Racing Capital of the World
Hometown of Clare Harshey
Welcome to Speedway, home of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! Speedway lies within the borders of Indianapolis, the state capital. A friendly town with lots to see, it especially lights up during the month of May, when it hosts "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing": the Indianapolis 500.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) was built in what was then a rural area, on farmland 5 miles outside of Indianapolis. Local entrepreneur Carl Fisher wanted to build a large oval track on which he and other automobile enthusiasts and manufacturers could show off their engineering by racing. Construction began in March 1909 on a 2.5 mile oval course, requiring the work of 500 men and 300 mules to build. The first races were held at the track before it was even complete, including hot air balloon and motorcycle races; the first cars drove on the track in August 1909, drawing 20,000 spectators on the first day, and 35,000 by just the third day of racing. However, the track was rough to drive on, and these first races were dangerous. Several drivers died in crashes in these early days of the IMS. This led the owners to re-pave it with brick, leading to its nickname "The Brickyard." The first 500-mile race was held on Memorial Day in May 1911. To this day, the Indy 500 is held on Memorial Day weekend every year. In 2016, the IMS hosted its 100th Indy 500!
Speedway was created as a residential suburb of Indianapolis in 1912, three years after the construction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There were several industrial plants nearby which made auto and airplane parts, and the owners of these factories (also the owners of the IMS) wanted to establish a neighborhood for their employees and their families to live in. Initially, there were only 507 residents, but the population tripled within four years. In the following decades, the neighborhood filled up with new homes and new families, especially soldiers just returning from World War II.
Today, Speedway welcomes some 350,000 people every year who pour into the IMS to watch the Indy 500, making it by far the largest single-day sporting event in the world. But even when there's not a race on, it's a popular place to visit for both locals and non-locals alike. It is a small town, having a population of just about 12,000 people, but it has pretty neighborhoods, friendly residents and many good spots to eat and drink. Of course, the IMS is also a big attraction, with a museum, a track tour, other races and even local family-friendly events.
If you visit Speedway, I highly recommend taking a walk or bike ride through its neighborhoods and enjoying what the season has to offer. In the summertime, you can attend the famous Mid-Summer Festival at St. Christopher, a local church that knows how to throw a party. On Main Street, you can visit the Dallara racecar factory, which includes racing simulators and rides in a street-legal 2-seater racecar. Also on Main Street are new, popular craft breweries and old, beloved local diners. During Christmastime, the IMS offers a drive-through light show, which even goes on the track and across the finish line! And of course, you have to visit the IMS itself and learn about all the moments in engineering history which happened there. On the tour, you are allowed (and encouraged) to "kiss the bricks," the famous tradition every Indy 500 winner has partaken in.