IRL: Longtime Speedway official Clarence Cagle to be inducted into Hall of Fame

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 8, 2000 -- Clarence Cagle's final project before retiring in 1977 as superintendent of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was overseeing construction of the Hall of Fame Museum in the south end of the infield...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 8, 2000 -- Clarence Cagle's final project before retiring in 1977 as superintendent of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was overseeing construction of the Hall of Fame Museum in the south end of the infield grounds. It was the culmination of a dream by track president Tony Hulman. The classy structure not only houses some of the most important artifacts in Indianapolis 500 history but also is home to the Hall of Fame. Since the Hall's inception, 107 greats of the sport - drivers, mechanics, owners and officials - have been voted into exclusive membership. On Friday, May 19, at the annual Oldtimers/Hall of Fame Recognition Banquet at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Indianapolis, induction will be conducted for the 108th member. The new member: Clarence Cagle. "I'm quite proud of it," Cagle said from his home in Ormond Beach, Fla. "I built that building 25 years ago." Cagle, who will be 86 on July 29, and his wife, Gladys, and their family will attend the banquet. They'll stay at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort & Inn, which was called the Speedway Motel when he guided its construction. "The Speedway has meant a lot to me because Tony Hulman gave me a say, and I was able to prove I could do things," Cagle said. "The Hulmans were never bossy. They were a family, which is what I liked. "I built many friendships. It was a great pleasure to accomplish what I did." Cagle, a Terre Haute, Ind., native, worked for the Hulman family when current president Tony George's grandfather Tony Hulman purchased the Speedway from Eddie Rickenbacker in November 1945. Cagle was called in to help supervise the gigantic task of restoring the facility, neglected and dormant after the 1941 Indianapolis 500 due to America's entry into World War II. Cagle had just six months to finish the job before the 1946 Indianapolis 500 in May. When the track was purchased by Hulman, it already had been pinpointed to be torn down and replaced by a housing project and shopping center. "There wasn't one thing that you could name that didn't need to be done," Cagle said. The basics were completed in time to resume running the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1946. But it wasn't Hulman's goal just to make the track race-worthy. He wanted to rebuild the Speedway so it once again stood as the shining beacon of auto racing throughout the world in the second half of the 20th century. Cagle was right at Hulman's elbow, making sure this was accomplished. Actually, Cagle worked the first two years as assistant to superintendent to Jack Fortner while traveling in his job as an expediter for raw materials used for Clabber Girl Baking Powder. In 1948, he took over for the ailing Fortner as full-time superintendent and was promoted to vice president of the Speedway corporation in 1952. The races came and went, and slowly the Speedway took on a new face. The wooden stands erected in 1909 were replaced by modern aluminum seating. A five-year plan evolved, followed by a 10-year plan to update and upgrade the Speedway. In 1955, the wooden Pagoda was razed and a new steel, aluminum and glass control tower rose in its place by 1957. Grandstand seating was erected inside the pits as the entire front straightaway assumed a new look. Cagle was there virtually every minute of the day and night. In 1954 he moved into a small wooden cottage on the grounds that once was a summer home for original track builder Carl Fisher. This enabled him to be on the job often 18 to 20 hours a day. "I didn't have time to think about something else," Cagle said. "I had something to do every minute of the day. I was looking for a part-time job and got a full-time one." Gladys was hired as his secretary, and eight years later - on June 21, 1963 -- they were married. The Museum became his final project. The pace he set for himself was just too much. As he rushed the Museum to completion, he began to experience fainting spells. The Museum opened in 1976, and the following August he retired. But can you call continuing to work on racetracks, including his beloved Speedway, into his 80s as being retired? "I've never got back to where I could do 16, 18 hours a day," he said. "Five, six hours, and I've had it. My doctor said I was not a young man anymore and that when I get tired I've got to sit down. It's something I've never learned." Cagle has watched and consulted with George, who has made many improvements and added races to the Speedway's schedule. The crowning achievement is the addition of the Formula One United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24, 2000. The massive facelift of facilities, including building of a 21st century-style Pagoda, advances the dream that Tony Hulman made reality 50 years ago, Cagle said. "I think it shows the forethought that Tony (George) had to want to spread the word around the world that the Speedway is not a little backyard track," Cagle said. Over the years, Cagle helped aim it in that direction with little desire for individual gold and glory. But now the reward has come as the Speedway Museum - the building he erected -- is at last opening its doors to one more special individual, Hall of Famer Clarence Cagle.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony George