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 2010s.
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 first race of the new decade, and the second race during the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Era (2009-2011) saw a move slightly away from the traditional style of 2009, and back towards a more artistic style. The logo appears to have a slight Art Deco influence, with a corresponding font and stylized wing & wheel. The most dominating feature is the abstract depiction of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s landmark Pagoda along the top. The Pagoda, built in 2000, is the icon of the Speedway, housing the officiating crew, timing and scoring, broadcasting, as well as hospitality and other operations. While it the style did change a bit, the customary red/white/blue scheme, with some black, is still present. Likewise, the word “Indianapolis” was back to be written in all-caps. The phrase “Centennial Era” (in all-caps) graced the bottom.
In a repeat of 2009, on the Chevrolet Camaro pace car, a large version of the logo was placed on the side doors (center). In addition, the IMS Centenntial Era logo was placed on the fender behind the front wheels.
Missing from the 2010 logo – as it also was in 2009 – was the ordinal (“94th”). 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.
The logo for the 2010 race went through a largely unnoticed, but nevertheless interesting and significant change over the summer/fall of 2009. Originally, the logo was released in summer 2009 (right), shortly after the 2009 race was completed. The design was nearly identical to what would be the final version, with one major difference. On the original version, an image of the flagman atop of the Borg-Warner Trophy was placed on the square that made up the Pagoda. This version appeared for only a very short time, and was quickly pulled from public view. Later in the year, the logo reappeared, with the flagman simply deleted. It was never explained why the flagman was removed, but it may have been due to copyright issues. The Borg-Warner Trophy, as a sculpture or work of art, is copyrighted and the copyright is owned by BorgWarner, Inc. The copyright owner has the exclusive rights to authorize any derivative work, and a drawing of the trophy top appearing on the logo may have been interpreted as a derivative work. Rather than have license the depiction of the trophy top for the logo, it may have been easier to simply delete the flagman from the logo.
The anticipated culmination of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Era occured in 2011, with the 100th Anniversary Running of the Indianapolis 500. It marked the 100th anniversary of the first 500 held in 1911, although it was only the 95th edition of the race since the race was not held in 1917-1918 (WWI) and 1942-1945 (WWII). The logo was unveiled to the public on August 13, 2010 simultaneously at the Speedway and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. (LINK)
The logo was created in the IMS Creative Department by an unnamed member of the ‘Creative Services team.’ An over two-year process went into the design of the 2011 logo (top left), and the effort was documented on the IMS Blog site (LINK). Early iterations were shared by the artist (top right) for contextual observations. After conceptual versions were decided to be unfitting for the occasion, the decision was made to feature a retro look, inspired by a century of Indy logos from past ticket stubs, program covers, and credentials. The colorful and vibrant final version drew on elements from the 1926 ticket, the 1933 Technical Committee credential, and the official programs of 1924 & 1929. Images of those items are available at NI500CC.com (tickets, programs, credentials)
On the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro pace car, the logo had an unusually diminutive presence (bottom left). Unlike recent years which sported a large logo on the side doors, the logo only appeared as a small decal on each of the front fenders. In a special display (bottom right) the logo was affixed to the Pagoda.
The drop of the checkered flag at the 2011 race marked the conclusion of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s three-year Centennial Era. In fact, the celebration came to a mostly abrupt ending, as by July’s Brickyard 400, any mention of the Centennial Era was already mostly gone. A new wing & wheel logo debuted (known around here as the “chunky” logo), and signage around the track was already being updated. For the 2012 race, a simple, somewhat flashy, logo represented the race.
The familiar red/white/blue color scheme was used, although the blue shade was a much lighter (sky blue) than most of the others. Even though the Centennial Era was over, the ordinal (96th) was still not shown. The date was depicted in numbers only again (like 2008). As has been several times before, the pace car featured a large version of the logo on the side doors.
The period from 2012 to 2015, which includes the races between the 100th anniversary (2011) and the 100th running (2016), is referred to informally around here as the “transitional era.” This period between the two major milestones/celebrations coincided with the introduction of the new chassis/engine formula. The Dallara DW-12 powered by the new V-6 turbocharged engines (Chevrolet and Honda) debuted at the 2012 race. Furthermore, by the time of the 2012 race, the once long-awaited open-wheel unification (which occurred in February 2008) was now actually a thing in the past. The “Split” was becoming nothing but a distant (albeit ugly) memory. The sport of IndyCar racing had moved firmly beyond the “unification era”, and was evolving into new directions, and no distinction was necessary any longer to note that it was the “unified” series.
The logo for the 2013 race kept in line with the customary red/white/blue scheme, however, the wing & wheel depicted was a highly-visible, almost glaring, bright yellow. For the first time since 2008, the ordinal (97th) appeared on the logo.
This was the second race in the transitional era between the Centennial Era and the 100th Running (2012-2015).
The pace car featured a large version of the logo on the side doors.
The logo for the 2014 race has some additional significance. Not only was it used extensively for the race, but it was also prominently featured in the movie Turbo. The logo loosely resembles the triangular logos from 1991 and 1999. Once again, the ordinal (98th) appeared on the logo.
This was the third race in the transitional era between the Centennial Era and the 100th Running (2012-2015).
The pace car featured a large version of the logo on the side doors.
The final race of the “transitional era” between the Centennial Era and the 100th Running (2012-2015) came on May 24, 2015 in what was the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. Just twelve months away from the grandiose, acclaimed, and much celebrated milestone 100th running, at times the 2015 race almost seemed like a stop-gap event, as during the month, fans and media seemed to already be looking ahead to ‘the big one next year’. This may have been somewhat amplified by the fact that four major crashes cast a shadow over the month. Some may have been eager to more or less put this race behind them, ready to regroup for 2016.
The logo for the 2015 race yet again kept in line with the customary red/white/blue scheme. A very abstract wing & wheel was depicted. The ordinal (99th) appeared on the top left of the logo. Like 2008 and 2012, the date was depicted in numbers only. As has been several times before, the pace car featured a large version of the logo on the side doors.
The milestone 100th running of the Indianapolis came with a special logo to mark the occasion. The logo was unique in several aspects, and reflected upon the creative team’s approach to the event. Whereby the 2011 race (100th anniversary) focused heavily on the race’s and the track’s history, the celebrations in 2016 focused more on the present and the future.
The logo featured gold numbers in the middle, in part due to the milestone. The “100” ordinal was depicted within the “500”, sharing the zeroes. In a sharp departure from the past (and for only the second time, the other time being 2001), the formal name “Indianapolis 500” was replaced with the shortened “INDY 500”. This more modern, and colloquial term was used as it was seen as the most common name used for the event.
The description of the makeup of the logo were well-summarized here in this official video release.
Two main iterations of the logo saw use. First, the original logo was released in May 2015. In some instances it was depicted flat, while other times it was depicted at an angle. About six months later, the logo was updated to include the presentation sponsorship by PennGrade Motor Oil. As a result, the date was moved from the bottom to the top.
With the pomp and circumstance and multi-year celebrations of the Centennial Era and the 100th Running finally over, by 2017 the race had settled back into an more ordinary pattern. The logo for the 2017 race reverted back to a traditional style (red-white-blue). For the second year in a row (and third overall), the name “INDY 500” was used rather than “Indianapolis 500.” The ordinal (101) was spelled out, but without the (“-st”) suffix. The date was depicted in word form again, and the presenting sponsor graced the bottom, within one of the elements.
For 2018, the logo was again of the traditional style (red-white-blue, with touches of gray). Once more, the name “INDY 500” was used rather than “Indianapolis 500,” signalling that the creative team has perhaps made the change permanent. The ordinal (102nd) was show, and the date was depicted in word form again. The presenting sponsor graced the bottom, but not within one of the elements.
According to the Speedway management, (LINK) a new era has arrived for the Indianapolis 500 annual logos. Beginning in 2019 the logos will be of a standard form, including “bold, dynamic features that will form the core of future logos.” The new system mirrors a similar policy adapted by the Super Bowl logos in 2011 (Super Bowl XLV). The logos are expected to be the same each year, with only subtle differences, in order to create “a strong, consistent annual brand appearance for the event.”
The new logo features a strip of red bricks racing upwards, and a wordmark resembling a shield. The name “INDY 500” is used boldly and prominently, with the wing & wheel (the “chunky” logo) near the bottom.
The description of the makeup of the new logo is well-summarized here in this official video release.
After the 2018 race, PennGrade Motor Oil’s contract as presenting sponsor expired. Initially there was no replacement, and the original 2018 logo was designed without a sponsor. On January 31, 2019, Gainbridge signed a four-year deal to become the new presenting sponsor. The logo was updated, but not drastically. The simple word “Presented by” along with the black and yellow Gainbridge logo was situated below in open space.