Re-Imagining the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

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August 2023

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is one of Artomobilia’s community partners, and in addition to displaying one of its treasures at Artomobilia in honor of this year’s featured marque, Mercedes-Benz, IMS is preparing for a transformational renovation that will modernize the museum and create new and exhilarating experiences for its visitors.

Re-Imagining the IMS Museum

An Exceptional Example of Automotive Innovation

IMS VP of Curation and Education Jason Vansickle spoke with Carmel Monthly about the museum’s renovation project and capital campaign. Additionally, he shared a brief background on what makes the 1908 Mercedes 150 HP Grand-Prix Racer an incomparable artifact in the IMS archives.

The 1908 Mercedes 150 HP Grand-Prix Racer was acquired by the IMS Museum in the 1960s. As part of this vehicle’s illustrious history, it marveled the spectators back in its day at Hill Climb challenges.

“Hill Climb is an interesting form of racing,” Vansickle explained. “It was obviously a significant challenge that early automobiles and auto manufacturers utilized to compete and show the merits of their cars, along with road racing and eventually speedway racing that we have today. The Hill Climbs were a pretty accomplished feat for an automaker to win. The car itself [1908 Mercedes 150 HP Grand-Prix Racer] is pretty staggering when you see it up close. It’s a two-seater, chain drive, so you see huge sprockets on either side of the driver or passenger that propelled the vehicle coming off the drive shaft from the engine, so that’s kind of menacing to see these big chain links.”

Vansickle added, “It’s only a 4-cylinder, but it’s over 800 cubic inches, which if you look at Artomobilia’s participants … some of the bigger engines coming out of the muscle car era in the late 60s, early 70s, they were 427, 454, 455, in that area, and that’s half the displacement of this engine. It’s interesting to look back and think about the fact that Mercedes-Benz, throughout its history, has had racing so close to its legacy. And still, today, whether it be with F1 or other sports car racing, they’ve been successful from the jump, and this car is no exception.”

Unveiling a Brand-New Experience

Since its official opening four decades ago, IMS will be closed to the public as it undergoes a major renovation that comes with an $89-million price tag. With a projected re-opening and ribbon cutting in April of 2025, Vansickle shared what visitors can anticipate experiencing when they come out. He also spoke about the ongoing capital campaign as well as the support from the Lilly Endowment that is instrumental to IMS’ renovation project and its future programming and educational initiatives.

Upon completion, IMS will unveil its new exhibition space, a mezzanine space that will overlook its gallery of winning cars, a STEAM learning center that will feature a racing simulator and an immersive exhibit that is guaranteed to thrill participants of any age! And you don’t need to be a race fan or automotive enthusiast to enjoy the new IMS Museum experience … it is a hallowed place that is steeped in the rich history of IMS and auto racing, no question. But the museum really embodies the Hoosier spirit. It connects all of its archives and collections to the state’s remarkable auto racing history and the extraordinary people who have contributed to it.

“[The renovation] has been a long time coming,” Vansickle said. “We are our own 501(c)(3) entity, and it will take help and support to raise the $89-million total cost. The breakdown is: $64 million will go into the existing museum building that is here on the ground at the speedway. We’ve then allocated $15 million for an offsite restoration department that will double as car storage, and the remaining $10 million is an endowment to help support the operations here.”

Vansickle expressed his and the entire IMS Museum staff’s appreciation to the Lilly Endowment for its financial support.

“We are now in the public phase [of the capital campaign], and we’ve been reaching out to specific donors prior to that,” Vansickle said. “The Lilly Endowment has been a huge benefactor and additionally is offering a match so that anything that is donated, any new pledges, that come before the end of September, will be matched up to $5 million. At the end of the day, we want [the museum] to be more family-friendly and a modern experience to go on par with the renovations that you have seen throughout IMS that Roger Penske has completed in just a short time.”

Vansickle concluded, “We’re adding more hands-on learning activities such as the STEAM classroom. We’re being really clever about adding public spaces within the existing footprint of the museum. The basement, for instance, is currently not open to the general public, but that will become part of the new public space, and any ticket purchased will allow you to go down there and see temporary galleries and exhibitions. The new elevated mezzanine will house non-vehicle objects and artifacts so we can tell more stories and have more purpose-driven narration with this kind of unique use of space.”

To learn more about the IMS Museum’s renovation and to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit