Hall of Fame Inductees

Over the years the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race has been called by various names.  From 1911 through 1916, it was known as the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race.  In 1919, the race was referred to as the Liberty Sweepstakes.  From 1920 through 1980, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway called the race the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes, with slight yearly variations.  Since 1981, the race has been officially named the ” __ (anniversary year) Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.”  Unofficially, fans have referred to it as “The 500,” “The 500-Mile Race,” “Indianapolis 500-Mile Race,” “Indianapolis 500,” or simply “The Indy 500.”  In these Hall of Fame biographies, the race is referred to as the Indianapolis 500 or Indianapolis 500 race.

FRED AGABASHIAN played a role in one of racing’s biggest upsets by winning the pole for the 1952 Indianapolis 500 with a revolutionary Cummins Diesel-powered car, boosted by racing’s first turbocharger.  An outstanding spokesperson for the sport, the articulate Agabashian was noted for his ability to set up a race car and was in great demand each May for the purpose of “test-hopping” cars for other teams.  He qualified for either the first or second row five times during his 11 consecutive Indianapolis 500 starts from 1947 through 1957 and finished fourth in 1953.  A four-time Bay Cities Racing Association midget car champion (1945-1948), he won the 1949 100-mile American Automobile Association National Championship race at Sacramento, California. During the years 1959 through 1965 and 1970 through 1977, his distinctive voice could be heard around the world as the “driver expert” analyst on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network broadcasts.

J.C. AGAJANIAN promoted hundreds of automobile races on the west coast for a half-century and was considered to be dean of the car owners throughout much of the 1950s and 1960s.  He twice won the Indianapolis 500, in 1952 with Troy Ruttman and in 1963 with Parnelli Jones.  In 1962, while driving for Agajanian, Jones was the first driver to officially lap the Speedway at more than 150 miles per hour.  The flamboyant Agajanian entered cars continuously from 1948 through 1972 with his drivers establishing the fastest qualifying speeds (each time with new track records) in no less than four different years: in 1950 and 1951 with Walt Faulkner, and in 1962 and 1963 with Jones.  His winning drivers in National Championship races included Jones (four), Ruttman and Faulkner (two each), plus Bill Vukovich and Chuck Stevenson (two each), Johnny Mantz, Fred Agabashian and Dick Atkins. He was also very successful in late 1940s and early 1950s short-track sprint car races with drivers Ruttman, Mantz, and Duane Carter.

JOHNNY AITKEN compiled an enviable driving record of his own and, as team strategist, contributed to the Indianapolis 500 victories of Joe Dawson in 1912 and Jules Goux in 1913. He also played an important role in the success of the National and Stutz teams during the early years.  During the pre-Indianapolis 500 years of 1909 and 1910, Aitken was the most successful driver at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning no less than 12 races.  By leading the first four laps in 1911, he made history as the first driver ever to lead the Indianapolis 500.  In 1916, when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway formed its own racing team of Premiers and Peugeots, Aitken won the pole and was an early leader of that year’s 300-mile race.  In September, he won all three races comprising the Harvest Day classic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  He also was runner-up to Dario Resta for the 1916 American Automobile Association National Championship, winning seven of 13 races, including sharing the winning Peugeot with Howdy Wilcox in the American Grand Prize at Santa Monica, California.  Aitken was a vice-president of Allison Engineering in its very early months.  He died at an early age as a victim of the 1918 influenza epidemic.

JAMES A. ALLISON, one of the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was a major contributor to the track’s successful operation.  He succeeded his longtime associate and business partner Carl G. Fisher as Speedway president in June 1923, and assumed complete charge of the Indianapolis 500 as Fisher became more and more involved in the development of Miami Beach as a winter resort after World War I.  Allison and Fisher were partners in many ventures, the most successful being the one that produced Prest-O-Lite carbide gas-fueled headlights (and later batteries).  Founded in 1904 for approximately $5,000, it was sold in 1917 to Union Carbide for $9 million.  Allison also was intensely interested in engine development and formed the Allison Experimental Company, which quickly became Allison Engineering Company, eventually spinning off, among others, Allison Transmission and Allison Gas Turbine. The latter is now owned by the Rolls-Royce Corporation.

GIL ANDERSON played a key role in the Stutz Motor Company, gaining recognition as the builder of “the car that made good in a day” by finishing 11th with a prototype of the future passenger car in the 1911 inaugural Indianapolis 500 race. The Norwegian-born driver (his original surname was spelled Andersen, with an “e”) drove in the next five Indianapolis races, leading the field for several laps in 1913 and 1915 and finishing third in 1915.  During a four-year period starting in 1912, he won three major championship races and placed fifth or better on six other occasions, including a very close second in a grueling 500-mile race on the concrete oval at Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1915.  After Stutz withdrew from racing at the end of that year, Anderson and several of his colleagues from the engineering department joined the Carl Fisher/Jim Allison team of locally built Premier racing cars.  Anderson qualified third at Indianapolis in 1916.  He later worked for the ReVere firm in Logansport, Indiana, but by the early 1920s had returned to Stutz.