We are live from the Speedway! Ray is focused, and my hangover hasn't kicked in yet so the day is going swimmingly. And while Mr. Wert chronicles all of the faces that are being rocked by the Jalopnik crew, I am here to steep you in the history of this grand facility and the super collosal extravaganza that takes place every Memorial Day weekend. Actually, I'm going to tell you what I picked up from track historian Donald Davidson, seen here at the start of our tour.
This is inside the Hall of Fame museum, which is inside the track and is required viewing for any visit to Indy. Donald Davidson is a walking, talking encyclopaedia of Indy. He's been in or around Indianapolis since 1964, which means he's forgotten more about the Indy 500 than we ever knew. Except, you know, he didn't forget any of it. Here's some of the stuff we gleaned.
The track was built in 1909 and originally covered with crushed rock and tar. Except this wasn't too well suited to actually driving fast, so they covered it with bricks in the fall of 1909. 1911 was the first running of the 500, and the winning car sits in the museum, pretty much in original condition. This year is the 90th running of the 500, which has taken place every year except for 1917-18 and 1942-45, 'cause we were kind of busy going to war then.
Do you want more trivia to impress all your friends as you slowly cook the bratwurst at the barbeque? Yeah, I thought so. The Indy track isn't really an oval - it's more like 4 straightaways connected by corners. The corners are all 440 yards long, and the story goes that the track was designed by cutting up a circle and separating them by
as much straight distance as possible.
The brick paving (hence, brickyard) survived until 1936, when they started patching up the rough parts with ashphalt, follow by paving the corners in 1938 and the backstretch in 1939. But after the war everybody was all nostagiac and stuff, so the whole track wasn't smoothly paved in 1961. But the cool part is that the bricks still
exist, and not just the 3 foot stretch at the start-finish line but under the entire track - except for the places where tunnels have been built. Said start-finish line is the only place where some of the brick surface has been removed, due to the diamond-grinding that occured after some vocal complaints from a whiney German dude in a red
car that wins lots of races.
That's all for now, it's off to the parade in downtown Indianapolis. And yes, we are still Indy.
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