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December 14, 1909 – The last brick is laid at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
This Day

December 14, 1909 – The last brick is laid at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Despite its current nickname, the original track surface at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a cruel mixture of limestone, gravel, tar and oil. The resulting plane was so rough it shredded nearly all of the tires of the motorcycles that took to it on opening day, bringing competition to a halt. Before races resumed, the track had to be sanded down, but this caused the drivers to battle a never-settling dust. As one man said, “Driving at Indy was like flying through a meteor shower.”  Above: Indianapolis Motor Speedway under construction. Top: Cover: A.J. Foyt takes the checkers at the 1961 Indy 500 across the bricks. The track conditions were so bad that on August 19, 1909, the first day of automobile racing at the Speedway, two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators were kill...
June 5, 1909 – The first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is up in the air
This Day

June 5, 1909 – The first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is up in the air

It’s easy to assume that the first competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be a race involving automobiles, or at least motorcycles. It was not. On this day in 1909 the first competitive event at the raceway began. To catch this race, you had to look up. The event was a manned gas balloon race, in which the winner was determined by most distance covered from the take off point. Track founder Carl Fisher, a balloon enthusiast himself, was anxious to generate revenue for himself and other investors in the track. To get the money rolling he held the balloon race before completion of the automobile track.  Due to his fascination with aviation, Fisher wanted to participate in the race himself. In order to do so, and so he could host the National Balloon Championship, h...
May 30, 1911 – The first Indianapolis 500
Automotive

May 30, 1911 – The first Indianapolis 500

With more than 80,000 fans looking on from the grandstands of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a $25,000 prize purse up for grabs, the inaugural Indianapolis 500 got underway on this day in 1911. Some figures state as many as 100,000 actually watched trackside as 40 drivers zipped around the Brickyard. Finally, after six hours, 42 minutes and 8 seconds, the checkered flag flew. Ray Harroun, driving his Marmon Model 32-based Wasp, took the victory, or so it seemed. A controversy was brewing.  Bob Burman, Louis Disbrow, Jack Tower, and Joe Grennon at the 1911 Indianapolis 500 Harroun had outfitted his car with a rearview mirror, an invention of his own, which allowed him to be the only racer to compete without a riding mechanic. He was cited as a hazard on the racetrack due to this, a...
May 12, 1973 – “Bloody May” at Indy begins
This Day

May 12, 1973 – “Bloody May” at Indy begins

Aerial view of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, host track of the venerable Indianapolis 500 auto race, held every Memorial Day weekend in Speedway, Indiana, an enclave of the Indiana capital city of Indianapolis. Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Frank Wheeler, and Arthur Newby, founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, planned the suburb of Speedway south of the track. Constructed in 1909, the track 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 (as of 2016). May of 1973 was a deadly month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, earning it the nickname Bloody May. It began on this day in 1973 when Am...
September 10, 1950 – A new diesel speed record
Automotive

September 10, 1950 – A new diesel speed record

Jimmy Jackson drove his #61 Cummins Diesel Special to a new diesel land speed record of 165.23 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on this day in 1950. Jackson at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his Cummins Special in 1950. Nicknamed the Green Hornet byJackson, the car had a 401ci (6.6L) six-cylinder Cummins JBS 600 truck engine. It was outfitted with supercharger mounted in front of the engine that was coupled directly to the crankshaft. Jackson ran the same car in the 1950 Indianapolis 500, but was forced to drop out after 50 laps due to mechanical issues.

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