The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened on June 5, 1909. This was just after Theodore Roosevelt ended his term as president of the United States, the year that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded, the year Louis Bleriot was the first man to fly across the English Channel, and the year Alice Huyler Ramsey became the first woman to drive across the United States. The world has changed a lot since 1909, and so has the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The IMS has evolved along with Indianapolis. Here are some key points in the track’s history:
1909: Track officially opens.
1909: Brick-paving of the track is completed, earning the track its nickname of “The Brickyard.”
1911: First Indianapolis 500 is held.
1935: IMS becomes first racetrack with safety-warning lights, and mandatory helmet rules.
1939: Entire track except the middle portion of the main straightaway resurfaced with asphalt.
1965: Indianapolis televised nationally for the first time on ABC.
1979: Indy Pace Car makes its first appearance, and “pack up” rule was employed.
1986: New garage area complex was built with 96 individual garages for race teams.
1988: Entire track and pit area resurfaced.
1992: Energy-absorbing crash pad was installed at the pit entrance.
1994: Victory Lane was transformed into circular, rotating platform, and 97-foot-tall scoring pylon is added to the track.
1995: Entire track repaved, and concrete walls and catch fencing were installed.
2000: Construction is finished on the Bombardier Learjet Pagoda control tower.
2002: Track made smoother by process called “diamond grinding.”
2004: Track, pit lanes, and warm-up lanes were repaved and the “Yard of Bricks” was removed.
2005: New SAFER Barriers were installed on all four corners of the oval track.
2008: Construction is finished on the 2.62-mile course in time for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.
The success of the IMS has depended on its strong leaders. The track started with Carl G. Fisher and his partners James Allison, Arthur Newby, and Frank Wheeler. These four men made sure that the IMS got off on the right start. In 1927, Eddie Rickenbacker and his business associates bought the IMS, and the track fell into disrepair. In 1945, Tony Hulman bought the racetrack from Rickenbacker and managed to bring the racetrack back to its former glory. The family still owns it today.