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January 12, 1879 – Ray Harroun, first Indy 500 winner, is born
This Day

January 12, 1879 – Ray Harroun, first Indy 500 winner, is born

Ray Harroun, the winner of the inaugural Indianapolis 500, was born on this day in 1879 in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania. By his early 20s, Harroun had already become a successful race car and endurance driver. One of his first major accomplishments came in 1903 when he, along with three other drivers taking shifts, set the first speed record for the drive between Chicago and New York City at 76 hours. A year later the team bested that by nearly 20 hours, finishing the course in 58 hours and 35 minutes.  Harroun in the winning Indy 500 car. Note the rear view mirror. Though he collected many checkered flags, his most famous victory would come on May 30, 1911, the first Indianapolis 500. The taxi-cab yellow Marmon Wasp that he helped design and build for the race was the first open ...
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 17, 1994 – Al Unser Sr. retires
This Day

May 17, 1994 – Al Unser Sr. retires

Al Unser Sr. raced his way into the record books with four Indy 500 wins, as well as becoming the oldest person to win the race when he did so in 1987, five days before his 48th birthday. His incredible career started in 1957 at age 18 when he began racing modifieds. In 1965 he found his way into his first Indy 500, a race he first won five years later. He would win a USAC National Championship, a 1978 Triple Crown of Ovals - IndyCar Championship, and was crowned PPG IndyCar World Series Champion in 1983 and 1985. After being unable to qualify for his 28th Indy 500 he announced his retirement from racing on this day in 1994, just shy of his 55th birthday.
May 12, 1973 – “Bloody May” at Indy begins
This Day

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

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 American race car driver Art Lee Pollard, Jr., died in an accident while running practice laps for the Indianapolis 500. Art Pollard Pollard had clipped a wall, an impact that sent his car skidding into the infield grass. When he hit the green, his car dug into the soil and flipped. It slid upside down for several yards before flipping again and then catching fire. His injuries included pulmonary damage from smoke inhalation, burns to his hands, neck and face, and a broken arm. He was pronounced dead at Methodist Hospital as a result of his injuries. Just after the green flag flew for the Indianapolis 500, Salt Walther suffered disfiguring burns i...
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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