Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

The state of Indiana annually hosts one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world: the Indianapolis 500 (more commonly known as the Indy 500).  The race’s name derives from the fact that it is held in Indiana’s state capital of Indianapolis, and that the racers drive around the racetrack 200 times, equaling a distance of 500 miles.  The Indy 500 usually occurs during the United States’ Memorial Day Weekend, so was originally scheduled for May 24, 2020 this year.  However, due to the COVID-19 situation, it has been postponed to August 23rd.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Indy 500, along with France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race and the Monaco Grand Prix make up the Triple Crown of Motorsports.  The Indy 500 is the oldest of these three automobile races.  Because of its importance to the history of automobile racing, a Museum dedicated to the Indy 500 opened in 1956, known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.  Since 1976, the Museum has been located at the center of the actual racetrack.  Although located on site, it is run by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation, Inc., which is independent of those who run the actual Indy 500 race.

Visitors to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum must drive through the racetrack’s main entrance in order to get to the Museum’s parking lot.  Once at the Museum, visitors can choose different bus and golf cart tours around the track.  However, since I have never even watched an Indy 500 race, I did not bother paying for a tour.  Instead, my visit solely consisted of visiting the actual museum building. 

The Museum includes the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, which is a large plaque that contains the names of different race car drivers.  However, the main exhibit at the museum was a room full of race car winners from different decades.  Not every Indy 500 race car winner is there, but many are there, including the first winner from 1911.  Walking around the room is like walking through an Indy 500 timeline. It is interesting to look at how race cares have changed over the years.  The Indy 500 has faithfully occurred every year except during parts of WWI (from 1917 to 1918), and WWII (from 1942 to 1945).  Other points of interest at the Museum are a temporary exhibit section, an 8-minute video about the history of the Indy 500, a race car driving simulator, and a variety of other race cars and suits.

This is the first Indy 500 winner, the Marmon Wasp, which is believed to be the first car to have a rearview mirror. Ray Harroun drove it.

Sources and Further Reading

“1911 Marmon Wasp.” Historic Vehicle Association. https://www.historicvehicle.org/national-historic-vehicle-register/vehicles/1911-marmon-wasp/ (accessed May 15, 2020).

“History of Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.” Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. https://indyracingmuseum.org/about-us/museum-history/ (accessed May 15, 2020).

Horner, Scott. “2019 Indy 500: What You Need to Know about the Triple Crown of Motor Sports.” IndyStar. May 14, 2019. https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/motor/2019/05/14/what-is-motor-sports-triple-crown-fernando-alonso-indy-500/3574885002/ (accessed May 15, 2020).