The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a motor racing circuit and oval speedway complex in Indiana, United States, which has held the Indianapolis 500 since 1911 (11 of which, 1950 to 1960, were rounds of the Formula One World Championship) and the United States Grand Prix from 2000 to 2007.

Circuit History[edit | edit source]

Aerial shot of the speedway in 2016.

IMS was the brainchild of Indianapolis businessman Carl G. Fisher. Fisher had recently visited Europe, and felt that European manufacturers were getting the upper hand in motor vehicle design, partly because of superior testing facilities. He envisioned a wide, smooth test track of between three and five miles, and would be able to allow cars to reach speeds of 120 mph (193 km/h), regarded as an extremely high speed at the time. More importantly, it would allow for the cars to maintain such speeds for extended periods of time, testing the limits of both car and driver.

Fisher also visited Brooklands, and after watching the banked track in operation, he was convinced of the need for the track, and to allow for spectator events, too. In partnership with three other businessmen, he purchased a 328 acre (133 ha) farm to the west of Indianapolis. They were forced to reduce the track length to 2.5 miles, to allow for grandstands.

Construction started in March, 1909. The surface was a base layer of smoothed and packed soil, topped by two inches (five cm) of gravel, then two inches of limestone covered with taroid (powdered coal mixed with oil), followed by 1-2 inches of crushed stone chips in taroid, and finally a topping of crushed stone. This was regarded as an optimal surface for testing.

The first event was on Saturday, June 5, 1909, more than two months before the track was due to open. The start of a hot air balloon event drew a reputed 40,000 spectators. The first event on the oval was on Saturday, August 14, 1909. It was planned as a two-day motorcycle event, with 15 races planned. But the event was halted before the first day was completed, over concern over the suitability of motorcycles racing on the surface.

The following weekend was scheduled for a series of automobile events. During practice, both drivers and car owners were critical of the track surface. On Friday, track workers oiled and rolled the surface again, before a scheduled 250 mile race. During the race, leader Louis Chevrolet was temporarily blinded by a rock striking him in the eye, and two competitors were killed when their rear axle broke in a rut. The first day did see two land speed records broken, and Fisher promised the surface would be improved. Saturday saw no major accidents and two more speed records set in the race, but tragedy struck again in the 300 mile finale on Sunday. Just after half distance, a blown tire sent a car through the fence and into the crowd. Two spectators and the ride-along mechanic were killed, and the driver and several spectators injured. The race was halted, and the American Automobile Association (the sanctioning body) announced a boycott of the speedway until major changes were made.

Circuit Layouts[edit | edit source]

Oval layout[edit | edit source]

The oval circuit, used from 1950 to 1960 in F1 and to this day in Indycar.

The layout of the Indianapolis 500 is an oval track, with two main straights, two short connectors and four corners. The track runs in the opposite direction (counterclockwise) to the infield circuit configuration. It is precisely 2.5 miles (4.023 kilometres) long, and is still used for the Indianapolis 500.

The two long straights are exactly 58 miles, the short straights are exactly 18 miles and the corners are 14 miles. The corners are banked at 9° 11'. The four corners are identical and the straights are exactly parallel. The only significant difference is the lack of runoff on the front straight, due to the pit wall.

Formula One layout[edit | edit source]

The infield Grand Prix circuit

The Grand Prix circuit ran clockwise, unlike the oval circuit, and spanned around half the oval circuit, using the same pit area as the oval track. The first two corners are at 90° angles, the first a very tight right-hander (Turn 1), then a wider left-hander (turn 2). Three right-hand bends follow, the first a long 60° sweeper (Turn 3), the second tighter 120° with an increasing radius (Turn 4), the third a fast 45° kink (Turn 5). Turn 6 is a long 180° left-hander that lead directly into the increasing radius 120° Turn 7. The back straight followed, before a 90° left turn (Turn 8) which led into two slow 180° hairpins, the first slightly tighter than the second (Turns 9 and 10, colloquially known as "Mickey" and "Mouse", names that infuriated the IMS management). At the next corner, Turn 11, the cars started building up speed as the cars rejoined the oval track at turn 12. Turn 13, the only banked corner on the F1 calendar at the time, was taken flat out and this led to the start/finish line. Pit in was between turns 12 and 13, but a slow car could make an entrance at the exit of 13.

The banked corner, Turn 13 was the source of the problems that arose at the 2005 United States Grand Prix, because the Michelin tyres provided were not able to survive ten laps unless there was a reduction of speed on the corner, as Ralf Schumacher's accident testified. Bridgestone had no problems with the banked corner, as they also provided tires for the Indy Car series, and routinely made tires designed for banked ovals. Eventually, the fourteen Michelin runners chose to withdraw after the formation lap in the interests of safety, leaving the remaining six Bridgestone runners to race it out. After the tyre scam, Michelin opted to refund those fans who went to the race and that they would purchase 200 tickets to give for free for the 2006 United States Grand Prix. The corner that was Turn 13 has since been replaced from the Indianapolis road course by a short right/left/right infield loop.

2008 road course[edit | edit source]

Starting in 2008, the track held FIM motorcycle Grands Prix on a revised layout. The "Mickey Mouse" section was shortened into a moderate 90° right followed by a much tighter 90° left. And the high-speed banked Turn 1 of the oval, the scene of the problems of 2005, was circumvented with a run through the old "snake pit" infield section (so named because of rowdy reputation of fans camping there). The course made a tight, 180° right hairpin, followed by two quick 90° lefts and a sweeping right to put the track on the front straight.

The length of the new configuration was 4.216 km/2.620 miles.

Current road course[edit | edit source]

The current road course, used by Indycars and sports cars.

The current course has incorporated several revisions. It now cuts out the turn 6 loop, instead making a quick left-right jog at the old turn 5, putting the cars directly on the back straight. Likewise, at the "Mickey Mouse" complex, the cars make a tighter right-left at "Mickey", cutting out "Mouse" entirely. But the most significant change is at the old turn 13 (Turn 1 of the banked circuit). Instead of the high-speed banked corner that gave the Michelin-shod cars so much trouble, the road course makes a sharp 90 right at the entrance of the corner, followed quickly by a decreasing radius 120 left corner, leading directly into a wide sweeping 120 right leading onto the start/finish straight. Pit in is now on the outside of the 120 left. This configuration now measures 2.439 miles/3.935 km.

Without speculating on future developments, this is significant in that the course issues that helped the demise of the event here have now been remedied. And if the F1 circus did return, the old turn 6 could easily be restored (but thankfully mickey and mouse are no more).

Event history[edit | edit source]

The following is a list of Formula One World Championship events held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Year Event Winning Driver Winning Constructor
1950 Indianapolis 500 United States Johnnie Parsons United States Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser
1951 Indianapolis 500 United States Lee Wallard United States Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser
1952 Indianapolis 500 United States Troy Ruttmann United States Kuzma-Offenhauser
1953 Indianapolis 500 United States Bill Vukovich United States Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser
1954 Indianapolis 500 United States Bill Vukovich United States Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser
1955 Indianapolis 500 United States Bob Sweikert United States Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser
1956 Indianapolis 500 United States Pat Flaherty United States Watson-Offenhauser
1957 Indianapolis 500 United States Sam Hanks United States Epperly-Offenhauser
1958 Indianapolis 500 United States Jimmy Bryan United States Epperly-Offenhauser
1959 Indianapolis 500 United States Rodger Ward United States Watson-Offenhauser
1960 Indianapolis 500 United States Jim Rathmann United States Watson-Offenhauser
No Formula 1 racing
2000 United States Grand Prix Germany Michael Schumacher Italy Ferrari
2001 United States Grand Prix Finland Mika Häkkinen United Kingdom McLaren-Mercedes
2002 United States Grand Prix Brazil Rubens Barrichello Italy Ferrari
2003 United States Grand Prix Germany Michael Schumacher Italy Ferrari
2004 United States Grand Prix Germany Michael Schumacher Italy Ferrari
2005 United States Grand Prix Germany Michael Schumacher Italy Ferrari
2006 United States Grand Prix Germany Michael Schumacher Italy Ferrari
2007 United States Grand Prix United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton United Kingdom McLaren-Mercedes

Multiple Winners[edit | edit source]

By Drivers[edit | edit source]

Wins Driver Years
5 Germany Michael Schumacher 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
2 United States Bill Vukovich 1953, 1954

By Constructors[edit | edit source]

Wins Constructor Years
6 Italy Ferrari 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
5 United States Kurtis Kraft 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1955
3 United States Watson 1956, 1959, 1960
2 United StatesEpperley 1957, 1958

By Engine Suppliers[edit | edit source]

Wins Constructor Years
11 United States Offenhauser 19501951, 195219531954195519561957195819591960
6 Italy Ferrari 20002002200320042005
2 Germany Mercedes 2001, 2007

Wins by Country[edit | edit source]

Drivers[edit | edit source]

Wins Country
11 United States United States of America
5 Germany Germany
1 Finland Finland
Brazil Brazil
United Kingdom Great Britain

Constructors[edit | edit source]

Wins Country
11 United States United States of America
6 Italy Italy
2 United Kingdom Great Britain

Notes[edit | edit source]

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Bold indicates a circuit on the 2020 calendar; italics indicates a circuit scheduled on the 2021 calendar.
The Red Bull Ring was previously known as the "A1-Ring" and before that the "Österreichring".
V T E United States Indianapolis 500
Circuit Indianapolis Motor Speedway
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V T E United States United States Grand Prix
Circuits Sebring (1959), Riverside (1960), Watkins Glen (1961–1980), Phoenix (1989–1991), Indianapolis (2000–2007), Austin (2012–present)
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Formula One Races 1959 • 1960 • 1961 • 1962 • 1963 • 1964 • 1965 • 1966 • 1967 • 1968 • 1969 • 1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979 • 1980 • 1981–1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992–1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007 • 2008–2011 • 2012 • 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • 2020
Non-F1 races 1908 • 1909 • 1910 • 1911 • 1912 • 1913 • 1914 • 1915 • 1916 • 1917–1957 • 1958
See also United States Grand Prix West • Indianapolis 500 • Detroit Grand Prix • Caesars Palace Grand Prix • Dallas Grand Prix • Questor Grand Prix
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