The Yard of Bricks, May 2011 (IMS)
While tradition abounds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, very little still remains visible of the original 1911 race track. This makes sense, as racing has changed in the past 100 years, and the track has constantly been a leader in racing technology. Grandstands and towers have been demolished and new ones built, and even the infield is not the same as in the earliest days. One feature has been preserved though: the famed Yard of Bricks.
In 1909, 3.2 million paving bricks were laid around the track in order to provide a solid surface for the high-speed racing, and testing, that was desired. Previously, the track was paved with a macadam surface, basically gravel and tar, but that was not an ideal surface. The bricks of course, led to the Speedway’s nickname, the “Brickyard”.
By the 1930s, asphalt was being used to patch rough sections of the corners, and in 1937 all the turns had been asphalted. In 1938, the entire track, except the front straightaway, was asphalt. Racing continued using this arrangement until finally in October 1961, the remaining stretch was paved with asphalt, except for 36″ at the start/finish line. This is now known as the Yard of Bricks.
Nearly all of the paving bricks are still there, though, not just the three feet visible today. The bricks are just underneath several inches of asphalt–somewhat akin to vinyl siding covering a house’s original architectural features.
As was done for the 50th anniversary in 1961, this centennial year will be marked by placement of a new, gold, brick in the Yard. Even if the physical remains aren’t all visible, the traditions remain.
Primary source: Indianapolis Motor Speedway