SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considered the Racing Capital of the World, so it seems only fitting the final resting place of so many racing legends is just a few miles away at Crown Hill Cemetery.
13 Inside Track host Laura Steele took the tour with Crown Hill Heritage Foundation President David Rieck to find out how it all came about.
"We decided, 'OK, so there's the Yard of Bricks at the Speedway. Why don't we lay our Final Finish Line here to honor not only the four founders, but kind of be the starting point of the tour that will take you around to almost 61 racing legends here at Crown Hill?''' Rieck said.
Some of those seen at Crown Hill Cemetery connected with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 may not be household names, but their markers and headstones show their love for IMS.
Others are the reason the IMS exists. Among those laid to rest here are the four founding fathers.
"They are all here," Rieck said. "Carl Fisher was kind of the impetus of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was a marketing genius, so to speak. He was a big promotions guy. And he had this idea to build a 2 1/2-mile over on the west side of Indianapolis to help make cars go faster. Alongside of him are (Arthur) Newby, (James) Allison and (Frank) Wheeler. The three of them were kind of the financial backers. They were the entrepreneurs and business owners here in the city, and actually really good friends with Carl Fisher. So, between his idea and his marketing and promotional genius, and the three of them and their financial backing, we're lucky to have the 2 1/2-mile that still stands there today."
The first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was held in 1909. It was set to be 300 miles, but had to be cut short because of track conditions.
"So what he did, he said, 'OK, I'm gonna repave this whole thing with bricks.' And as we know, in 1911, the first race happened at the Motor Speedway," Rieck said.
Other notables include Marmon, Duesenberg, Baker and Stutz. Another memorial that really stands out is that of Louis Schweitzer. It sits up on a hill near the highest point of Crown Hill.
"Louis was well known in the automotive industry with his work in hydraulics, and then later got into automobile racing...was actually a part of the very first race at the Motor Speedway in 1909 before it was the Indianapolis 500 and was a relief driver in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911," Rieck said. "After he was a driver, he served on the technical advisory committee there at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Schweitzer Award is given out each year after the 500 to the engineer who showed innovation, you know, in automobile racing."
Another memorial that draws a lot of attention is that of Buddy McAtee.
"McAtee may not be a household name. But a lot of people probably know his work, especially as president of IMS productions, which produced and put on a lot of the races and the events surrounding the 500 and surrounding the motor speedway," Reick said.
McAtee's headstone features the famous wing and wheel. Reick said a lot of people stop there and Google his name to learn about his connection to racing and the Indy 500.
Tony Bettenhausen Jr. and his wife are also buried at Crown Hill. He started in 11 Indianapolis 500s, raced in NASCAR and eventually became an owner. Tragically, he and his wife died in a plane crash on Valentine's Day in 2000.
One of the most recognizable voices of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is also laid to rest at Crown Hill. As Bob Jenkins' headstones reads, "I'm just a race fan that got lucky."
"Bob was a big fan of what we were doing out here and honoring the racing legends. He was actually our keynote speaker in 2019. And we were fortunate enough to have him voice a lot of stops on our app that will be released here and at the end of June," Reick said. "He voices a lot of the stops and narrates a lot of the stops to kind of inform the visitor about who they're seeing and what they're seeing and that sort of thing. So, he was such a big race fan and very passionate about remembering all those who contributed to auto racing."
IMS historian Donald Davidson also voiced some of the stops for the new Racing Legends tour app. The interactive guide will be released June 26 and will be available on the Crown Hill Heritage Foundation's website.
The Crown Hill Heritage Foundation and the Indiana Racing Memorial Association have announced "A Celebration of Racing Legends" to be held on Sunday, June 26, 2022, at 2 p.m. to release the Crown Hill Heritage Foundation's interactive Racing Legend's tour app.
The app features audio recordings made by the legendary Donald Davidson and Bob Jenkins.