INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – One of the most famed sections of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the Yard of Bricks.
Only a 3 foot section remains at the track, and its become its most iconic photo-op as racing fans kiss the bricks.
“If you thought, ‘Hey, this a good idea lets start a tradition,’ it probably wouldn’t have taken off,” said Donald Davidson, the IMS historian.
Kissing of the bricks may be synonymous with the Indy 500, but it’s a tradition that started during the Brickyard.
Kissing the bricks: An Indianapolis 500 tradition
Kissing the bricks: An Indianapolis 500 tradition x
After winning the NASCAR race in 1996 Dale Jarrett and his crew chief Todd Parrott kicked it off.
“During practice apparently they had joked and said if we win this thing we ought to go out and kiss the bricks, and so when they won the race and looked at each other and said remember when we talked about that. So the 2 of them went out there put their caps on backwards and got down, and there’s a photograph of just the 2 of them kissing the bricks,” said Davidson.
While the Yard of Bricks is only three feet wide now, bricks used to cover the entire two and a half mile track. Before then, for the inaugural race in 1909 it was a mixture of crushed rock and tar.
“At that time it’s very possibly the first paving job of any kind in the state because all the roads were dirt,” said Davidson.
Davidson says the surface was immediately panned by drivers, and officials originally wanted to replace it with concrete, but settled on bricks that were manufactured in Indiana
“That (bricks) was the surface until 1935, or spring of 1936 and it was starting to break up a little bit so they started to put patches of asphalt on the bad portions. Up through 1961 the main straightaway was still bricks and mortar and it was rough. And then in October they covered it over with asphalt.
The bricks are often removed when the track is repaved, and they’re ground down for a smooth surface, a surface that’s kissed repeatedly this time of year.
And even though Davidson has been at IMS for over 50 years, he says he’s never kissed the bricks himself.
“I don’t know that I would, no but I just get a kick out of all the people that do,” said Davidson.