Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 100+ years

A bird's-eye view of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

This postcard shows the indomitable Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as seen from the air looking south. The 559 acre facility was opened in 1909 for balloon, motorcycle and auto racing. The first 500 mile race was held in 1911.

Last year the speedway celebrated the 100th anniversary of the speedway. This year race, scheduled for Sunday, May 27, 2012, will be the 96th running of the race. It closed only during World War II, 1942-1945.

I date this photo postcard sometime after 1957 when a new control tower was built but before grandstands in the fourth turn at the southwest end were built. Today, yet another control tower is in place.

This postcard, along with several others, was purchased by me at the track during the 1964 race. I was 11 at the time and loved aerial views. Looking at the picture postcard now, I see it's publisher, the speedway, could have benefited from some cropping, flipping, and editing. Though the intent was to show the size of the speedway complex, a two and a half mile rectangular course, complete with 18 hole golf course inside and outside the race track, many details are out of focus.

In the 100-plus years of the speedways have seen many firsts. One of the novel changes to the usual racing milieu was the flying start. Instead of the cars lined up on the track at the starting, as in Formula 1 races of today, the start of the Indianapolis begins when the starter waves the green flag as the cars approach the starting line. The cars are arranged in 11 rows with three cars in each row. Most automobile races begin with cars two abreast. The effect of 33 cars exceeding 200 mph is both frightening and awe inspiring.

You can find four homemade videos of the Indianapolis 500 flying start below. The video gives you but a hint of the speed, the noise and the excitement of the flying start.

Find other Indianapolis Speedway postcards from my collection here.

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