Thursday, 27 July 2017

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indy, America’s Racing Paradise

Just about any self-respecting car nut will tell you they have a bucket list of places they must visit to pay homage to these silly machines they love. Chances are the list would include places like the Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan, or perhaps attending speed week at the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah’s west desert. Another amazing place that would have to be on the list would be the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hall of Fame Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. Recently, the car nut that writes this column was able to visit this sacred ground while vacationing with the family. This was a great destination for the family, even my moody teenage daughter had a good time there.

The Brickyard as it is affectionately known was originally built in 1909 by a couple of early car nuts. Why is it that anytime some new technology hits the market, it’s not long before someone decides to see how fast it will go? The track was dirt to begin with but was almost immediately repaved with bricks, 3.2 million bricks to be precise. This is why it is called the brickyard. Over time the bricks were slowly replaced with asphalt until 1961 when the last of the bricks were paved over.

Today the start/finish line is marked with three feet of the original bricks. Since 1996 it has become customary for the winner of any of the races that take place on this circuit to ceremoniously stoop down to kiss the bricks before ascending the winner’s podium. Of course yours truly was not about to be left out. Although I didn’t win a race at Indy I did feel the need to participate in this sacred right while touring the facilities.

This track hosts three big races each year: the Indianapolis 500 of the Indy Car Series, The Brickyard 400 of NASCAR, and the Indianapolis GP of the MotoGP motorcycle racing series. In the past the American Grand Prix of Formula One has also been held there, but that race now happens elsewhere.

Of these big events the one with the most history is of course the Indy 500. Other than a few years during times of world war this event has occurred every year for over 100 years. Because of the history and tradition that surrounds this race; the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a museum and hall of fame dedicated to the driver’s and their machines that have won this historic race.

When visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway you can check out the museum, go for a ride around the track with a tour guide, or you can do the deluxe tour. Obviously the latter is a must for anyone who really wants to see the facilities. This all inclusive tour takes you out on the track where you can get out and wander up and down the main stretch, kiss the bricks, and tour the various media centers and garages.

If you are a truly devoted fan you would come back Memorial Day weekend to be one of the quarter million fans in the stands watching the Indy 500. I suppose that will be the next thing on my list.

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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hall of Fame Museum.

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On the track

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The start finish line is still paved with bricks. When the track was first built the entire length was paved in this manner. This is why they call it the brick yard.

 

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Between turns 3 and 4.

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The famous pagoda at Indy. Containing offices and control facilities.

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Your humble car guy “kissing the bricks” with his children. All Indy 500 winners engage in this tradition.

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The flag stand at the start finish line.

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Looking down the front stretch from the starting line.

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The leader board.

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Hey kids! Go play in the street! In this street it’s lots of fun to play.

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100th anniversary brick.

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The media room where press conferences are held before and after the race.

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The press room where all those from around the world work on their live reports from track-side.

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The view of the front stretch from the luxury suites.

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The Pagoda

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The grandstands at Indy seat about 257,000 people making it the largest sporting venue in the world.

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The plaza in the in-field where festivities take place during the Indy 500.

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The winner’s stand. The drivers get younger every year.

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The start finish line from above.

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The main control room. Those who work in here are cut off from the rest of the world until after the race finishes. The race is recorded to VHS using all the VCR’s below the monitors. This is for the sake of security to make sure no one can hack into a digital recording during the race, and no one in the control room can digitally send any portion of the recordings at any time to anyone outside the room. The race is recorded from many angles so they can have an official, secure copy of everything in case there is an issue that must be later reviewed by judges. The race winner is not certified until 24 hours after the race concludes once all the tapes are reviewed.

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The viewing areas in the suites.

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The fuel allotted to each team for one race is kept in these tanks on gasoline alley.

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The team garages in the in-field.

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The exit from the garages of Gasoline Alley to the pits in the front straight. So much history!

 

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum 

The museum houses most of the original winning cars from the last century, all displayed side by side. The evolution of the race cars at Indy is very easy to see as you walk up and down the many aisles. I was told by one of the guides working in the museum that all of the cars still run, and are still just as track worthy as they were on the day when they won the coveted Borg-Warner trophy.

They said the cars are taken out on the track occasionally to burn the cobwebs out of them, and for photo ops. One of the old race cars was on the track a couple of years ago and suffered a major engine failure. No problem, the museum employs mechanics to take care of such things and they were able to get everything repaired, even though they had to custom fabricate a few of the parts that were needed.

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An experiment in aerodynamics from years ago.

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An old Corvette race car.

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A rare and much fabled Ford GT40 from the late 60’s. Not an Indy car but they had raced at Indy.

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Record setting Indy car. This car has the the record for the fastest qualifying and the fastest lap at Indy. This occurred in 1994 which was a long time ago. Cars since then have been slowed down a little because at that speed they become dangerous on the track. This car was the last of the turbocharged Indy cars. By not allowing turbos anymore the speeds have been kept in check.

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A Cummins powered Indy car from 1950. This car only made 52 laps into the race before the supercharger gave up. Later the same year it would set world records at the Bonneville Slat Flats for a diesel powered racer.

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Indy 500 winners from the 70’s. This seems like the decade when the modern looking race cars first appeared.

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Indy winners from the 60’s.

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Winners from the 50’s

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Indy 500 winners from the 40’s

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Indy 500 winners from the earliest days of the race. The blue one is from 1914.

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The Borg Warner Trophy. The winner of each Indy 500 gets their face put on the trophy.

 

 

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