I'm counting down the days until the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
I'm not a race fan in the fanatic sense. I've only been to the Indy 500 a handful of times. My memories center around listening to the race on the radio in the backyard while filling out the leading laps grid from the Indianapolis Star.
I do love Indianapolis, tradition, and most of all a theme! Each day I will share a memory or tidbit of history.
And since I do love a theme, I feel like I need to start at 100 for the countdown, so let me catch you up.
Since the first Indianapolis 500 Mile race was 1911 how can the 100th race be run in 2016?
There were no races run during WW I (1917 and 1918) and during WW II (1942 - 1945).
When the war was over in 1945, many sporting events quickly went back into high gear. Folks had suffered through the depression and the war years. Sporting events provided some much-needed relief. Unfortunately, one of the premier sporting events before the war looked as though it would not survive the war years – the Indianapolis 500.
Track owner, Eddie Rickenbacker, had lost interest in the Speedway during the war. He allowed his facility to deteriorate to the point that the wooden Pagoda was becoming dilapidated and weeds and small bushes were growing up in the middle of the track. Small buildings would topple over in a breeze. The track was a mess.
In the last "500" before the war, three-time Indianapolis 500 driver, Wilbur Shaw, had broken his back in a crash while trying to become the first driver to win the race three times in a row. After he healed he worked for Firestone. Near the end of the war Shaw went to Indianapolis to conduct a tire test and was shocked at what he saw.
Knowing that Rickenbacker was more focused on his new venture, Eastern Airline, Shaw approached the flying ace to see what he could do to save the Speedway. Rickenbacker replied that he was looking to sell. Most likely IMS would turn into a housing development.
Shaw set out to buy the Speedway. There was only one problem – money. A friend of Shaw's arraigned a meeting with Anton (Tony) Hulman, Jr. of Terre Haute. Hulman had been to the early races as a boy with his father and was a fan of the Speedway.
Shaw appealed to Hulman’s civic pride to help save the event that all Hoosiers were proud of. Hulman bought the Speedway in late October of 1945, and named the passionate Shaw as president. Together, they worked miracles in the next few months to have the Speedway ready for the Month of May in 1946. When spectators arrived, they saw a brand new grandstand and spruced up grounds.