Back when Indianapolis Motor Speedway was closed for years

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The 1942 Indianapolis 500 was canceled in December 1941, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor — and by late 1942, all motor racing in the US was banned due to rationing for the war effort.

By the time the ban was lifted in 1945, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had sat largely abandoned for the better part of four years, and was in very bad shape — half of Gasoline Alley burned down in 1941, and weeds were beginning to grow through cracks in the pavement. It was so bad that many local residents assumed the track would be sold and redeveloped as housing.

Three-time Indy 500 winner Wilbur Shaw came to the track in November of 1944 to do a government-approved tire test, and was appalled by the condition of the Brickyard. After talking with owner Eddie Rickenbacker, Shaw found the track was for sale, and began a quest to locate a buyer for the facility that would restore it to its pre-war glory, and once again stage the world’s greatest race.

Late in 1945, Shaw found Terre Haute businessman Anton “Tony” Hulman, who ended up purchasing the speedway and restoring it to racing condition in time for the 1946 Indianapolis 500. To this day, IMS is still owned by the Hulman family. – AJW

Thrill packed scene at Indianapolis Motor Speedway 1940s

Rickenbacker sells speedway to Terre Haute sportsman

Indianapolis, November 15, 1945 — Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, a 70-mile-an-hour daredevil of the automobile tracks 30 years ago, will be only a visitor from the aviation business when the groundling speedsters compete next May 30 in their first 500-mile race since 1941.

“Rick” sold the two-and-a-half mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday to Anton Hulman Jr, Terre Haute, Indiana sportsman and financier, for a price reported unofficially as about $750,000. Rickenbacker bought the plant in 1927 for $700,000.

Rickenbacker sold the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The colorful captain, who went back to automobiles after shooting down 21 German airplanes and five balloons in the first World War, had to make a choice between his first love and his job as president of Eastern Air Lines. The newer mode of transportation won.

“The demands of running Eastern Airlines make it impossible for me to give the speedway the attention which it demands and it is fortunate that I am able to dispose of my interest to Mr Hulman,” Rickenbacker said.

Rickenbacker brothers

Indianapolis Motor Speedway under new management

The new management will be familiar to auto racing fans. Hulman, who will be chairman of the board, announced the appointment of Wilbur Shaw, thrice winner of the Memorial Day classic, as president and general manager. Old-timer TE (Pop) Myers will remain as vice-president.

The new owner heads the Clabber Girl Baking Powder Company and owns real estate and utilities throughout the midwest. He has been an avid sportsman since starring in track, football and rowing at Yale. The war interrupted most of his recreation, but normally he hunts everything from ducks to Alaskan brown bear and goes fishing every chance he gets.

1945 Indianapolis Motor Speedway sold 4

The Terre Haute capitalist said the speedway plant would be improved immediately in preparation for the 1946 renewals of the race. He has said the improvement program, as already tentatively mapped, was so extensive that the supply of labor and materials would prevent its full realization before the 1947 race.

“Our first aim,” Hulman said, “will be to look to a spectator comfort and convenience and provide a track and competition that should be an invitation and a challenge to the best race drivers in the world.”

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