The Indy 500
The Indy 500: Top 10 Most Influential Non-Drivers
Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Top 10 Indy 500 Most Influential Non-Drivers
The Indy 500 Top 10 Most Influential Non-Drivers
#10 Donald Davidson - From the day he made his first appearance on the Speedway Radio Network in 1964, Donald Davidson has enhanced the enjoyment of the Indianapolis 500 for millions of fans around the world. In addition to his duties as the official track historian, Davidson has been the tireless engine behind one of the most beloved and unique programs in Indiana radio history, “The Talk of Gasoline Alley”, which debuted on WIBC in 1971, and is also an acclaimed author.
#9 Tom Carnegie - There were some who referred to him simply as “The Voice Of God” because even Tom Carnegie’s morning sound-checks could rev-up race fans. Carnegie was Chief Announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway public address system for 60 consecutive Indianapolis 500 races from 1947 through 2006. His booming voice and distinctive catch phrases such became legendary at the Brickyard. Carnegie was also well-known in Indiana high school basketball circles and appeared in the movie “Hoosiers.”
#8 George Bignotti - An outstanding mechanic, even before he arrived at the Brickyard, George Bignotti was the chief mechanic for seven different Indianapolis 500 winners. Bignotti’s amazing run of “500” success started with A.J. Foyt in a “roadster” in 1961, and lasted all the way to Tom Sneva’s win in the ground-effects era in 1983. Bignotti won more National Championship race wins as a chief mechanic than any other man in history, including 10 in 500-mile races.
#7 Fred Offenhauser - This outstanding machinist joined the staff of the legendary Harry Miller in 1913, and not only helped build Barney Oldfield’s famous “Golden Submarine”, he helped convince Miller to build a 255-cubic inch, four-cylinder racing engine. Offenhauser bought the company from Miller in 1933 and produced the famous engine that bore his name, which was in the winning car 24 of the next 27 years at the “500”.
#6 Sid Collins - There are many who still refer to Sid Collins, simply as “The Voice”. Collins was a mainstay here at WIBC and became known worldwide as “The Voice of the 500” due to his role as chief announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network broadcasts in the early 1950’s. Collins was influential in getting the “500” covered live “flag-to-flag” and led a network that started with just 26 stations, before eventually topping out at over 1,000.
#5 A.J. Watson - If you ask an entire generation of race fans what a race car looks like, you’ll get the answer, a Watson Roadster. A.J. Watson’s creations were so ubiquitous, that a popular myth persists that the entire field was made up of Watsons in the early 1960’s, when it was really just over one-third at its’ zenith. Watson’s cars won the Indianapolis 500 six times, but it wasn’t because of tricky technology. A competitor once praised Watson’s cars by calling them the “Model T” of race cars, “no trick stuff, everything so simple, it’s hard for anything to go wrong”.
#4 Harry Miller - He’s been called the greatest creative figure in the history of the American racing car. That’s high praise indeed for Harry Miller, the genius behind fifteen different Indianapolis 500 wins. Miller’s innovative engine became the power plant to beat with the great Jimmy Murphy behind the wheel in 1922. Murphy’s win made Miller the most popular man in the garage area, the mustachioed mechanic would have a hand in cars that would take the checkered flag fifteen times in the twenty-year period from 1921 to 1941, both as an engine builder, and with his own chassis. Millers accounted for 83% of the cars on the grid of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing between 1923 and 1928. From 1926 to 1929, 75 percent of the field were Millers.
#3 Roger Penske - Easily the most successful car owner in the history of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, Roger Penske has won the Indianapolis 500 an incredible 16 times, which is eleven more than the second place man on the list, Lou Moore. And consider this, Penske’s cars have won the “500” with 11 different drivers, including some of the greatest names in the history of the Speedway.
#2 The Four Founders - They were a balanced collection of two flamboyant characters and a pair of relatively reserved businessmen, but without them, who knows how the history of racing would have unfolded. Carl Graham Fisher was the visionary of the group. Fisher proposed as early as 1906 that a giant track should be built for private testing and occasional races where manufacturers could demonstrate their products to the public. Fisher found partners in the venture in his close friend James Allison, and James Newby and Arthur Wheeler. After some early bumps in the road, literally, a former farm was turned into the most famous race track in the world.
#1 Tony Hulman - Without Tony Hulman, there likely wouldn’t be an Indianapolis Motor Speedway to visit today. Following World War II, 3-time “500” winner Wilbur Shaw was shocked to see the condition of his beloved Brickyard during a tire test at the track, he met with Eddie Rickenbacker, who let it be known he’d be happy to sell the Speedway.Shaw originally wanted to swing the deal himself, with a series of investors, but when that didn’t work out, the racing great needed a Plan B, and quickly. Terre Haute businessman Tony Hulman had the vision to see past the weeds to what the Speedway could become again. Hulman owned the track from 1945 until 1977, and the track remains in his family today.