What does the future hold in store?
No crystal ball is necessary to answer that question, because the "pattern of progress" has been clearly established by the racing fraternity and the present Speedway management. The race track itself—ignoring all supplementary facilities for the moment—is the same challenging yardstick that it was for the first "500" 50 years ago.
For safety reasons, a smooth surface of Kentucky Rock Asphalt has been laid on top of the original bricks—except for a short portion of the main straightaway which has been preserved out of respect for tradition. The four identical turns still are banked at 9 degrees and 12 minutes, as they were when Ray Harroun won the first Speedway Classic at an average speed of 74.59 miles an hour. Compared with that figure and the unofficial 1911 high single lap of 87.5 miles an hour, the modern records of 138.767 and 149.601 make it possible to measure the progress already attained—progress which must be attributed to engineering advancement because the race drivers today are no braver or no more skillful than those of the pioneer period.
At every stage of racing history, great drivers have taken calculated risks in quest of greater speed; they've helped break each temporary barrier by assisting in the development of new ideas and by testing improved equipment created of better metals, rubber compounds, fuels and lubricants.
There is no reason to doubt progress will continue at approximately the same pace. The 150-mile-an-hour lap is within easy striking distance now. The 150-mile-an-hour race may not be more than nine years away, on the basis of computations in line with the rate of advancement since 1951. And the Speedway's present management has made gargantuan strides during the last 15 years in the interests of greater safety, improved spectator facilities and increased prize money.
There had been doubt about the Speedway's future in 1946. Many believed Eddie Rickenbacker was lucky to dispose of such a white elephant because "fast airplanes and fast passenger cars will minimize the thrills to be obtained by spectators at an automobile race."
Tony Hulman didn't share that belief, and now he is certain the missile-jet age actually has helped the sport.
"By 1970 we will have turbine-powered cars racing in the '500,' " he predicts. "The conquest of space will develop new fuels, new metals and new methods of transmitting power to land vehicles.
"Attendance will increase by at least 50 per cent.
"The new double-decked paddock grandstand at the starting line will be completed in time to accommodate many of these additional spectators at the golden anniversary running of the '500' this year. Then we'll replace the few remaining old wooden stands on the main straightaway with new structures of steel and concrete. I expect we'll also build a new grandstand all along the short north stretch in a few years.
"By race day of 1962, I hope we'll have a new golf clubhouse and grandstand, constructed as a combined unit on the backstretch."
Other projects already in the planning stage include the relocation of nine holes of the Speedway's 18-hole golf course for tournaments like the $50,000 event staged as part of the 1960 Festival program under the direction of Indianapolis civic and business leaders; a new and larger Speedway museum; improved garage facilities and a helicopter port on the grounds.
"I have no doubt that the 500-mile race always will remain the greatest single-day sports event in the world so far as attendance is concerned," says Hulman. "Increased receipts will be reflected in more prize money—possibly as much as $500,000 for a single race.
"Keen competition, rather than sheer speed, makes auto racing the great sport it is. As long as the human element exists in the wheel-to-wheel battle for supremacy, race fans will be on hand in greater numbers each year when the starting field lines up with 500 miles to go."