Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles produced some genuinely fascinating photos last week from the Brickyard.
A series of six-inch core samples, drilled and extracted from the hallowed oval, gave fans a look at the equivalent of an IndyCar archeological dig – one that exposed more than 100 years of racing surfaces – to reveal the material used by Ray Harroun, Mauri Rose, A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Takuma Sato to reach Victory Lane.
The drilling was done as part of an exploration to investigate new bumps felt by IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe during the most recent Manufacturers’ test.
“It’s crazy how the photos have taken off,” Boles told RACER. “We talk to the drivers to look at things we can work on with the track because each year, the track settles in new ways. I think a lot of people forget that the original 3.2 million bricks are still there, so with the Indiana winters, water in the soil will freeze and thaw, and the bricks move a little bit, which can create ripples or bumps, so that’s what we go out to investigate and see how the track is changing beneath the surface.”
Four samples were taken, with the most incredible and accurate image coming from Turn 3 at the 2.5-mile oval.
“Turn 2 is where you can see the most evidence of the bricks settling at the exit, so we took samples to understand how the current asphalt surface is standing up on top of everything its rests on,” Boles added. “We resurfaced last in 2004, so we’re beyond the normal interval. We resurfaced in 1976 that lasted to 1988, did another in 1995, and that lasted until 2004, so we’re on the verge of [needing to do] another one.
“So we continue to look at how the asphalt is holding up, and that sample everyone loved is from the exit of 3. That one, when it came out, I knew I had to post that one because it’s so amazing. I was surprised with it, and love the tradition and history of the track, and knew fellow Indy 500 geeks would love to see it.”
Boles also learned more about the track from IMS historian Donald Davidson when an unusual sample was pulled up from Turn 2.
“It was interesting because before that, we took one at the exit of 2 where Scott Dixon said there was a new bump he felt, and in the sample, there was a small amount of brick, but not a full section at the bottom,” he said.
“So we spoke with Donald Davidson and asked why we wouldn’t have a complete brick layer there, and he said in 1939 or 1940, before they really paved everything, they did take out a few rows of bricks in a few spots because they bricks were creating humps, and so we think the bump Scott mentioned is from uneven settling there where some bricks are missing.”
Did you see the core sample @jdouglas4 shared last week?
Check out the graphic below to see what’s behind the surface ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/l6K8WFBZD5
— Ind. Motor Speedway (@IMS) October 31, 2017
There was one more surprise in store for Boles after the samples were shared via social media.
“The thing that’s really blown me away is how many calls, how many emails, and social media inquiries from people asking if they can have the samples!” he said with a laugh. “The answer is no, because it’s not like we have hundreds of those. The one from Turn 3 is really the best we’ve seen that shows all of the track’s history going back to the beginning. It’s going to be retained, for sure. It’s our history.”