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Behind the Bricks: Pit Lane Wall Stencils at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

(WISH Photo)

In the latest episode of “Behind the Bricks,” Zach Horrall, a social media specialist, delves into the lesser-known tradition of the Pit Lane wall stencils at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). These stencils, an integral part of the Indy 500 since its inception in 1911, have quietly stood witness to the evolution of the sport.

Originally, these stencils were rudimentary, featuring just the manufacturer and car number, painstakingly hand-painted on the walls. The designs evolved over the years, incorporating elements like flags, driver names, and various orders. The tradition was briefly interrupted by World War II, but even during the hiatus, remnants of the stencils can be seen in period photographs.

It was Tony Hulman, the savior of IMS after the war, who revived and revamped the tradition in 1946. The driver’s name took center stage, a design that has persisted with minor alterations to this day. What was once hand-painted became a streamlined process as technology advanced, transitioning to in-house signage in 2010. Today, these stencils are meticulously planned in collaboration with INDYCAR teams, bearing the driver’s name, number, and car name – a concise, tweet-like message.

The episode sheds light on the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into maintaining this tradition. The IMS facilities team and sign shop crew rises early on Thursday morning before Carb Day to install the 40-foot-long stencils across all 33 pit stalls. This year’s remarkable feat took just 38 minutes to complete, spanning a total of 1,320 feet of signage.

Horrall queries the significance of preserving such a seemingly unnoticed tradition. Boles explains that these subtle rituals are the threads that bind fans to the sport’s rich history. The episode also explores the inspiration behind this episode and the dedicated team effort required for the in-house project. Furthermore, insight into the IMS sign shop, responsible for most of the signage seen by race fans, adds another layer of appreciation for the meticulous craftsmanship that goes into every aspect of the Indy 500 experience.