What Is A Speedway? [Ultimate Guide!]

The origin of the word ‘speedway’ comes from the famous Indianapolis 500, also known as the Indy 500. It is the 500-mile annual stock car race that takes place in May each year in the United States.

The first edition of the Indy 500 was held in 1897 and it was originally conceived as an amateur sports car race to be held on a Saturday afternoon in mid-May. However, over the years it became apparent that professional racing was the only way forward, and the decision was made to hold the race on a Thursday night in mid-March.

The first modern-era 500 took place in 1913 and, since its inception, it has always been called the ‘Indy 500′. The first race was held at the newly constructed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it was won by Barney Oldfield. Since then, the 500 has gone on to become one of the most prestigious sporting events in North America.

The speedway has also been the scene of many monumental sporting events, such as the first live transcontinental radio broadcast in 1931, the first ‘modern’ day music-infused event in 1960 and, most recently, the 1997 championship won by Michael Schumacher, who went on to become Formula One world champion that same year. In fact, seven out of the last twelve Indy 500s have been won by German drivers, which might explain the popularity of Schumacher in German-speaking countries.

The Importance Of The Indianapolis 500

As already mentioned, the Indianapolis 500 is the ‘grandaddy’ of all sporting events held on a track, and it is extremely important to NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Automobiles. The Indy 500 ratings are also seen as an important barometer for measuring the sport’s popularity.

The racing team that wins the Indy 500 is usually awarded the coveted ‘Tri-County’ trophy. This year’s race was won by Scott Dixon and Willpower Racing, who beat team mate Conor Daly by just two points. The top three in the unofficial standings were, in order, Dixon, Kevin Harvick and Juan Pablo Montoya. Harvick is the current NASCAR Cup Series champion and, like Dixon and Montoya, hails from Colombia. This year’s race was the 126th running of the Indy 500 and it was the second time in three years that the ‘American Racing Championship’ was won by Montoya, who also triumphed in 2014.

The Role Of The Speedway In Popular Culture

It is well-established that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway plays an important part in American culture. On the popular musical front, the iconic speedway is featured in songs by both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. The song, ‘She Said She Said’ by The Stones, for example, features the lyric, “Threw a penny in the wheelie bin at the Indianapolis race track”.

The Beatles song, ‘I Saw her Standing There’, features the lyrics, “I saw her standing there, the girl with the strawberry lips” and it is widely believed that this song is about the singer, John Lennon’s, encounter with actress Jane Russell. Russell was the original ‘girl with the strawberry lips’ and she was famously depicted in the song, ‘You’re such a Ladies’ Man’ by The Beach Boys.

Another important aspect of the Indy 500 is that it provides a platform for up-and-coming sports stars to achieve fame and fortune. IndyCar racing has become a very ‘sales-orientated’ sport in the last few years, and it has been noted that the top four drivers in the series earn a combined total of over $16 million per year. For example, Alexander Rossi was the leading scorer in the 2016 IndyCar season with 108 points, an average of one point per race. In early 2017, it was announced that Rossi had signed a three-year contract to race for the Andretti Autosport team. The team’s co-owner is Michael Andretti, who is also the brother of the racing team’s founder.

Why Are They Called The ‘Winged Speedsters’?

The origins of the sobriquet ‘Winged Speedsters’ were somewhat different to the iconic Indianapolis 500. While the latter is widely known as the ‘Grand Daddy’ of all American motor races, it was actually the Indianapolis 500 that gave birth to the term ‘winged speedsters’. The nickname actually stems from Australia, not America!

The story goes that, in the 1920s, American drivers were taking the concept of speedway racing to new heights. The engines of these cars were large and they packed a powerful punch. Most of these vehicles were equipped with two or more sets of wings, one on each side. The drivers would literally fly down the racetrack. What was so special about these cars is that they could reach speeds of up to 120 miles per hour! The fastest of these vehicles would eventually be classified as ‘jetcars’ due to their ability to reach speeds of over 150 miles per hour!

An important point to make about these vehicles is that they were not actually planes! At least, not entirely! The cars were driven on the track, but those behind the wheel would never claim that these were actual planes. It was a common misconception that the vehicles were meant to ‘fly’ and, indeed, some drivers did literally crash because they failed to maintain control during flight.

What Are Jetcars?

What exactly were jetcars? They were early twentieth century American racing cars that were specifically engineered for speed and robustness. The majority of these vehicles were built by the American car manufacturers, including A.C. Sparkplug, Cord, Franklin, and Studebaker. Just to name a few.

By the 1920s, hundreds of thousands of dollars were being poured into racing cars thanks to the emerging popularity of motor racing. It was a golden era for car manufacturers, and they competed with each other to produce the fastest, most luxurious and most robust vehicles. These are the ‘winged speedsters’ that started it all!

The Untold History Of The Indianapolis 500

It is well-established that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an important part of American culture. However, there is another side to the story that has largely been untold. This is the history of the Indy 500 and how it all began. In this section, we will explore this side of the story and try and put the events that took place back in the right sequence.

In 1894, Frank Simon began constructing an automobile race track in Indianapolis, Indiana. This was around the same time that automobile racing was becoming an important part of American culture. The track was originally called the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and it was an international event that attracted many people. In 1897, the first ever Indy 500 was held and it was actually a modified horse race, held in late March, which was won by Frank Lockhart, driving a steam car, in a time of 3 hours and 40 minutes. Around the same time that the first Indy 500 was being held, another track, this time in Michigan, was holding a race too. In fact, the first documented form of motor racing took place in the United States at Oakhill Park in Detroit on April 23, 1896.

The American Automobile Association was established in 1905 and it became the governing body for motorsport in America. A year later, in 1906, the AAA sanctioned the first ‘American Grand Prix’ on the newly constructed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was an important event that raised the profile of motorsport in America and it helped establish the venue as the home of motor racing. In 1908, the Vanderbilt Cup was founded as a race for wealthy individuals and it was initially called the ‘Race for Millionaires’. The year before, in 1907, a group of businessmen, led by William S. Knudson, had established the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Co., which held the rights to the Speedway. The company was established in order to make sure that the track remained in good condition for the duration of the year, and it also owned the land that the track was built upon. The first Indianapolis Motor Speedway Co. President was James B. Miller.

In 1911, the National Association for Stock Car Automobiles (NASCAR), the preeminent sports car racing organization in the United States, was founded. In fact, the very first race that NASCAR ever sanctioned was the 1911 Vanderbilt Cup, held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Before this, automobile racing was largely conducted regionally, and it was seen as a sport for the rich and famous. The organization changed everything and in doing so, it helped to create the modern-day motor racing era, which still survives today.

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