Indianapolis Motor Speedway
When your racecourse has been operating continuously for more than a century, it’s invariably going to be something special. But Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn’t just special, it’s an irreplaceable part of the “Triple Crown” of motorsports, after Monaco and Le Mans. That puts it in prestigious company, and is a tribute to Indy’s status as the most important American racing venue and the site of the greatest American auto race: the Indianapolis 500. Indy’s nickname, “the Brickyard,” comes from the original brick paving that is now preserved only in a one-yard strip that serves as the start-finish line. The rest of the bricks were ditched in 1961 for a much less bone-jarring asphalt surface, to the relief of drivers since. Other iconic sights remain: there’s the new Pagoda, used for race control and timing, and a tribute to the wooden pagodas that stood at Indy for more than 40 years. There’s also the famed Gasoline Alley pit area where fans can watch the mechanics in action. The current IndyCar formula reigns supreme as the premiere American open-wheeled race series, of which the Indianapolis 500 is the centerpiece. Indy has also been the scene of some of the greatest innovations in racing, from the Offenhauser twin-cams that dominated the 500 for decades, to the oddities like Clessie Cummins’ diesel-powered cars or the turbine cars such as the Lotus 56. And to think that the great history of this track comes from such unassuming beginnings: the first race at Indianapolis, in 1909, was between not cars, but hot air balloons.