GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES*
With 12,000 spectators looking on, the first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was won by Austrian Louis Schwitzer on this date in 1909. He averaged a whopping speed of 57.4 miles per hour during the 5-mile race.
Looking for a single, long event that would draw crowds, the Indy 500 was christened in 1911. Currently drawing about 400,000 spectators, it is the best-attended event in US sports.
For safety reasons, the original tar and rock-covered track was bricked over in December of 1909. “The Brickyard”, as the track was nicknamed, was subsequently paved in 1936 and 1941. A 3-foot section of the track at the start/finish line remains unpaved. There the original bricks showing through remind racers and fans of the track’s humble beginnings.
Here is Rand McNally’s map of Indianapolis from two years after Schwitzer’s victory.
*Or: Lady(ies) and Gentlemen, Start your Engines, depending on who is driving
Steve Kovacs and his wife Theresa reside in Loveland, Ohio where they raised their two children. He is a passionate collector of antique maps.
Visit his antique map boutique world-on-paper online. Watch for his daily feature Steve Kovacs: Antique Maps & Fun Facts here on Loveland Beacon.