Indy 500: The Most Famous Bricks in Motorsport

May 29th 2022

Indy 500: The Most Famous Bricks in Motorsport

The Indy 500 takes place this Memorial Day Sunday and as usual is one of the biggest events in the American sporting calendar.

This pivotal racing event also has a big link to bricks. We love sport and pay particular attention if bricks make an appearance.

And it so happens that the Indianapolis Speedway, the home of the Indy 500 motor race and the highest capacity sporting venue in the world, has its own brick history.

Here's everything you need to know about 'The Brickyard' itself.

Some facts about the Indianapolis Speedway

So enormous is the Indianapolis Speedway that it's located in a suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana called Speedway. Constructed in 1909 it was the second purpose-built track of its kind comprising of a huge rectangular oval with banked corners. It's also the 3^rd^ oldest permanent automobile racetrack in the world.

It's called a speedway because well, cars can reach enormous speeds on its straights, of which there are 2, both 1000 metres long.

The main events hosted there are the Indy 500, the most prestigious event in the IndyCar calendar and the Verizon 200, a NASCAR event. It has also hosted the F1 US Grand Prix and Moto GP events.

It was designated a US national landmark in 1987 and with a seating capacity of almost 260,000 it's the highest capacity sports venue in the world.

And what about the brick connection?

Why is the Indianapolis Speedway nicknamed the Brickyard?

The Speedway has been nicknamed the Brickyard since its first year in operation when the original track was paved with bricks.

3.2 million bricks were hand laid over a cushion of sand then levelled out and the gaps were filled with mortar. The bricks themselves were supplied by five different Indiana manufacturers and such was the scale of the task that it gained its nickname before the work was finished.

After 63 days of work, the final brick, which was made of gold, was laid in a special ceremony. Unsurprisingly many of the bricks have now gone, following gradual repaving with Asphalt which finished in 1961. However, a nod to the previous surface remains.

They left behind 3 feet of bricks from the original paving so rather than a 'brickyard' they now have a 'yard of bricks' at the start/finish line.

Kissing the bricks is now a tradition which started in 1996 by NASCAR champion Dale Jarrett. He kneeled and kissed the yard after winning, in tribute to the history of this famous venue. Winners in other sports have followed in replicating this tribute since.

A bit more history about the Brickyard

The brains behind the speedway was a chap called Carl G. Fisher. He originally wanted a means of testing cars before delivering them to consumers. However, motorsport racing was also starting to grow in popularity, and he modelled the track after the Brooklands racing circuit outside London.

Wanting to build the world's greatest racetrack, Fisher and some partners bought the site in 1908 and construction began in March 1909. Throughout the remainder of 1909 the track was used for racing and practice however the track surface, which was mostly packed soil, gravel, and crushed stone, caused some concern.

Imperfections began forming in the turns and drivers would end up covered in dirt. After numerous accidents resulting in the deaths of both drivers and spectators, Fisher realised something had to be done about the surface. This was when the brick paving began. This was less than a month after the first races.

The golden age and other motor sports

The track had its so-called golden age between 1912 and 1929 when it became a centre of international racing and acclaim. European racers began to win races and as such more international drivers got involved.  

Original founders Fisher and James Allison sold the speedway to former racing driver Edward V. Rickenbacker after bids from other developers that they had turned down. Rickenbacker preserved its racing purpose but added other features such as an infield golf course which is still in use today.

The track has been used for other motor sports throughout its history as mentioned above. There has been a NASCAR event there since 1994 and it was even used for Formula 1 racing.

The US has until recently not had a permanent F1 Grand Prix but from 2000 to 2008 a Grand Prix was held at Speedway following a two-year renovation that added an infield course, incorporating some of the original track.

With some controversies regarding driver safetry and falling attendance it was removed from the calendar in 2008.

The Indianapolis 500

One thing that will never die it seems is the Indy 500, the pivotal event in this venue's calendar.

The first 500-mile race was held in 1911 and there have been annual races pretty much ever since. At the time there were 80,000 spectators in attendance.

The race has been linked to other global motorsports throughout its lifetime but in recent decades has been a US event. That said, more European and international drivers have entered since it dissociated from the world driving championship.

The race is also part of the prestigious "Triple Crown of Motorsport", a coveted award that only the most elite drivers could ever dream of acheiveing, as they must not only win the Indy 500 itself, but also the F1 Moanco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans Endurance race too - something only a single driver in the sports history has every achieved.

Since its inception the race has taken place on or around Memorial Day. Since 1974 it has specifically taken place on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. In a piece of motorsport lore, this day is also shared with the Coco-Cola 600, a NASCAR event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, and the Monaco Grand Prix in Formula 1. So, you'd be a bit stuck if you were a fan of all three sports!

Being the most prestigious event in the IndyCar calendar, it also has one of the richest prize funds. In fact it's one of the biggest cash prize funds in global sport at approximately $13-14 million dollars

The race itself usually has 33 starting cars, with eleven rows of 3 cars apiece. The cars race for 200 laps counter clockwise around the circuit for 500 miles (hence the name).

It's an impressive high octane racing sport and we love that bricks play a not-insignificant part in it!

We ship to the UK but if you love racing and bricks, we're the people to come to.