100 Years of Racing Surfaces

When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway began repaving work recently, a cylindrical core sample was taken with some fascinating results. The brick, stone and asphalt sample of 108 years of resurfacing would make a nice trophy for an event at the Brickyard.

Speedway president Doug Boles posted a photo Oct. 27 during the second day of track work showing the different layers applied to the track since 1909.

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When Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Carl G. Fisher first built the track in 1909, its surface was a combination of creek gravel, 2 inches of crushed limestone, taroid (liquid coal tar), crushed stone and larger stones which were supposed to provide a solid base.

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Speedway’s inaugural race on Aug. 19, 1909 — a five-mile dash — was a disaster. The track broke up, causing the deaths of a driver, two mechanics and two spectators.

That led to the decision to pave the oval-shaped racing surface with brick, a move that engendered the name “Brickyard.” More than three million bricks were laid, including the final, supposedly silver, brick before a series of exhibition races Dec. 17-18, 1909.

With the exception of a 3-foot strip of bricks at the start/finish line, the track was completely paved over in 1961.

The track has been resurfaced on several occasions since the 1909 overhaul, but rightly retains the Brickyard name.

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