The original IMS road course

Published On May 14, 2016 » 4532 Views» By Donald Davidson » Blogs, IMS, IMS History, INDYCAR Grand Prix

We’re chronicling 100 days of history on #SpeedRead leading up to the historic 100th Running. With 15 days to go, and on Race Day for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, we look back on what was originally envisioned for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

A road course was part of the original plans but it was never completed (if even started), mainly due to the problems with the laying down of the 2½-mile oval section. There seems to have been two or three versions proposed, the most commonly known one depicted on a postcard, which in spite of being well over 100 years old still surfaces from time to time and is known to be in a number of private collections. In fact, there was a period about a dozen years ago when eight or 10 per year would surface in various states around the country, although that rate has since slowed way down.


The proposal was that the infield section would commence with a left-hand turn a short way down the backstretch and then wind back and forth a couple of times through the infield, rejoining the backstretch just a few yards north of where the infield excursion had begun. The inclusion of this would increase the distance of a full lap to five miles.

Track founder Carl Fisher, whose brain was always leaping from one grand idea to the next, fantasized about landing both the Vanderbilt Cup and the American Grand Prize events for this circuit, envisioning the spectators on the main straight entertained throughout the day by having cars whiz by in front of them as well as behind. All of this was soon to be forgotten, however, with the trials and tribulations of laying the oval and it was not until around Christmas 1998 that an infield road course finally began to take shape.



About The Author

Donald Davidson

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson, based at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, developed a passionate interest in the Indianapolis 500 as a teenager in England. Arriving at IMS in 1964, he delighted the racing community with his ability to recite year-by-year accounts of participants’ careers. Returning permanently in 1965, he was invited by Sid Collins to join the worldwide IMS Radio Network and was hired by Henry Banks as USAC statistician, remaining at USAC for almost 32 years. He was named Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian in 1998. Along with numerous television and radio assignments, raconteur Davidson has played host to the popular call-in radio show “The Talk of Gasoline Alley” on 1070 AM in Indianapolis during the month of May continuously since 1971. His writing credits include countless historical articles and columns, a pair of “500” annuals in 1974 and ‘75 and co-authorship with Rick Shaffer of the acclaimed “Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500,” published in 2006.