When in Indy, see racecars

Indianapolis motor sports will be on another fast track this summer— beginning with the 92nd edition of the Indy 500 on May 25 — but not to be overlooked is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, open year-round.

The Indy 500 is billed as the world’s greatest extravaganza, attracting some 500,000 spectators for the one day running. A good share of those fans, an estimated 80,000, will visit the museum during May alone to get an on-site view of the history of auto racing.

All told, the museum — whose origin dates back 50 years — annually draws some 250,000 visitors, who walk through a 100-year timeline of racing technology and fashion, of silver trophies, bronze sculptures and gold medallions.

Racing fans and just-plain car buffs can explore and see on display a widely diversified collection of early-day passenger cars, European sports cars, motorcycles and other special interest vehicles, plus more than one-third of all of the Indianapolis 500 winning cars. This includes the 1911 Marmon "Wasp," which won the inaugural 500 almost a century ago.

Also on display are trophies, photographs, helmets, uniforms, goggles and other artifacts. A historic video is shown every 20 minutes in a 48-seat theater at no additional cost, while bus rides around the track itself are offered for an additional fee whenever the track is not in use.


The 96,000-square-foot building that houses the museum — a designated National Historic Landmark — is located within the track. The original museum, a small, single-story brick building on the southwest corner of the grounds, opened in 1956 with six vintage cars from the private collection of the late Speedway owner Tony Hulman, a Terre Haute businessman-sportsman who bought and restored the 21⁄2 mile track after World War II.

The collection soon outgrew the building, notes the Associated Press, and Hulman opened the current facility inside the speedway’s gates in April 1976.

What a visitor sees on display — and we toured the facility just a year ago — is not everything in the museum’s collection. There is a rotation of the items available, although some things that a visitor would expect to see are there at all times.

One of the more striking items that can be viewed is the Borg Warner Trophy, a 5-foot sterling silver monument that bears the bas-relief likeness of each Indianapolis winner. Still, the attractions are the cars themselves.

In addition to "The Wasp," there are: Joe Dawson’s 1912 National; the 1922 Murphy Special built by Duesenberg and the only race car to win both LeMans and the Indy 500; and all four of A.J. Foyt’s winning cars. Another is the car driven in 1977 by Janet Guthrie, the first woman in the Indy 500.

While the museum is heavily tilted to the Indy Speedway’s roots, it also displays cars from other racing events the city hosts, as well as midget and sprint cars and European sports cars.

The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with adult prices at $3 and children at $1.

Besides the Indy 500 race on May 25, the city also will host the 15th Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on July 27 and the inaugural of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Sept. 14. After eight years, the United States Grand Prix will not be staged at Indianapolis this year.


Lots of events

• There’s nothing like racing in Indianapolis — and there are several events on tap downtown prior to the May 25 Indy 500. Sunday is the Chase 500 Festival Kids’ Day and Rookie Run on Monument Circle, while other 500 Festival events include the 500 Festival Memorial Service on Friday and the IPL 500 Festival Parade on May 24.

• Development continues in downtown Indianapolis. According to Indianapolis Downtown Inc., there are 88 projects worth nearly $3.2 billion in the center-city pipeline. According to Communications Manager Jennifer Hanson, projects set to open this year include the IU Simon Cancer Center, Lucas Oil Stadium, WFYI TelePlex Headquarters, Broadbent Building, Comfort Suites and numerous townhomes and condominium projects.

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