Indy's Brickyard Celebrates 100th Birthday
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Now let's talk about a sport that's all about the power under the hood.
SID COLLINS: From Indianapolis, Indiana, the scene of the world's greatest race cars, this is Sid Collins saying welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Unidentified Man #1: There's a green flag, and the race is on.
MONTAGNE: The track on the west side of Indianapolis is still in use, which means it's lasted longer than the old Yankee Stadium and even Boston's Fenway Park.
DONALD DAVIDSON: What's amazing about the Indianapolis Speedway is that it is the one, only and original Indianapolis Speedway. The drivers are driving around the very same two-and-a-half-mile oval that they were 100 years ago.
INSKEEP: That's Donald Davidson, historian for the speedway, where the latest Indy 500 takes place on Sunday. He says the speedway was created as a place to test drive and market cars.
DAVIDSON: You know, you didn't have TV advertising and all that kind of thing, you know, so it basically was word of mouth and print advertising. And so the thinking was if people were in the market for an automobile, you could go out and watch the cars race against each other in competition, and then you could decide for yourself which you thought was for you.
MONTAGNE: And the speedway has stayed in business even as the auto industry changed beyond recognition.
INSKEEP: Unidentified Man #2: Mr. Harroun, how long was the race in which you won in 1911?
RAY HARROUN: Unidentified Man #2: That's right.
MONTAGNE: These days, drivers roll past the checkered flag in less than half that time.
(SOUNDBITE OF RACE CARS PASSING BY)
MONTAGNE: Unidentified Man #6: ...drag race and Hornish, and he had a problem. Hornish broke off the fuel hose. Sam Hornish's chances to win the 500 again, and...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE 500")
INSKEEP: Historian Donald Davidson says tradition drives many fans back to the annual race.
DONALDSON: Chance are, if you just went into the grandstand and pointed at somebody and said, how long have you been coming? Forty years is probably average.
MONTAGNE: Harry Lightfoot has gone 49 times.
HARRY LIGHTFOOT: It's just in our hearts. It's in our blood.
MONTAGNE: He's a Missouri man who got his tickets as a high school graduation gift.
LIGHTFOOT: You know, it's hard to explain why people come back, but they get hooked on it. They get hooked on the emotion, on those fine racing machines and those drivers. There's something there that just brings you back, back to Indiana.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA")
COLLINS: (Singing) Back home again in Indiana, and it seems that I can see the gleaming candlelight still burning bright through the sycamores for me.
INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
Correction May 20, 2009
In some broadcasts, we incorrectly referred to "Back Home Again in Indiana" as the Indiana state song. The official state song is actually "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away."