Monday, February 28, 2011

Indianapolis 500 U.S. Postage Stamp to be Released in May

(USPS Press Release) The centennial of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, the automobile race held since 1911 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, IN, is being commemorated on a stamp in May. Since the first race in 1911, the Indy 500 has become an American tradition and is billed as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Today it is one of the most significant auto races in the world.

In 1909, an investment team led by entrepreneur and automobile dealer Carl Graham Fisher purchased 320 acres of farmland outside Indianapolis, Indiana, with the intention of creating a speedway for both racing competitions and private testing. After a series of motorcycle and automotive races at the new speedway, Fisher decided to focus on a single event, an ambitious 500-mile race to be held on Memorial Day.

On May 30, 1911, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the first Indianapolis 500. Around 80,000 spectators watched Ray Harroun beat 39 other drivers with a time of 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 8 seconds in a car manufactured by the Indianapolis-based Marmon Motor Car Company and nicknamed the “Wasp” for its yellow paint and long, aerodynamic tail. Harroun, who designed the car, included his own invention, the rearview mirror.

The Indy 500 enjoys a prominent place in American culture, having been the subject of movies and television shows and, more recently, video games. In 2002, the Indiana state quarter also depicted an Indy-style car, the sort of open-wheeled car–a car with its wheels outside rather than below its body—long associated with the Indy 500.

Featuring stylized artwork by John Mattos, this stamp depicts Ray Harroun driving #32, the Marmon “Wasp,” the customized yellow-and-black car in which Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911. Text along the bottom of the stamp reads “Indianapolis 500.” Small type along the bottom of the stamp opposite the year 2011 reads “100 YEARS OF RACING.”

The Marmon “Wasp” was also featured on a 17.5-cent stamp in the Transportation series in 1987.

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