When the lights turn off and the 2car Formula One field hammers its way into the first turn of Sundays Miami Grand Prix 2 p.m. ET ABC it will mark the official South Florida debut of Earths biggest motorsports series. But it will not be the first race with Grand Prix and Miami in the same title. Not even close. Prior to this weekend nearly 3 events have been run under the name Grand Prix of Miami across five different series. So yes F1 will make a little history as it races around Hard Rock Stadium this weekend. But there is little else that could be described as little about Miamis auto racing roots. From the Alabama Gang and the Andrettis to an Indy 5 founding father and a famous televised racing death that wasnt real South Floridas road to Formula One has had more twists and turns than the 19corner 3.363mile Miami International Autodrome fake parking lot marina and all.
Mr. Fishers beach and track At the end of this month theyll run the 16th edition of the Indianapolis 5 in Speedway Indiana located 12 miles northwest of Miami Beach. But the same man was hugely instrumental in both of those locations becoming American institutions. Carl Fisher was a Hoosier demigod one of the four founders of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He sought to construct a proving ground for his Indianapolisbased automotive interests from the first patented headlights to his automotive salesroom widely recognized as the firstever car dealership.
IMS opened in 199 and hosted the first Indy 5 in 1911. Fisher also built Americas first coasttocoast road the Lincoln Highway and then decided he also wanted to build a northtosouth highway which became the Dixie Highway that connected the Midwest to Florida. Why Because he loved to vacation in Miami. He loved it so much that he dedicated himself to converting a mangroveandsnakesnarled island into a vacation oasis. He called it Miami Beach. Fisher conjured up ways to attract vacationers to his new oceanside paradise including the construction of a 1.25mile wooden oval with Everestlike 5degree banking. The FulfordMiami Speedway sat in North Miami Beach and announced a 3mile event on Feb. 22 1926. Fisher called upon his friends from Indianapolis and they showed up. Twotime Indy 5 winner Tommy Milton won the pole while reigning 5 champ Peter DePaolo won the race and the aptlynamed Carl G. Fisher Trophy.
The Miami Gang Open wheel racing vanished from Miami along with Fishers track and wouldnt return for another six decades but there was certainly no shortage of race cars in South Florida. Sports cars rumbled over the roads and runways of towns and airports from Singer Island to Boca Raton while sprint cars and stock cars slid around a halfmile dirt track north of Miami the Palm Beach Speedway built in 1949 and lasting until 1984. Thats where Indy 5 racers like Al Keller worked out before heading north each May and where seven NASCAR Grand National events were run and won by among others NASCAR Hall of Famers Tim Flock Herb Thomas and Lee