For lovers of speed and automotive perfection, there can be no greater joy than taking a seat at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for one of the greatest motoring spectacles in the world – the Indianapolis 500. However, aside from modern-day thrills ‘The Brickyard’ as it is affectionately known also offers a long and storied history.
In 1908, four visionaries active in the automotive industry – James Allison, Carl Fisher, Arthur Newby, and Frank Wheeler realized that auto companies needed somewhere to test their vehicles. They purchased 320 acres of farmland and in 1909 the 2.5-mile oval track that has today become synonymous with American racing was established. It was originally covered in asphalt, but in 1910 the decision was made to switch to the more durable paving bricks and the Brickyard was born. Today the oval still has a yard of exposed bricks at the start/finish line, the rest may appear to be asphalt, but beneath that surface, those bricks remain.
In May 1911 the Indianapolis 500 was inaugurated. The first 500-mile sweepstakes race was won by Ray Harroun who broke with tradition by forgoing a mechanic in the car along with the driver. that made all the difference to the weight of the car – and placed him on the winner’s podium.
This tradition of innovation is still one of the hallmarks of each Indianapolis 500. It is here where automakers and designers test technology that shapes the automotive world. All-wheel drive was first tested under race conditions on the track – and even innovations such as rearview mirrors were influenced by testing at the Indianapolis Speedway.
The Indy 500, as it is affectionately known also boasts another title ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ Given the popularity of the race, this is not an idle claim. During the 1990s the race regularly attracted crowds of around 400,000 racegoers.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has more permanent seats than any other sporting venue in the world – and given the popularity of the races, it hosts (including the Indy 500) each one of those seats usually has an occupant on big race days. However, there is a downside to this popularity, it can be tremendously challenging and time-consuming to get out of the venue once the checkered flag has been waved. in fact, most regular fans wait for up to three hours before they even attempt to leave – it is the single occasion when speed is not a hallmark of The Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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