If the 1950s were the Golden Era, then the 1960s were the decade of change. The ’60s had a little bit of everything. And the changes happening in America were mirrored at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
By 1961, the entire track was asphalt except for the bricks left on the front straightaway. In preparation for the race, a tradition was born to vacuum the bricks. Distributor E.L. Baker Jr. sent his Filter Queen crew out to remove debris, reportedly up to 1,800 pounds one year.
The remaining bricks were paved the following fall, leaving a 36-inch strip from the original “Yard of Bricks.” A cherished reminder of the past as the speedway moved into the future.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was building for tomorrow. And it wasn’t alone. Racing legends were born in the ’60s. By 1964, A.J. Foyt had won two Indianapolis 500s and in 1965 a newcomer, Italian immigrant Mario Andretti, showed up and won Rookie of the Year. What they didn’t know at the time was that he and his twin brother, Aldo, were also building the royal family of racing.
By the middle of the ’60s, society was divided. The Race Day crowd was a microcosm of the country. Everyone and everything was represented.
Just some good old boys
Nuns on the run
Baton twirlers (and buns)
The older generation was still living in the previous decade and it showed in their style: classic, covered, and a bit restrained.
The younger generation rebelled against such conformity. And what better place to do so than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? I think it’s safe to say the Snake Pit (Turn 1 infield, now located in Turn 3) was born of the ’60s generation. And it perfectly represented the “anything goes” mentality of the young people who occupied it.
It was during this period that the Indy 500 experienced its fastest growth and its biggest crowds. The race was televised nationally on ABC for the first time in 1965 and was broadcast on tape delay (without fear of social media spoilers).
It was also during this time that the roadster era came to an end. Due to performance issues, the engines gradually moved back to the front of the cars as the speeds continued to rise.
It was on to the ’70s for the Indianapolis 500, where technology would shatter the speed barrier, a driver would break the sex barrier, and history would be made again and again.