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The Borg-Warner Trophy is the trophy presented to the winner of the Indianapolis 500. It is named for and was commissioned by automotive supplier BorgWarner. It is permanently housed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum in Speedway, Indiana. Unveiled at a 1936 dinner hosted by then-Speedway owner Eddie Rickenbacker, the trophy was officially declared the annual prize for Indianapolis 500 victors. Louis Meyer, that year's champion and its first recipient, soon thereafter remarked, "Winning the Borg-Warner Trophy is like winning an Olympic medal."
The trophy, which has been presented in the winner's circle after every race since 1936, is a very large, multi-tiered item which bears the bas-relief sculpture of the likeness of each driver to have won the race since its inception in 1911. Enscriped are the winners' name, year of victory, and average speed. This information is alternated with the faces in a checkerboard pattern. Included on the base is the gold likeness of Tony Hulman, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 1945-1977. On the top of the trophy is an unclothed man waving a checkered flag. Because this man is depicted naked, after the tradition of ancient Greek athletes, the trophy is most often photographed so that the man's arm is swooping down in front of him.
In 1935, the Borg-Warner Automotive Company commissioned designer Robert J. Hill and Gorham, Inc., of Providence, Rhode Island to create the trophy at a cost of $10,000. The trophy underwent a refurbishment in 1991 and again in 2004. Today it is insured in excess of $1.3 million.
Made of sterling silver, the trophy is just under 5 feet, 4 inches (162.5 cm) tall and weighs nearly 153 pounds (45 kg). The trophy body itself is hollow, and the dome-shaped top is removable. From 1936 to 1985, the trophy appeared in its original form, with the bottom rim of the body serving as its stand. The original body had room for 70 winners of the Indy 500, and was destined to fill up after the 1986 winner was affixed. During the early years, the trophy was polished often for protection, but appeared to seldom be buffed to a "mirror finish" and often was seen with a dull finish. At no point, has the trophy been allowed to fall in a state of tarnish. When the race was suspended during World War II, the trophy was stored in a secure location.
A base was added in 1986 to accommodate more winners, similar to what has been done with the Stanley Cup. In 1991, the trophy went through a thorough restoration. In 2004, the base was removed, and replaced with a new, larger base to accommodate more winners. Enough space is available to hold all winners through until 2033.
Since 1990 the winning drivers' likenesses on both the Borg-Warner Trophy and the replica trophies have been sculpted by prominent American sculptor William Behrends, who also created the statue of baseball great Willie Mays that stands at the entrance to AT&T Park in San Francisco, California.
The actual trophy is not given to the winner; it remains at the Hall of Fame Museum on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The winning drivers since 1988 (except 2011 because of extenuating circumstances) have been presented with an 18-inch (460 mm) tall free-standing replica of the trophy, the Indianapolis 500 Champion Driver's Trophy, nicknamed the "Baby Borg." It is typically presented in January at a Speedway reception or the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, near trophy sponsor BorgWarner's headquarters. In 1997, the Speedway added the Champion Owner's Trophy, which is a replica of the Champion Driver's Trophy. The busts of the drivers are not replicated on the "Baby Borgs" but the base has a copy of the winning driver's likeness affixed.
Prior to 1988, winners received an 24-inch (610 mm) upright model of the trophy mounted on a walnut plaque.
During the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which in recent years has been the location of the "Baby Borg" presentation, 1963 winner Parnelli Jones had the honour of presenting the trophy to Dario Franchitti for the 2012 race. Jones was presented with a "Baby Borg" himself in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his win.
The trophy has had quite a history; track historian Donald Davidson has noted a particular story where a Butler University student was given the trophy to watch in the 1930s before race day. The young man hid the trophy under his bed one night and proceeded to have a night out. Upon his return to his fraternity house, the man found the trophy missing. He looked and looked and became very worried about the trophy's whereabouts. Upon looking in the frat house's basement, he found the trophy surrounded by men who were drinking beer out of it. All of 115 beers were inside of the trophy. Emptying the beer, he wondered how he would get the smell off of the trophy and decided to take a shower - taking the trophy in with him.
The winner of the 1950 Indianapolis 500, Johnnie Parsons, had his name misspelled on the trophy. It was scripted into the silver as "Johnny" Parsons (which incidentally, is how his son's name was spelled). During the 1991 restoration, it was proposed by the handlers to correct the spelling, though Parsons had already died seven years earlier. The decision was made to leave the misspelling in place, as part of the trophy's historic lore.
Through 1985, the trophy was hoisted by handlers directly behind the driver, typically on the roll bar of the car. The trophy could be easily carried by one individual, and was usually simple to transport. After the trophy was affixed with a base in 1986, the trophy's weight, height, and stability became an issue with displaying it on top of the car. At least two men were required to balance the trophy behind the driver. Since about 2004, when the trophy was expanded with the newer base, it is no longer hoisted behind the driver. The heavier trophy was displayed next to the car, in a prominent position in victory lane. For 2012, coinciding with the introduction of the DW-12 chassis, a special platform has been constructed that fits between the rear wheels and rear wing of the cars, to place the trophy upon for display during the victory lane celebration.
Two or more safety patrol workers are assigned with guarding and transporting the trophy during the month of May. It is polished often, and polished several times during the month of May. In contrast to the earlier years, the trophy is almost exclusively polished and buffed to an elegant "mirror finish."
The trophy has appeared in several films, including Winning starring Paul Newman, and Turbo. During the month of May, the trophy has several prominent locations for display. During time trials, the trophy is typically displayed outdoors on a platform near the start/finish line. During down times, it returns to the museum. It also makes several appearances, including the Public Drivers' Meeting, the 500 Festival Parade, as well as prominent socials events and gatherings (such as banquets and balls downtown).
The Borg-Warner Trophy has been exclusively featured on the cover of the Indianapolis 500 Official Program in 1981, 1998, and 2002. It also appeared on the cover in lesser prevalence in 1988, 1996, and 2006. It is depicted in the cover art of the Atari video game Indy 500, and in the Midway pinball machine Indianapolis 500.
Layout and details
When the trophy debuted in 1936, it was complete with the likenesses of all winners from 1911-1916 and 1919-1935 (the race was not held in 1917-1918 due to World War I. Sculptor John Grawe created the twenty-four likenesses representing the first 23 races, including the two co-winners for the 1924 race. Twenty-two of the likenesses were created featuring the driver wearing his helmet and goggles. Two faces, those of 1912 winner Joe Dawson and 1921 winner Tommy Milton, showed the driver without a helmet.
The likeness were placed beginning with 1911 winner Ray Harroun situated in the middle of the front side. Subsequent faces were added encircling the trophy to the right. The next row would begin in the middle of the front, in the same column as Harroun.
When the winners began to be added annually after 1936, most were depicted wearing a helmet through 1970. Floyd Davis, who co-won the 1941 race with Mauri Rose, was depicted without a helmet, while Rose was depicted with one. By 1946, most were shown without their goggles. The likeness of 1957 winner Sam Hanks was final one to feature goggles. The likeness of 1970 winner Al Unser, Sr. is the last to be depicted wearing a helmet. When Unser won again the following year, his 1971 likeness was shown with natural hair. It has been standard practice to sculpt a brand new likeness for repeat winners, including drivers who have won in consecutive years.
The likeness of 1986 winner Bobby Rahal originally featured miniature glasses, as Rahal wore glasses at the time. The tiny glasses were crafted from metal wire. In 1993, the trophy was reportedly bumped and the glasses fell off the trophy and were broken. The glasses were repaired and later reattached. Rahal failed to qualify for the 1993 race, and some superstitious observers pointed out the incident as a bad omen. The glasses were removed permanently after Rahal started wearing contacts in the mid-1990s. Tom Sneva, the 1983 winner, insisted his likeness include glasses, and they remain to this day.
Following the 1985 Indianapolis 500, the likeness of race winner Danny Sullivan was added to the trophy. His face filled the 69th of the original 70 squares on the trophy body. Only one square remained on the body, which would be filled by the 1986 winner.
In the weeks prior to the 1986 Indianapolis 500, in celebration of the trophy's 50th anniversary, a new three-row base was added to the bottom of the trophy. It featured room for an additional 18 faces. On the base, the first square was filled with a gold likeness of the late Speedway president Tony Hulman. The base increased the height of the trophy to 55 inches, and the weight to about 95 pounds.
The trophy spent the month of May 1986 with one empty square left on the body, and now room for 17 additional winners on the base. The base would have enough room for winners through 2003. Bobby Rahal won the 1986 race, and was the final likeness added to the body of the trophy.
Al Unser, Sr. won the 1987 race, and became the first race winner to have his likeness added to the first base of the trophy. Unser also became the first winner to have likenesses on the body of the trophy (1970, 1971, 1978) as well as the base (1987). The layout and lettering of the base mimicked that of the trophy body. The driver's name was enscripted in one single line, followed by the year on the next line, and the race average speed below on the third line.
The likeness of 1989 Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi was created by Louis Feron, using the repassé technique. Feron used a single flat sheet of silver and painstakingly hammered it into the shape of Fittipaldi's face.
In 1991, a restoration project was conducted on the trophy. As part of the project, a reinforcement rim was added to the base for stability. The refurbishment increased the height of the trophy to 60 inches, and the weight to over 110 pounds.
Following the 2003 race the original base added in 1986 was removed and replaced with a similar looking one. It consisted of five rows of twelve squares, allowing room for 48 faces. The likenesses of Tony Hulman and the winners from 1987-2002, were relocated to the new base. The likeness of 2003 winner Gil de Ferran was the first new face to be added to the new base. The new base added at least 15 pounds and more than 4 inches to the trophy, which now stands at 64½ inches, and weighs nearly 150 pounds. The current base will accommodate winners through 2033.
One notable difference on the new base is reflected in the descriptions. All listings on the new base script the driver's first name on the first line, surname on the second line, followed by the year on the third line, and average speed on the fourth line. On the old base, and on the trophy body, the drivers' names are written in one single line.
Due to the increased weight and size of the trophy, it was no longer possible to hoist the trophy atop the winning car in victory lane. Handlers would place the trophy in victory lane, near the rear of the machine. Starting in 2012, with the introduction of the Dallara DW-12 chassis, a special platform was constructed to display the trophy prominently in victory lane. As soon as the car pulls into victory lane, the customized platform is securely placed over the rear wing and rear wheels, and the trophy is situated upon it.
Feb. 11, 1901
Oct. 27, 1977
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- 1963 Champ Parnelli Jones gets honorary Indy 500 trophy, Detroit Free Press, January 17, 2013