The Indianapolis Motor Speedway ran its first 500-mile race in 1911, although this year's race was just the 86th because the Indy 500 was suspended during some war years. The speedway is filled with tradition and a lot of history. And a great deal of it comes from Detroit.
If you walk through the Indy museum, you quickly realize that although Indianapolis is 300 miles from Detroit, there are many important ties between the speedway and the Motor City.
The most significant link is the BorgWarner Trophy. BorgWarner, a leading automotive supplier, has awarded this trophy to the winner of the Indianapolis 500 since the mid-1930s. With all the small images of the past winners, it is a coveted prize.
If you take a stroll through Gasoline Alley, the first thing you'll notice is the number of Chevrolet engines. It's interesting that Louis Chevrolet got his start as a race driver who competed at the Brickyard, so it seems fitting that Chevrolet engines are back in a big way. Over time, other factories also have supplied engines for this race. Whether Ford or Ferrari, the connection with manufacturers is strong.
Now just about every race car has some OEM supplier's name and logo on the side as a sponsor. And Roger Penske's car even has the name of UnitedAuto Group, a large public group of dealerships, of which Penske is chairman.
The starting grid at the Indy 500 looks like an SAE convention with lots of OEM suppliers vying for some rub-off from this largest and oldest race in North America.
Next year, the competition among engine suppliers will be tougher, with Honda and Toyota joining the field along with current suppliers Chevrolet and Infiniti.
And if Firestone has any hopes of recovering from its image difficulties, the Indy 500 will be a cornerstone of its efforts.
There are still two competing racing series in the United States, the Indy Racing League and Championship Auto Racing Teams.
Although IRL and CART compete for drivers, sponsorships and attendance at their races, there might be some hope for reconciliation. It probably won't happen overnight. But in the interest of motor- sports, the sponsors and the fans, someone should find a way to patch up the differences.
After all is said and done, the Indy 500 is still the crown jewel of American motor racing.