Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Start Your Engines

Magnet # 321:  Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Centennial Era Logo

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Dad

Today marks the anniversary of the day when the first auto race was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909.  It's worth noting that the first motorsports event held at the track actually took place on August 14 of that year, and was run by motorcycles.  This subsequent event lasted three days and consisted of 18 races.  It was hardly a great weekend - the road was in terrible condition, made of tar and crushed stone, and there were no shortages of car accidents, with five people dying.  The tragedy inspired Indianan Carl Graham Fisher, a former race car driver himself who had invested heavily in the track, to make extensive changes to the track, paving it with over three million bricks, an act that gave it its nickname of "The Brickyard."  It took 63 days to lay them all down and the final brick was a pretty big deal - it was made of brass and covered with gold plating and placed by the Indiana Governor himself.  Fisher went on to become the first President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and helped develop highways all over the nation, including the Lincoln Highway.  Thanks to his efforts, the track was able to overcome its faulty start and go on to become the largest sporting facility in the world.

The timing on this magnet is a bit unusual - as you may have noticed, it singles out 2009 and 2011.  Usually, my magnets are posted after the date on them and perhaps before on occasion, but this one is being posted smack dab in the center of the two years.  So why are these two particular years so important to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?  Well, obviously the track opened in 1909 and held its first races then, so that was important.  But Memorial Day of 1911 was when the first 500 mile race was held at the track, an event that was dubbed the "International Sweepstakes" but would later become the Indianapolis 500, the premier automobile racing event.  Ever since that time, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has had its own distinct identity and has risen to the top of motor tracks the world over.  So we're in the midst of a very important time of anniversaries for Indianapolis and its most famous landmark.

In a funny coincidence, an episode of Man V. Food where host Adam Richman visited Indianapolis debuted just last night on the Travel Channel. And to prep for his food challenge, Richman visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, got some racing tips from pro driver Tony Kanaan, and came in first during a mock run of the Indy 500. Unfortunately, he didn't fare as well with his Indianapolis food challenge - the Big Ugly Burger Challenge at Bub's Burgers and Ice Cream.  Adam was hoping to polish off four one-and-a-half pound burgers, but like all of the previous 42,000 challengers, he fell short.  But he did at least down a couple of them.  Apparently, they even filmed the episode during the Memorial Day weekend, when the Indy 500 was held - yet another interesting parallel!  I guess both of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway-themed magnets I've posted on here have coincided with Man V. Food related activities.  What're the odds? 

Unlike Richman (and my Dad), I've never made it out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take in a race - or just see all it has to offer.  But it might be worth stopping by sometime.  As I mentioned before, it is the largest sporting facility worldwide and it can also seat more than any other.  And even though they've improved the track many times over, some of its original bricks are still visible in a strip three feet wide at the start/finish line.  I wonder if the "gold brick" is among them?  But it's certainly nice to see that the track still has ties to its past.  And even if I can't make it for the Indy 500, other racing events are held there throughout the year.  I admit, I'm not a huge fan of automobile racing, but maybe I could enjoy it if I took it in at this venue.  Perhaps I'll give it a try one day!


  1. I'm not a big racing fan either but, seeing the Indy 500 sometime would be fun.

  2. I guess if you can't get into racing at the Indy 500, you'll never be able to get into it!