Hello all! Today I would like to introduce a series called “Friday Feature,” a fun group of stories which highlights various topics in open-wheel racing. We don’t do one every week, but it will be something fun to get everyone through the offseason. These posts will be shorter than normal Open-Wheels articles and will give a fun little insight into each topic.
Today we will give recognition to the Hoosier Hundred, an event held annually at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. The race, first held in 1953, features USAC Silver Crown racing in its current form and has hosted some of the Indianapolis 500’s most prominent figures.
Official records list the first Hoosier Hundred taking place in 1953, with Bob Sweikert winning over Manuel Ayulo at an average speed of 87.192 miles per hour. Interestingly enough, though, the first 100-mile race held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds was actually in 1946, an event named the Indianapolis 100 won by Rex Mays. These records fail to mention that Mays is, in fact, the first winner of what would become the Hoosier Hundred. Finishing runner-up to Mays in that 1946 race was Mauri Rose, who would go on to win the Indianapolis 500 the next two years in 1947 and 1948.
The Hundred has never been short on talent. Drivers would flock to the fairgrounds in September to compete in what would become one of the elite dirt track events in the United States. The race featured “Champ Cars” from 1953 to 1970, and USAC assumed sanctioning duties in 1956. It remained a national championship event until 1971 when the sanctioning body restructured USAC’s levels of competition, making the Hoosier Hundred a part of the new Silver Crown Series.
Through the 1970s, the race had featured legends such as A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Billy Vukovich, Johnny Rutherford and Johnnie Parsons. Foyt is the all-time wins leader at the Hundred, capturing six victories from 1960 to 1969. Unser won the race four consecutive years from 1970 to 1973, the only driver to win the event four times in a row.
In 1981 the “Hulman Hundred” was introduced as a month of May counterpart to the traditional late-summer Hoosier Hundred, bearing the name of the famous Hulman family. It too was USAC Silver Crown sanctioned and featured more grassroots drivers while the Hoosier Hundred attracted the biggest names. Even still, winners of the Hulman Hundred form a respected list of drivers: Steve Kinser, Rich Vogler, Dave Darland and four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon.
The Hulman ran on its own through 1996, but that race has an interesting story. While the 1996 Hulman Hundred was contested as scheduled in May, the fall Hoosier Hundred was actually cancelled by the Foyt Group due to decreasing attendance and revenue figures. As a response, the Hulman Hundred race held the previous May was retroactively deemed the “1996 Hoosier Hundred” and proved to be the final year that two separate races were scheduled.
In 1997 the race was merged with the Hoosier Hundred to form one unified event. To be held each May on the weekend of the Indianapolis 500, drivers would now be competing in the TrueValue Hulman-Hoosier Hundred. The event was managed by the Foyt Group and over the next few years featured drivers such as Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Ed Carpenter.
In 2002, 6R Promotions took control of the event and renamed it the traditional “Hoosier Hundred.” Bob Sargent and Track Enterprises assumed promotional duties by 2006 and continue to promote the race today. This past May, the Hoosier Hundred was rained out (only the third time in the race’s 64-year history) and could not be rescheduled. That means Kody Swanson is still the three-time defending champion of the event, with wins in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He will attempt to tie Al Unser’s record of four straight victories in May 2018 when the Hoosier Hundred celebrates 65 years of competition.
Linked results to historic Hoosier Hundred races provided courtesy of Ultimate Racing History.