Posted 5 years ago
This is a pitboard used in the late 1950's Indianapolis 500, the "greatest spectacle in racing!" Before radio communication, drivers and crew members communicated via pitboards.
Back in 2000, my wife and I stopped at a garage sale in Speedway, IN, which is the small town that hosts this world-famous race. I happened to see this pitboard, along with 2 others in the garage sale. I purchased all 3 boards for $20. I knew that we had just purchased a unique piece of history and were excited to display them in our already-growing collection of racing items. However I had no idea, how valuable this particular pitboard was until most recently.
About 4 years ago, I decided to do some research to find the history of this board. Here are some things that I have discovered in this 4-year quest:
1) This pitboard was used in the 1958 Indianapolis 500. In fact, it was used by the winner of the Indy 500 that year, Jimmy Bryan.
2) I took this particular collector's piece to a racing memorabilia show/appraisal. Over a dozen appraisers were mind blown to see such a unique, rare, and old piece in such good, original condition.
3)The chalk-writing on this board is original. According to several appraisers and collectors of Indianapolis 500 memorabilia, the chalk writing (which is not highly visible in these pictures, but clear in person) tells us a story of what happened during the laps around the track.
4)At the top of the pitboard, you will see BRYAN painted very clearly. Interestingly enough, I found out that under the yellow paint, there are letters that have been painted over. It is not proven, however, it appears that some of the letters may actually read HANKS.
5) So what significance does Hanks have? Sam Hanks won the Indianapolis 500 the year prior (1957), same car and same team as Bryan. At the end of the 1957 race, Hanks retired in victory lane. The car owner, then brought on Jimmy Bryan to run in the following year (1958). Both drivers won, again... same car, same team. Remember, in those days, teams were not over-flowing with money. So, these teams reused a lot of their parts to save money. It is speculated that the team hand painted BRYAN over HANKS at the top of this pitboard to reuse it in the 1958 race.
6) I've had several distinguished people, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track historian, assist us with this research. At this point, I am in search of pictures/film of the Indianapolis 500 from the years of 1957 and 1958. I am specifically looking for a picture/film footage to use as proof of documentation that this pitboard was used in both races.
Being that this is the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 this coming May of 2011, I would love to be able to conclude my research with this proof.