Museum Underground

Photo from IMS Museum website

As the elevator reached the bottom floor, I felt I was entering hallowed ground. My Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Basement tour was just moments away. The museum recently began offering tours of what had until now been a very exclusive area of the building. It was like the Speedway’s Forbidden City. People I know who had the fortune to see it seemed sworn to secrecy about its contents. Some of its treasures have been revealed in the From the Vault collection exhibit running currently on the main floor. The exhibit rotates items. there were a few new vehicles upstairs this trip.

My knowledgeable guide, Dennis, and I walked down a quiet hallway past large solid doors with big security combination locks on them. It lent an air of mystery and somberness to the area. We stopped in front of a set of double doors. Dennis opened them. It was pitch black. When the lights finally came on, the hair on my arms stood up and I felt a chill. For someone like me who loves classic cars, I thought I had gone to heaven.

My excitement was tempered a bit when Dennis said I could not take pictures. Since I was already there, I decided to proceed with the tour anyway. Just to the right of the door as we entered were three Formula 1 cars. The first one was Michael Schumacher’s rookie car. next to it sat one of Mario Andretti’s F1 machines, the Parnelli Jones owned car. Dennis took a picture of me standing next to the Schumacher car.

I’m not sure how many cars reside in the basement, but there were double rows of automobiles, race cars and passenger cars, all around the perimeter walls. Dennis told me some car will be sold because the museum’s future focus will be cars that have some relationship to the Speedway. others belong to the Hulman-George family and will be returned to them.

One of the race cars that caught my eye was a dirt/speedway car from the early 1950’s. Jimmy Bryan drove it to second place in the 1954 Indianapolis 500. Jim Rathmann, Bob Sweikert, and A. J. Foyt also drove the car. it wears the livery of Dean Van Lines. This car compares to the Boyle Maserati in having a string of outstanding drivers in the pilot’s seat. The Maserati was driven by Wilbur Shaw, Ted Horn, and Bill Vukovich.

Some other vehicles of note are Mary Hulman’s Rolls-Royce, which she drove just one time to the grocery store. The car attracted so much attention that she hired a chauffeur to drive it after that. I liked the early 1900s Apperson and the Duesenbergs that reside in the depths of the museum. There are also several of the actual pace cars. Of note is the original 1996 Dodge Viper that was scheduled to pace the field, but was pulled at the last minute because it contained Japanese parts. Another version of the Viper, which also sits in the vault, led the field to the green that year.

A single row of vintage cars along the wall to the right includes an 1886 Daimler and a Benz of the same year. these were basically carts with bench seats and a rudder for steering with a tiny motor in the back. Some other cars along that wall, from 1916, have roots in the Hulman-George family. Tony George was driven to school in one of them.

The 30 minute tour costs $100 and online reservations are recommended at I had planned to just visit the museum and make a reservation for the tour another day. Since it was early and they had no tours scheduled, I got to take the tour immediately. .

Mr. 500- Andy Granatelli’s Love Affair with IMS

In the 1960s it was impossible to talk about the Indianapolis 500 without mentioning Andy Granatelli. His only victory came in 1969 with Mario Andretti driving, but his showmanship and innovations grabbed headlines throughout the decade. His strong presence at the track each May was felt by everyone there.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum introduced a new exhibit, “Granatelli,” on August 1. It is running concurrently with the “From the Vault” display. The Granatelli exhibit occupies the north hall. It is a small exhibit, with about a half dozen cars and a showcase of memorabilia.

Granatelli is remembered for two things: attempting to prolong the run of the popular Novi and for bringing the turbine powered car into the race. neither car had much success, but both had fans talking about Granatelli and his team.

A Granatelli quote in the display says. “The Novi did everything but win races.”

The Novi driven by Jim Hurtubise in 1965. 1967 was the final run for the famed car.

Parnelli Jones driving the turbine in 1967. He started sixth and was leading by the end of the first lap. USAC rewrote the rule book over the next few years, making the turbine unable to compete.

Granatelli tried to qualify for the 1948 race. On his qualifying run he had an average of 123 mph working through three laps. The right rear tire blew and he crashed his Miller Ford Offenhauser in turn two.


A Granatelli entry was converted to turbine power as a test car in 1955. Known as the SAC Fireboid, Henry Banks drove demonstration laps in 1955. the car then became property of Firestone as a test car.  As a Granatelli entry the Kurtis Kraft KK 3000 was driven by Pat Flaherty in 1950 and Jim Rathmann to second place in 1952. Freddie Agabashian also had a turn behind the wheel of this machine.


The walls in the exhibit are are covered with murals with quotes and text from Granatelli’s biography, They Call Me Mr. 500. The one that stood out to me captures the essence of what every fan, driver, and car owner feels about the race and the speedway.


Althpugh the display is not large, it packs a lot of history about a great era at IMS and one of the most intriguing figures of that time. The exhibit runs through June 20, 2021.

I will have some more photos posted on my Facebook page, The Pit Window later tonight.

IMS Museum to Close During Track Activity Days

From the IMS Museum this afternoon. This might change some people’s plans.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, Offices Closing on All 2020 Indy 500 Track Activity Days

Museum will maintain normal tour, operating hours Aug. 17-20

In light of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s decision to conduct all 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge track activity without fans, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will be closed on all “500” track activity days.

The days the IMS Museum will be closed are: Aug. 12-16 (practice and Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying days); and Aug. 21-23 (Miller Lite Carb Day, Legends Day presented by Firestone, and “500” Race Day, respectively). This includes the Museum’s corporate offices.

The Museum will welcome visitors during its normal hours, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET), on all other days, and “Kiss the Bricks” track tours will be available from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The Museum’s popular and in-depth Golf Cart Tours will not be available beginning Aug. 10 and will resume Aug. 26.

Two featured exhibits are on display at the IMS Museum: “Granatelli: Larger Than Life presented by O’Donovan & McCardel Wealth Management by Raymond James,” which opened Aug. 1 and runs through June 20, and “From the Vault presented by Bank of America,” which runs through March 21.

The IMS Museum is a public, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization located in the infield of the world-famous 2.5-mile IMS oval, requiring its closure in order to comply with the decision to not allow fans at IMS for the 2020 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Like most museums and arts organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted revenue and finances for the IMS Museum. Donations are always welcomed; the generosity of our members, corporate sponsors, visitors and donors make it possible for Museum staff to preserve and share the 111-year  history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its events, plus Indiana’s rich automotive heritage. At this time, your support is appreciated more than ever. To learn more about the many ways you can show your support – including memberships and our popular “Adopt-a-Car” program – please click here.


About the IMS Museum: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is home to one of the world’s premier motorsports and automobile collections, with interpretive emphasis on the Indianapolis 500 and its role as an American icon of sporting tradition and innovation.

Located inside the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, the IMS Museum is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization which relies on the support of visitors, members, donors and corporate partners, who make possible our daily operations, exhibits, educational programming, and restoration and preservation initiatives.

For more information on the IMS Museum, please visit, contact the Museum at 317-492-6784, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.


Indycar News Roundup: IMS Museum Sets Opening Date; Palou, VeeKay in Limbo

It’s nice to start the day with some good news. the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum announced today that it will re-open July 7 and extend the From the Vault exhibit. I did not get a chance to see this exhibit in the fall, so I’m thrilled to get an opportunity to see it. Here are some important points from the museum’s announcement:

  • We have developed and revised, on almost a daily basis, protocols to keep our guests and staff as safe as possible. When we re-open, we will allow fewer people in the Museum and will have new guidelines for social distancing. These protocols are unprecedented, and we are learning what will work for us from such sources as the American Alliance of Museums, the American Association for State and Local History, and other museums in the city, as well as our local groceries and big-box stores.
  • The Museum will reopen on Tuesday, July 7, under the governor’s executive order, the “Back on Track” re-opening plan, and further discussion with IMS officials. Our tours are scheduled to restart at the same time. This may change, however, and I encourage you to check our website before making plans. We will post our re-opening protocols there, too, at
  • We are extending the run of From the Vault presented by Bank of America. Cut short by our closure, the full exhibit will run through mid-July, and then be contracted a bit to allow us to open a new exhibit on August 1. We will update and supplement From the Vault with additional cars this summer, and in October we will switch out about 10 of the cars to give you a great reason to return.
  • In fact, From the Vault presented by Bank of America is a great reason for you to have a museum membership. We plan on rotating a variety of cars through the exhibit, so you will want to come back several times. One thing that won’t change: our members always get into the Museum for free!
  • Our new exhibit is . . . going to remain a secret for a while longer. As soon as our printers can get back to work, we will get the banners and signage created, with a plan to start installing the exhibit about July 20. That exhibit will run through June 20, 2021.
  • We have been sharing a wide variety of film and video content on our YouTube channel and through our social media. If you do not follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or our YouTube channel, you are missing out on a lot of great race history.

Will Palou and VeeKay Race at Texas?

The Department of Homeland Security has made an exception to its travel ban to allow foreign athletes to enter the United States. The agency did not include motorsports. While this exclusion greatly affects IMSA, Indycar is also affected. Two rookies, Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay are currently in Europe. Indycar, their teams, Dale Coyne Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing, are working with the the government and embassies to work out arrangements for them to enter the country. Indiana senator Mike Braun has written the DHS asking the department to add motorsports to its exception list.  I think Roger Penske knows a guy in DC who can help as well.

Speculation as to who might replace Palou or VeeKay has been swirling. i will leave that discussion until it is necessary.