The Roots of Indycar- The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame

The roots of Indycar can be found on the tiny dirt tracks that once dotted the country in the 20s, 30s, and up through the 50s. Midgets and sprint cars, also known then as big cars, put on shows several times a week to sellout crowds. I knew there was a deep connection with Indycar. At the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, I found out the depth of the connection.  With an entire day free before Iowa Race 2, I traveled just a few miles south from Newton to Knoxville to the famed Knoxville Raceway, home of the Knoxville Nationals sprint car meeting. The Hall of Fame, which opened January 4, 1992,  sits in a building adjacent to the track.

The display area is small, on the fist floor of the building. Sprint cars from virtually every era are on display. The hall also has an outstanding collection of photographs and artwork filling nearly every inch of wall space. Drivers helmets and driving suits are jammed into the smaller nooks and crannies. In spite of the small space, I didn’t feel cramped for space. Visitors could keep a comfortable distance.

On the second floor picture windows look out on the race track and the Hall of Fame is housed there as well. The hall is 24 four sided pillars filled with photos of the inductees. A video screen allows visitors to find the name of a driver, his location in the hall, and a brief career summary. The names of the hall numbers read like a collection of old Indianapolis 500 programs. I found several Indianapolis 500 winners, car makers, engine builders, and other great drivers from the 500.

There is  a small theater about the same size as the theater in the IMS Museum  upstairs. At the time I visited a film of a sprint car season I’m guessing from the early 60s was running. Jud Larson beat Bobby Unser int he race I watched. The hall also has a research library.  Here are some photos, many of Hall of Fame inductees. If you go to the Indycar race at Iowa next year, I recommend a trip here during the day. It’s only about 30 minutes from Iowa Speedway.

wp-15953369619624045726713353343465.jpgA 1949 Kurtis Kraft driven by three 500 winners- Rodger Ward, Bill Vukovich, and Troy Ruttman Vukovich’s brother Ely also drove this car.


This guy turned out to be a pretty good Indycar driver.


Ted Horn had one of the best records of top finishes in the 500.


Harry Miller, whose engines were successful in the 30s.


Ralph DePalma.wp-15953366777308718255132130713405.jpg

Rex Mays, another great driver who never won the 500.


August and Fred Duesenberg, early car builders.wp-15953367425972703471100560597893.jpg

Don’t be shocked. You knew this one was coming.


The view  of the track.



Wilbur Shaw.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a news roundup of another not so quiet off week.

Wear your masks, Indiana.



2 thoughts on “The Roots of Indycar- The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame

  1. Mike, I never knew of this place in Knoxville, even with all my business travel to Iowa. Even small, as you describe, it would certainly hold my interest if I were ever to return to Iowa. Thanks for the description and the photos. Small track racing was a special form of entertainment in Indiana, watching Foyt, Unser, etc. negotiate the dirt tracks and even the paved tracks in smalltown Indiana was a favorite way to spend a weekend. I miss those days.


    1. Jay, it is very easy to find just south of Newton on Hwy 14. The photos gave me goosebumps. I also recommend the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln NE


Comments are closed.