Remembering the Indianapolis News Indy 500 Record Books …

Posted: May 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

New 500 book

By: Jeff Majeske — Special Correspondent to Speedway Sightings

Long before you could carry the entire world in your hand in the form of your phone, the Indianapolis News produced a pocked-sized history of the Indianapolis 500.

Each volume was packed with text-heavy information – driver head shots along with a few other photos accounted for the art in the book.

Each race had a box score that included car name and number, qualifying speed, starting position, finishing position, laps completed and race speed or reason out, along with highlights and key moments in the summary.

Performance histories of all Indianapolis 500 drivers were included, along with other tidbits like birthplaces of all 500 champions (did you know that 1932 winner Fred Frame was from Exeter, New Hampshire?), rookies of the year, qualifying records and a lot of stuff that hardcore Indianapolis 500 fans ate up.

The books also had accounts of the other 500-mile races at Ontario, Pocono and Michigan.

It was a tremendous resource for ending – or starting – arguments.

Generally speaking, the cover subject was the previous year’s winner. Drawings were the norm up until 1990, when photos were used. The 1993 book had a nice photo of Al Unser Jr. nipping Scott Goodyear at the checkered flag – you had to turn that one sideways.

I’m not sure how long these were produced. The oldest I’ve seen on eBay is from 1966, with the “newest” from 2003. The Indianapolis News, the afternoon paper, closed in 1999, but the morning paper, the Indianapolis Star, continued the book for at least a few more years.

All this data is available on your phone now, of course, but it sure was fun to whip one of these books out during a lull and ask the person sitting next to you if he knew how many times the one-lap qualifying record was broken and reset in 1972.

The answer, by the way, is five, accomplished by Bill Vukovich, Joe Leonard, Mario Andretti, Gary Bettenhausen and Bobby Unser. Found on page 144 of the 2002 book.

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