INDIANAPOLIS — Despite many pavement tracks across the country wrapping up their calendars for the year, the Indianapolis Speedrome still has plenty of racing to offer the crossroads of America.
The fifth-mile paved oval, located on the east-side of Indianapolis, is the home to not only some of the latest events on the motorsports calendar in the Midwest, but home to the origin of one of the most unique styles of racing: figure-eight racing.
Built prior to America’s involvement in World War II, the Speedrome began to find success once the troops came home in the 1940s. Originally a dirt track, the owners of the track invented the sport of figure-eight racing during the 1950s, leading to the paving of the track.
With a new concept in hand, the track began to gain reputation, not only as a great oval track, but as the home to some of the most exciting and destructive racing sanctioned, which was regularly televised on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
“Figure eight racing is all about experience and getting laps,” said track president Jonathan Byrd II. “You don’t just have the guys you are racing with in front and behind you, you’ve also got the crossover to deal with and the cars that are half a lap in front of you to deal with.”
Byrd II’s father, Jonathan Byrd Sr. is a legendary figure in Indianapolis racing culture. A long-time Indy car team owner, his Jonathan Byrd’s Racing squad participated in the Indianapolis 500 every year from 1985 to 2001.
Byrd Sr. also helped pioneer the tradition of “Double Duty”, with drivers running both the Indianapolis 500 as well as NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. The tradition started with John Andretti, who drove for Byrd in 1994, as well as Billy Hagan in NASCAR that year.
His team also hosts the fastest single lap ever recorded at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, set by Arie Luyendyk in 1996 at 237.498 mph during second-round qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
Due to later safety changes, that record still stands today.
However, despite his accolades on a national stage, Byrd Sr. found his home at the Speedrome, where his passion for the track and unique style of racing was later passed down to his son.
“I was six-years-old when he started as a car owner, so I came here a lot,” said Byrd II. “In 2002, I started really coming out a lot more, and the track ownership really enjoyed my father and enjoyed me being around.”
The Speedrome was sold by its longtime owners in 2013, and went through a period of low popularity until its purchase by new owner Kevin Garrigus during the winter of 2016.
During the off-season, Garrigus spent nearly $750,000 revitalizing the figure-eight, allowing to have one of its most successful seasons since the turn of the century. Byrd II was brought on during the off-season, lending his experience and name to the track.
“Over the past two or three years in America, the grass-roots and short tracks have really experienced a huge renaissance,” Byrd II said. “We hope that we’re a leader in terms of what can be done at a short track level.”
The Speedrome normally runs events on Saturday night, upholding the true Saturday-night short track mentality which helped popularize short track racing.
The track’s most popular event is the World Figure 8 Championship in September, where drivers may run up to 400 laps in one race. The cornerstone Speedrome event has run annually since 1977.
This year’s 41st running of the race saw Mike Hadley Jr. narrowly beat Jeff Harmon for his first-career win in the three-hour race.
Speedrome legend Jack Dossey Jr. is the all-time World Figure 8 Championship kingpin, with six wins in seven years between 1993 and 1999, a record nine poles and a record 2,051 laps led across 26 starts.
As far as the current season, the Speedrome plans to run events through Nov. 12, with their annual awards night being held the week after.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what the temperature may be outside, because figure-eight racing is sure to keep heating up the East Side for many years to come.
To find out more about the events at Indianapolis Speedrome, visit the track website at www.speedrome.com.
About the Writer
Originally from suburban Chicago, Cisco Scaramuzza is Race Chaser Online’s leading Midwest correspondent, having joined the team in July of 2017 as a writer and designer, and has covered events including the Bojangles’ Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series at Gateway Motorsports Park.
In addition, Scaramuzza is the producer for LiveSimRacing TV (LSRTV), the leading sim-racing broadcast outlet in eSports and a key partner with iRacing.com’s sim-racing platform.
The 21-year-old has worked with the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series on a regular basis, alongside LSRTV’s partner outlet RaceSpot, as well as with the Real Sim Racing family of series on iRacing and the VLN Endurance Championship.
Scaramuzza is currently a student at Butler University, pursuing a degree in Sports Media and Broadcasting.
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