1946- The Rebirth

It was my best find yet at the memorabilia show the day the day before the 500- a 1946 program with a starting lineup insert for less than $50.  My goal is to collect all programs beginning with the year I was born, which was 1946. That there is a program for that year, let alone a race, is nothing short of a miracle.

Tony Hulman had purchased the track from Eddie Rickenbacker the previous November at the urging of Wilbur Shaw.  From the November 14, 1945, story in the Indianapolis Star, Hulman appointed Shaw president and general manager and announced work would begin immediately to get the track ready for next year’s race. There was a lot of work to do.

The grandstands had deteriorated. Brush and shrubs hid many of the garages, and trees had grown on the track.  Weeds sprouted from the bricks on the front and back straights. I imagine the Pagoda also needed some repairs.

My biggest shock about the program is that it didn’t seem to celebrate the achievements of the previous six months.  It is a straightforward program as if the last race was the year before. There are some congratulatory notes from advertisers, but nothing that screams, “We’re back!” I want to get a 1947 program to see how it depicts this race.  Some of the welcome back ads are below:



And this modest note from the Speedway:


The subdued tone sounds like Tony Hulman.

The program contains ads for three different spark plug brands- Blue Crown, Champion, and Bowes Seal Fast. I did not know Bowes made spark plugs.  Bowes Seal Fast and Blue Crown sponsored multiple winning cars over the years.

The Speedway staff page showed some very young looking people, who you see age as you look through later programs:


The Order of the Day page shows little pre- race ceremony. At 8:30 am a parade of vintage cars preceded the national anthem and a salute to “Our Soldier Dead.” Cars lined up at 9:35 and twelve minutes later the cars rolled off for the pace lap.

My favorite picture in the program is this one of the Pagoda. i assume it’s from 1940 or 1941 and is before the start of the race. It is one the closest, clearest shots of the old Pagoda I’ve seen.


One other interesting feature that did not continue in future years- in addition to the  race statistics of all previous races, there is a separate section with photos of the winning cars and drivers. I like that this gives a clearer view of the winners and their cars, rather than the tiny photos with each race summary we see today.

The starting lineup sheet has a different look. Apparently the lineup sheet was printed before cars finished qualifying. Only 19 cars are listed as starters. Below is a list of drivers listed as possible starters subject to qualifications after May 25. Some drivers who hadn’t qualified by the time of publication are Duke Nalon, Ralph Hepburn, Henry Banks, and Shorty Cantlon. They all made the race.  Nalon was part of the Maserati team.

Race day saw huge traffic jams as fans returned in larger numbers than expected.  George Robson won the race, leading 138 laps. Only nine cars were running at the finish.

The IMS facility today is a product of the humble beginnings of this first post war race. I have seen more of this develop than I care to admit.


2 thoughts on “1946- The Rebirth

  1. The Speedway’s return in 1946 is a tremendous story. We’re witnessing a miniature modern-day version of it, I think, at Gateway.


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