Industry Spotlight

May 2018
IndyCar Transporters and Diesel Power at the Indianapolis 500
Doug Shierson Racing Canepa Design Kenworth T600A IndyCar Transporters
  • Mark Harter
  • Duncan Putman
  • Duncan Putman
  • Mark Harter
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway

To the casual observer outside of Central Indiana, many don't know the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, although famous names like Andretti, Foyt, Unser, Penske and Mears along with iconic open wheel racecars are the first thing that come to mind when they think of the Indianapolis 500.

Since the staff of both Duncan Putman and Mark Harter reside in the Racing Capitol of the World, Indianapolis, Indiana, where race fever has grippd the city for over 100 years every Month of May, culminating in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on Memorial Day weekend, we wanted to feature some of the trucks and interesting history involving the race and how the trucking industry has been involved and plays a part in this great race.

AJ Foyt in his Lola/Chevrolet during qualifying for the 1991 Indianapolis 500
Mario Andrettti on track in his Lola/Chevrolet during qualifying for the 1991 Indianapolis 500
Scott Brayton in his Lola/Buick during qualifying for the 1991 Indianapolis 500

At one time, Indianapolis had more automobile manufacturers than Detroit! And due to this, the Speedway was the dream of Indianapolis based businessman Carl G. Fisher, who saw the need, envisioning a facility for companies to be able to test and race their cars in a sustained environment, providing a proving ground for automobile manufacturers in the United States during the early days of the automotive industry.

As America became motorized, the trucking industry grew out of the early automotive industry from the need to move more and more goods and supplies with greater efficiency became necessary. While manufacturers like Chevrolet, Ford, Watson, Lola, Reynard, Ilmor, Cosworth and Offenhauser are commonly known at the Speedway, the names of truck manufacturers like Mack, Kenworth, Peterbilt and others, are not, and have never had entries in the race, although the first car to win the Indianapolis 500 in 1911 was a Marmon. Ironically, Marmon stopped car production, but, from the early 19 60s until 1997 manufactured custom-built class 8 highway trucks.

Since Fisher envisioned the Speedway as a place to not only race, it was a place for manufacturers to prove what they've built. And in 1931, Clessie Cummins, founder of the Cummins Engine Company, from nearby Columbus, Indiana saw the value in racing in the Indianapolis 500, entering his first car, driven by Dave Evans, to showcase the power and efficiency of the diesel engines he had been developing. The 1931 Model A Duesenberg racecar was fitted with an 85hp, 361ci four-cylinder diesel engine. While the car did not win the race, it did however, reach speeds in excess of 100 mph, running the entire 500 miles on one tank of fuel!

1911 Marmon Wasp
1952 #28 Cummins Diesel Special IndyCar

As an interesting side note, Clessie Cummins was a crew member for Marmon in 1911 when Ray Harroun drove the Marmon Wasp into racing history.

Cummins did enter diesel powered racecars in 1934 and 1950, but in 1952 the game changed and Cummins was ready to take full advantage of the Indy 500 rulebook that year. The new rules in 1952 allowed for four-cycle diesel engines that were twice as big as their gasoline counterparts.

To take full advantage of the rulebook, the 1952 #28 Cummins Diesel Special was packed with a turbocharged 6.6 litre inline-six cylinder diesel engine that reportedly made 380 hp. The car was unlike anything the racing world had ever seen before. It was found that the chassis being manufactured by legendary racecar builder Kurtis Kraft combined with the big 6.6 litre engine, which was installed on its side, the car weighed nearly 3100lbs!

During its qualifying run, the 1952 Cummins Diesel Special, driven by Fred Agabashian, shocked the racing world, setting a track record and qualifying on the pole position for theIndianapolis 500 mile race with a 4-lap average of 138.010 mph. To put that speed in perspective and just how powerful and impressive the #28 Cummins Diesel Special was, Ferrari's 12-cylinder gasoline powered entry averaged 134.300 mph during it's 4 lap qualifying run.

Lineup of Team Penske IndyCar Transporters

While times have changed and diesel powered racecars do not compete at the Indianapolis 500 any longer, you can still find plenty of diesel powered vehicles parked on the grounds of the Speedway during the Month of May. While the racecars and their drivers get the glory, the tractor-trailers that move the teams of the Verizon IndyCar Series are just as impressive as the cars they haul.

Traveling more than 50,000 miles during the course of the racing season, from St. Petersburg, Florida to the finale in Sonoma, California, and everywhere in between, the trucks that move the teams of the Verizon IndyCar Series criss-cross the North American continent multiple times a year and are some of the most impressive and expensive rigs that roll up and down the highways of both the United States and Canada.

IndyCars are some of the most impressive automobiles in the world. As purpose-built racecars, they require extreme care when being transported, and to achieve this without damage, these cars are hauled in some of the fanciest, high tech tractor-trailers to ever be seen on the road. No expense is spared in outfitting the myriad of specialty trailers used by all the race car teams. Spotless stainless steel and chrome interiors along with hydraulic lifts and well-appointed work areas are the norm for each race team which has to be self-sufficient and survive the rigors of being on the road while maintaining, altering and repairing cars for the roughly six-month racing season.

Hall VDS Racing Freightliner FLD
Patrick Racing International 9600
Galles-Kraco Racing Kenworth T600A

Many of the transporters are customized with aerodynamic as well as cosmetic alterations, providing a streamlined, modern and commanding look. For many years, Canepa Designed Kenworth T600As were the standard, these trucks providing power and custom styled efficiency from an already amazing looking and aerodynamic rig for many teams. Canepa also owns Concept Transporters, which customizes trailers for racing teams and multiple racing series as well.

When it comes to IndyCar Racing though, Team Penske is considered to be the gold standard, or the "New York Yankees of Motorsports" as many media outlets have referred to the organization. Team founder Roger Penske, nicknamed "The Captain", sets the bar high for excellence. With 16 Indianapolis 500 victories and 15 open wheel championships in the teams 50+years of existence, the team is synonymous with winning and is the most successful team in IndyCar history. From the team uniforms to the transporters, professionalism is seen everywhere at Team Penske. As Mr. Penske's team has set standards in the racing world, his IndyCar transporters are no different. Created by the late automotive designer Larry Shinoda, the fleet of Team Penske Freightliner tractor-trailers are covered in stainless steel and aerodynamic enhancements, making these unique rigs as iconic and sleek as the racing cars they transport.

Larry Shinoda designed Freightliner FLT Team Penske IndyCar Transporter
Larry Shinota designed Freightliner FLT Team Penske IndyCar Transporter
Larry Shinoda Freightliner Century Class Team Penske IndyCar Transporters

It is truly a rare experience to be able to see all these beautiful, immaculate, show quality trucks together at one time and together on one parking lot. If you’re a race fan and you have time and want to see some of the most impressive rigs you will ever set your eyes on, gaining access to see these trucks can be just as impressive as seeing the cars they move from race to race.

  • To learn more about the Indianapolis 500 and the Verizon IndyCar Series, please visit:

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