The Indianapolis 500 traces its roots to the 1909 construction of an asphalt track slated for use as a testing ground for automobiles. The humble track became the first fixture of what is today known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and launched a series of relatively small races that evolved over time to the event now dubbed “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
The sport developed with a long series of innovations aimed at providing safety to drivers, pit crews, and the audience. The original asphalt racetrack, composed of a mixture of packed tar and gravel, crumbled and broke apart several times. The obvious safety concerns prompted the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to replace the unstable material with bricks. The $155,000 project also included construction of a concrete wall around the circumference of the track to protect bystanders if a car veered off course.
The new track debuted to the public over the 1910 Memorial Day weekend. Though the event attracted crowds exceeding 60,000 people, subsequent events drew much smaller audiences. Beginning in 1911, the event organizers chose to concentrate their publicity and motor sports team recruitment on a single, large race. To generate excitement, the event entailed 500 laps culminating in a $25,000 prize for the victor.
About Granger Whitelaw
Granger Whitelaw cofounded the Rocket Racing League. The organization oversees the competition for Rocket Racing, a sport that employs high-technology, rocket-powered aircraft and track scenarios similar to those used in IndyCar racing. Before establishing the new race model, Granger Whitelaw owned Whitelaw Racing, Inc., an organization that represented and sponsored IndyCar teams, including two winners of the Indianapolis 500.