The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located in Speedway, Indiana (an enclave suburb of Indianapolis) in the United States, is the home of the Indianapolis 500 race.
It has existed since 1909, and is the original "Speedway," the first racing facility historically to incorporate the word. With a permanent seating capacity for more than 257,000 people and infield seating that raises capacity to an approximate 400,000, it is the largest and highest-capacity sporting facility in history. (By comparison, the world's largest stadium seats 220,000 spectators.)
Considered relatively flat by American standards but high-banked by Europeans, the Motor Speedway 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 and 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 over an area of over 559. 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 since its inception.
Besides the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (formerly Brickyard 400) also takes place there. The Speedway also hosted the United States Grand Prix for Formula One from 2000 to 2007. The inaugural race drew an estimated 225,000, which set a Formula One attendance record. In 2008, the Speedway added the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, a MotoGP event.
From August 19, 1909 through July 27, 2008, 243 automobile races took place, with 136 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 between the three major events (Indianapolis 500, Allstate 400 and the F1 USGP), though all having come on the infield road course. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears each won four times in the Indianapolis 500 on the rectangular shaped oval track, and Jeff Gordon has 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 one driver (Juan Pablo Montoya) having competed in all three. 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, and the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort, which originally opened as the Speedway Golf Course in 1929. 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. Photo credit: U.S. Library of Congress, May 1909.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.
The first weekend of automobile races took place August 19-21, 1909, and consisted of 16 races sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (AAA). The celebration quickly turned into a near-disaster, due to the surface of crushed stone and tar. There were several accidents, resulting in five fatalities, and the final race of the weekend was halted after 235 miles of its originally-scheduled 300.
Following an initiative by automotive parts and highway pioneer Carl G. Fisher, an Indiana native who was both a former race car driver and one of the principal investors in the track, the safety concerns for race drivers and spectators eventually led to a substantial additional expenditure to pave the track surface with 3.2 million paving bricks, thus giving the track its popular nickname "The Brickyard." Today, 3 feet (0.91 m) of original bricks still remain at the start/finish line.
The Speedway reopened 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 to 200-mile distance, with several shorter contests. None of the short races served as a qualifying race, or "heat" race, for the longer events. 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). A change in marketing focus led to only one race per year, beginning in 1911.
Attracting an estimated 80,000 spectators to the first 500 mile (804.672 km) race on Memorial Day May 30, 1911, at $1 admission, the Speedway hosted the first in a long line of 500-mile (804.672 km) races, now known as the Indianapolis 500. Ray Harroun won at the brisk average speed of 74.602 mph (120.060 km/h). "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" was born.
1912–1929: The Golden Age
Advertisement for an Indianapolis Motor Speedway "Harvest Classic" race.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 his car was being pushed around the circuit, Joe Dawson made up the deficit to win the race. Three of the next four winners were Europeans, 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 300 miles (480 km). This was for multiple 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 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 hub for repairs. When racing resumed, speeds quickly increased. In 1925 Peter DePaolo became the first to average 100 mph (160 km/h) for the race.
1930s: The Junkyard
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 that 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. A record of 42 cars started the 1933 500. With one exception between 1934 until 1979, 33 drivers started the 500; 1947 saw 30 cars start due to a strike by certain teams affiliated with the ASPAR drivers, owners and sponsors association.
By the early 1930s, however, the increasing 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. 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.
1940s: The Deal
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 of 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 understood what it was about. He found Terre Haute, Indiana businessman Tony Hulman. Meetings were set up and the purchase of the Speedway happened on November 14, 1945. Though not officially commented on, 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 before the 1946 race. Since then and up to today, the Speedway continues to grow. Stands have been built and remodelled many times over, suites and museums were added, and many other additions helped bring back Indy's reputation as a great track.
Several successful drivers helped increase the reputation of The Brickyard as well, including three-time winner Mauri Rose and 1953-54 winner Bill Vukovich.
In the 1950s, cars were topping out at 150 mph (240 km/h), helping to draw more and more fans. Kurtis, Kuzma, and Watson chassis dominated the field. Nearly all were powered by the Offenhauser 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.
End of the roadsters to the modern IndyCar
On 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, a wave of F1 drivers went to the Speedway in the 1960s, and the rear-engine revolution that was started in F1 by the Cooper team changed the face of the 500 as well; since Jim Clark's win in 1965, every winner has driven a rear-engined 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 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 Bobby and Al Unser 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.
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.
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 the fastest 500 to date, with an average speed 185.981 mph (299.307 km/h). Mears becoming the third four-time winner after a late-race duel with Michael Andretti in 1991, and Al Unser, Jr. finally securing victory by defeating last-place-starting driver Scott Goodyear by 0.043 of a second in 1992, the closest finish in race history to date.
The 500 got a new look in 1996 when it became an Indy Racing League event, formed as a rival to CART.
NASCAR and IROC at Indy
From 1919 to 1993, the 500 was the only race run at the Brickyard. However, when Tony George (Hulman's grandson) inherited the track, he brought more racing to the Speedway, with NASCAR in 1994 (Allstate 400 at The Brickyard, still commonly referred to as the Brickyard 400) and an International Race Of Champions (IROC) event in 1998.
The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard currently has no official support races. 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, and since the inception of the Allstate 400 in 1994, it has been held the night before. Since 1995, a Craftsman Truck Series race has also been held at IRP. Since 2001, qualifying for the Allstate 400 has been held on Saturday afternoon, with the Busch series race run Saturday night.
In 2003, the Firestone Indy Lights Series, a minor league series to the IndyCar Series, made history with the first May race other than the 500, the Freedom 100, which has been moved from the final qualifying weekend to Carburetion Day on the Friday before the 500.
In 2005, 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 during the United States Grand Prix weekend competing on the Grand Prix road course.
Formula One and road course racing
Formula One Grand Prix layoutIn 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 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 first major international sporting event 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 (excepting Interlagos, Imola and Istanbul Park) run clockwise.
Only six cars, all with Bridgestone tires, started the 2005 United States Grand Prix due to safety concerns involving Michelin tires performance on the banked corners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is not a common feature in Formula One circuits. The perceived outrage of this event put the future of Formula One at Indianapolis in doubt. However, the 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 rumour 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 are currently in talks to revive the race for 2009, with the speedway already searching for a new title sponsor. 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.
Of the three major races held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the US Grand Prix generated the most out of town business to the local economy due to the many overseas tourists and many sponsors and teams that are backed by large expense accounts.
Motorcycle racing and a new road course
On July 16, 2007, the Speedway announced that it will begin hosting a round of Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing. 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 marks 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 motorcycles run 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. This construction was completed before the opening day of the 92nd Indianapolis 500 in May, 2008.
The event was heavily affected by the arrival of Hurricane Ike on Indiana; the race day the weather was overcast and cold, with a 100% chance of rain during the event. The 125cc class started with dry track however, and went on until rain began to fall, with 7 laps to go. However, since two thirds of the scheduled distance had been ran, the race was declared over and full points were given. Rain intensity then led the organizers to postpone the 250cc race after the MotoGP race, hoping the winds and rain would stop.
MotoGP race was started at the scheduled time, with a very wet track but little rain, and it went on until the 21st lap, when strong winds began again to blow. Fearing for the safety of the riders, the stewards red-flagged the race, which was declared over, and full World Championship points were given. The winds did not stop after the race, and safety concerns led to the final cancellation of the 250cc race. 2008 Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix
The Laguna Seca round has not been removed from the schedule, meaning that the United States will now host two rounds of the championship. While Laguna Seca round has only MotoGP class competing, Indianapolis will host also 125 cc and 250 cc races.
Other sporting events held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
This logo is being used to commemorate the track's centennial from 2009 (the track's opening) through 2011 (the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500), drawing on elements from 1909, 1933 and 1961.Since 1977, the city of Indianapolis has hosted a mini-marathon, which includes one lap around the Speedway. Known as the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, this event usually starts the official events that occur prior to the Indy 500.
From 1960-1968, 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 1991-1993, the course was demolished and changed from a 27-h*** layout (18 holes outside, 9 in the infield) to an 18-h*** 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.
At the 1987 Pan American Games, the speedway hosted opening ceremonies and the speed roller skating competition.
Plans are for a three-year "Centennial Era", announced on May 23, 2008 which will include an balloon festival to commemorate the first event, along with the next three Indy 500 IRL races, Allstate 400 at The Brickyard NASCAR Sprint Cup races, and other special events.
IMS will be used to host events when Indianapolis hosts Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012.
(km) Date Driver Time Average speed
(1 lap) 2.500
4.023 May 10, 1996 Arie Luyendyk 0:00:37.616 239.260
(1 lap) 2.500
4.023 May 12, 1996 Arie Luyendyk 0:00:37.895 237.498
(4 laps) 10.000
16.093 May 12, 1996 Arie Luyendyk 0:02:31.908 236.986
(1 lap) 2.500
4.023 May 26, 1996 Eddie Cheever 0:00:38.119 236.103
(200 laps) 500.000
804.672 May 27, 1990 Arie Luyendyk 2:41:18.404 185.981
* All-time track record, IMS oval course
** Record did not count toward pole position, because was not a first-day qualifier
Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (formerly Brickyard 400)
(km) Date Driver Time Average speed
(1 lap) 2.500
4.023 Aug 7, 2004 Casey Mears 0:00:48.311 186.293
(1 lap) 2.500
4.023 Aug 7, 2005 Tony Stewart 0:00:50.099 179.641
(160 laps)* 400.000*
643.738* Aug 5, 2000 Bobby Labonte 2:33:55.979 155.912
* The 2004 race distance was extended by one lap, to 402.5 miles (647.8 km),
due to NASCAR's green-white-checker rule.
United States Grand Prix
(km) Date Driver Time Average speed
(1 lap) 2.605
4.192 Jun 19, 2004 Rubens Barrichello 0:01:09.454 135.025
(1 lap) 2.605
4.192 Jun 19, 2004 Rubens Barrichello 0:01:10.223 133.546
(1 lap) 2.605
4.192 Jun 20, 2004 Rubens Barrichello 0:01:10.399 133.207
(73 laps) 190.165
306.041 Jun 19, 2005 Michael Schumacher 1:29:43.181 127.173
* All-time track record, IMS original (2000-2007) road course
Red Bull Indianapolis GP
(km) Date Rider Time Average speed
(1 lap) 2.621
4.218 Sept 14, 2008 Casey Stoner 0:01:41.553 92.866
(1 lap) 2.621
4.218 Sept 13, 2008 Valentino Rossi 0:01:40.776 93.583
(1 lap) 2.621
4.218 Sept 14, 2008 Valentino Rossi 0:01:49.668 85.995
(20 laps) 52.395
84.320 Sept 14, 2008 Valentino Rossi 0:37:20.095 84.201
* All-time track record, IMS reconfigured (2008) road course
Region Number Distance
(miles / km) Width
(feet / meters) Banking
Long straightaways 2 0.625 / 1.006 50 / 15.2 0°
Short straightaways 2 0.125 / 0.201 50 / 15.2 0°
Turns 4 0.250 / 0.402 60 / 18.3 9°12'
Total/Average 2.500 / 4.023 54 / 16.5 3°3'
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
- Official website
- Amateur site with lots of history stats and photographs
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Forum
- Site for fans to post views, opinions, and comments.
Indianapolis History and Statistics
BBC's circuit guide
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Page on NASCAR.com