500 facts: the trophies 

From the Wheeler-Schebler to the Borg-Warner

click to enlarge 500facts_webheaders4.jpg


108. The Wheeler-Schebler Trophy was handed out to the leader at the 400-mile mark beginning in 1914.

The trophy was a pre-500 holdover, sharing a name with early races at the track.

109. Originally, the "Strauss Trophy" was given to the winner.

That started early in the 500's history.

110. But the "Strauss" wasn't' really a trophy per se.

"The Strauss award was something different every year. It was a piece of artwork," says Donald Davidson. While some of the pieces were commissioned, others were purchased from European collections — but all with a theme: "It was something different every year that depicted speed. A bird in flight or a woman running with a dog or something of that nature."

111. The Wheeler-Schebler Trophy was retired in the 1930s.

The original 1909 rules stated that if the thing was won three times by the same car owner, said owner gained permanent possession of the hardware. Harry Hartz did just that.

112. The "Champion Spark Plugs 100 Mile an Hour Club" was formed in 1935.

As Nora Spitznogle wrote for NUVO.net, it honored "drivers who completed the Indianapolis 500 at an average speed of 100 miles per hour or faster."

click to enlarge The Strauss, mid-1930s - FILE PHOTO
  • The Strauss, mid-1930s
  • File photo

113. The Borg Warner trophy was introduced in 1936.

IMS: "Crafted out of sterling silver by Spaulding-Gorham of Chicago, it was unveiled at a dinner in New York in February 1936, featuring bas-relief sculptures of every '500' winner up until that time."

114. The trophy identifies the event as the "Indianapolis 500-Mile Race."

There's no reference to the name as it existed at the time, the "International Sweepstakes." 

115. The trophy was commissioned by an auto company.

"The Borg-Warner Automotive Company" is now known simply as BorgWarner.

116. At that time, the trophy stood at 52 inches.

Or four feet, four inches.

117. The original value of the trophy: $10,000.

Now it's worth well over $1 million.

118. The Borg-Warner victory wreath first appeared in 1960.

From WISH-TV: "The wreath is constructed using a round 24 inch Styrofoam base. On the base you will find 30 feet of red white and blue stripped ribbon, 70 feet of green floral tape, 60 small checkered flags, 250 steel picks, a pound of hot glue, handcrafted letters spelling Borg Warner, 33 white orchids representing 33 drivers in the field and 33 small tubes filled with water for the flowers." Jim Rathman was given the first one.

The Borg-Warner - SARAH STEIRCH/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • The Borg-Warner
  • Sarah Steirch/Wikimedia Commons

119. The Champion Spark Plugs 100 Mile an Hour Club folded in the early '70s.

By the mid-1960s average speeds at the race had risen considerably since the club's formation. Completing the full 500 miles at an average speed of 100 mph was hardly noteworthy any longer. ... In 1969, no new members were inducted, since all four drivers who completed the 500 miles that year were already part of the club. In 1970, Dick McGeorge, Champion's public relations representative, retired from his position. Since 1946, he had been the key person in organizing the club, Dick died in 1971, and the 100 mph Club quietly folded. 

— Nora Spitznogle

120. The quilt lady began giving drivers an unofficial trophy in 1976.

"Jeanetta Holder has made a hand-crafted quilt for each winner since '76 and presents the quilt to the winner the day after the race," Nora tells us.

121. The Borg-Warner trophy ran out of room for portraits in 1986.

A base was added for the '87 race.

122. Bobby Rahal was the last driver to grace the original trophy without the base.

He won the '86 500.

123. The only portrait that's not of a winning driver on the trophy: Tony Hulman.

His face — sculpted in gold — was added in '87.

124. The base added nearly 13 inches to the trophy's height.

It stands now at five feet, 4.75 inches.

125. The base took it to 110 pounds.

We age, we gain weight. It happens.

126. Tom Sneva's the only face on the trophy wearing glasses.

That was Sneva's request after he won in '83.

127. The "Baby Borg" was first handed out in 1988.

An 18-inch replica of the trophy has been given to the winning driver ever since.

128. Rick Mears is the only driver with four different likenesses on the trophy.

Unlike Mears (who last won in '91), A.J. Foyt and Al Unser didn't get new portraits each time they won.

129. A second Baby Borg was handed out from 1997 on.

The other Baby goes to the car's owner.

130. The entire trophy was refurbished in 1992.

We all need a little polish at age 56, amirite?

click to enlarge Dale Jarrett, the man who began the tradition of "kissing the bricks" in 1996. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Dale Jarrett, the man who began the tradition of "kissing the bricks" in 1996.
  • Wikimedia Commons

131. The tradition of "kissing the bricks" was started by a Brickyard 400 winner.

In 1996, NACAR's Dale Jarrett and his crew chief knelt down and smooched the yard of bricks that marks the start/finish line. Jarrett's tribute caught on with both 400 and 500 winners, and now the kiss includes everything from participation by family members to pillows for one's knees.

132. The Borg-Warner's base filled up before the 2004 race.

A larger base was then added that can accommodate portraits through 2034. Gil de Ferran's mug filled out the original base, after he won in 2003.

133. Tony Kanaan's win in 2013 made his likeness the 100th face on the Borg-Warner trophy.

Although he won the 97th 500, co-winners from two previous wins and Tony Hulman's mug brought the total to 99 before Kanaan's first trip to Victory Lane.

134. The trophy always turns up in the 500 Festival Parade.

With heavy security.

135. The Borg-Warner has appeared in two films.

Winning and Turbo.

136. The trophy appeared by itself on three Indy 500 programs.

1981, 1998 and 2002.


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Ed Wenck

Ed Wenck

Bio:
Ed Wenck has been writing for NUVO (as well as several other Indiana publications) for nearly 20 years while moonlighting as a radio host. He became Managing Editor of NUVO in 2013. He's authored four books and also reports for WISH-TV's Boomer TV program.

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