Brickyard in Race Trim - 1910

The attached article (broken into two attachments, the first - IMSready052210 - was on the original front page with a jump to page 15) orginally appeared in the May 22, 1910 Indianapolis Star as part of the build-up to the May 1910 race meet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was the Sunday edition of the paper just five days prior to the beginning of the meet and as such was packed with articles concerning the event in anticipation of subscribers spending more time with the paper over coffee on their day of rest. Because this article was previewing the May 1910 "national championships," a newly-announced distinction by the American Automobile Association (AAA) for select race meets, car manufacturers were keen to make a great showing. 
The article provides tips for fans to get to the track as well as desciptions of the changes to the facitlity over the winter and arrangements made to manage the competition events. In the wake of the tragic inaugural auto races that resulted in five fatalities at the track in  August 1909 the track's leadership introduced numerous changes to the facility. Overshadowed by the mind-bogglingly massive brick-paving project that earned the venerable track the nickname "Brickyard" in the autumn of that year was the introduction of retaining walls. These concrete barriers were limited to the turns but it was an important start. Not unlike the introduction of the life-saving SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) system a century later these walls were an important safety feature. They helped protect spectators as well as mitigating the greater danger to drivers of having their cars plummet down the embankment at the edge of the running surface.
The article begins in bold type with a description of the best roadways to get to the track. This is particularly interesting to those of us who have lived in Indianapolis or taken many drives to the Speedway. Read it:
"How to Reach Big Auto Racing Course" - "The Speedway is located four miles northwest of the Monument and one and one-half miles west of Riverside Park Arch Bridge, or Emerichville Bridge, on Crawfordsville Road. Automobiles and vehicles from the city can reach the grounds by two perfect roads. 
The most desirable road for the $1 admission gate is via Washington Street to the asylum, then by way of Big Eagle Creek gravel road to the main entrance. Automobiles and vehicles for the 50 cent entrance are best accommodated by taking Indiana Avenue to the Crawfordsville Road, then direct to the grounds. This route is particularly advisable when road is congested.
For train and car service. Big Four trains leave depot evey twenty minutes up to forty-five minutes of the time when races will start, when additional service will be used to accommodate the largest crowds. Interurban cars leave Interurban station every twenty minutes until one hour before the races, when additional service will be added."
The article asserts that the entire Speedway plant had been improved to such an extent that any semblance of the original facility had essentially been "wiped out." This was clearly a metaphor for expunging the brutal memories of the previous August race meet.
The surrounding roads were reportedly much improved as well. While it is not specifically referenced I believe most of this commentary is with respect to Crawfordsville Road. It was apparently Macadam-paved (crushed stone) and oiled and "rolled" as was the practice in the day. There must have been millions of gallons of raw petroleum used in this fashion in these early years of treating roads for automobile use.
Twenty-minute service was promised from both the Big Four railways and the Interurban electric cars. The Big Four had reportedly installed a station near the Speedway with ticket booths and partitioned passage ways, helping to organize foot traffic that was coming and going simultaneously.
The actual track changes for the sake of safety are highlighted. This included the concrete retaining walls described earlier as well as a new automobile bridge that spanned the track. This allowed motorists to enter and leave the track even during the races. Grandstand seating capacity was reportedly expanded from 20,000 to 35,000. These stands were primarily clustered around the start-finish line referred to as "the wire."
A Sireno signaling system was used to warn spectators of approaching cars and communicate with officials and teams. This was a network of horns and the company actually produced bulb horns for automobiles. The Speedway's system consisted of fifty horns in total but were organized into groups for different purposes. Twenty-four horns were at the wire while others were stationed around the track and bridges where spectators were alerted to automobile traffic. Officials developed a communication code for their Sierno system of horns. Below is what is a summary of the code description:

  • One long blast combined with display of car number signals driver to stop.
  • Two long blasts called cars from the paddock to the "tape," or grid.
  • Three long blasts before the meet signals all gates across the track to be closed - spectators must use bridges.
  • The long blasts after the meet start signals gates to be opened.
  • A series of short blasts indicated an accident had taken place.

Complementing the horns were flags used to communicate with drivers and teams. Check out a list of the flags, their colors and meanings (note the differences with today as none of the colors have the same meaning in today's motorsports world) as appears in the article:

  • Reg Flag - Clear course.
  • Yellow Flag - Stop immediately.
  • Green Flag - Starting last lap.
  • White Flag - Stop for consultation.
  • Blue Flag - Accident on the course.

The article references new electric lighting in addition to Prest-O-Lite lamps to help people see. Although this is not explicitly explained I am guessing these provided illumination for fans arriving in pre-dawn hours. Additional safety considerations were:

  • A policing force.
  • Fencing 20 feet from the track.
  • Sand traps in front of the fences to slow the cars before reaching spectator areas.
  • Concrete walls on turns.
  • The brick surface is noted as well as a safety consideration for drivers. Again, it is not specifically stated but I suppose it was obvious that the bricks would prevent the rutting that was seen the previous year when the graded earth was merely coated with tar and crushed stone.

Other features of the Speedway are called out:

  • The facility could accommodate upwards of 200,000 people.
  • Parking for 10,000 automobiles.
  • The turns were reportedly banked 16 feet with a radius of 1,500 feet.
  • IMS had the largest aviation park in the world.
  • The track also had the largest balloon park in the world with the capacity for as many as 15 balloons simultaneously ascend.
  • New "monster" scoreboards to aid spectators in following race progress.

Finally, the article offers an overview of the calendar of events for the 1910 season at IMS. See attachment IMSready052210i.

  • First Grand Circuit Speedway Auto Meet - May 27, 28 and 30, with national championship races on the 30th.
  • Second Grand Circuit Speedway Auto Meet - July 2, 3 and 5.
  • Third Grand Ciruit Speedway Auto Meet - August 12 and 13. This included plans for a 24-hour endurance race starting at 8 p.m.
  • Fourth Grand Circuit Speedway Auto Meet - September 2, 3 and 5.
  • Aviation Meet - First national licensed event, June 13 to 18.
  • Balloon Meet - August 12, afternoon of the 24-hour auto race.
  • Balloon Meet - National championship event, September 17.

Note that of the above events the August auto and balloon races did not take place. I believe a level of fatigue set in when attendance in July waned. This eventually led to the decision to hold one mega-event, the first Indianapolis 500, the following year. 

IMSready052210.pdf1.42 MB
IMSready052210i.pdf161.11 KB