header photo

Ann Kathleen Otto


The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Opens

In July of 1909 Addison writes Purl that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open soon. It actually officially opened with a balloon race on June 5, 1909, but Addison was waiting for the motorcycle and automobile races to be held on Aug. 14 and Aug. 19 respectively. Today, with an average crowd of 400,000, the Indy 500 is the best-attended event in U.S. sports.

Marketing the New Automobile

In 1905, Indiana entrepreneur and sportsman, Carl Fisher, visited friends racing in France and saw that Europe was ahead in automobile design.  Something was needed to motivate the new industry in the U.S. He thought that a way to test cars before selling them to customers would help. His idea was that occasional races at a track could pit cars from different manufacturers against each other. Hopefully, after seeing what these cars could do, the public would go to the automobile showroom and buy.

Before 'The Brickyard'

American racing was just getting started on horse tracks and on dangerous, muddy public roads. The 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of Indianapolis became a testing facility for Indiana’s growing automobile industry.

The rectangular two-and-a-half-mile track linked four turns, each exactly 440 yards from start to finish, by two long and two short straight sections. In the first five-mile race on August 19 Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer won with an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. The track’s surface of crushed rock and tar broke up in a number of places, causing the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators. The surface would soon be replaced with 3.2 million paving bricks and named 'The Brickyard' by the time the annual Indianapolis 500 began in 1911.


Next time:  Historic racing at Indy

Go Back