Hall of Fame Museum Welcomes in 67 Indianapolis 500 Winning Cars
There are many Hall of Fame Museums around the country that have some interesting things on display. Every so often, they are able to add another baseball bat, football helmet, or basketball jersey to their massive collection. In Indianapolis, you can now walk in and see something that you are not able to see anywhere else in the world.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts just celebrated their 50th year anniversary two years ago. Having been there, I can tell you that they have some pretty interesting things inside that will keep you there for a long time.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum in Canton, Ohio is one of the more famous ones in sports. Obviously they have a lot of people coming in to check out the many things they have inside as well. The first class of Hall of Famers were inducted in 1963.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York goes back to 1939. This museum features more than 38,000 items, including three million books and documents, and 500,000 photographs.
Still, none of these three can compare with what the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has to offer now. Where else can you go and find 67 winning cars from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing? The museum has really put together an amazing collection of the most famous race cars in the world. From Ray Harroun's 1911 Marmon Wasp to Dario Franchitti's Dallara/Honda, the museum is now the place where you can find nearly every winning car from the Indianapolis 500 mile race.
Welcome to the IMS Hall of Fame Museum
The museum's first director, Karl Kizer, and the late Tony Hulman established the original Hall of Fame Museum in 1956. The building was located at the southwest corner of the Speedway's property. During 1975, Hulman built a larger, more modern museum within the Speedway oval, where it opened in 1976.
When first entering the Museum, I was happy to find the famous Borg-Warner Trophy sitting there at the entrance.
The famed Borg-Warner Trophy is still the first thing you see when you walk into the museum. Though it is always seen with the winning driver each year, the trophy itself is actually kept in the museum permanently. The drivers actually take home a miniature 18-inch replica of the trophy.
When I first walked in, I didn't know which direction I wanted to go first. All of the cars are in chronological order so you can see how they have changed over the years. From the two-man cars, to the single ones, and from the rear engine cars, to front engine machines.
Most of the older cars were towards the left when you first go in, while on the lower floor the later-year cars were all lined up.
It's hard to pick a favorite section of these cars. On one hand, you have to love the rich history and tradition of the older-model cars that are nearly 100 years old. Seeing how different those cars are is something that will keep you thinking. The track was not a flat, paved surface, and there was nothing to absorb the shock. I haven't even mentioned the lack of seat-belts in the cars.
On the other hand, you have to appreciate the later-generation cars on the other side. From the golden days of the '60s, '70s, and '80s, to the Penske domination of the past decade. Just seeing the dramatic changes within these generations is something to marvel at.
The 1984 winning car (yellow Pennzoil No. 6 pictured) was driven by Rick Mears for Team Penske. This car was driven to victory lane to give Mears his second Indy 500 victory. Though he won a total of four, this one may have been his most dominant car. In this race, he was virtually unchallenged for the final 38 laps of the event.
In this car, Mears started in third, and led four times for a total of 119 laps. This gave Penske their fourth Indy 500 win, as they broke the record for average speed during the race, with an average speed of 163.612mph.
Harroun and His Marmon Wasp
The oldest, and possibly the most famous of the Indianapolis 500 winning cars, the Marmon Wasp was driven to victory lane in the very first Indianapolis 500 mile race in 1911 by Ray Harroun. Unlike his competitors, Harroun decided not to have a riding mechanic along with him during the race. Because of this, he designed what would be the very first instance of the rear-view mirror.
Winning with an average speed of 74.602mph, Ray took this car to victory, and then promptly retired.
Pictured closest here is the 1985 winning car for Penske, driven by Danny Sullivan. Sullivan has one of the more famous wins in this car, properly labeled as the "spin-and-win." Going into turn one on lap 120 of the race, Sullivan went below Mario Andretti to take the lead, but spun out across the south "short shute." He spun one and 1/4 turns before his amazing recovery.
Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this race, mostly due to the fact that I hadn't been born yet. I was born just a couple of months after this famous race, and it has been one of my favorite races to watch over and over, for good reason.
Modern Day Winners
Most fans can recognize the cars in this particular lineup. Dario Franchitti's winning car from last year is the most recent car in this massive collection, as it sits beside a pair of Penske-winning cars. Helio Castroneves and Dario have both had their fair share of moments in the past decade. This year, Helio will once again try to join the infamous four-time-winners club, which currently features just three drivers; Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt, and Al Unser.
One and Done Winners
In this picture you can see a couple of winning cars that made their trips to victory lane in 1995 and 1996. The purple No. 91 car owned by Ron Hemelgarn was driven by Buddy Rice in his first and only win in 1996. This race had three different leaders within the final 12 laps. He made an incredible pass on the front stretch with just eight laps remaining to seal the deal.
In 1995, Jacques Villeneuve took the blue and white No. 27 car to victory lane after finishing in second place one year earlier. Surprisingly enough, those were the only two Indy 500 races that Villeneuve participated in. Not a bad resume at all.
Montoya Goes 1 for 1
In 2000, Juan Pablo Montoya entered the Indianapolis 500 field. This would be the first and only '500' that he would race in. Impressively, Montoya actually won the race! Not only did he just win this race, he completely dominated it, leading 167 of the 200 laps.
He has raced at the speedway multiple times after this win in 2000, but for the United States Grand Prix, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He was sitting pretty in last year's Brickyard 400 race, before a late mishap out of turn four cost him the race.
In 1962, Rodger Ward took his Watson "roadster" to victory lane in Indianapolis. He started in second place, and led all but nine of the last 75 laps. This was his second Indy 500 win, as he also won the race in 1959.
Foyt Gets Number Four
This is one of the most special cars of the entire bunch. In 1977, A.J. Foyt drove this car to victory lane and became the first person ever to win the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time. This was also the last winning car ever that had both the engine and chassis built in the United States.
Quite a Pair
These two cars are very special, and very alike. Not only do they share the same car number, but they won the Indy 500 in consecutive years. Also, both were driven by legendary drivers in route to victory.
In 1969, Mario Andretti won his first and only Indy 500 in the No. 2 STP sponsored car pictured to the right. This was actually a backup car for Andretti in this race, but it didn't matter, as nearly half of the field was taken out or slowed down too much to compete.
The following year in 1970, Al Unser drove this blue No. 2 car to victory lane in dominating fashion. He led 190 of the 200 laps after starting from the pole, only losing the lead while making pit stops. The car was/is owned by former "500" winner Parnelli Jones. This would be the first of four Indianapolis 500 wins for Unser.
A.J. Foyt won the first of his four Indy 500 races in 1961 with this machine. This front-engined roadster won with an average speed of 139.130 mph. Chief-mechanic George Bignotti was with the team this year, winning the first of his record seven Indy 500 victories.
After finishing in second place three times in the "500" (1952, 1957, 1959) Jim Rathmann finally came up with a win in 1960 in this car. He and defending winner Rodger Ward battled for the lead during the whole race, but Ward had to slow with just three laps remaining as his right-front tire began to show white cords.
This was Rathmann's only "500" victory.
Another One for Luyendyk
Arie Luyendyk, who was present at this media event, won his second Indy 500 race in this car in 1997. In this race, his teammate Scott Goodyear finished right behind him in second place. This marked the first time in 35 years that a team had finished 1-2 in the Indianapolis 500.
Dario was able to admire his winning car from last year's race once again. The defending race champion, and series champion, will be going for his third Indy 500 victory this year.
In 1979, Rick Mears won his first of his four Indy 500 races. This was only his second time to race in the "500." Despite starting from the pole position, he managed to lead only 25 laps of this race. He found himself in the cat bird's seat in the end though, when brothers Al and Bobby Unser both ran into problems after dominating the race.
Rutherford, Unser, and De Ferran
The 2003 Indy 500 race winner, Gil de Ferran admires the winning cars from 1980 and 1981. Johnny Rutherford took his "Yellow Submarine" to the checkered flag to earn his third Indianapolis 500 win.
The following year, Bobby Unser took the No. 3 car on to victory lane, but not without debate. A dispute was filed as to who won the 1981 race, and it took nearly five months to resolve.
In the end, Unser was declared the winner over Mario Andretti. This would be Bobby Unser's third and final "500" win. This would also be the last time he would ever race in the event. Each of Bobby's three wins were in a different decade ('68, '75, and '81).
Here, Dario Franchitti poses in front of the Lotus Ford car driven by his hero Jim Clark in the 1965 Indianapolis 500. Clark was the first person to win using the new rear-engine design.
Dario actually got to drive this car last year in a special event at IMS. If you want to read more about this event, you can find "The Rebirth Of A Legend" article here.
Gil De Ferran
Gil de Ferran spent most of the evening admiring the generation of cars that came before him. His 2003 winning car for Team Penske is just a couple of rows behind him in this picture, though.
With his win that year, he prevented teammate Helio Castroneves from becoming the first driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500 a record three times in a row. This was also the only time that a Toyota engine was part of an Indy 500 winning car.
Tom Sneva finished in second place three times in his previous Indy 500 races. After doing so in 1977, 1978, and 1980, Sneva was finally able to break through and win the event in 1983 with this car. This car was the final of 16 lead changes during the race.
Oldie but a Goodie
While the cars driven by Mears, Foyt, Unser, Andretti, and the more modern day drivers will attract most people, the older cars may be more appealing to others. On the other side of the first floor of the museum, you can find all of the classic cars, driven by legends like Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Floyd Davis, Mauri Rose, and Jimmy Murphy.
Reservation for Two
How far we have come in 100 years of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Many of the two-seater cars have garnished much of the attention by historical fans. These cars are nothing like what we see today, yet it is mind boggling to think about how those races went.
Beginning today, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the home to the largest collection of Indianapolis 500-winning cars ever assembled. The exhibit, which will be on display through June 1, will provide fans an opportunity to see 67 winning cars, representing 71 Indianapolis 500 victories.
“We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the world’s greatest race by building a once-in-a-lifetime collection of winning cars,” said Ellen Bireley, IMS Hall of Fame Museum director. “The entire Museum will be devoted to the cars that won the Indianapolis 500 over the last century.”
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum is open every day of the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for ages six to 15 and free for five and under. The Museum is located inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and can be accessed through the Main Gate (Gate 2) tunnel from W. 16th Street.
A special track tour also will be available Sunday, March 20 for fans that includes a lap around the famous IMS oval in a tour bus, with a stop at the historic Yard of Bricks for photos. The tour fee is $10 for adults, $5 for ages six to 15 and free for five and under.
For a complete list of all of the winning cars on display in the museum, click here.