoming the seventh Indy 500 rookie to win the race. The very next year, Team Penske made its return to the Indianapolis 500 after a five-year absence and was joined by Ganassi, Walker Racing and Michael Andretti, driving for Team Kool Green in a separate effort headed by Kim Green, known as Team Motorola. For the second straight year an Indy rookie won the race as Hélio Castroneves took the checkered flag. Roger Penske then elected to move his entire operation over to the IRL beginning in 2002, taking Castroneves and teammate Gil de Ferran with him. After fielding one car in 2002, Ganassi Racing followed Penske to the IRL full-time for the 2003 season. Michael Andretti, who had left his long-time ride at Newman-Haas Racing because he wanted to run the Indianapolis 500 again (something they weren’t willing to do), bought a majority interest in CART’s Team Green, who returned to Indianapolis in 2002 with Dario Franchitti, Paul Tracy and Michael Andretti, and moved it to the IRL that same year as Andretti Green Racing, and in 2004 former CART champion Bobby Rahal‘s operation moved to the IRL as Rahal Letterman Racing. Castroneves repeated his Indianapolis 500 win in 2002 despite controversial circumstances involving a late race caution and a pass made by Tracy, and his teammate de Ferran won in 2003.
In 2003, the Firestone Indy Lights Series, a minor league series to the IndyCar Series, made history with the first May race at the track since 1910, other than the 500. The Freedom 100, first held during the final qualifying weekend, has been moved to Carburetion Day on the Friday before the 500. From 2005-2007, the Firestone Indy Lights Series became the first racing series since 1916 to run at the famous race course twice in one year. The first event being the Freedom 100, held on the oval track as part of the Indianapolis 500 weekend, and the second event, the Liberty Challenge during the United States Grand Prix weekend, competing on the Grand Prix road course.
Buddy Rice became the first American driver since 1998 to win the race in the rain-shortened 2004 Indianapolis 500. At the time, Rice drove for the team co-owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500winner Bobby Rahal and the Indiana native television talk show host and comedian David Letterman. In 2005, Danica Patrick became the first female driver to lead the race at Indianapolis, first when acquiring it for a lap near the 125-mile (201 km) mark while cycling through pit stops, and late in the race when she stayed out one lap longer than her rivals during a set of green-flag pit stops. Dan Wheldon would go on to win the 2005 Indianapolis 500.
Sam Hornish Jr. became the first driver to ever overtake for the lead on the race’s final lap, ultimately winning the 2006 Indianapolis 500 in the last 450 feet (140 m) by a 0.0635-second margin over rookie Marco Andretti. Dario Franchitti became the first native of Scotland since Jim Clark‘s victory in 1965, to win the rain-shortened 2007 Indianapolis 500.
In mid February, 2008, Champ Car filed for bankruptcy. In late February, an agreement was reached for Champ Car to be merged with the IRL, and the first IRL IndyCar Series season since the unification took place in 2008. Scott Dixon, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing, became the first native of New Zealand to win the 2008 Indianapolis 500.
In the 100th anniversary year of the construction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hélio Castroneves became the sixth three-time winner of the 500 Mile Race in the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Danica Patrick also had her best finish ever (third place) in the race, also the best finish ever by a woman in the history of the Indianapolis 500.
Formula One and road course racing
In 1998, Tony George arranged for Formula One to return to the US for the first time since 1991. Two years of renovation and new construction for anIndy-based road course led to the first United States Grand Prix there in 2000, a race which was a great success. The 2001 event’s success (185,000 fans were reported in attendance) was even more important with the race, then originally held in September, being the largest international sporting event held in the United States after September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Grand Prix road course, unlike the oval, is raced in a clockwise direction. This follows the general practice of Formula One, in which the vast majority of circuits at the time ran clockwise (only Interlagos and Imola ran anti-clockwise).
The short history of the event is littered with controversies. The 2002 United States Grand Prix was marred by a bizarre ending, in which Michael Schumacher, having already clinched the championship, seemingly tried to stage a dead heat with team-mate Rubens Barrichello. The official timings showed Barrichello ahead by 0.011 seconds at the line, leading fans and media to dub the event a farce. The 2002 race was also the first ever Formula One race to use SAFER barriers.
The 2005 United States Grand Prix turned out to be one of the most controversial races in motorsport history. New rules meant cars had to use the same tires throughout the event. A crash during practice on the banked corner (the only banked corner on the F1 calendar) led to Michelin realizing their tires were ill-equipped for the banking, and could complete no more than a fraction of the race before failing. The Michelin teams were unable to find a solution, and while debates raged until the second, the Michelin teams pulled into the pits at the end of the parade lap, leaving only the 3 Bridgestone teams to contest the race. As two of these teams were backmarkers under normal circumstances, this led to Ferrari winning the race, accepting the trophies from a presentation party hastily assembled after Speedway boss Tony George refused to take part.
The perceived outrage of this event put the future of Formula One at Indianapolis in doubt. However, the following year’s event was held on July 2, 2006, on the American Fourth of July weekend, with American Scott Speed driving for the new Scuderia Toro Rosso team. Speed had become the first American in Formula One since Michael Andretti drove for McLaren in 1993. In this race, Speed became the first American to compete in a United States Grand Prix since Eddie Cheever in 1989.
During the 2006 United States Grand Prix, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone said that it did not matter to him whether or not there was a Grand Prix in America, but also said he would be happy to discuss a new contract for the race. There was also a rumor going around that in future seasons, there would be two Grands Prix held in the United States. Even with Ecclestone’s statements, the 2007 calendar was confirmed on October 31, 2006, following an extension of the race contract into 2007.
On July 12, 2007, it was announced that Formula One would not return to the IMS for 2008, although a continuation of USGP at the IMS has not been completely ruled out for the future. Tony George stated difficulties in meeting the demands of Ecclestone to continue to host the event. George and Ecclestone were in talks to revive the race for 2009, but no deal was made for a future race in Indianapolis. In a statement on April 10, 2008, Indianapolis chairman Joie Chitwood said that the “door is open” for Formula One to return to the circuit. However, on May 25, 2010 it was announced that Formula One would return to the United States in 2012 at a new purpose-built track in Austin, Texas.
On September 26, 2013, IndyCar officials announced that the road course will host an IndyCar race in 2014 on the opening weekend of the Indianapolis 500. The race, known as the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, will be held on May 10 on a modified version of the road course. The track’s length was changed to 2.434 miles (3.917 km).
Motorcycle racing and a new road course
On July 16, 2007, the Speedway announced that it would host a round of Grand Prix motorcycle racing beginning in 2008. The race was held for the first time on September 14, 2008, backed by Red Bull and known as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. This marked the first motorcycle racing event at the facility since its first month of operation, in August 1909.
Modifications approved by the FIA and FIM were made to the former Formula One circuit, bringing the new track to a total of 16 turns. The motorcycle course runs counter-clockwise, in the same direction as the oval events at the Speedway, and completely bypass the banking of the oval with a new infield section inside Turn 1 (“Snake Pit complex”). Also, the double-hairpin at the Hulman Straight was replaced with traditional esses. This construction was completed before the opening day of the 92nd Indianapolis 500 in May, 2008. The layout can be run clockwise (car use, without the Snake Pit complex) or anticlockwise (for motorcycle use, with the Snake Pit complex).
The first Moto GP event was heavily affected by the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Ike. On race day, the weather was overcast and cold, with a 100% chance of rain during the event. The 125cc class started on a dry track, and went on until rain began to fall, with 7 laps to go. Since two-thirds of the scheduled distance had been run, the race was declared over and full points were given. Rain intensity then led the organizers to postpone the 250cc race until after the MotoGP race, hoping the winds and rain would stop. The MotoGP race was started at the scheduled time, with a very wet track but little rain. It ran until the 21st lap, when strong winds again began to blow. Fearing for the safety of the riders, the stewards red-flagged the race, which was declared completed, and full World Championship points were given. The winds did not stop after the race, and safety concerns ultimately led to the cancellation of the 250cc race.
Super Weekend at the Brickyard
On September 3, 2009, Grand-Am tested IMS as a potential future venue. A total of nine cars, representing both the Daytona Prototype and GT classes, participated. Laps were run in a clockwise direction (like Formula 1 at this track, and unlike MotoGP). For most of the test, the southwest turn of the oval was used (as it had been with Formula 1). A brief period in the middle of the day (approximately 20 minutes) was spent turning laps that included the southwest MotoGP road course section.
On July 6, 2011, at a press conference held at the start-finish line, officials with the speedway, NASCAR, and the Grand American Road Racing Association announced the new Super Weekend at the Brickyard taking place July 26–29, 2012. The NASCAR Nationwide Series moved from Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis to the Brickyard to run a Saturday race while both the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge now run races on Friday. Further, the Rolex race is the conclusion of the new North American Endurance Challenge, a triple crown event along with the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen. 2012 was the first time in speedway history that races took place on the 2.5-mile oval and 2.534-mile Grand Prix road course during the same weekend. The move has been done to counter declining attendance during the Brickyard 400. Many Sprint Cup drivers will make an appearance in the Rolex Sports Car Series race to refine their road racing skills in preparation for the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen two weeks later. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Lucas Oil Raceway was also discontinued.
The move of the Nationwide race from Lucas Oil Raceway to the Brickyard has come with much criticism. Lucas Oil Raceway sold out every race in the 28 years it held a Nationwide race while offering exciting short track racing on the track, while many fans consider racing at the Brickyard “boring.”
Grand Prix of Indianapolis
On October 1, 2013, details of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, an additional race for the 2014 IndyCar season and beyond, were announced. The inaugural event has been scheduled for May 8-10, 2014 on the newly reconfigured 2.434-mile (3.917 km), 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Repaving of the course is expected to be completed in time for spring 2014 testing. Spectator mounds will be modified, along with special grandstand seating arrangements, for optimization of viewing lines for the 40-50 thousand spectators expected. This new IndyCar road will kick off the month of May, with practice for the 2014 Indy 500 starting the day after the race. It will be televised live by ABC TV.
Other sporting events held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Since 1977, the city of Indianapolis has hosted a half marathon, which includes one lap around the Speedway. Known as theOneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, this event usually starts the official events that occur prior to the Indy 500.
From 1960 to 1968, the Speedway Golf Course, originally built in 1929, hosted a PGA Tour event, the 500 Festival Open Invitation, in conjunction with Indy 500 race week. In 1968, it also held an LPGA event. From 1991 to 1993, the course was demolished and changed from a 27-hole layout (18 holes outside, 9 in the infield) to an 18-hole championship course designed by legendary golf architect Pete Dye. The new course, renamed the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort features 14 holes outside, and 4 holes in the infield, along with an infield lake. A Champions Tour event, Brickyard Crossing Championship, was hosted there from 1994–1999.
During the three-year Centennial Era, announced on May 23, 2008, special festivities which will include a balloon festival to commemorate the first event, will be held at two of the major races at the speedway, the Indianapolis 500, and the Brickyard 400. In February 2012, the facility was used to host events during the week of Super Bowl XLVI that was held in Indianapolis.[37