Tomorrow will mark the 70-year anniversary of Tony Hulman purchasing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Eddie Rickenbacker, a transfer of power that secured the future of IMS and the Indianapolis 500.
As IMS historian Donald Davidson explained in a story about the deal, the Terre Haute, Indiana, businessman vowed with his Nov. 14, 1945, purchase to not take any profits out of IMS, but would instead reinvest them toward improvements. With that, IMS emerged from its World War II lull and grew into the “Greatest Race Course in the World” that we know today.
Here’s a few of our favorite Hulman photos from over the years.
ONE: The union. Hulman insisted that three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Wilbur Shaw serve as president and general manager of IMS. Hulman and Shaw, pictured in 1946 at the Speedway’s downtown office at 444 North Capitol Ave., were the perfect pair – Shaw the dynamic frontman and Hulman the behind-the-scenes business force.
TWO: Marking 50 years. In 1961, after the last parts of the track with exposed bricks had been paved over – leaving just one fresh yard of bricks at the start/finish line (note the new cement) – Hulman helped lay a commemorative “Golden Anniversary” brick marking 50 years since the inaugural Indianapolis 500. That 1911 winner, Ray Harroun, is on the right in the photo. Louis Schwitzer, the man who won the first automobile race at IMS in 1909 is on the left.
THREE: With James Garner. The star of “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files” visited IMS and the “500” some 30 times and became a friend of Hulman’s.
FOUR: Ronald Reagan visits. In 1976, the campaign trail went through at IMS as Reagan was seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and meeting Mr. Hulman was a savvy campaign move when stopping in Indy. And it wasn’t completely random from a racing standpoint – Reagan once announced dirt-track races in the Midwest.
FIVE: A final ride. When A.J. Foyt became the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 in 1977, he invited his friend to come aboard for the Victory Lap. Anton “Tony” Hulman died five months later, at age 76.