INDIANAPOLIS The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will start its 2009 season the same way the facility’s rich history began 100 years ago: with a balloon race.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Era Balloon Festival will fill the city’s skies with as many as 50 colorful balloons May 1-May 3. It will be the first competitive event of the Speedway’s 2009-2011 Centennial Era, celebrating the founding year of IMS in 1909 through the 100th anniversary of the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911.
A helium gas-filled balloon competition was the first event to take place at IMS, on 5, 1909, more than two months before the oval was completed.
In 1909, there were two balloon “distance” competitions a National Championship Balloon Race and a Handicap Balloon Race for balloons that didn’t qualify for the championship. Both were afternoon events on consecutive days.
Dr. Goethe Link and Russ Irvin, both of Indianapolis and flying the balloon Indianapolis, won the Handicap division by floating to Westmoreland, Tenn. John Berry and Paul McCullough, both of St. Louis and piloting the University City, flew to a point just south of Fort Payne, Ala., to claim the National Championship event.
Three days of balloon activity will lead into the IndyCar Series Rookie Orientation Program and then practice for the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500.
A balloon “glow” will be the first balloon activity Friday night, May 1.
“Watching balloons glow in the night sky inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and then lift off in the morning will be a thrilling experience to witness,” said Joie Chitwood, IMS president and chief operating officer. “We think it’s a fitting way to honor our storied history and kick off the first month of the Centennial Era.”
Saturday, May 2 will be a busy day at the Speedway as more than 35,000 runners make their way around the 2.5-mile oval during the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, the largest half-marathon in the country. As the runners are passing through IMS, 50 balloons will ascend for the first of two competitions, the Founders Race. Saturday will end with another “glow” in the infield.
Sunday, May 3, will feature the second of two balloon events, the 100 Years Race.
Opening Day for the 93rd Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, with the Rookie Orientation Program from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and all drivers on track from 2-6 p.m.
Additional information on the IMS Centennial Era Balloon Festival will be available in the coming months. Check www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com for updates.