The International Association of Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers was founded in 1961 in advance of the 50th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The idea for the association stemmed from a conversation between Tom Carnegie, then the sports director at WFBM and the chief public address announcer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and AAA Contest Board publicity director Art Wright. They sought to gather those men with the deepest ties to the Indianapolis 500 to promote the race and the sport.
The association settled on a mission of “providing guidance for the younger generation, bringing about recognition of persons outstanding at the Indianapolis 500, promoting fellowship among members and furthering the interests of automobile racing generally.” Those founding principles made the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers one of racing’s finest organizations.
One of the association’s first events was a reunion barbecue held during the week of the 1961 Indianapolis 500. Keeping with the mission of honoring outstanding Indianapolis 500 contributors, the inaugural “Golden Race Car Award” went to Al Bloemker, who had written the book “500 Miles to Go.” That award is still presented today, although it is now given in honor of longtime track superintendent Clarence Cagle. Several other awards are presented annually at the barbecue held before the race.
Of course, much about the Indianapolis 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have changed over the years, but the mission of the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers has not. Eligibility for membership continues to be based on at least 20 years of service to the Indianapolis 500. Those who qualify and wish to be considered for membership should contact an active member to sponsor their application.
It’s worth noting that when the association was formed in 1961, not even track owner Tony Hulman was eligible for membership. After all, he had purchased the facility less than 16 years earlier.
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