By: Spencer Neff
March 14, 2019 | 7:50 AM
On Wednesday, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced a multiyear partnership. In conjunction with Cummins’ 100th anniversary, the power solutions company will have signage and videos displayed throughout the facility.
“Cummins and IMS have enjoyed a productive relationship for 100 years based on shared values of integrity, innovation and community stewardship,” expressed Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent company of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Before the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, all five Cummins-powered historic Indianapolis 500 entries will participate in a pre-race parade lap. It will mark the first time all cars will be on track together.
“Today, we are marking our 100th anniversary and our history of technological innovation with a renewed presence at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Jennifer Rumsey, Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, Cummins Inc. in a press release making the announcement.
Cummins and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been connected since the beginning. Clessie Cummins served on the pit crew for the Marmon Wasp team of Ray Harroun at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. Harroun would go on to win the race.
In 1919, Cummins and William Glanton Irwin co-founded Cummins in Columbus, Indiana (less than an hour south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway).
Twelve years later, Cummins returned to the Speedway. For the 1931 race, Cummins had found a way to incorporate their recently developed diesel engine into a race car. August and Fred Duesenberg built the car, which already had set the diesel land speed record.
The team received a special exemption as Dave Evans would start last in the 40-car field. In a remarkable feat, Evans did not make a pit stop during the race. The fuel-efficient car propelled him to a 13th-place finish, completing all 200 laps.
Cummins would not enter the following two Indianapolis 500s. In 1934, the team ran both two- and four-stroke engines in the race. Evans returned to run the four-stroke engine. Stubby Stubblefield ran the two-stroke engine.
Despite the rising popularity of the two-stroke, Evans’s engine proved to be more powerful. Transmission issues knocked him out of the race after just 81 laps. Stubblefield and the two-stroke engine went the full 200 laps and finished 12th.
Cummins did not return to the “500” until 1950. Driving a car he personally dubbed “Green Hornet”, Jimmy Jackson qualified 32nd. After completing 52 laps, Jackson dropped out of the race when the harmonic balancer failed.
The Cummins team skipped the Indy 500 in 1951, but in 1952, the team set out to make history.
For that year’s race at Indianapolis, Cummins developed a revolutionary turbocharged engine. It was the first of its kind in the race’s history.
Cummins’ gamble paid off. Fred Agabashian not only qualified on pole, but he also set one- and four-lap track records (139.104 and 138.010 miles per hour, respectively).
Despite showing speed in qualifying, the race would not be as successful. Early on, the car fell behind its lighter competitors. However, the polesitter made his way back into the Top Five. On Lap 71, the turbocharger failed and Agabashian’s day ended.
Although Clessie’s brother Don later became an official, the company would not enter a diesel-powered car in the race again.
In 1973, Holset, The English turbomachinery company was acquired by Cummins and later renamed Cummins Turbo Technologies. 14 years later, Cummins and Holset helped make history at IMS. That year, the company supplied turbochargers for Penske Racing.
After Danny Ongais was injured in a practice crash in 1987, Al Unser took over driving responsibilities for Team Penske’s No. 25 entry. A year-old March chassis was acquired from a hotel lobby in Reading, Pennsylvania and the car’s sidepods were adorned with the Cummins name before the 71st running of the 500.
Unser won the race after starting 20th. He became the second four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. Roger Penske also earned his sixth win as a car owner and broke the record Lou Moore had held since 1949. Cummins also served as an associate sponsor for the Walker Racing entry driven by Robby Gordon in 1994-1995 and Mike Groff in 1996.
Header Image By Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR