Indianapolis Speedway Balloon Races

The first competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a national championship gas filled balloon race organized by Speedway President Carl Fisher held on June 5, 1909. Fisher and his co-founders James Allison, Frank Wheeler and Arthur C. Newby were anxious to recover their investments in the Speedway. Since construction of the track did not begin in earnest until April 1909 it took months to prepare the track for motorized competition. Fisher, fascinated with aviation, sought to host the national championship balloon racing competition – and generate revenue for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company. He formed the Aero Club of Indiana, became the 21st person to earn a balloon pilot’s license in the United States and worked with mentor George Bumbaugh to develop balloon vehicles. Their craft was called the “Indiana” and together they survived a harrowing ride through turbulent wind currents.

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1. Tugging at their ballast before start. Balloon races, June 5, 1909, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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2. Mr. C.A. Coey’s “Chicago,” largest balloon in the world. June Races, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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4. The “Ohio” weighing up. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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7. The “Indianapolis,” Messrs. Link and Irwin, ready to weigh up. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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8. The “Indianapolis” beginning her winning flight. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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9. Getting the “Chicago” ready; adjusting the basket. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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10. The “Chicago” attaching the ballast. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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12. The “Chicago;” Mr. Coey with sandbag. June 5, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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14. The “Indiana” and “Cleveland” with the “Chicago” in the air. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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16. The “Indiana,” Carl Fisher, pilot, passing over Grand Stand. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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17. The “Indiana” soaring aloft, flags flying. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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18. Setting in the ballast. Balloon “New York.” June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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19. The “New York.” Life-preservers attached to basket. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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21. The “New York” ready for flight. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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24. The “Hoosier” weighing up; University City to left. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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25. The “Hoosier” throwing out sand to get away. June, 1909, Races. Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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