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.”
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 killed in accidents attributed to the makeup of the surface. Feeling the brunt, course founder Carl Fisher decided to resurface the track with bricks. It was on this day in 1909 the last brick at Indy was laid, leading to the nickname “The Brickyard.” The bricks remained in place for more than 50 years before the installation of asphalt. A row of original brick remains on the track today, marking the start/finish line.
Cover: A.J. Foyt takes the checkers at the 1961 Indy 500 across the bricks.