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New Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum exhibit honors iconic champion A.J. Foyt

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of his record-setting fourth Indianapolis 500 win, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is proud to present a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit honoring auto racing icon A.J. Foyt, opening April 14.

A.J. Foyt:  A Legendary Exhibition, presented by ABC Supply is a limited-run celebration that traces the superstar’s rise from the dirt tracks of Texas to the pinnacle of auto racing history.

Nearly three dozen cars that Foyt drove in competition will be on display, including all four of his Indianapolis 500 winning machines, the 1961 Bowes Seal Fast Special, 1964 & 1967 Sheraton-Thompson Specials, and the 1977 Gilmore Coyote.

“Everyone knows that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite track and that people wouldn’t know me if it weren’t for the Indy 500, but to have the Museum put on this exhibit there, well I feel truly honored,” said the legendary Foyt. “This exhibit will give people a chance to see my winning Indy cars but also some of the other race cars I drove and won in over the years.”

In addition to several of Foyt’s IndyCars, many incredible machines representing Foyt’s career in NASCAR, USAC and road racing will be on display, many for the first time, and visitors will also have the chance to see rare memorabilia from Foyt’s personal collection.

“Based on the stuff we shipped to Indy, I think the Museum has a lot of personal memorabilia and photos that their visitors will like seeing” Foyt said. “I haven’t seen some of the cars in many, many years so to be truthful, I’m looking forward to the exhibit too!”

“A.J. Foyt is perhaps the most iconic driver in the 108-year history of the Brickyard” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Director & Curator Ellen Bireley. “We are proud to honor this incredible champion with an exhibit of memories and memorabilia that pays tribute to one of the most diverse and successful careers in auto racing history.”

A.J. Foyt: A Legendary Exhibition is presented by ABC Supply, with additional support from Chevrolet and Al-Fe Heat Treating. The exhibit runs until October 31.

Motorsports legends Franchitti, McLaren elected to Auto Racing Hall of Fame at IMS Museum

Two of the most well-known names in motorsports history are the newest inductees into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti and legendary driver and constructor Bruce McLaren have been voted into the prestigious pantheon by an esteemed panel of auto racing journalists, participants and historians.

Franchitti won 31 races in his illustrious IndyCar series career, taking the Indianapolis 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012. The Scottish-born driver won four series championships (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011) and lost a fifth on a tie-breaker in 1999. Franchitti also was part of a winning effort at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2008.

“Dario Franchitti’s winning performances at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are some of the most memorable in IMS history,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “His three wins in a five-race space, coupled with four front row starts and six top seven finishes in just 10 starts prove Dario understood how to compete at IMS. In addition, Dario was a fan favorite because of the combination of his mastery in the car coupled with his understanding and appreciation of the history of the Indianapolis 500. He, more than most, will understand the honor of becoming a member of the Auto Racing Hall of Fame.”

“Quite apart from having compiled an exceptional and well-documented driving career of his own,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson, “Dario continuously displays the most profound respect for those who went before him, along with pure passion for the history of motorsport, not only by collecting memorabilia, but even to the point of having taken a course in car restoration”

McLaren was a highly successful driver, designer, constructor and engineer, whose name lives on in the eponymous Formula 1 team that has captured eight constructor’s championships and 12 driver’s titles. As a driver McLaren won four Formula 1 races, two Can-Am Series championships, and co-drove to a win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 with fellow Kiwi Chris Amon.

“Even decades after his passing, the name Bruce McLaren instantly conjures up vivid memories for racing enthusiasts around the world, whether they be for his Formula One driving days; for his analytical approach to racing; his decision to start up his own marque, when he could well have continued to drive for other people; his utter dominance, along with fellow New Zealander Denis Hulme of the Can-Am series in the late 1960s; or for the legendary organizations he left behind which compiled multiple Formula One constructor championships and Indianapolis 500 wins” said Davidson.

The two inductees were chosen from a star-studded ballot of 16 nominees, 7 of which received at least 50 percent of the vote. A nominee needed to be named on 75 percent of the ballots, or finish first in his or her voting category to be inducted.

The 2017 inductees were announced on “Founders Day,” March 20, 2017, the 108th anniversary of the day the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company was officially formed.

The Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum honors and celebrates individual contribution to the sport of automobile racing. It was founded in 1952 under the auspices of the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA). The Hall of Fame was moved to the original Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in 1962 under the direction of then-Speedway president Anton “Tony” Hulman.

Motorsports legends Cheever, Franchitti, McLaren join 2017 Auto Racing Hall of Fame ballot

Two Indianapolis 500 winners and one of the most legendary names in motorsport are the newest nominees for consideration for the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

New to the ballot in 2017 are 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Junior; three-time winner of the May classic Dario Franchitti; and legendary driver and constructor Bruce McLaren.

The three newest contenders join 13 holdover nominees to form an incredibly talented ballot from which an esteemed panel of auto racing journalists, participants and historians will select.

Cheever won five IndyCar Series races, including his signature victory at the Brickyard in 1998, while his eponymous racing team won six races in the series, including a 2002 win by Tomas Scheckter at Michigan. Cheever made 132 career starts in Formula 1 with nine podium finishes, including two second-place results.

Franchitti won 31 races in his illustrious IndyCar series career, taking the Indianapolis 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012. The Scottish-born driver won four series championships (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011) and lost a fifth on a tie-breaker in 1999. Franchitti also was part of a winning effort at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2008.

McLaren was a highly successful driver, designer, constructor and engineer, whose name lives on in the eponymous Formula 1 team that has captured eight constructor’s championships and 12 driver’s titles. As a driver McLaren won four Formula 1 races, two Can-Am Series championships, and co-drove to a win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 with fellow Kiwi Chris Amon.

The 2017 inductees will be announced on “Founders Day,” March 20, 2017, the 108th anniversary of the day the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company was officially formed.

The Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum honors and celebrates individual contribution to the sport of automobile racing. It was founded in 1952 under the auspices of the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA). The Hall of Fame was moved to the original Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in 1962 under the direction of then-Speedway president Anton “Tony” Hulman, Jr.


REMEMBERING CHUCK WEYANT

By Donald Davidson

Chuck Weyant, a veteran of four Indianapolis 500-Mile races and the man who had laid claim to being the oldest living 500 driver, as well as the one with the earliest start—1955—passed away in Springfield, Illinois on Monday, January 23. He was 93.

Born in St Mary’s, Ohio, on April 3, 1923, Chuck was on hand with the hopes of qualifying a car for the “500” virtually every year between 1952 and 1962. He succeeded four times, in 1955, 1957, 1958 and 1959, with his rookie year producing the best result, twelfth, with one of the Federal Engineering Specials prepared by Russ Snowberger.

He had 18 starts in National Championship competition between 1952 and 1959 with his best finishes being eighth in both the 1954 Las Vegas 100 and the 1959 Milwaukee 200. Although not assigned to a car, he was one of the drivers who went over to Monza, Italy as a potential relief driver for the 1957 invitational 500-mile race there. While he did drive a car during practice, his services were not required for the race.

Weyant won a United States Auto Club sprint car feature at Jacksonville, Florida in 1956, and he was victorious in USAC National midget car competition 10 times.  In 2003, he was inducted into the National Midget Racing Hall of Fame.

For many years in the 1960s and 1970s, Chuck operated the very popular Finish Line Tavern in Springfield, an establishment which was always packed with the racing crowd when USAC would be in town for events at the Illinois State Fairgrounds each August.

REMEMBERING HERM JOHNSON

by Donald Davidson

1981-86-4-4a-herm-johnson-car-28-tHerm Johnson, who had two starts in the Indianapolis 500 and placed within the first ten both times, succumbed on Saturday, December 10, 2016 to liver and renal failure. He was 63.

A lifelong resident of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Herm placed ninth in the 1982 “500” and eighth in 1984, sponsorship coming from a family friend, John Menard, who just happened to live across the street. The sponsorship in those days was from the Menard Cashway Lumber Company.

Herm was a Sports Car Club of America road racer who won SCCA’s 1976 Super-Vee championship “runoffs,” held that year at Road Atlanta. In 1977, he and Tom Bagley were joint champions of the inaugural United States Auto Club-sanctioned Mini-Indy series for the Robert W. Bosch cup, a four-race start-up series for Super-Vee cars on oval tracks. This was the series, which for the next several years was to produce such Indianapolis regulars as Josele Garza, Geoff Brabham, Howdy Holmes, Pete Halsmer, Dennis Firestone, Michael Chandler and others, in addition to Bagley and Johnson.

Herm had a total of 36 IndyCar starts between 1979 and 1985, scoring nine top-ten finishes, topped by a sixth-place finish at the one-and-a-half-mile Atlanta International Raceway in 1982.

Herm’s tenure at Indianapolis lasted from 1980 until 1986, but resulted in just the two starts, a last-minute “bump” to first alternate starting position in 1981, and engine problems sidelining him in 1983, before accidents, both resulting in injury in 1985 and 1986, brought his driving career to a close.

A very soft spoken and gentle individual, Herm was able to parlay his talents as an artist into a sideline, painting helmets for other drivers. He also willingly returned to IMS each year, including just this past May, to sign autographs for the fans on the day before the “500,” along with many of his colleagues. What a delight it was to see him sitting off in a corner and reminiscing with his old Mini-Indy buddies like Bagley, Alsup, Brabham, Garza, Halsmer, Chandler and others.

Donations in Herm’s memory are being accepted at: https://www.gofundme.com/herm-johnson-healthcare-plus

IMS Museum Looks to Its Future

FRITZ FROMMEYER VISITS THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MUSEUM
Via Vintage Motorsport Magazine

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum quietly celebrated its 60th anniversary this year.

It opened early in 1956 in a wing of the Speedway’s administration building with a single race car on display, fulfilling a dream of the late Tony Hulman who, early in his ownership tenure, announced his intention to do just that. After the museum’s collection grew well beyond the capacity of that first home, its present facility opened in 1976.

Forty years later, the museum again faces a challenge, and it’s not only to have more space for its collection: there are stories that need to be unleashed and told. It’s become obvious that more needs to be done to educate the public about the Speedway: why it was created and its ties to the auto industry, the heroics of drivers and the technological advancement of their cars, and the traditions and their meanings to the families who go to the “500” year after year.

A vision for the museum’s future has been struck: “Motor racing will be a revered aspect of our American heritage and a valued part of family culture for generations to come.” As the three-year strategic plan to implement this vision unfolds, I discussed the state of things with Betsy Smith, executive director of the non-profit Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation that operates the museum, and the museum’s director, Ellen Bireley, a 25-year veteran of IMS.

“Our mission here is to celebrate more than a century of the innovation, thrill, and adventure of motor racing at the Speedway,” exclaimed Smith, who said other types of racing, such as Le Mans and F1, will continue to be recognized.

The strategic plan has as its basis a need for more exhibit, education, and program space and a greater use of technology to tell those stories about the drivers, the cars, and the Speedway that it is not equipped to do today.

A major goal is to educate the casual visitor who may not know IndyCar racing from NASCAR. “We’re not doing as good a job as we can and should be doing,” Smith noted. And this is where technology comes in. For example, on a touchscreen, imagine an electronic image of the Borg-Warner Trophy on which visitors can touch the image of a winning driver and pull up information about him and his victory, including a video clip.

In terms of more space, the possibility of a major facility expansion is at the heart of a study by an architectural/engineering firm. Some preliminary drawings have been presented to the museum’s nineperson, highly engaged, and supportive board. “Tens of millions of dollars,” Smith said, will be needed to more than double the museum’s 97,000 square feet of space, allowing for greater display areas, consolidation of storage and other facilities, and perhaps locating the restoration shop inside the museum. A preliminary drawing depicts striking modern architecture that could greet visitors.

Attendance has been “maintained” over recent years at about 130,000 annually, with 83 countries represented. Giving people a more enriching experience could increase that number.

How to pay for all this? Presently, the museum is funded by museum admissions, track and grounds tours, facility rentals, a small number of sponsorships, and support from IMS and the Hulman-George family (the gift shops in the building are not the museum’s). Museum memberships are available for the first time (see website), but major funding would have to come from the “philanthropic community,” said Smith, who is experienced in not-for-profit fund-raising.

Advertising and promotion of the museum are being studied. The museum has its first website, indyracingmuseum.org, and even a Twitter account. Another means of promotion is loaning museum cars to automotive-related events. “If we take a car out to a show, it would draw attention and then people would want to come and see more of our collection,” according to Bireley.

“The Speedway was created as a testing ground for innovation and technology in the auto industry,” Smith said, “and we’d like to incorporate that kind of approach to things in the museum.”

Museum display fuels fire for Stewart’s final Brickyard laps

Read More…

Speedway museum wants to double in size

The foundation owns another 300 spectacular cars that for lack of space gather dust in the museum’s basement.

, will.higgins@indystar.com / 8 p.m. EDT May 2, 2016

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s museum, which looks much as it did when it opened in its current location 40 years ago, may be on the verge of transformation.

“The lighting, the technology, it’s vintage 1976,” said Betsy Smith, who is in her second year heading the nonprofit foundation that operates the museum. “We’re a racing museum, but nothing in here moves. Except the trophy.”

She nodded toward the Borg-Warner Trophy, the 5-foot tall Indy 500 winner’s trophy, which was rotating slowly on a sort of mechanical lazy Susan. “I’d like to get some interactive technology in here and some video so that visitors could really experience racing,” she said.

Smith,  who was chief fundraiser for the Indianapolis chapter of the Nature Conservancy before joining the museum as its executive director, said board members recently gave the OK to explore a plan that would double the size of the building, a move she figures might cost $100 million.

She envisions meeting rooms, classrooms and additional event space that would draw more people and generate revenue. The additional space also would allow the museum to show off more of its storied collection.

Now, about 60 cars are displayed in the museum’s 30,000 square feet. The foundation owns 300 additional cars that for lack of space gather dust in the museum’s basement. “You never want to display your entire collection all at once,” Smith said, “but (with the expansion) we could display maybe 150 and rotate them more often.”

Instead of visitors simply inspecting parked cars, she wants to do a better job of telling the stories of the cars, possibly with video tablets placed around the vehicles that show the race cars actually racing or by other high-tech  methods. “Like a hologram of Donald Davidson that you could ask questions to,” Smith said. Davidson is the Speedway’s encyclopedic historian who is known  for having the most minute detail at his fingertips.

Some smaller changes already are in effect. Earlier this year, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum quietly changed its name. It had been the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. But its hall of fame, one of literally dozens of racing halls of fame around the country, amounts to a single plaque mounted on a wall.

The decades-old film that told the history of the Speedway in the museum’s small theater has been replaced by a new version. The theater itself has been updated, with new lighting, a new screen and new seating.

Ticket prices have risen dramatically. Adults paid $5 two years ago, $8 last year and  $10 this year. (Attendance for 2016 isn’t available, but visitation fell a little from 2014 to 2015.)

Later this month, the museum’s exhibits will expand into 6,000 square feet of space to the north of the current exhibit space. The area opened up after the Speedway’s accounting staff moved to another building. Their clearing out will give the museum nearly 20 percent more space. The new area opens May 12 with an exhibit of Tony Stewart’s race cars through the years. The Hoosier-born racer recently announced his retirement from NASCAR.

“We’re hoping Tony will be here for the opening,” said Ellen Birely, the museum’s longtime director. “We’ve been doing a lot of special exhibits in the last few years,” she said, noting the half-dozen Roger Penske-owned cars on display in the older gallery. “This new space will give us more flexibility to do more.”

Visitors come from all over the world to see the Speedway’s museum. Eighty-three nations were represented last year. But total attendance, 127,000 last year,  is well below that of the city’s other major museums, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art (134,000 visitors in the first four months of 2016) and The Children’s Museum  (about 1.2 million a year).

Doubling the size of the Speedway museum is a tall order. Unlike other museums, it has no endowment fund, no corporate sponsorship and until recently no members. Recently it started a membership drive, and about 100 people signed up at varying levels, from $75 to $1,000 (the $1,000 members got a private tour of the basement, a sort of mecca to the cult of Indy 500).

Until now, the museum has never in its history tried to raise any money. It has relied on the Hulman-George family, which owns the track and allows the museum to stay in its building rent-free, and on gate receipts that amount to about $1 million a year.

“So you see, a capital campaign would be a huge change for us,” Smith said, “and it’s probably something that would need to be done in stages.”

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY® MUSEUM’S NEW NAME, UPDATED BRAND AND WEBSITE TO HONOR THE GLORY OF MOTOR RACING
Focus on Legends, Daring and Speed of Motor Racing to Drive Museum Makeover

For Immediate Release

INDIANAPOLIS, April 6, 2016 – The Hall of Fame Museum today revealed its new brand and name, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway® Museum (IMSM). The name aligns with an unrivaled collection of automobiles and racing artifacts that follow the history of motor racing, Indy racers and the story of the extraordinary people who helped create the American automotive industry. Adding the image of the Borg-Warner Trophy and bold letters and colors represents a first step at enriching the visitor experience to the world-renowned raceway museum.

“With 100 years of running and 60 years of collecting the world’s greatest treasures of motor sport racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway® Museum is the true gateway to the Racing Capital of the World, said Anton H. George, president of the Museum Board of Directors.

Located five miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis on the grounds of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway®, the Museum is home to the most recognized winners in racing, where the stories, heroics, cars and historical memorabilia come to life. The Museum commemorates more than a century of racing at the Speedway and fosters public understanding of the innovation, thrill and adventure of motor sport racing.

“Recent surveys from leaders in Indianapolis, the museum community, and racing world along with focus groups with the pubic told us that we have tremendous name recognition with the Speedway,” said Betsy Smith, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation executive director. “While we will embellish the honoring of our Hall of Fame members in our museum redesign, the current name caused confusion with multiple Hall of Fame museums around the world.”

The Museum’s new website provides improved navigation and functionality and a visitor-friendly experience throughout, allowing individuals to access detailed information about automobiles and their drivers, including interviews with Indy500 winners. Created with future interactivity firmly in mind as new museum exhibits take shape, the Museum’s website has been designed using the latest technology so that the site is compatible with today’s browsers and mobile devices.

“The new name and website are just the beginning, said Robert Dyson, IMSM board member. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway® Museum is undergoing a revitalization, and we are now focusing on how to make major changes in the museum and visitor experience, including interactive exhibits – that tell the stories of the drivers and their cars and immerse visitors in the experience of the Indy500 and the rich history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Following a master planning initiative by Indianapolis architects, Schmidt Associates, a schedule will be announced for updating and redesigning the museum and exhibiting its large array of valuable artifacts and racing memorabilia.

Click Here to download the Press Release