Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|Location||4790 West 16th Street, Speedway, Indiana, 46222|
|Owner||Hulman and Co.|
|2004 Indy Racing League||Indianapolis 500|
|2004 Formula One||United States Grand Prix|
|2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup||Brickyard 400|
|Distance||4.0 km (2.5 miles)|
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located in Speedway, Indiana (a separate city completely surrounded by Indianapolis), is the oldest surviving auto racing track in the world, having existed since 1908. The track is a flat two and a half mile oval, almost rectangular in nature. It has a spectator capacity of over 300,000, the largest sporting facility in the United States.
Early History: tragedy begets "The Brickyard"
When the first race took place in August, 1909, the celebration quickly turned into a disaster due to the surface of crushed stone and tar. There were terrible injuries to the race car drivers and spectators. Cars caught fire, there were deaths, and the race was halted and canceled when only halfway completed.
Following an initiative by automotive parts and highway pioneer Carl G. Fisher, an Indiana native who was both a former race car driver and one of the principal investors, the safety concerns for race drivers and spectators eventually led to a substantial additional expenditure to pave the track surface with 3.2 million bricks, and gave the track its popular nickname, "The Brickyard."
Attracting 80,000 spectators to the first 500 mile (800 km) race on Memorial Day May 30, 1911, at $1 admission, the Speedway reopened and hosted the first in a long line of five hundred mile (800 km) races known as the Indianapolis 500. Ray Harroun won at the brisk average speed of 74.602 mph (120.060 km/h). A new tradition had been established.
A classic race followed in 1912 when Ralph DePalma lost a five lap lead with five laps to go when his car broke down. As his car was being pushed around the circuit, Joe Dawson made up the deficit to win the race. These races gave Indy a worldwide reputation and international drivers began to enter. Three of the next four winners were Europeans, with DePalma being the exception.
The race was interrupted for two years by World War I, when Indy served as a military hub for repairs. When racing resumed, speeds increased and by 1925, when Peter DePaolo won, the best cars were averaging 100 mph (160 km/h) for the race. By the early 1930s, however, the increasing speeds began to make the track increasingly dangerous, and in the period 1931-1935 there were 15 fatalities. This forced another repavement, with tarmac replacing the bricks in parts of the track. The danger of the track during this period, however, didn't stop Louis Meyer or Wilbur Shaw from becoming three-time winners, with Shaw also being the first back-to-back winner (1939-1940).
At the beginning of the 1940s, the track required further improvement. In 1941, half of "Gasoline Alley," the pit area, burned down before the race. When US involvement in World War II cancelled the race for four years, the track was abandoned and was in bad shape when drivers returned in 1946. The track was sold to Tony Hulman at that time, and major renovations were made. The stands were remodelled, suites and museums were added, and many other additions helped bring back Indy's reputation as a great track.
Several drivers helped bring back its reputation as well, including three-time winner Mauri Rose and Bill Vukovich. In the 1950s, cars were going 150 mph (240 km/h) around the Speedway, helping to draw more and more fans. The track’s reputation improved so much the Indy 500 became part of the Formula One World Championship for 11 years (1950-1960), even though none of the Indy drivers raced in Formula One and only Ferrari's Alberto Ascari of the F1 drivers at the time raced in the 500.
After the last Indy 500 to be part of the World Championship, the track became completely asphalt, with the exception of a distinct three-foot-wide line of bricks at the start/finish line -- turning the "Brickyard" into the "Yard of Bricks." Ironically, a wave of F1 drivers went to the Speedway in the 1960s, and the rear-engine revolution that was started in F1 by the Cooper team changed the face of the 500 as well; since Jim Clark's win in 1965, every winner has driven a rear-engined car. Graham Hill won the following year at his first attempt. There were enough Americans to compete with them, with A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Bobby and Al Unser leading the charge in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1970s the Speedway became more than a race track, as it began to feature a pair of golf courses and a hotel.
From 1970 to 1981, Indianapolis had a twin out in the city of Ontario, California by the name of the Ontario Motor Speedway, this track was known as the "Indianapolis of the West" and the home of the California 500; but was a financial failure due to bad managment and not holding enough races on the racetrack.
The 1980s brought a new generation of speedsters, led by Rick Mears (who recorded the first 200 mph (320 km/h) lap in 1982), Danny Sullivan, and Bobby Rahal. In 1989, F1 veteran Emerson Fittipaldi astounded drivers and fans when winning and recording the first 220 mph (350 km/h) lap in the process. Indy had never even seen a 210 mph (340 km/h) lap before then. Arie Luyendyk won the following year, and did so in the fastest 500 ever, with an average lap of 185.981 mph (299.307 km/h).
NASCAR, IROC, PGA golf at Indy
Up until the 1990s, the 500 was the only racing done on the Brickyard. However, when Tony George (Hulman's grandson) purchased the track, he brought more racing to the Speedway, with the NASCAR Brickyard 400 and an International Race Of Champions (IROC) race. Even the golf courses got new interest, and a Champions Tour (formerly the Senior PGA TOUR) event was hosted there. The 500 itself got a new look in 1996 when it became an event of George's Indy Racing League, formed as a rival to the Champcars league.
In 1998, George arranged for Formula One to return to the US for the first time since 1991. Two years of renovation and new construction for an Indy-based road course led to the first US Grand Prix there in 2000, a race which was a great success. The 2001 event's success (185,000 fans were reported in attendance) was even more important with the race being the first major sporting event in the States after 9/11. The event's popularity is expected to potentially bring an American driver back to Formula One for the first time since 1993, though judging by the performance of foreign drivers in American domestic open-wheeler series it is unclear whether any of the current crop of American drivers would be competitive.
The Grand Prix road course, unlike the oval, is raced in a clockwise direction. This makes the US Grand Prix highly unusual in North American motorsports; however, it follows the general practice of Formula One, in which the vast majority of circuits (including the F1 circuit in Montreal) run clockwise.
- Indy Racing League - Indianapolis 500
- NASCAR Nextel Cup - Brickyard 400
- Formula One - United States Grand Prix
- Porsche Michelin Super Cup Support Race
- Formula BMW USA Support Race
- Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series - Futaba Freedom 100
- Indianapolis 500 Qualifying: Arie Luyendyk, 237.498 mph, May 12, 1996.
- Indianapolis 500 Race: Arie Luyendyk, 185.961 mph, May 27, 1990.
- NASCAR Qualifying: Kevin Harvick, 184.343 mph, August 2, 2003.
- NASCAR Race: Bobby Labonte, 155.912 mph, August 5, 2000.
- Long straightaways: 2 × 5/8 mile (1.0 km)
- Short straightaways: 2 × 1/8 mile (0.20 km)
- Turns: 4 × 1/4 mile (0.40 km)
- Total distance: 2.5 miles (4.0 km)
- Overall length: 0.94 miles (1.52 km)
- Overall width: 0.44 miles (0.71 km)
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details