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1926: IMS pagoda on fire, rookie wins the 500

1926: IMS pagoda on fire, rookie wins the 500
1926: IMS pagoda on fire, rookie wins the 500
1926: IMS pagoda on fire, rookie wins the 500
1926: IMS pagoda on fire, rookie wins the 500
1926: IMS pagoda on fire, rookie wins the 500
Posted at 5:15 PM, Mar 03, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- The now-famed Children's Museum of Indianapolis opened to the public in 1926 in the shelter house at Garfield Park. Indianapolis Mayor Lew Shank offered the space free of charge at the time.

The museum would grow over time to put the Circle City on the map, right along with the now regular Memorial Day tradition of the Indianapolis 500.

But in 1926, race day was Monday, May 31st because the holiday when it was normally held fell on a Sunday and back then, there was no racing on Sundays.

Before the race, fans set their eyes on a brand new pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The old one was deliberately set on fire and demolished the day after the previous year's race.

The new, larger structure was placed at what was considered a safer distance from the main straightaway.

Before the race, rookie Frank Lockhart didn't have a ride to participate, but he was tapped to fill in when another driver got sick.

Lockhart started 20th, and quickly made his way through the field to the front, passing 14 cars alone on just the fifth lap.

Rain hampered his run, stopping the race at lap 72, but he maintained the lead until the second rain stop at 400 miles led to the permanent end of the competition, giving Lockhart the two-lap lead and win. It was the first time the weather prevented the Indy 500 from going the full 500 miles.

Nicknamed "Boy Wonder" by the press, Lockhart was the youngest rookie winner of the race, holding that record for a quarter of a century. 

But his accolades would be cut short, Lockhart died two years later trying to break a land speed record at Daytona Beach in 1928. Lockhart made one pass at more than 203 mph before puncturing his tire on the second pass. The car tumbled out of control and Lockhart was killed when he was thrown from the car.

Shortly after the 500, in July 1926, the small suburb of Speedway was incorporated as a town with a population of just over 500 people. Speedway founders decided to keep the name "Indianapolis Motor Speedway" since "Speedway Motor Speedway" didn't have quite the same ring to it.

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