Since 1911, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the home of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – the Indianapolis 500. However, did you know that the first competition at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway was actually a gas-air balloon race 106 years ago, today? The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened on June 5, 1909, with a balloon competition!
The Aero Club of America National Balloon Championship of 1909 was a helium gas-filled balloon competition held more than two months before the oval was completed. The event drew a reported crowd of 40,000 in and around the grounds to watch the balloons take off.
Three balloons set off at 3:45 p.m. and six more balloons were launched at 5 p.m. for the long distance race.
John Berry, piloting the University City, landed in Alabama two days later, winning the endurance and distance races. Berry was declared to have traveled about 380 miles before touching down in northeast Alabama.