The Indianapolis Motor Speedway needs to get back to its roots.

I believe the Indianapolis Motor Speedway needs to get back to its roots. I and many other Hoosier natives were disappointed at the dismal turn-out at the Brickyard 400. I am concerned that if the situation at IMS isn’t remedied quickly we will lose this piece of our Hoosier heritage that we’ve enjoyed for over a century.

In the first two years of IMS’s existence in 1909 and 1910, management held numerous races each season with declining attendance at each event. After the second series of 1910 races in July, the Speedway founders Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby, and Frank H. Wheeler knew they had a problem. Doesn’t this sound familiar today?

Ideas had been percolating in Fisher’s and Allison’s minds for a number of weeks when they called the founders together. Fisher noted that had they been placating the AAA officials by keeping race distances down to what they considered sensible distances, thus holding multiple meets.

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1925 Dusesenberg Model A

At 2013 Celebration of Automobiles

He proposed holding a 1,000-mile race, or maybe a 24-hour one, but the partners were concerned about asking attendees to endure an overly long event. They countered: “Let’s give people something they can see start to finish in a reasonable amount of time.” On September 7, 1910, they announced the “Indianapolis Motor Speedway 500-mile International Sweepstakes” for May 1911, with a purse of $25,000.

This single race, the 1911 500-mile race, solved the problem of multiple races drawing declining attendance.

Take this lesson from the early days and rebuild the traditional month of May around a one race format.

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1930 Stutz SV16 Monte Carlo

At 2013 Celebration of Automobiles

I have to applaud Speedway management for initiating the Celebration of Automobiles on opening day in 2011. This event draws on the track’s legacy of entertainment showcasing our automotive heritage, but it has much more potential.

I believe the Speedway could grow this event into a multiday automotive festival attracting tens of thousands attendees, much like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which drew over 185,000 spectators to last year’s event.

Why not expand the Celebration of Automobiles to a full weekend event and create a three-day auto festival featuring all kinds of automotive entertainment to energize and excite multiple generations of enthusiasts? An event like this at the longest continuously operating racecourse in the world would be a signature event that trumpets the Speedway’s legacy.

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1920 Cole 870 Aero-Eight

At 2013 Celebration of Automobiles

What do you think?