The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is arguably the most important road course in the world. Conceived as a tribute to Hialeah Park, the original “futurist gem” in Florida (which was demolished in 1966), the track has witnessed some of the most prestigious racing events ever. It is home to the Indianapolis 500, the first sporting event to bear this name, which debuted in 1911. The Speedway also hosts the Brickyard Grand Prix, a Formula One race that was established in 1935, as well as the Indy Lights Series, an IndyCar support series that began in 2013.
But who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? The track is currently owned by Speedway Motorsports, LLC, an affiliate of the automotive holding company Speedway, which is owned by businessman and racing enthusiast Randy Boyd. The company also owns eight other motor sports venues across the country, including Texas Motor Speedway, located in Fort Worth. (The track is actually in a different city, but it shares the same ownership.)
There have been several changes in ownership over the years. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was originally constructed in 1909, and was originally owned by a partnership of three men: Walter Dean, Harvey Firestone and Ralph de la Vega. Dean was the president of the Detroit Automobile Club, and proposed the idea of an automobile speedway in Detroit in 1909. The same year, Firestone founded his own company, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and began manufacturing tires for cars (specifically, Ford racing vehicles). The three men formed a partnership in 1911 and began constructing the track in Detroit. At the time, the track was considered one of the largest excavations ever: 200,000 cubic yards of earth were moved to build it, and it took over a decade to complete. The partners sold the track to a group of investors in 1919 for $125,000.
The following year, the track was transferred to the newly formed Tudor Syndicate, headed up by Chicagoan William K. Knoedelseder. The track then underwent a series of upgrades and improvements in the 1920s, including the addition of bleachers, a roof, and the iconic arched entryways. The track also adopted a more oval shape at this time – its current form was shaped by the legendary coach Henry Picard, who urged drivers to follow his instructions and take the corners at full throttle.
The track was sold again in 1927, this time to the Brownstein Family, headed by Max and John Brownstein. The brothers opened up their personal accounts and pooled their resources to purchase the Speedway – at the time, it was the largest single-item purchase ever made by a family office. The Brownsstein Family continued to expand and improve the Speedway in the following years, adding the banks of dirt and concrete that we know today. Even more significantly, they introduced the world to the Indycar, an open-cockpit racer that allowed for more aerodynamics and less weight bias. (The iconic car was first powered by a GM V8 engine, and later by an Oldsmobile V8. It now also uses a BMW M8 turbo.)
In 1938, The Brownstein Family was purchased by a group of entrepreneurs from Louisville, Kentucky, named the Wentworth Group. The Wentworth Group was founded by a man named Maxie Roquemore, and it controlled various enterprises, including a glass company, a mattress company and a chain of convenience stores. With the advent of World War II, the industry in which the group was most interested in investing declined, and the group decided to sell the Speedway for a loss. The group was unable to find a buyer for the entire property at a price they deemed fair, and so they sold off the land that is now home to the track.
The following year, legendary New York entrepreneur Fred Karno bought the track for $125,000. Karno was the founder of the famed Maxie Roquemore Racing Team – a group of drivers that became famous for driving fancy cars at breakneck speeds. (Karno himself was killed while testing a racing vehicle at the Speedway in an accident that was probably caused by a car hitting him.)
Karno was a major figure in American racing, and became known for leading an event in 1940 called the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was organized to benefit the United Service Organizations (USO). The annual race in Florida helped raise money and awareness for the war effort. Fred Karno died in 1947, and the track was subsequently sold to George and Alvenia Weaver. The Weavers were also influential figures in American racing – he was a co-founder of the Milwaukee Road Company, a trucking business that primarily transported horses – and they too owned and operated the track for many years.
In 1963, the track was purchased by a group of investors from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, named the Taft Group. The group owned various commercial properties in the area, and they wanted to have a piece of the action on the “hottest” new venue coming into town. They agreed to a purchase price of $1.25 million, plus an additional $150,000 for expenses, and used their personal funds to make the large down payment. The Taft Group invested heavily in the track and continued to upgrade it – they introduced the first banked turn in America here, and the first outdoor café, named the Ground Pounder, which was later renamed the Checkers restaurant. (It is now the spot where you can get a craft beer and a corned beef sandwich!)
In 1968, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was sold to Robert and Norman Ruoff, who were both automotive enthusiasts and collectors. Ruoff founded the Ruoff Automotive Collection, and began investing serious money into the site – he completely updated the restaurant, adding a tower block and multiple stories to the property which housed a total of 19 restaurants and bars. The Ruoff brothers owned the Speedway for 10 years before selling it to a partnership of entrepreneurs named Richard and Robert Nederburg (the NEDERBRUGG family).
In 1978, the Nederburg family (along with partners) bought the track for a reported $6.3 million. (The Nederburgs also own the Talladega Superspeedway, and they have other tracks in their portfolio as well.) The same year, the track introduced the first of many innovations when it installed the first of its’ banked turns. One of the primary focuses of the Nederburgs was to grow fan engagement and create a “family friendly” atmosphere at the track – in 1979, the Nederburgs introduced a program called “Family Value Days,” which featured special pricing for families, and discounts for students and veterans. (As a result, the track saw a 400% increase in attendance in the first year compared to the previous year. Since then, attendance and revenue have continued to grow each year.)
In 1998, the Nederburgs sold the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for $16.6 million to an investment group led by Randy Boyd – the same man who now owns the track. Boyd had previously owned multiple NASCAR tracks, and he saw the potential for the site to host major sporting events and concerts. He spent $7.5 million on renovations, and the track was fully restored to its original design before the start of the 1999 season. Since then, it has been upgraded and improved upon with the addition of more turns and straightaways, and the most notable change is the introduction of lights – as before, the track was only illuminated by the moon and stars, but it now has a series of floodlights that bathe the track in light each night.
Who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? It is currently owned by Speedway Motorsports, LLC, an affiliate of the automotive holding company Speedway, which is owned by businessman and racing enthusiast Randy Boyd. The company also owns eight other motor sports venues across the country, including Texas Motor Speedway, located in Fort Worth.