Sigur Whitaker Articles

Sigur Whitaker is an acclaimed auto racing history book author. First Super Speedway and Sigur are collaborating with this platform for her articles. You can receive her articles directly by subscribing to her e-mail newsletter. If you would like to be added to my subscriber list, please let her know at

When Tony Hulman purchased a company, his normal style was to keep the existing management in place if they were competent and wanted to stay. Unfortunately, when he purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the track had been shuttered during World War II and had a thin staff before the conflict. Hulman needed to assemble a team to include someone who knew the ins and outs of racing. someone  who was familiar with the operations of IMS, and someone whom he trusted.

Fans of the Indianapolis 500 owe a debt of gratitude to Wilbur Shaw. He was responsible for Tony Hulman’s purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the fall of 1975, Wally Dallenbach and Sherm Cooper invited seven friends including Al Unser, Sr. and Bobby Unser to ride various mountain trails and visit mining ghost towns in the Colorado Mountains. Wally Dallenbach was an Indy car driver while Sherm Cooper was an amateur motorcycle racer during the 1950s. Participating on the first trail ride were Dick Singer, Lon Bromley, Art Lamey, Del Garner, Ed Kretz and the Unsers. Having enjoyed the ride and the camaraderie, Dallenbach and Cooper continued to organize the invitation-only events.

Al Unser Jr. comes from a racing dynasty. His grandfather and great uncles were early competitors at the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb. His father (Al Sr.) and his uncle Bobby Unser were competitors in USAC, CART, and IndyCar. The book chronicles both his racing achievements as well as his descent into addiction.

When Roger Penske bought a dealership in Philadelphia, part of the financing package included a prohibition against him continuing to drive in races as it was too dangerous. Yet racing was in his blood, and he was determined to continue to participate. When the 1965 season started, Penske was manning the pits for the team of Jim Hall and Hal Sharp in the 12-hour Sebring endurance race. He wasn’t content long term to be in the pits and he started Penske Racing, now known as Team Penske.

As part of a larger 18,000-mile endurance test of the Duesenberg Straight 8 spanning three weeks, the Duesenberg Automobile and Motor Company planned to simulate a cross-country trip. Using the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the fully equipped Duesenberg Straight 8 was driven 3,155 miles, approximately the distance from New York City to Los Angeles, with an average speed of 62.63 miles per hour in late April 1923. The speed was computed without deducting the time consumed in three stops for tire changes during which the engine continued to run.

Carl Fisher, one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was a man of limitless ideas and a marketing genius. In the 1880s and 1890s, he was very involved in bicycling and bicycle races including on a regional (Midwest) basis. In 1891, he and his two brothers, Earl and Robert (Rolla), started a bicycle repair shop in Indianapolis. It soon occurred to Fisher that there was more money to be made in selling bicycles than in repairing bicycles.

When he was 14, Roger Penske saw his first Indianapolis 500 with his father. After sitting in a race car at a house party, Penske decided that he wanted to be a race car driver. He was given an opportunity to take the IMS rookie test in 1965 by Clint Brawner. Busy with his new Philadelphia automobile dealership, he declined the offer. Brawner then offered the opportunity to Mario Andretti. Penske formed his race team the next year as a sports car team.  

Auto racing has always been a dangerous sport both for spectators and the drivers. Racetracks have done multiple things to help protect spectators including guardrails, catch fences and concrete barriers which separate the speeding race cars from the gathered crowds. The concrete barriers were very effective at keeping racecars from plowing into the stands while the catch fences provided protection primarily from airborne racers and parts. Protecting the drivers is harder and many have paid with their lives or with career ending crashes.

Mark Dill grew up in Indianapolis and is passionate and knowledgeable about the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and auto racing. A couple of years ago, he released a book, The Legend of the First Super Speedway which transports readers back to the early 1900s. The book covers the early days of auto racing and the men who were involved including William K. (Willie K.) Vanderbilt II, Barney Oldfield, Henry Ford, Carl Fisher, and Tom Cooper.