Since the track opened in 1909, the now-famous wheel & wing logo has graced the official program, tickets, and other paraphernalia for the Indianapolis 500. In 1981 the Speedway began marketing the race in official capacity with a dedicated unique annual logo. This logo was printed on the ticket, the program cover, the official poster, on signage around the facility, on official USAC inspection decals, on television and print media, on credentials, pace car graphics, merchandise, apparel, patches, hats, and numerous other paraphernalia. We continue our look at these works of art, picking up with the decade of the 2000s.
It should be noted that by the 2000s, the unveiling of the annual logo was no longer done in the previous year’s official program. In some years the logo was not released until the summer or fall before the race.
The year 2000 was the first year that the Speedway would host three events – the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400, and the United States Grand Prix for Formula One. In that year, the three logos for the three events shared some design elements, leading one to believe perhaps that they were designed together somewhat. Both the 500 and 400 logos are oval, while all three feature nearly the same abstract wheel & wing design along the top. The 500 logo made clever use of the “2000” running through the “500” digits. Again the logo sported a unique color scheme not used before, and the ordinal (“84th”) was again written as a number. Missing in 2000 was the image of a race car in the logo, although what appears to be a race track oval orbits the logo, in a similar fashion to the 1996 logo. The Oldsmobile Aurora pace car featured a small version of the logo on the front fender, as previous 1990s cars had before.
The 2001 Indianapolis 500 race logo is significant in that it was the first time ever that the race had been advertised as the “Indy 500” instead of the “Indianapolis 500.” Previously, the track generally avoided using the term “Indy 500” in official and formal use. Back again is the image of a race car in the logo, after one was missing in 2000. It would be the final time a car was part of the logo. The Oldsmobile Bravada pace vehicle had a large version of the logo on the driver and passenger side doors, a trend that was adopted back on the 1997 Aurora.
The 2002 Indianapolis 500 was the first race logo since 1994 to utilize the traditional red/white/blue color scheme. The reason for this is probably due to the fact that the 2002 race was the first held after 9/11, and patriotism was at a zenith. After only one year, the full term “Indianapolis 500” was restored, in all-caps. Checkered flags flanked either side, and the image of a race car was gone, not be used again. The abstract wheel and wing similar to that from 2000 and 2001 was used, but more standard colors (a black tire, for instance) was used. The 50th Anniversary Corvette pace car featured the logo in an unusual location, behind the side windows. However, festival cars during the month had a large version of the logo on the doors, as was becoming the custom.
The 2003 Indianapolis 500 was another in a line of varying colors. The wheel and wing was very abstract, with the ordinal “87th” written vertically and placed inside the wheel for the first time since 1991. The logo itself had a somewhat odd, but curious resemblance to a package of cigarettes. Although that probably was not the intention. The Chevrolet SSR pace vehicle had the logo not on the door, but just behind the door on both sides.
The logo for 2004 was seemingly more elegant that some of the previous few years. The fonts and colors were more upscale, and simpler. ABC-TV utilized a modified version of the logo as their “40th Anniversary” logo, celebrating 40 years at Indy for ABC Sports. The Chevrolet Corvette pace car had the logo on the doors, but not very large.
The 2005 logo was another diamond shape (after that of 1991 and 1999), although a large red circle obscured most of the diamond linework. The “500” numbers were fairly large, and the ordinal (“89th”) was back to being out of the wheel, and back to written in a normal left-to-right way. The graphic version of the logo shown on ABC Sports differed in that the date was removed, and along the bottom the track name “Indianapolis Motor Speedway” was added. A large logo appeared on the doors of the Corvette pace car, much like 1997.
The 2006 logo was another elegant style, with a maroon and dark yellow look. It was the second logo to resemble a shield (after 1997), and celebrated the milestone 90th running. It was the first time the ordinal was written with the word “Running” (90th Running”), and it was just centered over the “500” in a general location. The digital graphic used on ABC Sports was mostly the same, except the date was removed, and the ABC logo was situated in its place. A fairly large logo appeared on the doors of the Corvette pace car, much like the year before.
The 2007 logo was yet another shield, moreso than that of 2006, and similar to 1997. The ordinal (“91st”) moved the bottom. Once again, a large logo appeared on the doors of the Corvette pace car. For the 17th consecutive year, the word “Indianapolis” was written in all caps.
After several years of mostly fancy, elegant designs, the 2008 logo went in a different direction. Sometimes known as the “Gas Station Sign” logo, the 2008 logo was a little more cartoonish, and loosely resembled a nostalgic sign from a filling station. The wing and wheel moved to the bottom for the first time – most years it ‘flew’ along the top or graced the middle, and the ordinal (“92nd”) was back inside the wheel. The block letters were black and easy to read, while the date was depicted – for the first time – in numbers only (“5.25.08”). Decimals were used as separators, and the word “May” was not used for the first time. The month was simply listed as “5”. In addition, the year was written shorthand (“08”) and not written out entirely (“2008”). All of the details pointed towards a more trendy, retro pop art design. The Corvette pace cars for the 2008 race continued the custom of a large logo on the doors.
The first race during the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Era (2009-2011) saw a move back to a more traditional style. The logo went back to the old customary red/white/blue scheme, although silver/gray is also present. The word “Indianapolis” was written in mixed-case for the first time since 1990, and in cursive font for the first time ever. The phrase “Centennial Era” (in all-caps) graced the bottom. After numerous years of abstract renderings, the wheel & wing took on a more classical form, resembling some from the 1980s. On the Chevrolet Camaro pace car, a large version of the logo was placed on the side doors. In addition, the new IMS Centenntial Era logo was placed on the fender behind the front wheels.
Missing from the 2009 logo was the ordinal (“93rd”). This was the first time the ordinal was not used in the annual logo. During the Centennial Era, the Speedway deliberately curtailed use of the ordinal in marketing and general mention. The Centennial Era was devised to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the track (1909), and the 100th anniversary of the first 500-mile race (1911). The festivities were all planned to culminate in May 2011 with the 100th anniversary celebration. However, the actual 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 would not occur until 2016. This is because the race was not held in 1917-1918 (WWI) and 1942-1945 (WWII). To prevent confusion among fans and media about what was being celebrated, they elected not to mention what edition of the race it was for three years. Meanwhile, plans were being made to separately celebrate the actual 100th running come 2016.