Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aerial photo of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
4790 West 16th Street|
Speedway, Indiana 46222
|Time zone||UTC−5 / −4 (DST)|
|Capacity||235,000 (permanent seats)|
|Owner||Hulman and Co.|
|Operator||Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation (subsidiary of Hulman and Co.)|
|Broke ground||March 15, 1909|
|Opened||August 12, 1909|
|Construction cost||$3 million ($73 million 2016 dollars)|
|Architect||Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, F. H. Wheeler, and Arthur Newby|
NASCAR Xfinity Series|
Lilly Diabetes 250
|Rectangular oval track|
|Surface||Asphalt and Brick|
|Length||2.500 mi (4.023 km)|
|Lap record||37.895, 237.498 mph 382.216 km/h (Arie Luyendyk, Treadway Racing, 1996, IRL IndyCar Series)|
|Grand Prix road course (2000–2007)|
|Surface||Asphalt and Brick|
|Length||2.605 mi (4.192 km)|
|Lap record||1:10.399, 133.546 mph 214.921 km/h (Rubens Barrichello, Scuderia Ferrari, 2004, Formula One)|
|Grand Prix road course (2008–2013)|
|Surface||Asphalt and Brick|
|Length||2.534 mi (4.078 km)|
|Grand Prix road course (2014–)|
|Surface||Asphalt and Brick|
|Length||2.439 mi (3.925 km)|
|Surface||Asphalt and Brick|
|Length||2.621 mi (4.218 km)|
|Lap record||1:31.619, 101.781 mph 163.800 km/h (Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 2013, MotoGP)|
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway under construction
|Location||4790 W. 16th St., Speedway, Indiana|
|Coordinates||39°47′54″N 86°13′58″W / 39.79833°N 86.23278°WCoordinates: 39°47′54″N 86°13′58″W / 39.79833°N 86.23278°W|
|Architect||Andrews, Park Taliaferro|
|Architectural style||Motor racing circuit|
|NRHP Reference #||75000044|
|Added to NRHP||March 7, 1975|
|Designated NHLD||February 27, 1987|
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located in Speedway, Indiana, (an enclave suburb of Indianapolis) in the United States, is the home of the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. It is located on the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road, approximately six miles (10 km) west of Downtown Indianapolis.
Constructed in 1909, it is the original speedway, the first racing facility so named. It has a permanent seating capacity estimated at 235,000 with infield seating raising capacity to an approximate 400,000. It is the highest-capacity sports venue in the world.
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 (400 m) turns, two 5⁄8-mile-long (1,000 m) straightaways between the fourth and first turns and the second and third turns, and two 1⁄8-mile (200 m) 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 racing, 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 Site in 1987, it is the only such site 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 the United States Grand Prix for Formula One. The inaugural USGP race drew an estimated 400,000 spectators, setting a Formula One attendance record. In 2008, the speedway added the Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix, a Grand Prix motorcycle racing event.
On the grounds of the speedway is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, which opened in 1956. The museum moved into its current building located in the infield near the short chute between turns one and two in 1975; its previous building outside the track at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road was razed for the construction of current IMS administration offices. Also on the grounds is 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.
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 and testing. He also argued that spectators did not 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 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) long with smooth 100–150-foot-wide (30–45 m) 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 5-mile (8 km) course. He visited the Brooklands circuit outside 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 (133 ha) about 5 miles (8 km) outside of Indianapolis. In December 1908, he convinced James A. Allison, Arthur Newby, and Frank W. Wheeler to join him in purchasing the property for $72,000. The group incorporated the 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 3-mile (5 km) oval with a 2-mile (3 km) road course to a 2.5-mile (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 2 inches (5 cm) of gravel, 2 inches (5 cm) of limestone covered with taroid (a solution of tar and oil), 1–2 inches (3–5 cm) 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 8-foot (2.4 m) perimeter fence. A white-with-green-trim paint scheme was 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 motorsport event at the track consisted of seven 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-mile (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 should 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-mile (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 until 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. Less than a month after the first car races, the repaving project began. Five Indiana manufacturers supplied 3.2 million 10-pound (4.5 kg) bricks to the track. Each was hand laid over a 2-inch (51 mm) cushion of sand, then leveled and the gaps filled with mortar. At the same time, a concrete wall 33 inches (840 mm) tall 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 to 200 miles (160 to 320 km), 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 through 1955). 1910 also saw the speedway host the National Aviation Meet, featuring Wilbur and Orville Wright and highlighted by Walter Brookins setting a 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-mile (800 km) race on Memorial Day, May 30, 1911. Forty cars competed with Ray Harroun winning at an 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 decided to save weight and go faster by driving solo. So, to be able to see what was happening behind his No. 32 Marmon "Wasp", he installed a rear-view mirror. It was the first time such a device was used in an automobile.
The golden age (1912–1929)
A classic race followed in 1912, when Ralph DePalma lost a five lap lead with five laps to go after 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 of reasons including a lack of entries from Europe (there were so few entries that the speedway itself entered several cars), a lack of oil, and out of respect for the war 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 (32, 80 and 160 km) distances. In the end, Johnny Aitken, in a Peugeot, would win 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.
At the 1925 event, Pete DePaolo became the first to average 100 mph (160 km/h) for the race, with a speed of 101.13 mph (162.75 km/h).
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. There is 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 resulted in several top competitors running out of fuel in the closing stages, the limits were abandoned, though the use of pump gasoline was still mandatory.
By the early 1930s, rising race speeds began to make the track increasingly dangerous, and in the period 1931–1935 there were 15 fatalities. This forced another repavement, with tarmac replacing the bricks in parts of the track. In addition, during the 1935–36 seasons the inside wall was removed in the corners, the outside wall was realigned (to change the angle compared to the track, reducing the potential for cars to vault over it), hard crash helmets became mandatory, and the first yellow light system was installed around the track. The continuing track dangers during this period, however, did not 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 improvements. In 1941, about a third of "Gasoline Alley" (the garage area) burned down before the race. With U.S. 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 three years (1942–1945). The track was more or less abandoned during the war and fell into a state of disrepair.
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 dilapidated 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 businessman 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 that the 500-mile race became part of the Formula One World Championship for 10 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 in 1952. Five time world champion Juan Fangio practiced at the speedway in 1958, but ultimately decided against racing there. 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–1990s)
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". After being widely ignored by Formula One drivers when it was an F1 World Championship event, a wave of F1 drivers went to the speedway in the 1960s, and the rear-engine revolution that was started by the Cooper 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. The Cooper used a smaller (2.7-liter) and less powerful Coventry Climax engine compared to the 4.4-liter Offy engines used by the other 32 cars and was slower on the straights, but many took note of the British car's superior handling through the turns. Brabham qualified 17th and after running as high as third, would ultimately finish ninth after completing all 200 laps. Despite this, many doubters claimed the rear-engine cars were for drivers who liked to be pushed around, though as Brabham said "It started the rear-engined revolution at Indy".
A. J. Foyt, who had won his first 500 in 1961, won the 1964 Indianapolis 500, which was the last ever win 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 becoming 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 would go on to race in F1 and win the world championship in 1978 with Team 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 poor management and not holding enough races on the racetrack.
In the 1977 Indy 500, Janet Guthrie made history when she became the first female driver to qualify for the race. Guthrie started the race from 18th position but retired with timing gear failure after 27 laps. She was eventually classified 29th. Nineteen-seventy seven also saw A.J. Foyt make history when he became the first driver to win the race four times.
Nineteen-seventy nine 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 of 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 year's top-25 overall 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 is supported by both the Xfinity Series (the Lilly Diabetes 250) and also the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series (Brickyard Grand Prix, until 2014). From 1998–2003, an IROC event was held as a support race. From 1982–2011, nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park held a Nationwide Series event known as the Kroger 200 which, since the Brickyard 400 in 1994, had been held the night prior to the IMS event. From 1995–2011, a Camping World Truck Series race, the AAA Insurance 200, had 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, multiple CART champion team Chip Ganassi Racing brought their drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmy Vasser to Indianapolis. Montoya qualified second, led 167 laps and won the race convincingly, becoming the seventh Indy 500 rookie to win the race. The 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 were not willing to do), bought a majority interest in CART's Team Green, which 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 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 500 winner 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, after acquiring it for a lap near the 125-mile (200 km) mark while cycling through 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, in 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, in 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 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 an Indy-based road course led to the first United States Grand Prix there in 2000, a race which was a success. The 2001 event's success (185,000 fans were reported in attendance) was even more important with the race, originally held in September, being the largest international sporting event held in the United States after the 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 (at the time, 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 last second, the Michelin teams pulled into the pits at the end of the parade lap, leaving only the three 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. 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 would host an IndyCar race in 2014 on the opening weekend of the Indianapolis 500. The race, known as the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, was held on May 10 on a modified version of the road course. The track's length was changed to 2.439 miles (3.925 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 anti-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 one ("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 (for car use, with or without the Snake Pit Complex) or anti-clockwise (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 seven 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
Kroger Super Weekend is held in late July, with events building up to the annual NASCAR Brickyard 400. Races on the combined road course include TUDOR United Sports Car Championship Brickyard Grand Prix and IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Brickyard Sports Car Challenge
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 was scheduled for May 8–10, 2014 on the newly reconfigured 2.439-mile (3.925 km), 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (a chicane replaces the long curve in turns five through seven) and the Snake Pit section is included. Spectator mounds were modified, along with special grandstand seating arrangements. This IndyCar road race began the month of May, with practice for the 2014 Indy 500 starting the day after the race. It was televised live by ABC TV.
Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational
The Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational, held three weeks after the Indianapolis 500, is an event featuring over 500 vintage race cars using the road course. The races are sponsored by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association.
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 the "OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon", it 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, nine 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 four holes in the infield, along with an infield lake. A Champions Tour event, the Brickyard Crossing Championship, was hosted there from 1994 to 1999.
During the three-year centennial era, announced on May 23, 2008, special festivities which included a balloon festival to commemorate the first event, was 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, which was held in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis 500-Mile Race
|Practice||1||2.5||4.0||May 10, 1996||Arie Luyendyk||0:37.6160||239,260||385,052|
|Qualifying||1||2.5||4.0||May 12, 1996||Arie Luyendyk||0:37.8950||237,498||382,216|
|Qualifying||4||10||16.1||May 12, 1996||Arie Luyendyk||2:31.908||236,986||381,392|
|Race||1||2.5||4.0||May 26, 1996||Eddie Cheever||0:38.119||236,103||379,971|
|Race||200||500||804.7||May 26, 2013||Tony Kanaan||2:40:03.4181||187,433||301,644|
|2.5 miles (4.0 km)||July 26, 2014||Kevin Harvick||0:47.647||188.889 mph (303.987 km/h)|
|2.5 miles (4.0 km)||August 7, 2005||Tony Stewart||0:50.099||179.641 mph (289.104 km/h)|
|400 miles (640 km)||August 5, 2000||Bobby Labonte||2:33:55.979||155.912 mph (250.916 km/h)|
United States Grand Prix
|2.605 miles (4.192 km)||June 19, 2004||Rubens Barrichello||1:09.454||135.025 mph (217.302 km/h)|
|2.605 miles (4.192 km)||June 19, 2004||Rubens Barrichello||1:10.223||133.546 mph (214.921 km/h)|
|2.605 miles (4.192 km)||June 20, 2004||Rubens Barrichello||1:10.399||133.207 mph (214.376 km/h)|
|190.165 miles (306.041 km)||June 19, 2005||Michael Schumacher||1:29:43.181||127.173 mph (204.665 km/h)|
|* All-time track record, IMS original (2000–2007) road course|
Red Bull Indianapolis GP
|2.621 miles (4.218 km)||August 17, 2012||Dani Pedrosa||1:39.783||94.561 mph (152.181 km/h)|
|2.621 miles (4.218 km)||August 18, 2012||Dani Pedrosa||1:38.813||95.489 mph (153.675 km/h)|
|2.621 miles (4.218 km)|| August 19, 2012
|Dani Pedrosa||1:39.088||95.214 mph (153.232 km/h)|
|73.388 miles (118.107 km)||August 19, 2012||Dani Pedrosa||46:39.631||94.368 mph (151.871 km/h)|
|* All-time track record, IMS reconfigured (2008) road course|
Grand Prix of Indianapolis
|2.439 miles (3.925 km)||May 9, 2014||Scott Dixon||1:10.4654||124.606 mph (200.534 km/h)|
|2.439 miles (3.925 km)||May 8, 2015||Will Power||1:09.4886||126.36 mph (203.357 km/h)|
|2.439 miles (3.925 km)||May 10, 2014||Scott Dixon||1:10.4062||124.711 mph (200.703 km/h)|
|190.165 miles (306.041 km)||May 10, 2014||Simon Pagenaud||2:04:24.0261||127.173 mph (204.665 km/h)|
|* All-time track record, IMS reconfigured (2014) road course|
In 2004, The Indianapolis Star journalist Curt Cavin counted 257,325 seats, a world record. The number of seats was reduced to an estimated 235,000 in 2013.
|Long straightaways||2||0.625 miles (1.006 km)||50 feet (15 m)||0°|
|Short straightaways||2||0.125 miles (0.201 km)||50 feet (15 m)||0°|
|Turns||4||0.250 miles (0.402 km)||60 feet (18 m)||9°12'|
|Total/average||2.5 miles (4.0 km)||54 feet (16 m)||3°3'|
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- Take a seat: Study puts Indy's capacity at 257,325 – Curt Cavin, The Indianapolis Star, May 27, 2004
- Indy 500 will have smallest capacity since 2000 – Curt Cavin, The Indianapolis Star, May 16, 2013
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.|
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Official website
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway race results at Racing-Reference
- BBC's circuit guide
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway Page on NASCAR.com
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Indianapolis, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection
- Historic Purpose Built Grand Prix Circuits on Google Maps