The INDY 500: Grand Daddy of Them All – Auto Racing
In a land where auto racing has almost the status of a religion, the Indianapolis 500 race is perhaps the most exalted. Perhaps this is due to the long and glorious history of the race that extends back in time nearly a century. It was back in the early 1900s that Carl Fisher saw the need for a facility that would allow the day’s new, powerful automobiles to be tested to the limits of their speed and handling. Fisher also thought that an occasional race might be staged between some of the better cars. So it was that the first race at the then new Indianapolis Motor Speedway was held in 1909.
The format of the race was changed to a 500-mile distance in 1911 when Ray Harroun was the winner. The race, known today as the Indy 500, was run nearly every year thereafter at the end of May. Only war could stop the race from being held, as happened in 1917 and 1918, and again from 1941 through 1945. With the end of World War II in 1945, preparations began to be made for the 1946 race. A new owner, Tony Hulman, bought the raceway and the rights to the Indy 500 from former World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker and successfully managed the annual event until his death in 1977.
Tradition is a big part of the Indy 500’s appeal. Although many improvements in safety, accommodations and the track itself have been made over the years, some things (like the end of May race date) remain the same. The famous winner’s trophy, for example, has been awarded to every race winner since 1936 and has the names of every Indy 500 winner engraved upon it.
It’s certain that the Indy 500 will remain number one in the hearts of American auto racing fans and that the cherished “brickyard” will continue to be a place of pilgrimage for lovers of the sport for many years to come.