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Indiana Fairgrounds to repurpose speedway, discontinue Hoosier Hundred after 2019

The Race of Champions will need a new home …

The Month of May in Indianapolis is losing one of its richest traditions.

The Indiana State Fairgrounds and Event Center revealed on Tuesday that it has decided to convert its one-mile dirt track into an all-weather track made of crushed limestone to be utilized for year-round harness training and parking for the State Fair.

In other words, motor racing events will no longer be held on the famed one-mile track following the 2019 Hoosier Hundred. The 64th running of the 100-mile, 100-lap USAC Silver Crown Series race, scheduled for Thursday, May 23, will be the last time this historic race takes place.

The Hoosier Hundred race promoters knew this was coming and did everything possible to delay it.

“USAC, Track Enterprises, Bob Sargent and I have been in meetings with the Fairgrounds staff and in discussion for the last two years about any way to keep auto racing at the historic one-mile oval,” USAC Series Coordinator Levi Jones explained. “To no avail, the economics of the horse industry and their desire to use the one-mile track year-round instead of the half-mile currently in the infield won out in the end.”

USAC and Track Enterprises are currently exploring possible venues that could host a new Hoosier Hundred for the 2020 season and beyond.

The Track of Champions has history of well over a century.  On June 20, 1903, Barney Oldfield drove a Henry Ford-designed “999” to the first sub-one-minute lap ever on a one-mile racetrack at 59.6 seconds.  In 1917, Oldfield, the 1905 AAA National Champion, prevailed in a match race versus 1915 Indianapolis 500 winner Ralph DePalma.

In 1946, under the AAA National Championship banner, the one and only “Indianapolis 100” was held, with Rex Mays taking the victory.  Seven years later, in 1953, a new, long-lasting tradition began with the inaugural running of the Hoosier Hundred won by Bob Sweikert.

The Hoosier Hundred has been held annually since 1953, with only a handful of interruptions due to inclement weather. 

The list of winners reads like a motor racing Hall of Fame with AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Bob Sweikert, Jimmy Bryan, Rodger Ward, Parnelli Jones and Al Unser having won the Hoosier Hundred and the Indianapolis 500.

For the final running this May, California’s Kody Swanson has an opportunity to make even more history as he aims for an unprecedented fifth-straight Hoosier Hundred victory.  The four-time USAC Silver Crown titlist has won the previous four events to tie Unser’s streak of four-straight wins between 1970-73.

“Money can buy you a new racetrack, and you can build them almost anywhere,” Swanson said in a statement posted to his social media channels. “Yet, you simply cannot ‘buy’ the years of history and tradition – that create an atmosphere sending chills down your spine, that give you a chance to stand where the legends before you did, or that turn a track into a landmark for racers everywhere.

“I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to drive one of the Big Cars in the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Mile, and to compete in one of the greatest traditions in our entire sport.”

Over the years, the Indy Mile has been home to a myriad of USAC racing events, including Sprint Car, Midget and Stock Car races.  In the early-1980s, the “Hulman Hundred” for Silver Crown cars was created, which was added to the schedule as a second annual race for the series at the track each year from 1981-1995.

The Hulman Hundred was annually held in May while the Hoosier Hundred was scheduled for September in that era, until 1996 when the Hulman Hundred was discontinued.  The Hoosier Hundred then moved to May where it remains today, except for a couple rainouts in the early 2000s that were rescheduled for later that same year.

The final running of the race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds will take place on Thursday, May 23. Pit gates will open at Noon ET, with the grandstands opening at 3 p.m. and practice at 5 p.m.  Racing begins for the Modifieds at 6 with Silver Crown Qualifying races to follow and the Hoosier Hundred scheduled for an 8 p.m.

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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