“Gentleman Start Your Engines!”

The historic Indianapolis 500 could never happen without the race track that opened on August 19, 1909.

The stands held the 12,000 spectators who came to watch the 440 yard race on the rectangular two-and-a-half mile dirt track.  The track was built on 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of Indianapolis. It was started as a test track for the local automobile manufacturers. They wanted to show the public what their new models could do. Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer won the race with an average speed of 57.4 mph.

The track was later covered in bricks and was called “The Brickyard.” The popularity of the track was low, leaving an important decision to the people running the show. The idea of replacing many short races with one long annual race was brought up and accepted. May 30, 1910 was the first running of the Indianapolis 500. It became popular right away, and the owners could afford to keep the track open. The driver, Ray Haroun endured six gurgling hours and averaged 74.5 mph. The race has been held every year since with the exception of 1917-18 and 1942-45 because of the countries involvement in wars.

Since its opening, “The Brickyard” has expanded to 1,025 acres and includes a golf course alongside the parking lots, the grandstands and of course the track. The race has become extremely popular, and not just in America. in 2009 the program reached 213 countries and over 292 million households.

Fun fact: This was not the first event to be held at the track. June 5, 1909 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held a helium gas-filled balloon competition.

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