Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 9:37 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 6:28 PM EDT
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - We've all heard of the Indy 500 but the fascinating story of this famous track began long before most of us were born and the birth of 500 was anything but spectacular.
The Indianapolis 500 most of us grew up on included the blur of fast cars, the pageantry of race day and millions of people worldwide watching the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing.'
To know that story though, we must rewind this racetrack some 70 years.
When Tony Hulman first saw the track it was a ram shackled mess of high weeds, dilapidated grandstands, and a racetrack resembling the worst alley in town.
In a rare interview from the 1970’s, Hulman tells of how he came to buy a beat down old track that carried the name of 'The White Elephant of Race Tracks.’
“It was always close to my thoughts that I'd like to be interested,” said Hulman in the 1970’s interview. “Mother was kind of breathing down my neck, and looking at me, and telling me to be a good boy. ‘Better be careful you don't get mixed up in anything you can’t handle.'”
Despite his mother’s warnings and the doubts of nearly everyone else, Hulman bought the track.
And from that day forward he changed auto racing forever.
By the 1960's the Indy 500 had become the world’s most famous sporting event with seating for over 200,000 fans, broadcasting on radios around the world, and taking over the entire month of may in sports.
And the history of the brickyard reaches far beyond racing. Even if you've never watched or listened to the 500, your life has been touched by it.
Consider for instance.
It was there that rear view mirrors were first used. The tires we drive on were tested and developed first on these race cars. Front wheel drive came along first at Indy then on the highways and the list goes on. Seatbelts, superchargers and even four wheel drive.
Here's where they were first tested, first proven.
Of course there were races here before the Hulman era, years before, but it was after the world knew the name “Hulman” that other names became household names.
Names like Foyt, Andretti, Rutherford.
And maybe the most famous four word phrase in sports.
"Gentlemen, start your engines!”
The Indy 500 has an amazing history of racing with a very humble beginning.
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