It has existed since 1909, and is the original Speedway, the first racing facility so named. With a permanent seating capacity for an estimated 257,325 people, it is the highest-capacity stadium-type facility in the world.
Considered relatively flat by American standards, the track is a two-and-a-half-mile, nearly rectangular oval with dimensions that have remained essentially unchanged since its inception: four 1/4-mile turns, two 5/8-mile long straightaways between the fourth and first and second and third turns, and two 1/8-mile short straightaways, termed "short chutes," between the first and second, and third and fourth turns.
A modern infield road course was constructed between 1998 and 2000, incorporating the western and southern portions of the oval (including the southwest turn) to create a 2.605-mile (4.192 km) track. In 2008, the road course was modified to replace the southwest turn with an additional infield section, for motorcycle use, resulting in a 2.621-mile (4.218 km) course. Altogether, the current grounds have expanded from an original 320 acres (1.3 km2) on which the Speedway was first built to cover an area of over 559 acres (2.3 km2). Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, it currently remains the only such landmark to be affiliated with automotive racing history.
In addition to the Indianapolis 500, the speedway also hosts NASCAR's Brickyard 400. From 2000 to 2007 the speedway also hosted the United States Grand Prix for Formula One. The inaugural USGP race drew an estimated 400,000 spectators, setting a Formula One attendance record. In 2008, the Speedway added the Indianapolis motorcycle Grand Prix, a Grand Prix motorcycle racing event.
Since August 19, 1909, 248 automobile races have taken place, with 137 separate drivers winning. After winning his fifth United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2006, Formula One driver Michael Schumacher holds the record for most victories between the three major events (Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and the F1 USGP), with all taking place on the Formula One version of the road course. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears each won the Indianapolis 500 four times on the traditional oval, and Jeff Gordon has also won four times on the oval in the Brickyard 400. No driver to date has won any combination of the three major events, with only two drivers, (Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve), having competed in all three. With Montoya winning the Indy 500, finishing 4th in the US Grand Prix, and finishing 2nd in the Brickyard 400. Villeneuve also won the Indy 500, had a best finish for 4th in the US Grand Prix, and a 29th place in the Brickyard 400. Johnny Aitken holds the record for total wins at the track, with 15 victories (all on the oval), during the 1909, 1910 and 1916 seasons.
On the grounds of the Speedway is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, which opened in 1956, and the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort, which originally opened as the Speedway Golf Course in 1929. The Speedway was also the venue of the opening ceremonies for the 1987 Pan American Games.
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Famous quotes containing the words speedway and/or motor:
“The improved American highway system ... isolated the American-in-transit. On his speedway ... he had no contact with the towns which he by-passed. If he stopped for food or gas, he was served no local fare or local fuel, but had one of Howard Johnsons nationally branded ice cream flavors, and so many gallons of Exxon. This vast ocean of superhighways was nearly as free of culture as the sea traversed by the Mayflower Pilgrims.”
—Daniel J. Boorstin (b. 1914)
“The motor idles.
Over the immense upland
the pulse of their blossoming
thunders through us.”
—Denise Levertov (b. 1923)