Category Archives: Indianapolis 500

Congratulations to Indiana Racing Memorial Association for recognizing the Chevrolet brothers

I must say congratulations to the Indiana Racing Memorial Association for renovating the Chevrolet brothers grave site in Indianapolis.

Chevrolet brothers memorial

I have known about the Chevrolet grave sites in southern Indianapolis for many years, but was concerned about the poor up-keep and failure to recognized their accomplishments in our automotive industry.

The Indiana Racing Memorial Association, with sponsorship from Chevrolet Motorsports, and the Central Indiana Chevrolet Dealers Association have corrected this oversight. They have created a renovated grave site in the Holy Cross and St. Joseph Cemetery at 2446 S. Meridian Street. They have constructed an exquisite granite monument for
the Chevrolet brothers: Louis, Arthur, and Gaston.

chevrolet-brothers-marker

In addition to the monument, they dedicated a historical marker celebrating their automotive accomplishments. All three raced multiple times in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Louis winning the first 10-mile race at the Speedway in August 1909 and Gaston taking the 1920 Indianapolis 500.

In 1911, Louis was named president of the Chevrolet Division of General Motors and developed the Chevrolet Classic Six five-passenger touring car. Upon leaving General Motors in 1915, he began developing race cars that competed at the Speedway and across the country. In 1922, Louis and Arthur created the Chevrolet Brothers Company, in Indianapolis, to develop Frontenac cylinder heads to extract greater horsepower from the Ford Model T engine. They produced over 10,000 units that dominated dirt track racing across America.

The easiest way to get to the site is to turn west on Pleasant Run Parkway off South Meridian Street and go about a quarter-mile. Then turn north into the cemetery and proceed to the flagpole. The monument and marker are right there north of the flagpole.

I believe IRMA’s efforts with the monument and historical marker beautifully recognizes the Chevrolet brothers automotive accomplishments. Thanks to IRMA for commemorating our automotive heritage.

For other Louis Chevrolet articles click here. For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Put the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational on your bucket list for 2017

From a historical perspective the Inaugural Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational has to be one of the best motorsports events in the country. Where else can you get an up-close view of over 600 vintage race cars from the early 1910s to the present in addition to watching the racing and exhibition events?

Two of the earliest entries were the 1911 Nationals built here in Indianapolis. Imagine the sound of these 450 cubic-inch behemoths. It was like being transported back to that era 105 years ago.

1911 Nationals
1911 Nationals

For Indy 500 roadster aficionados, there were numerous examples from pre-war offerings up to a 1964 Sheraton Thompson Special tribute car of the last winning front-engine roadster. Probably my favorite roadster was the 1960 Dowgard – Watson roadster.

#2 Dowgard roadster
#2 Dowgard roadster

The cars were on display on the infield and open to all fans, providing up-close access to the race cars. The owners and crews were very welcoming in sharing the stories of their particular cars. I was able to relive many stories from my Indy 500 memories.

Speedway infield shop
Speedway infield shop

For all you vintage racing enthusiasts, you have to put the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational on your bucket list for 2017.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

Louis Chevrolet Memorial

Louis Chevrolet is best known as the Swiss-born American race car driver and co-founder of the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in 1911 and who later moved on to other ventures. That is only part of the story.

Are you aware that there is a Louis Chevrolet memorial at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? I believe that this memorial at the Speedway is a great honor to an icon who is overlooked in our automotive legacy.

LCM memorial

Fred Wellman conceived his idea for a Louis Chevrolet memorial in 1964 after visiting Chevrolet’s grave in the Holy Cross and St. Joseph Cemetery in Indianapolis. He recognized that Chevrolet deserved a more impressive memorial and set out to create it. In spring 1975, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway completed the construction of the Louis Chevrolet Memorial just west of the entrance to the Speedway Museum.

Adolph Wolter, an acclaimed artist throughout the United States, created the magnificent bust of Louis Chevrolet and the four bronze panels depicting Louis Chevrolet’s major accomplishments.

LCM memorial

The panels show Louis and William C. Durant, founder of General Motors, with the first Chevrolet Classic Six touring car in 1911.

LCM panel2

Chevrolet’s first winning car at Indianapolis 500 in 1920, driven by his brother Gaston, with four Speedway pioneers in the background, Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Lem H. Trotter and T. E. (Pop) Meyers.

LCM panel3

Chevrolet’s second Indianapolis winner in 1921, driven by Tommy Milton, with Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker, Col. Arthur W. Herrington, Louis Schwitzer, and Cornelius W. Van Ranst.

LCM panel4

Chevrolet’s 1923 Barber-Warnock Fronty-Ford, which placed fifth driven by L. L. Corum, with Henry Ford at the wheel, flanked by Barney Oldfield, Louis, and Harvey Firestone.

Around the back of the monument are four panels bearing the names of the Automotive Pioneers of Progress.

During the late 1910s and the early 1920s, Louis and his racers had numerous wins across the country. He was second in AAA national point standings for the years 1909 and 1915. With the Chevrolet Brothers Manufacturing Company, he and his brother Arthur produced over 10,000 Frontenac high compression cylinder heads for Ford Model T engines for competition across America. The success of this business was largely due to the fame that he and his brothers had earned racing-especially in the Indianapolis 500.

In all of his years racing and developing race cars he put his best effort forward and enjoyed much success.

His legacy is nearly forgotten, but perhaps we should all live by his motto “Never Give Up,” which is highlighted on the pedestal that holds bust of Louis Chevrolet.

I invite you to visit the Louis Chevrolet Memorial at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on your next visit to Indianapolis.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway to host vintage race cars

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host more than 500 of the world’s finest vintage race cars as part of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational on June 15-19.

This event will feature a historic oval track reunion and a full slate of SVRA Sprint and Endurance races taking place on the 2.43 mile road course. Vintage oval-track competitors will also have a chance to drive the historic 2.5 mile oval. SVRA’s open access to the paddock, race cars, and drivers make this event one of the most fan friendly events ever held at the Speedway.

Vintage Indy cars at the
Vintage Indy cars at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans appreciate and enjoy the history of racing and welcome this event to IMS is the perfect way to celebrate racing history with cars that have competed in all different classes and many different venues over the last 107 years. SVRA events are incredibly fan friendly, offering everyone the rare opportunity to get close to the historic racecars, talk to the owners and drivers, and trade stories about racing’s heritage.

“We are confident that the incredible heritage and geographic location of the Speedway will make the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational the largest vintage event ever held in the United States,” said SVRA President and CEO Tony Parella.

The event will begin with a test day on Wednesday, June 15, with racing throughout the weekend. Racing at IMS will be virtually non-stop each day from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The cars will be on display in the infield and open to all fans providing up close access to the racecars.

Start making your plans now for the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 15-19. Come to Indianapolis to celebrate racing history at the world’s oldest continuously operating race course.

My First Indy 500

This past week at my Toastmasters club, each member reminisced about his or her first Indy 500. I thought I would share my memories of the race along with some documentation from the Indianapolis Star.

As some of you might know, I attended Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifications with my dad and uncles starting in the early 1950’s. I really enjoyed watching the activities from many vantage points around the track. One of my favorites is in the grandstand outside of turn one. I especially liked watching the drivers work their roadsters through the curve. Every driver had his particular groove around the track.

My dad enjoyed listening to the race on the radio instead of being there in person, so I was left to my own devices to go to the race. Finally, on Thursday, May 30, 1963, my chance arrived. One of my neighborhood buddies, dad was an Indianapolis Motor Speedway patrolman and saved us a place along the fence inside of turn one. There I was with 275,000 other people watching all of the pre-race festivities from our prime spot on the fence.

Dennis-E-Horvath-at-1963-Indy-500
Dennis E. Horvath at Indy 500
Copyright ©1964 Indianapolis Star

We were unaware that Indianapolis Star photographer Tommy Wadelton was documenting the action from the other side of the fence. There we were in the middle of his photograph published in the Indianapolis Star on May 24, 1964. That skinny kid in sunglasses with a flat-top in the second row is me. Just to my right behind me was Jay Skoda and to my right in the front row was Larry Stroudman. I wasn’t wearing a hat to cover my head on that sunny day and that caused me to get a bad sun burn on my scalp. So that’s why you most always see me with a hat of some kind.

Oh well, back to the race. My favorite driver, Parnelli Jones, started the race in pole position. Jim Hurtubise started in the middle of the first row. Hurtubise led the first lap of the race, but Parnelli recaptured the lead on the second lap. About mid-way through the race, signs of oil started to show on the external oil tank of Parnelli’s car. Every lap we wondered if he would be black flagged for dropping oil. Finally, the concern about dropping oil went away. Yahoo! Parnell won the race with Jimmy Clark finishing second in a rear-engine Lotus Powered by Ford racer.

Memories of my first Indy 500 are fresh in my mind today, some 49 years later. That 1963 race was the first of many at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was probably one of the things that sparked my interest in automotives. See you at the track.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.