Is Speedway Gasoline High Tier? [Facts!]

Since its inception in 1907, Indy Car racing has been a source of both excitement and controversy. In 1908, the legendary race car builder Louis Chevrolet launched his own racing team, which in 1914 would become known as the AAA Contest Car team. That year, Chevrolet created what is considered the first modern-day racing series, the National Championship, which was open to all styles of racing cars, not just ones with an inline four cylinder engine.

It wasn’t until the next year that Chevrolet’s new team would make their debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That night, a brand-new speedway was dedicated in their honor. Though Louis Chevrolet would go on to become an infamous Nazi sympathizer during World War II, the brand still holds a special place in motorsports history.

In 1923, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway decided to expand their stadium and added a second deck, essentially doubling the size of the facility. That same year, an exciting battle between Barney Oldfield and Louis Chevrolet’s team was nominated for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. Though Oldfield would eventually win the Championship that year, the AAA Contest Car team would take home the grand prize, a trophy commemorating the completion of a billion miles of road-tripping.

It was during this time that Alfred “Al” Keogh, an executive at the Humble Oil Company, decided to enter the Indy car world. A lifelong car enthusiast and racer, Keogh purchased a majority share in the AAA Contest Car team and eventually took over its operations. In 1926, he changed the format of the Championship to be specific to the roadster class, which consisted of small open-cockpit cars that were the height of fashion that year. Keogh would also start awarding Gold Medals to the drivers that finished in the top 10 positions at the end of each race. This is typically seen as the beginning of the legendary Iron Duke rivalry between Barney Oldfield and Louis Chevrolet. In 1928, Keogh decided to up the ante and make the series exclusive to all-wheel drive cars. However, the following year, NASCAR was established, and Keogh knew that he needed to put his motorsports career on hold to join a bigger team.

In 1930, Keogh returned to the track with his own all-star racing team, which would go on to become the Chevrolet Auto Racing Team. The following year, he decided to scrap the open-cockpit roadsters in favor of enclosed cars. This was also during the height of the Great Depression, so having a closed cockpit gave the drivers more protection from the elements. It was during this time that the legendary Mickey Thompson was added to the team as a mechanic, eventually becoming the crew chief. Though these early years were relatively uneventful, the great depression gave way to a much more dangerous era.

In 1936, the legendary Frank Kurtis, an innovator in the field of aerodynamics, was hired by Thompson to help develop an enclosed cockpit. That same year saw the introduction of ground-effects vehicles, which were basically aero-enhanced roadsters. However, one of the most significant events during this year was the death of Dan Gurney, who was training for the 24-hour race when he died of injuries sustained in a crash during the Daytona 500. Though Gurney had a large fanbase and was immensely popular, the car industry would never be the same.

In 1938, the Kurtis-designed Gurney Special joined the ranks of the greats of the automotive world. It was during this time that the automotive industry started seeing motorsports as a serious form of competition, and racing would now be televised, a first for the industry. Though it would be another 6 years before winning a race with this car, its appearance alone would make most motorsports fans take notice.

During World War II, the car industry worked at a fast pace to help the Allies, and a lot of ground-effects vehicles were produced. However, the big story of this time is the work that went into the production of the Jeep. The U.S. military bought a lot of them, and many would find their way into action, sometimes even beyond the scope of traditional warfare. In fact, one of the most significant stories is that of Elwood “Woody” Pienkowski, a U.S. Army private who served in the European Theater during World War II. In November 1944, Pienkowski and his crew captured a German spy in Spain and delivered the secret documents to the U.S. military. For their bravery, Pienkowski and his crew were each awarded the Bronze Star. Though many people know that the Jeep was designed as a military vehicle, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the car industry saw the potential for civilian models. At the time, imports were becoming less of an issue because of the rising costs associated with doing business in the United States. The demand for military-style Jeeps actually increased, and many car companies, including Ford and General Motors, entered the fray.

After the war, the industry started seeing motorsports as a niche form of entertainment, and the major leagues decided to take a hiatus, only returning in the 1950s. In fact, it would take until the 1960s for the Indy car races to become commonplace, and for some, the 1970s would mark the beginning of the comeback. In the meantime, the great depression gave way to a much more dangerous and eventful era. In 1936, a team of young men, all aspiring race car drivers, took matters into their own hands and founded the Rat Pack, a group of friends who just happened to all love racing. Though they never actually raced against each other, the Rat Pack would meet every Saturday night at the Raceway Park in California to compete in exhibition races, which were open to the general public. Their cars were mainly modified Ford and Chrysler vehicles, with a couple of Studebakers thrown in for good measure. The drivers would usually swap cars at the end of each race so they could keep their wheels intact for the following round. The races were usually between 6 and 8 miles, and though the average speed was around 60 mph, the cars could reach speeds up to 70 mph. The series was a huge success, and the drivers began to gain a following. In 1939, the Rat Pack decided to enter the then-popular Indianapolis 500, and though they had a good car, they were outmatched by the more experienced entrants. However, the following year, the economy started to improve, and a lot of people started having more money to spend. This is when the Rat Pack made their greatest impact, because they introduced a whole new generation to the fun of racing.

In 1941, the Pack entered the Indianapolis 500 again and this time took home the first four positions outright. The following year, the team decided to take things up a notch and form the Crab Shack Racer Association, which was an all-star team that was made up of former or future members of the Rat Pack. Though the team only had one win to their name, that win would turn into a 2-for-3 in a row, as the other two victories would come from a previously un-won race. This was also the year that the Indianapolis 500 became a TV event for the first time, and it attracted a larger audience than ever before. In 1944, the Crab Shack racer association would go on to win the Indianapolis 500 yet again. Though the team would disband after the race, its members would continue to have a close bond that would last for the rest of their lives. One of the most significant events of the 1940s was the United States’ entry into World War II. On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and America soon entered the war.

Though the war was good for the economy, it also meant that a lot more people were traveling, which in turn, meant more people were becoming interested in motorsports. In fact, between 1941 and 1945, grand prix racing alone saw its fan base triple, resulting in many more people attending these events. It wasn’t just the spectators that were affected either, as a lot of the great drivers from the 1930s and early ’40s had either died or retired, and the industry was looking for new blood. In 1942, at the height of the war, American auto manufacturers worked at a fast pace to help the war effort, and many ground-effects vehicles were produced. One of the most significant stories is that of Andy Petrowski, a member of the German Luftwaffe who was a prisoner of war for 3 years after the war started, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the auto industry saw motorsports as a potential new market.

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