The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an American icon and the world's greatest racecourse. With more than 250,000 permanent seats, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is also the world's largest seating facility.
Since its opening, the Speedway has been a proving ground for automobiles and an important factor in the development of the present-day automobile. The Speedway also has been the scene of 93 Indianapolis 500 Mile Races, 16 Brickyard 400 NASCAR events, eight United States Grand Prix Formula One events and twoRed Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP races, playing host to some of the biggest names in racing history.
Below is a chronological timeline of some of the many highlights in the Speedway's rich 101-year history.
1909: The founders, Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby and Frank H. Wheeler, pooled their ideas and resources to build the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which would become the world's greatest racecourse. Fisher's vision was to build an automobile testing ground to support Indiana's growing automotive industry.
June 5, 1909: The first competitive event to take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was actually a gas-filled balloon race. In the handicap division, Dr. Goethe Link and Russ Irvin's "Indianapolis" won. John Berry and Paul McCullough won the National Championship race with the "University City."
Aug. 14, 1909: The first motorized races - using motorcycles - took place on the recently completed IMS oval, which had a racing surface composed of crushed stone sprayed with tar. A.G. Chapple won the first race, a five-mile handicapped race with seven competitors, on an Indian motorcycle. The two-day event was originally scheduled to begin on Friday, Aug. 13 but was rained out. Because competitors would not compete on Sundays in that era, the final day of competition was rescheduled for Monday the 16th, but the day's activities were canceled due to track surface conditions.
Aug. 19, 1909: The Speedway opened for three days of auto racing, the first automobile races in track history. The first auto race was a two-lap, 5-mile standing start "dash" won by Louis Schwitzer. Accidents in the initial events, however, convinced the management that a paved surface was necessary for the safety of drivers.
Late 1909: In a span of 63 days, 3.2 million paving bricks, each weighing 9.5 pounds, were laid on top of the crushed rock and tar surface to upgrade the Speedway. The job was completed in time for another series of races scheduled for Dec. 18, but sub-freezing weather forced cancellation of the event.
1910: Various racing programs took place at the Speedway during May, July and September of 1910. The Speedway became one of the only racetracks to have permanent garages, located inside of Turn 1. The Speedway also played a role in the early history of flight by playing host to the first National Aviation Meet on June 13-18.
May 30, 1911: The first Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, initially named the "International Sweepstakes," was won by Ray Harroun at an average speed of 74.602 mph. Except during America's involvement in World Wars I and II, the Indianapolis 500 has been an annual event ever since. Many historians believe that this race marked the first use of a pace car to start a race. It is also believed that Harroun's Marmon "Wasp" was the first automobile to use a rearview mirror.
1912: The Indianapolis 500 became the highest paying sporting event in the world when Carl Fisher increased the total purse to $50,000 and first prize to $20,000.
1913: A four-tier tower of the Japanese pagoda design was erected. It was razed using fire in 1925 to make way for a larger Pagoda of similar design.
1920: The four-lap qualification format was introduced. Driver Art Klein was the first to post a "time trial" under this format.
1923: Tommy Milton became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 two times (his first win was in 1921). With the exception of one car, this was also the first time the entire field used single-seat cars during the "500."
1925: Peter DePaolo won the Indianapolis 500 and became the first driver to average faster than 100 mph. It was also the first time substantial radio broadcasts took place at the track - WFBM of Indianapolis and WGN from Chicago.
1926: The original Pagoda, which was razed with fire after the 1925 Indianapolis 500, was replaced with a similar yet slightly larger version in time for the 1926 race. As speeds increased, officials felt the original Pagoda was built too close to the track, and thus the new Pagoda was built considerably further back from the main straightaway.
1927: Captain Eddie Rickenbacker and his associates purchased the Speedway for $750,000.
1929: A golf course was added to the Speedway's landscape. Today's Brickyard Crossing Golf Course sits on the same land outside the oval backstretch and inside the oval's infield.
1935: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first track in the world to install safety-warning lights. Also in 1935, helmet use became mandatory at the Speedway, a first for motor racing worldwide.
1936: Louis Meyer became the first driver to win three Indianapolis 500-Mile Races. He also requested a bottle of buttermilk in Victory Lane, creating the inspiration for the winner to drink milk, an annual tradition since 1956. Before the race, patches of asphalt had been applied to the rougher portions of the bricks in the turns.
1937: All turns were resurfaced with asphalt before the race, and magnaflux inspection of key safety-related metal parts was made mandatory.
1938: Asphalt was laid on the entire surface except the middle section of both straightaways.
1939: The entire track, except the middle portion of the main straightaway, was resurfaced with asphalt.
1940: Wilbur Shaw became the first driver to win back-to-back Indianapolis 500-Mile Races. Only four other drivers have accomplished this feat: Mauri Rose (1947-48), Bill Vukovich (1953-54), Al Unser (1970-71) and Helio Castroneves (2001-02).
Nov. 14, 1945: Tony Hulman of Terre Haute, Ind., obtained control of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, purchasing it from Eddie Rickenbacker for $750,000. Hulman would help elevate the Indianapolis 500 and the month of May to a new level. Wilbur Shaw was named president and general manager. Shaw would later popularize the tradition of announcing, "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines" in the early 1950s.
Mid-to-late 1940s: The facilities were in deplorable condition after four years of deterioration during World War II, so a long-range program of improvements was launched immediately. The old wooden grandstands were replaced with steel and concrete structures as rapidly as possible in following years.
1949: Television cameras made their first appearance at the track on the morning of the 1949 race. WFBM Channel 6 went on the air with a documentary about the race entitled "The Crucible of Speed" and then televised the entire Indianapolis 500 live. This marked the first-ever television broadcast in the city of Indianapolis. One of the cameras was positioned on top of the first double-decker grandstand in Turn 1.
1956: The first Hall of Fame Museum/office building at the main entrance to the grounds was completed.
1957: A new Master Race Control Tower (replacing the 1926 Pagoda), Tower Terrace and Pit Area were built for the 1957 Indianapolis 500 - along with a new tunnel under the backstretch. Other improvements followed quickly.
1961: A.J. Foyt earned the first of his four Indianapolis 500 victories after he took the lead from Eddie Sachs on Lap 197. In October, the remaining bricks on the front straightaway were covered with asphalt. A 36-inch strip of the original bricks ("Yard of Bricks") was kept intact at the start/finish line, where it remains today.
1965: The Indianapolis 500 was televised nationally on a tape-delayed basis for the first time on ABC.
April 5, 1976: The new, multi-million dollar Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum was opened to the public, featuring approximately 75 classic automobiles, motorcycles and racing cars. The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Summer 1976: The entire track was resurfaced with asphalt, marking the first complete repaving since paving bricks were laid in late 1909.
May 14, 1977: Pole-sitter Tom Sneva turned the first official 200-mph laps at the Speedway.
May 22, 1977: On the final day of qualifying in 1977, Janet Guthrie became the first female to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
1977: A.J. Foyt became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times (1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977). Two other drivers would accomplish this feat in the years to come: Al Unser in 1987 (also won in 1970, 1971 and 1978) and Rick Mears in 1991 (also won in 1979, 1984 and 1988).
Oct. 27, 1977: Tony Hulman passed away after 32 years of presiding over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His family took on the responsibility of preserving his vision and the heritage of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hulman's wife, Mary Fendrich Hulman, became chairman of the board while longtime family friend Joseph R. Cloutier was named president.
May 27, 1979: The "pack up" rule was employed as a safety measure during caution periods, and for the first time in history the Pace Car appeared on the track during the Indianapolis 500.
October 1979: The board of directors elected John R. Cooper to a director's position, and named him president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation.
Spring 1982: Cooper resigned as president and CEO and was subsequently elected chairman of ACCUS-FIA, Inc. Cloutier was again named IMS president.
Spring 1986: A new garage area complex was built, which includes 96 individual garages for race teams and new accessory rooms accommodating up to 25 participating companies.
1986: Bobby Rahal became the first driver to complete the Indianapolis 500 in less than three hours. The Indianapolis 500 was broadcast live on ABC for the first time.
May 1988: Mary Fendrich Hulman was named chairman of the board emeritus and her daughter, Mari Hulman George, was named chairman of the board.
1988: Following the "500," won by Rick Mears, the entire track and pit area were resurfaced.
1989: The winner's share of the Indianapolis 500 exceeded $1 million for the first time, which was won by Emerson Fittipaldi. Grandstand A was remodeled.
Dec. 11, 1989: IMS President Joseph Cloutier passed away.
Jan. 8, 1990: Anton H. "Tony" George, grandson of Tony Hulman, was named president of the Speedway.
1990: Arie Luyendyk set the official Indianapolis 500 race record of 185.981 mph for the full 500 miles.
Spring 1992: A newly designed, energy-absorbing crash pad was installed at the pit entrance on the north end of the inside pit wall.
May 24, 1992: Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear in the closest race in Indianapolis 500 history. The margin of victory was .043 of a second.
June 22-23, 1992: Nine NASCAR drivers conducted a tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first official NASCAR test in the track's history. The following drivers participated: Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip, Ernie Irvan, Davey Allison and Kyle Petty. The top speed of the test was 168.767 by Elliott on June 23.
1993: Brickyard Crossing, an 18-hole championship-caliber golf course, opened to the public. Four of the holes are located within the infield at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
April 14, 1993: IMS President Tony George and NASCAR President Bill France Jr. announce in a press conference at the Hall of Fame Museum that the inaugural Brickyard 400 will take place on Aug. 6, 1994.
Aug. 16-17, 1993: Thirty-one NASCAR drivers participated in a test session in preparation for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Bill Elliott was fastest again, at 167.467 mph.
1994: Victory Lane was transformed into a circular, rotating lift in the Tower Terrace horseshoe, and a new, 97-foot-tall scoring pylon with modern electronics replaced the pylon that marked the main straightaway since 1959. In addition to track renovations, the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway Administrative Office was completed at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road (outside Turn 1).
March 11, 1994: Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, announced plans for a new racing series, the Indy Racing League, to begin competition in 1996. The Indianapolis 500 is its cornerstone event.
Aug. 6, 1994: The inaugural NASCAR Brickyard 400 race was won by Jeff Gordon.
September 1994: The first Comfort Classic at the Brickyard, featuring the Senior PGA Tour (now the Champions Tour), took place.
Fall 1995: The entire track, except the new pit lane and warm-up lanes, was repaved. Concrete walls and catch fencing were installed along the inside of the back straightaway.
1996: Arie Luyendyk established the one-lap qualifying record of 237.498 mph and the four-lap record of 236.986. Buddy Lazier won the race and became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 under the Indy Racing League flag.
Sept. 7, 1997: Plans were announced to build a new Control Tower that resembles the historicPagoda structures that stood at the track from 1913-1956. The Bombardier Pagoda was completed in time for the 2000 Indianapolis 500.
May 24, 1998: The 82nd running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race was dedicated to the memory of Mary Fendrich Hulman, chairman emeritus of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, who passed away on April 10, 1998 at age 93. Race fans everywhere will remember Hulman as the gentle woman who, in a strong voice, gave the command for drivers to start their engines to begin the world's most famous automobile race from 1978-80 and 1982-96.
July 31, 1998: Mark Martin won the inaugural 40-lap "IROC at Indy" International Race of Champions event. Jeff Gordon won his second Allstate 400 at the Brickyard the next day.
Dec. 2, 1998: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced plans to play host to the United States Grand Prix Formula One race at the Speedway starting in 2000. Work began to prepare the track for the race, including the development of a 2.605-mile road course and 36 pit-side garages for the Formula One teams.
May 30, 1999: Kenny Brack won the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, which marked the 90th Anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Brack drove for four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt. During the Indianapolis 500 weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to the largest gathering of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients in history.
Spring 2000: Construction continued on the new Bombardier Learjet Pagoda control tower, pit-side garages and 2.605-mile road course in preparation for the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24, 2000. It is the most ambitious construction project in Speedway history.
Sept. 24, 2000: Michael Schumacher won the inaugural United States Grand Prix Formula One race at Indianapolis before a sellout crowd estimated at 225,000. Schumacher's Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, finished second and Heinz-Harald Frentzen was third in the Jordan Grand Prix entry.
May 27, 2001: Helio Castroneves won the 85th Indianapolis 500, marking the first time since 1926-27 that rookies had won consecutive races.
Aug. 5, 2001: Jeff Gordon won the eighth Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, becoming the first three-time winner of that prestigious event.
Jan. 8, 2002: The Olympic Torch Relay came to the Speedway on the way to the 2002 Winter Olympic games in Salt Lake City. IndyCar Series drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves took one lap with the flame in the back of a Chevy Avalanche, and Eddie Cheever Jr. and IMS CEO Tony George each ran with the flame.
March 2002: The Speedway's asphalt oval surface was made smoother in a process called "diamond-grinding." This was the first time that the track was ground to smooth the surface.
May 1, 2002: The Speedway announced that the groundbreaking SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) Barrier was in place in all four of the Speedway oval's corners for the beginning of practice for the 86th Indianapolis 500. Under development by the Indy Racing League and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility since 1998, the SAFER Barrier is designed for multiple impacts by Indy Racing League cars and stock cars during an event. NASCAR joined in the development of the project in September 2000. The barrier is also used during the Brickyard 400.
May 26, 2002: Helio Castroneves won the 86th Indianapolis 500, becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Indy 500's since Al Unser in 1970 and 1971. Castroneves is the first driver to win the "500" in each of his first two starts.
Aug. 8, 2002: The Indiana quarter, which features a modern Indy-style race car, was released to the public during a ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
May 25, 2003: Gil de Ferran won the 87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race by .2990 of a second over his Marlboro Team Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves. With Tony Kanaan finishing third only 1.2475 seconds behind de Ferran, the race featured the closest 1-2-3 finish in "500" history.
Aug. 4, 2003: Kevin Harvick won the 10th Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, becoming the first driver to win the race from the pole.
Aug. 8, 2004: Jeff Gordon became the first four-time winner of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. He set the race record for most laps led, with 124.
Late Summer-Fall 2004: The 2.5-mile oval surface, pit lane and warm-up lanes were repaved. Crews removed the famous "Yard of Bricks" beginning Aug. 9, milling of the old asphalt surface began Aug. 16, and the final layer of new asphalt was laid in early November.
March 2005: The new "Version 2" SAFER Barrier was installed in each of the four corners of the Speedway oval.
April 28, 2005: The Allstate Corporation, the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer, became the title sponsor of the prestigious Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at IMS. The race was renamed the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard as a result of the historic partnership.
Aug. 7, 2005: Tony Stewart, a native and resident of Columbus, Ind., scored an emotional win at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, becoming the first Indiana-born driver to win the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, and the first driver from Indiana to win a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Shelbyville native Wilbur Shaw won the 1940 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
July 12, 2007: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that Formula One will not return for the United States Grand Prix in 2008. Both IMS and Formula One hope the event can return in the future.
July 16, 2007: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that MotoGP, the world's premier motorcycle road racing series, will compete at IMS in 2008. The Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Sept. 14, 2008 will be contested on a new 2.620-mile road course that will use much of the existing IMS road course. The event will be the first motorcycle race held at IMS since the very first motorized race in 1909.
July 29, 2007: Hoosier Tony Stewart won his second Brickyard 400 over runner-up Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 champion. Montoya became the first driver to participate in three major racing events at IMS - the Indianapolis 500, the United States Grand Prix and the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
July 30, 2007: Construction began on a new 2.620-mile road course to be used for the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP race Sept. 14, 2008. The 16-turn circuit included parts of the famed 2.5-mile oval and the Speedway's original road circuit, built in 1999-2000 for the United States Grand Prix. The new portions of the course included a four-turn complex adjacent to Turn 1 of the oval, and a three-turn complex behind the IMS Hall of Fame Museum. Riders will compete on the course in a counter-clockwise direction, the same as the oval.
April 7, 2008: 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden christened the new 16-turn, 2.620-mile road circuit at IMS on two motorcycles - a 1909 Indian that raced in the first motor race at IMS in 1909 and a 2008 Honda CBR 1000 production bike. Hayden, from Owensboro, Ky., dressed in 1909 period costume of a leather helmet, goggles, blue sweater with "Indianapolis Speedway" sewn in green script on the front, knickers and leather riding boots, to ride the 1909 Indian.
Sept. 14, 2008: Six-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi won the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP, which officials ended after 20 of the scheduled 28 laps due to high winds and heavy rain brought on by the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Rossi became the winningest MotoGP/500cc rider in history with his 69th victory in that class, surpassing fellow Italian legend Giacomo Agostini. 2006 MotoGP World Champion and Owensboro, Ky., native Nicky Hayden finished a season-best second, and Jorge Lorenzo was third.
Jan. 16, 2009: The Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T Real Yellow Pages was announced, as balloon races May 1-3 at IMS will honor the first competitive event ever at the Speedway, a helium gas-filled balloon competition Saturday, June 5, 1909.
Feb. 27, 2009: Nineteen of the 27 living Indianapolis 500 winners – including four-time winners A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears – were among the featured guests at the Centennial Era Gala at the Indiana Convention Center, which officially started the Centennial Era at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
March 14, 2009: Former IMS President and Chief Operating Officer Joie Chitwood announced the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Era Concours d’Elegance, an event scheduled for June 18-20, 2010. The Centennial Era Concours d’Elegance will celebrate the significance of vehicular transportation and competition to Indianapolis. Vehicles at concours d’elegance competitions are judged on their appearance in an elegant setting, with awards presented in a variety of classes.
May 1-3, 2009: The Centennial Era Balloon Festival presented by AT&T Real Yellow Pages takes place at IMS, honoring the first event at the Speedway 100 years ago. Balloon “glows” and “Hare and Hound” races are key components of the event.
May 24, 2009: Helio Castroneves wins the first Indianapolis 500 to take place in the Centennial Era, becoming just the ninth driver to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” three times.
June 30, 2009: The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that veteran IMS executives W. Curtis Brighton and Jeffrey G. Belskus will head the Hulman-George companies effective July 1. Brighton became president and CEO of Hulman & Company. Belskus became president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedw
- Sun, May 19
Jourdain, Legge Experience Unique Agony, Ecstasy Of Indy Bump Day
- Sun, May 19
Jourdain Disappointed As Legge Takes Final Spot In Grid
- Sun, May 19
Carpenter Puts 'Little Guy' In Spotlight With Stunning Indy 500 Pole Run
- Sun, May 19
Old National Armed Forces Bump Day Quotes
- Sun, May 19
97th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference - Michel Jourdain Jr.
- MORE HEADLINES
- Mon, May 20
Forty years ago, a deadly month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway still resonates
- Mon, May 20
Gary Varvel: Watch Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti zip 80-year-old grandmother around Indianapolis Speedway
- Mon, May 20
Indy 500 Bump Day fizzles out at Speedway with no late-day action
- Sun, May 19
Ed Carpenter family celebrates scoring Indy 500 pole publicly, privately
- MORE INDYSTAR NEWS