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The Rickenbacker and Hulman Years at the Indy 500

THE RICKENBACKER YEARS

In June of 1923, Carl Fisher, relinquished the reins of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and handed them to his fellow stock holder, James Allison and retired from the management team. He announced that the speedway had outlived its purpose, which was to serve as an automobile proving ground. The race was simply a byproduct of that enterprise. Carl would go on to develop Miami Beach and build the prototype to the modern interstate highway with his promotion and development of the Lincoln Highway, which survives to this day to some extent in its reconstituted form. It is otherwise known as Highway 80.

By 1926 the founders let it be known that the speedway was up for sale, and it wasn't long before an undisclosed investment group from Detroit, Michigan, represented by former Indy 500 driver and World War I Ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, purchased the speedway and took control. Under the direction of Rickenbacker, the speedway enjoyed one of its more flamboyant capital improvements. The now famous golf course, which has been host to a number of PGA Senior Golf events in recent years, was built half in and half outside the famous oval. After a number of course redesigns, the infield continues to include 4 of the 18 championship holes to the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course.

Rickenbacker was forced to operate the speedway with his eyes on the bottom line. He was expected to return a profit for his investors and that sharply curtailed opportunities for development. In 1935, during his tenure as the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he moved to New York where he also took charge of Eastern Airlines. His commitment to Eastern Airlines left him little time to devote to the speedway operations and he depended heavily on the well seasoned staff back home in Indy to manage the operations for him. Pop Meyer and Dolly Dallenbach, hold overs from the founders' management team, ran the track in Rickenbacker's absence.

When the country entered the second World War, Rickenbacker and his investors decided to suspend operations at the speedway. From 1941 to 1945 no races were held at Indianapolis. This was the second time since the 1917 and 1918 track closings that the famous Indy oval was silent in the month of May.

THE HULMAN YEARS

In 1945 a wealthy Terre Haute business man made a bid for the purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after being approached by former three time Indy 500 winner, Wilbur Shaw. Shaw knew the Speedway needed a new owner who would be more concerned about the preservation of the legacy than the bottom line. Tony Hulman, who's family owned the famous Clabber Girl baking powder company and a number of other successful businesses, purchased the track from the Rickernbacker group in 1945.

During the 33 years Tony Hulman presided as President and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he consistently reinvested revenues from the 500 mile race back into the speedway with the intention of making it an unrivaled world class racing venue. Today the speedway holds 257,000 seats and executive suites on the outside of turn 2 and on both sides of the main straightaway. The Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, commissioned by Tony Hulman, is a shrine to the history of the Indy 500 and the cast of thousands who made it possible.