Skip to content

(Ladies and) Gentlemen…Start Your Engines

Indy 500 Hed

By Phil Hecken

Today is the Indy 500. That’s pretty much all you need to know. But if you want to know more, then you need to read the following piece by Rob Caplette, who is one of Uni Watch’s auto racing junkies. I used to be into the Indy 500 (I even took a tour of the place, including a lap around the track, way back in 1991). There’s quite a bit of history surrounding what is probably THE premier auto race in the United States. Check it out.

Here’s Rob:


100 Years of Indy
by Rob Caplette

For a gearhead like me, the month of May has always been magical, and always held a special place in my heart. This year, there will be an added historical note, even before the current generations of challengers take the track. This year marks 100 years since the very first Indy 500. A feat that other racing gems like Daytona (first ”˜500’ in 59), Monaco Grand Prix (first run in 1929) and Le Mans (first 24 hour race held in 1923) have yet to hit.

Indy, like with Monaco and Le Mans, took hiatuses during the war years. Indy lost races to World Wars, Monaco and Le Mans only to the second. Indy has seen its fair share of innovation and history, so it is fitting that the rulebook for IndyCar opens up in 2012. The concepts by Dallara have been on display all month long.

The track itself is proof that nothing remains the same, having changed ownership 3 times. Carl G. Fisher was the original owner, overseeing the track from its inception until November 1927, when it was sold to Eddie Rickenbacker. Rickenbacker would oversee the track, and the 500 from 1927 until 1941, when he closed the doors do to World War II. In 1945 Anton Hulman Jr. bought the track, repaired it, and in 1946, after a 4 year hiatus the 500 returned, and has run annually ever since. Ownership is not the only thing that has changed over the years.

The famed Pagoda has had several facelifts, one caused by a massive fire. Victory Lane as seen several changes too. I may be old fashioned, but I prefer the older Victory Lane, with the race winner’s car being pushed up the checkered ramps. Back when the track was built, there were plans to include a rather simple road course in the infield. That plan was ultimately abandoned until F1 came knocking, and has since changes to accommodate the bikes of the MotoGP series better.

In the fall of 1909, the track was paved with approximately 3.2 million bricks. The bricks would stay until 1961, when all but the famed Yard of Bricks would be paved over. The track has since been repaved in 1976, 1988, 1995, and 2004. In 2002 the surface was smoothed over by the process known as diamond grinding.

Now, as we turn from the track itself to the cars and drivers that have helped make the track famous. From a Uni Watcher perspective, I have always been drawn to Indy, and racing in general, is not just the difference in the livery of the car, but the difference in the cars too.

From the inaugural win by Ray Harroun in the Marmon Wasp, a car that pioneered the rearview mirror, to Johnny Rutherford and the Chapparal chassis that brought ground effects to IndyCar racing, the evolution of the IndyCar is very unique.

The cars were originally 2 seaters, with a riding mechanic whose job was to inform the driver of other cars behind him. Ray Harroun’s strategy in the first Indy 500 was to forgo the mechanic, and save weight by making a mirror. From that moment on, IndyCar become a one seater sport. Over the next decades there wasn’t much change to the cars. Until the late 60’s and early 70’s when the transformation to rear engine cars began. Once rear engines cars took over, the next advances that came were wings and ground effects.

Historically, Indy has been the place where drivers, and owners, have made their names in the business. Names like Unser, Mears, Foyt, Ward, Parsons, and Donahue were made at Indy, while names like Clark, Hill, Andretti, and Fittipaldi added to the prestige of their names with wins on the hollowed Yard of Bricks. No owner has made a better name for himself than Roger Penske, who with 15 wins, triples his closest competition. Currently there are 3 drivers with 4 wins at Indy, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears.

This year Helio Castroneves will once again try to become the 4th man to enter the group. And he has his work cut out for him, starting in the 16th spot on the grid. If he is successful, he will become the first foreign-born driver to enter the group, and the 3rd Penske driver on that list.

. . . . .

To end this post I will have 2 Top 10 lists. The first is one of my favorite Indy moments; the second list is my top ten favorite cars.

Top Ten Indy 500 Moments:

10. Danny Sullivan’s Spin and Win. 1985 — Danny Sullivan Spins while leading, manages to keep it off the wall, and comes back to win the race.

9. Little Al and Emmo touch in the Closing Laps. 1989 -”“ The race was in the closing laps, Emerson Fittipaldi and “Little” Al Unser Jr are fighting for the win. They touch in turn 3, Emmo wins, Jr’s day ends in the wall.

8. AJ Foyt. 4 time Winner. 1977 -”“ The first driver to win 4 500’s, and the last driver to win in a front engine car.

7. British Invasion. Jim Clark wins Indy. 1965 ”“- Jim Clark and Lotus came to Indy, and won.

6. CART Invasion. Juan Montoya Dominates the Indy field. 2000 ”“- Chip Ganassi was the first owner to cross the line in the IRL/CART war, and race the 500. The result? A dominate victory by the CART guys.

5. Penske Misses the 500. 1995 ”“- A year after dominating Indy with an engine that was developed just for Indy, Roger Penske tried everything, and still missed the field. The reason it’s on this list is because Roger showed class, packed up his bags and got ready for the next race, instead of buying his driver’s way into the field.

4. Penske Returns. 2001 ”“- Helio wins the first of 2 straight Indy 500 (and currently 3 total) in Penske’s return to the track.

3. Closest Finish in Indy 500 History. 1993 -”“ Little Al got the victory that eluded him in 1989, barely holding off a charging Scott Goodyear to win the race.

2. Sam Hornish does what Scott Goodyear can’t. 2006 -”“ As the final lap started, it looked like the track was finally smiling on the Andretti’s again. Marco was in front, and it looked like Sam was too far back. As they come out of turn 4, things are looking like 1993. Only this time, the hunter caught the hunted, and added another chapter to Andretti Indy Heartache.

1. Ray Harroun Wins the first Indy 500. 1911 ”“ The race that started it all.

. . . . .

Top 10 Favorite Cars

10. Johnny Lightning. Al Unser’s 1971 Indy 500 ride.

9. Ganassi Bolt. Juan Montoya’s 2000 Indy 500 ride.

8. Jim Clark’s Lotus. There is something simply classic about simple liveries.

7. Marmon Wasp. Ray Harroun’s ride to victory in the inaugural race.

6. Miller High Life. Danny Sullivan’s 1989 Penske ride for the 500. Much better than any of today’s Miller Lite liveries.

5. Newman/Haas Kmart/Havoline. A team/sponsor that has a long history, with many liveries, nothing looks as classic as the simple White and Black they used for so long. (Incidentally, the pic for this entry is a display of my favorite words to hear each May.. “Andretti Slows on the Backstretch” This pic is taken in turn 3.)

4. Player’s. I have always been a fan of the tobacco liveries in racing. They just always seem to have a classic look to them, especially in Open Wheel Racing.

3. Penske Pennzoil. Another Penske livery on my list, Roger’s cars always have a classic look to them, and are rarely overdone.

2. Mario’s STP Winner. From a time when sponsors didn’t dominate the cars like they do today, it’s another case of Keep It Simple, Stupid.

1. Marlboro Team Penske. One of the longest partnerships that recently came to an end, Marlboro’s famed Chevron livery has not only become a staple in Penske history, but also in Victory Lane, with 8 of his 15 victories coming in the livery.


Great job with that Rob. But it wouldn’t be complete without a listing of all the drivers in their rows, right?

Here it is.


Benchies Header


by Rick Pearson


More tournament action. New foes, new chances for old dogs with old tricks…

5-29-11 s-Junior

And, as always, your beautiful, color full-size.


all sport uni tweaks

Uni Tweaks

We have another new set of tweaks today.

If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.

Remember, if possible, try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per tweak. You guys have been great a keeping to that, and it’s much appreciated!

And so, lets begin:


We start with Timothy McKay who has some Astros concepts:

I love your site and thought you’d be interested in these uniforms I designed for the Astros. With a new owner inevitable, I decided it would be a good idea to change the look for a new era. It’s a combination of the old and the new…what do you think?




Next up is Tim Moore, with a Dodger/Laker crossover concept:

Hey Phil,

It pains me to even touch the Dodgers uniforms, but as of late, it seems nothing is holy with the organization. I’ve seen Dodgers hats in Lakers colors before, so I decided to see what the whole set would look like.

-Tim Moore


Next up is Andrew DeFrank with a bunch of Iggles concepts:

Hey again Phil,

My Philly Eagles concepts (7th team) are in my opinion, some of the best I’ve done. I added gold to both the logos and uniforms, along with a return to kelly green. How do you like em?

Eagles Info
Eagles Home
Eagles Away
Eagles Black
Eagles All White



And we close out today with Hyatt Werling, who’s back with more of his NFL color change project:

Dear Phil,

My name’s Hiatt Werling, with four more tweaks that follow the theme of changing an NFL team’s color scheme based on something that I can in some way relate to the team or the city. I’d like to made such a tweak for all 32 teams. As a disclaimer, obviously I don’t think any team should ever use any of these, they’re just for fun and to see what I can come up with. Here’s 25-28:

Raiders – The U Set: I figured that the brashness of the Raiders in the seventies into the early eighties was comparable to the University of Miami in the eighties into the nineties, and I thought that The U’s green and orange would work pretty well with a California team, so I gave them to the Raiders.

Ravens – Colts Set: I figured the Ravens could pay more respect to Baltimore’s pro football heritage by using the blue and white of the Colts, and then I took it a step further and also added the green and silver of the AAFC Colts.

Buccaneers – Mighty Ducks Set: My favorite two colors to see in sports uniforms are purple and teal (that’s probably not going to make me many friends here), and I think my favorite all-time color combination in any one uniform is the eggplant and jade green of the Anaheim Ducks back when Disney owned the team and they were the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Basically, I love the colors enough that I wanted to see a football team to have them. I figured that Tampa could kind of be the Anaheim of the East, so I gave them to the Buccaneers.

Chiefs – Kansas Set: Considering the name of the city, the fact that it rests on the Kansas border, and the fact that Missouri already has a team, I felt that the Chiefs should connect more to the fanbase in the state of Kansas, so I gave them the blue from the Kansas flag and sunflower yellow, including a big sunflower on the alternate.


Nice work guys. Back next weekend with more.


uni tracking 2011

2011 Uni Tracking

It’s that time of year again — time to start seeing how your team is doing, uniform-wise. If you’re unfamiliar with uni tracking, you may wish to check out this article, which describes what it is. In a nutshell, it’s a way of keeping track of your team’s won and loss record, and the uniforms they wore each day of the season. Many of you get quite intricate, right down to noting the starting pitchers, their choice of tops, and the specific win/loss records attributed to those; others simply keep track of wins and losses; some guys (and gals) use spreadsheets, others graphics; some even track “by hand” (the old school way).

Our first tracker of 2011 is Denver Gregg, who, perhaps not surprisingly, is a Colorado Rockies tracker. Gregg checks in with this:

Howdy Phil

I’ve been uni-tracking the Colorado Rockies again and there’s an interesting split. Through 5/27 they’ve worn six different combinations (likely another one coming soon with the wretched “patriotic” cap) and recorded a record of 8-3 in one particular combo, but just 16-23 in all others combined. The successful look? Road cap (the one with the purple bill), grey pants and – much to the consternation of the UW prexy – purple jersey. Wins on 4/9, 4/10, 4/11, 4/13, 4/14 (first game), 4/25, 4/26, and 5/4 and the three losses on 5/5, 5/8 and 5/18. Now many of the wins came against some of the teams off to rough starts: the Buccos, Mess and Cubbies, so that might be a better explanation than the gear.

Happy trails


Thanks, Gregg. If any of you are tracking your teams and want to share with me your efforts, drop me a line and I’ll post your tracking on the weekends.


And now a quick word from Paul: Phil’s having internet problems this weekend, so I had to format part of today’s entry. If anything looks amiss, blame me, not him. He also wasn’t able to provide his usual sign-off, but you won’t let that ruin your Sunday, right? Right. Enjoy your day, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Comments (44)

    If you’re watching today’s race, here is the spotter’s guide with pictures of all 33 cars.


    I can remember watching the 500 as a kid specifically looking for this car — the red and blue were beautiful and stood out against everyone else’s car.

    @Tim Moore: that Dod-kers jersey has a purply Padres feel. I’d love to see what it would look like in 3-D if Tim E. would illustrate it. Definitely weird, but probably not as weird as a purple shirt with gold numbers. Color-on-color, anyone?

    I’d like to see it with the old link Should the front number still be in red, though?
    There wouldn’t be much difference if the Lakers still wore the link huh?

    The front numbers should not be red :p

    BTW nice observation about the older LA jerseys. You’re right: it wouldn’t have made much difference as a baseball jersey.

    For me all of the excitement has gone out of the Indy 500 in recent years. One of the things I don’t like is the use of only one kind of engine. That’s why I like NASCAR more. Although all NASCARs are “purpose built” they at least still put FORD against Chevrolet against Dodge against Toyota. And I like the fact that you don’t need a Berlitz course to pronounce the drivers’ names. Bottom line is that most NASCAR people are still “Good Ole Boys!”

    And you forgot to mention that Jim Clark’s Indy Lotus was Powered by FORD using a race-prepared version of the lightweight small-block V-8 FORD began making for the 1962 model year. And that in 1965 the Wood Brothers of NASCAR fame served as Clark’s pit crew. Using the pit stop choreography that they had invented and perfected with their own Number 21 FORD/Mercury NASCAR machines. So fast were the Woods’ pit stops that they helped Clark win the 1965 “500” race by two full laps. Now the fast pit stop is a vital part of racing. So much so that pit crew competitions are held to see who’s the fastest. very time a race car goes into the pits for service they owe big thank you to Leonard, Glen, Delano, Clay and Ray Lee Wood.

    Ah, I hoped Terry would offer some insight, seeing as he and I may be the only people here who remember Troy Rutman, the “Black Knight of Racing.”

    Can you spell O-f-f-e-n-h-a-u-s-e-r?

    Yeah, it’s spelled O-F-F-Y. I know most cars used Offys in the 1950s but you still had Andy Granatelli’s front-wheel drive Novi V-8s and the occasional “exotic” car like Jack Brabham’s rear-engine Cooper from 1961.

    Interesting fact about Andy Granatelli. After his failed efforts to win at Indy with his Novis and then the turbine-car fiascos of 1967 and 1968 he then developed a four-wheel drive FORD-powered Lotus for Mario Andretti to drive in the 1969 race. But Mario crashed the car beyond repair in practice and was forced to drive a year-old conventional FORD-powered Lotus. All Mario did was finally give Andy his long-soughtafter victory at Indy. All of his weird cars were for naught. It ultimately took a proven racecar and engine to secure his victory. Andy is still going strong at 88-years-old.

    I also forgot to mention that even though Offy was the preferred motor of the day that didn’t stop other engine choices as long as they met specifications. Today’s “one-engine-fits-all” takes all of the innovation and romance of the race out of the picture. But I suppose when you get right down to it it’s all about the $$$$$. And that’s the saddest part of all sports today.

    I can’t believe no ones noticed it yet, but i found a nother exmple of sports cross dressing. Brandon Philllips and some other mlb players are wearing shooting sleeves to appear as if they have only one sleeve.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I love Andrew DeFrank’s Eagles tweaks today. The all white uniform is my favorite. The combination of the kelly green and gold is very cool. Personally, I hate the Eagles as a team – but I would love watching that uniform!

    i cant agree more….awesome combo of the old colors and a more modern feel to the uniform

    Personally, I never like tweaks when people put the new logo with old colors. It’s so conflicting, because the newer Eagles logo is supposed to be a “tougher” and more modern persona to go with the darker color scheme, while the older Eagle logos are classics that fit with the Kelly Green and silver.

    However, the unis themselves were good.

    “My favorite two colors to see in sports uniforms are purple and teal (that’s probably not going to make me many friends here)”

    Purple’s okay as long as you add teal to it….. (jk)

    Had you not added the “jk” you might just be on the shortlist of people getting banned from Uni Watch :p

    From a near ball-buster to the hidden ball trick…all in today’s Benchies. Good stuff, Ricko!

    Nothing like marrying an old joke and an old trick, huh.

    Next Sunday, a formidable new foe emerges, a cross-cultural scourge of slowpitch. “Huge” pretty much covers it.

    Now off to Target Field for the first time (finally), an early Father’s Day gift.

    What a beautiful ballpark.

    Feels very small and intimate, almost a bandbox, until you look around at all the seats.

    Much more vertical that it appears on TV. Just a great, great place to watch a ballgame.

    Would loved it if the sun had some out for a few minutes so I could see it that way.

    Twins in creams, especially when high-cuffed guys like Dennard Span and Alexi Casilla came up, gave me nano-second flashbacks to guys like Killebrew, Allison, Lennie Geen, Vic Power and Julio Becquer.

    I mean, even the sight of the groundscrew dragging the infield mid-game was great to see again.

    Now, as to our seats. Front row, third deck, with the home plate camera well in front of the two seats to my daughter’s left. Near as I could tell, the right arm of my seat lined up directly with the point of home plate, on through the pitching rubber and out to 2b. Incredible seats.

    Twins rally in 9th fell just short. Not gonna be a good year in Twins land, I’m afraid. But at least they aren’t playing in the Dome.

    I don’t know if they still do this, but one thing I remember from following the Indy 500 from days of yore was the radio broadcasts. Sid Collins, about a half-hour/45 minutes before the race would go over the starting grid. He would tell you the following about EACH car:
    car number
    car name
    qualifying speed
    car entrant/owner
    tire make (either Firestone or Goodyear)
    Don’t think he did car color, but he might have. Extremely thorough.
    And, Sid’s lead-in to commercial break was always, “And now, stay tuned to the greatest spectacle in racing!”

    The IMS Radio Network does the races now. Mike King does the pbp of the race, they still intro the cars, that way, but the drivers do it themselves. They still say “stay tuned for the greatest spectacle in racing,” going into local breaks, occasionally a driver will say or King will say it himself.

    Not much into racing, but I do have childhood memories of drinking cherry soda while watching Al Unser win the 500. Now if they still drove link or link I might be more attentive. Those are some great looking cars!

    Good work today, Rob.

    Growing up the only racing memories I’ve had was F-1 racing on TV Sunday mornings. It was either that or tennis (which I didn’t mind), lottery drawings or mass…

    By the way, for anyone in the area, the Indy Hall of Fame Museum has a special exhibit with many, many more winning cars than usual on display going on into June to celebrate the Centennial. Well worth the $5.

    The reason I love purple/teal is because it’s different. I wouldn’t say purple and teal are my favorite combination, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. I always thought the Charlotte Hornets looked awesome. The Karl Malone Jazz era incorporated purple and teal as well, and those looked cool. Same with the diamondbacks.

    Agreed, there is value in having a uniqueness factor in uniform design. Having a rarely used color combination can work, with a good design. I absolutely hate the red/blue/black lockstep in uniform colors in recent years.

    Purple and red works for me, along with orange and silver, with the right design. The old ABA Spirits of St. Louis wore the latter color combination.

    I’m all for creativity and letting people try out their ideas, but as a Bucs fan and season ticket holder, I must say YIKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m glad those are only mockups and figments of your imagination, good sir. I may be a homer, but I think the Bucs have one of the best home uniforms in the NFL.

    Went to the time trials several times—-oh, I’d say 68-69-70-71. Outstanding, and I recall the Mario and Unser Lighning cars very well.

    As a former Clemson student, with many friends from there still, I thought I’d weigh in on the comment from yesterday regarding our baseball uniforms. In a word, the alt whites SUCK. It’s a template that Russell Athletic used for Georgia Tech, then decided to pawn off on us. They just slapped a bunch of random purple on top of our regular whites, basically. No one I’ve talked to likes them, and wish Coach Leggett would just quit using them.

    Regarding the oddity of using Russell vs. Nike like the majority of our varsity sports…to my knowledge, Clemson doesn’t have a single manufacturer contract. I remember seeing some tennis players competing in Adidas, though I can’t find photos of them right now. I also remember an interview with Coach Leggett about baseball switching to Nike when I was a student, and he mentioned be resistant to that due to Nike’s desire for all players to wear Nike gloves. Instead, baseball is a hodge-podge. Jerseys and pants are Russell, Caps are New Era, cleats are Mizuno, batting gloves, helmets, and bats are Easton, and Easton is urged for fielding gloves, but not mandated. I’ve seen guys play with Wilson, Rawlings, Mizuno, and Nike gloves.

    One last thing: I hate the Oregon thing we have going on with baseball. Although we only have white pants, we’ve got 6 different jerseys: White, bumper-sticker white, Orange block, Orange script, Purple block, purple script; and 5 different caps: solid orange, solid purple, purple with orange brim, white with orange brim, white with purple brim. Mix and match white, orange, or purple undersleeves, and we have way too many uniform options.

    Saw this on CNN’s site…only lightly uni-related, but I thought it was really interesting…


    Dude, I am loving Andrew DeFrank’s Eagles tweaks! =D Kelly Green and any type of metallic gold is a highly underrated color scheme. Although I DO know of a high school in Washington that uses Kelly Green and Vegas Gold. Can anyone help me with the school’s name?

    It’s time for the 95th running of the Indianapolis 500, but it’s the number 100 that counts in 2011. This is the 100th anniversary of the running of the first

    Exciting race today, with the unbelievable ending. That rookie just flinched at the worst possible time.

    Exactly – my daughter had just asked if it was possible for Hildebrand to lose. I said “yes”. Then, she asked if it was likely. I barely got out “no” before he slammed into the wall.

    Then add on the ending to the NASCAR race, and it was an exciting day of racing.

    Nary a mention of the revolutionary STP turbine cars in a 100 year overview? Boo. The 1967 version was groundbreaking mechanically, and the 1968 triplets were an early shot at ground effect aerodynamics. Both years were heartbreaking examples of ” for want of a nail, a kingdom was lost”. Both years they left the rest of the field in their wake until undone by a tiny yet critical failure. Not fiascos in the least.

    I think the Hokies might object to this guy’s hat, even if he is in a position of authority. link

    So a few months ago, we were cleaning out a part of my girlfriends house, and we found and old Zubaz Eagles hat. I don’t have a picture, but it was much akin to link. Only difference is that it has the Eagles logo instead of the script.

    It’s kinda funny that the phrase “when sponsors didn’t dominate the cars” was used as the caption for a car that is entirely STP red.

    Those ASTROS TWEAKS are AMAZING! It would be a dream come true if they changed to them next year. Thank you Timothy McKay!

    I like the current set less & less…especially since I saw your tweaks for the first time a week or so ago. I found this link that combines the current logo w/ those old colors & started thinking about a color change…but it seems like the link is the most popular w/ people in Houston. That set of tweaks is the perfect combo! Been showing those to friends who are huge ‘stros fans & they LOVE your concepts!

    (Any chance you could post a version of the road where the number is under HOUSTON on the other side? Just curious what that would look like.)

    Please, please submit those somehow when the sale of the team becomes final. I know the chances are slim, but crazier things have happened.

Comments are closed.