The Changing Of The Wing & Wheel

Most people that are regular readers of this site know that I welcome change about like I welcome a visit to the proctologist. Not only do I not welcome change, I abhor it. I pretty much live by the mantra “Change is bad”. This has nothing to do with my advanced age, mind you. I avoided change in my high school and college years. To me, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a good rut. Whenever I hear someone say they took a different route to work “just for a change”; I question their sanity.

Shortly after my divorce fifteen years ago, I found myself dumping would-be girlfriends who seemed intent on getting me out of my routines that I liked so much and getting me to be more spontaneous. Nothing sent me running like hearing the words “…that’s the FIRST thing we’re going to change about you”. It made me wonder what the second, third and fourth things were. I quickly found out that if I wanted to end a relationship, there was no quicker way to do it than to respond with “Spontaneity is WAY overrated”. Not only did it work, I also considered it to be very true.

Change is also very overrated. Sometimes change is warranted and I embrace it. My iPhone is far superior to the antiquated Nokia that I carried for years. High-Definition television is the greatest TV advancement since color – and yes, I grew up in the days of black & white; so I know what a big deal color was when it became the norm. But there are far more examples I can site when something was changed for no apparent reason – just change for the sake of change.

Such is the case with the newly revised logo for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I’ll be honest; I never saw a press release to announce it. It was brought to my attention by my co-worker “John Mc”. But when he told me about it, I noticed the changes right off.

This is not the first revision of the famous “wing & wheel”; it has evolved through the last century. The wing & wheel logo has been with the Speedway since it opened in 1909. The rationale behind the design was to promote the original intent of an automotive and aviation facility. There is some dispute as to who originally designed it. Years ago, someone claimed that they had designed and used the logo and that the Speedway plagiarized it. Obviously, whatever the outcome of such a claim, the Speedway has used it extensively since the beginning.

One of the retro-themed logos during the centennial era used a version similar to the original. Since the early days, it has morphed into what was used for many years prior to 2009, when the Centennial Logo was incorporated into everything about the Speedway. I was never that crazy about that one, but I knew it would go away after three years. I looked forward to when the traditional wing & wheel would return to prominence.

IMS Centennial logo

But now I see that the wing & wheel that has been around for years has been altered. Many will look at the “new” one and see no change at all. But we who despise change can certainly see the difference. First of all, the entire logo faces the wrong way. For a hundred years, all incarnations of the wing & wheel faced slightly to the viewer’s left. The new one faces the right. The wheel or tire has been made wider and more flat. My friend John Mc pointed out that tires are much wider now. Actually, the tires of today are not as wide as those in the late sixties. Finally, the script now goes straight across instead of curved.

Old Logo

New Indy Logo

I realize the changes are subtle, and hardly noticeable to most. So my question is – why change it at all? Someone either said "we need to bring this stale logo into the next century", or else they made just enough changes to make all T-shirts, Polos, sweatshirts, coffee cups and any other piece of IMS merchandise obsolete – thereby making it a must to buy new things with the newer updated logo. Why else do football teams change their jerseys every few years and come up with new alternate jerseys? Never overlook the cash grab.

A few years ago, the NFL updated their “shield” logo. I’m not sure many people ran out to buy items with a shield that had only eight stars compared with the previous one with thirty-two, but it sure played havoc getting that new logo on every football, referee shirt, end zone and another place you might find the familiar trademark. Again, most never noticed the change – except those of us who loathe change.

As I get older, there are fewer and fewer things that were just like when I was growing up. A half-gallon of ice-cream is now 1.5 quarts. Light bulbs now look like corkscrews and put out bad light. Tattoos are no longer the exclusive domain of carnival workers. Even the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has undergone major changes in the last forty-five years or so – albeit most of them for the best. Now they’ve tampered with the sacred wing & wheel, for whatever reason. Being the old and grumpy curmudgeon that I am, I hope this is the last alteration it undergoes in my lifetime.

George Phillips

21 Responses to “The Changing Of The Wing & Wheel”

  1. Jack in NC Says:

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  2. George, there isn’t a response that I can vote for and here is why:
    1. I like the change.
    2. I didn’t see the logo as becoming tired and stale (however, I do like the tweek).
    3. I can tell the difference.

    I like the tweek and the wheel facing the right puts Indianapolis on a straight line instead of curving down when you get to the “L” because you run out of room. By the way, I will tell you what I don’t like, I don’t like seeing the American flag with the blue field of stars on the right. I see that on the police cars and on the right shoulder of our military personel. I know that it represents going forward, but I feel this is rediculous because Old Glory becomes backwards when the vehical or bearer becomes stationary. It is not a flag in that case, it is a patch/decale/drawing and the blue field of stars should ALWAYS be on the top left. Of course, that is just how I role and YMMV.

    I think I will purchase the new IMS Wing and Wheel polo this weekend. I need another cool, Nike polo for these hot days. 🙂

    • Shoulda had one more voting question in there, George: “Is the change simply to profit by people clamoring to get ‘new’ logo-emblazoned trinkets and clothing?” I would have voted for that one.

      I actually don’t think change is inherently bad, but this is one thing that they didn’t need to mess with…

  3. The wheel turning right is a conspiracy I say! A subliminal attempt to get us to accept running street races instead of ovals. Personally, I think the Japanese and Canadians are behind this.

    • But if you presume you’re looking at the wheel from in front, it’s actually turning left. And it’s moving left to right… the same direction it would be going if you were sitting in the turn 4 grandstands watching racers make for the finish line!

      Just sayin’.


  4. I love that old logo–it’s classic, timeless and recognizable. I don’t like the centennial version so much, but don’t hate the changes. They seem minimal. I don’t wear very many t-shirts with writing on the front, I like the plain ones, but I own two with the Wing & Wheel printed on them.



  6. I like the new logo. Slightly freshened and a bit tighter. I’ve now found the graphic I can use to finally, after 2 decades of debate, get my first tattoo. Apparently I have to quit the carnival now though.

    I fully understand the curmudgeonly bit however, but George, (as my wife says to me) you have a LOT of rules.

  7. I don’t have a problem with the new logo but I honestly really liked the Centinial logo. I can understand why it shouldn’t be kept however. Who knows how long the retro fad will keep going. The new logo still had a timeless feel

  8. NHL changed their logo after the lockout in the same subtle way. You will get used to it, though I guess you have no choice.

  9. The NFL has done the same with thier logo. I remember when the Chicago Bears went from the white wishbone “C” on the helmets to an orange one with trim. The change looked great and still does.

  10. iKingston Says:

    The new logo is great, IMHO. The wheel is now facing in the correct direction. What do I mean you ask? Well, if a car is facing you and the driver is turning the wheel to left, to you standing outside the car the wheel is pointing to the right. Therefore the new logo is the correct interpretation of a vehicle turning left.

    Now, I guess, I could be wrong because the original logo with the wheel pointing to the left could be referencing you (the viewer of the logo) being the driver which in that case the original logo is pointing in the correct direction. But then I could argue that the script is backwards.

    Anyway, I think I might be one of the very few people who enjoy change. Although I am young at 24 years old, so that might change later on (I doubt it). For this reason I love being a PM because it’s something new everyday.

  11. Ben Twickerbill Says:

    I liked the logo the way it was… Call me an Oilpressure sycophant, but these days it seems that no one can leave anything, especially time honored logos alone….

  12. Hey, cheer up, George. They’re certain to put the “old logo” stuff on clearance for the end-of-year IMS Garage Sale, and you can pick up a whole bunch of the stuff you prefer for like $5 per item. Sort of like I did last year when I bought 2 t-shirts for $12 total…and saw the same t-shirts at the gift shop this year just with the “updated” IndyCar Series logos for $20 each. Who’s crazy now, IMS?

  13. billytheskink Says:

    It was an unneccessary change, but not one I’m going to be very upset about.

    The world has lost a lot of great logos for good, with no incredibly similar counterpart living on. We still have the wing and wheel, I see no need to mourn the old version of it when the Minnesota North Stars, Seattle SuperSonics, Houston Gamblers, and the totally rad 80’s-90’s CART logos live on only in memories, yellowed game programs, and a couple jpegs.

  14. james t suel Says:


  15. Brian McKay Says:

    I guess that no one knows the difference between an insignia and a logotype.
    I guess that no one notices that the insignia does not feature a graphic depiction of a wheel and tire but rather a puck, or washer, or disc, or grommet, or … ??? (not a carbon rubber tire on a metal wheel). And the flags don’t have handles …
    Good work, I.M.S.! proud of you!

  16. I like that they strengthened the colours but for some reason I do not like the modern tire, I think it does not convey the idea of ‘tire’ as well as the old style. I think the reason for straightening out the script would be to simplify embroidery on product, it would not make much difference for other product applications.. Maybe they should concentrate on making the race interesting to look at; something I’ve barely done since the invention of the IRL. With the so called reunification, they should have immediately switched to the Champcar chassis.

  17. indygrrl Says:

    Did anyone notice that if the wheel changed direction, that the flags should have as well? The “motions” of the flags are going the wrong way. Would not have liked to be the person who designed this–the committee meetings must have been nightmarish.

  18. My grandmother has always told her children and her grandchildren that she is the one that revamped and redesigned the wing entire logo she has many sketches in many different forms she claims there was a contest as to who could come up with the next logo for the Indianapolis 500 she took the old design and made it what it was adding flags The detailed wings inserting the name she was told that her design was one of the runners up for being chosen for the new logo her husband Floyd DuVall at the timewas trying to be an Indy was trying to be an Indy driver even though he wasn’t going to the proper channels he was a con artist scumbag it is unclear as to what he did wrong but the couple was banned from the facility after he got involved in a dispute she claims she never heard from the contest officials after issue. She said that it wasn’t the winter but quite a few years later her specific wing and tire design became the logo I am unsure if she is the one that claimed plagiarism but hurt story has never wavered as far as details of the information she is now almost 90 and if you are curious for better details she would Love for you to call her and discuss her side of the story since you like specific details and True facts. I don’t believe everything I hear that I know how people are in the world and if they liked the design but they couldn’t use because of some stupid quarrel I can understand them slipping it in if you use later that’s all thank you

  19. […] much I despise change, you can imagine my reaction. I griped on Twitter, Facebook and even wrote a post about it. I tweeted my complaints to Trackside one night and Curt and Kevin both shot me down and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: