Indianapolis 500 fans have the opportunity to view one-of-a-kind trophies and other memorabilia from the collection of three-time Indy winner Wilbur Shaw, thanks to a new exhibit opening at the IMS Hall of Fame Museum this weekend.

Bill Shaw, the only son of Wilbur - a man who not only became the first driver to win the race in consecutive years, but deserves a great deal of credit along with Tony Hulman for saving the Speedway from demolition after World War II - loaned the items long term to the Hall of Fame Museum in honour of his father's 100th birthday, which would have been Oct. 31.

Wilbur Shaw tragically died in a private plane crash near Decatur, Ind., on Oct. 30, 1954, the eve of his 52nd birthday. He was returning to Indianapolis from a visit to Chrysler's testing grounds near Detroit.

A number of items will be on display on a long-term basis. A few of the more notable items include:

All three of Shaw's Borg-Warner Trophy plaques from his "500" wins in 1937 and 1939-40. Since the Borg-Warner Trophy did not become the "property" of the winner after its debut in 1936 (which is still the case today), the winners of the era were presented with a "half" Borg-Warner Trophy, mounted on a wood base.

The Prest-O-Lite trophy, presented to Shaw for winning the race twice in a row. This trophy has a significant history, as it was first presented to the winner of a race at IMS in 1910, before the creation of the Indianapolis 500. It was also presented to the Indianapolis 500 winner in 1913, Jules Goux, and then awarded to the leader of the race at 200 miles in 1914-15 and 1927-40.

Shaw's AAA National Championship awards (from the days when the American Automobile Association sanctioned open-wheel racing, which it did through 1955). Shaw finished first in the National Championship in 1937 and 1939, second in 1938 and 1940, and third in 1935.

The unique "Water from Wilbur" cup. From 1947 through the 1954 race, Shaw presented this silver cup, filled with ice and water, to the hot and thirsty Indianapolis 500 winner in Victory Lane. The tradition was carried on in 1955 and 1956 after Shaw's death.

Shaw's legacy at the Speedway is unique in that he was one of the most successful drivers ever to grace the track, and he, alongside Anton "Tony" Hulman, was a key figure in guiding the Speedway from the brink of extinction to growing international prominence and financial vibrancy in the years following World War II.

Not only was Shaw the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in consecutive years, but his consistency was among the best ever recorded in the gruelling race, with top-five finishes (including his three wins) in five of six "500" starts between 1935 and 1940. He might very well have been the first four-time winner of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" had a wheel not collapsed while he was leading in 1941 with three-quarters of the race behind him.

In 1944, Shaw discovered the deplorable condition of the Speedway when he arrived at the track to conduct a tire test for Firestone, his employer at the time.

Shaw actively sought investors to purchase the facility from then-owner Eddie Rickenbacker, who was focusing his energy on developing Eastern Airlines. Shaw found the Speedway's saviour in Hulman, who took ownership of IMS on Nov. 14, 1945, and immediately placed Shaw as the track president and general manager.

Together the two men steadily rebuilt the Speedway grounds, adding modern concrete and steel grandstands and other facilities as resources came available. Shaw was president and general manager until his untimely death.

Many fans of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway can credit their fathers with introducing them to the 93-year-old monument to speed, but few can claim the kind of heritage and passion shared among the men of the Shaw family.

"Most of Dad's peers are gone, but there are a whole world of individuals who are interested in this place and the men who made it happen," Bill Shaw said. "Heaven knows, Dad loved this place like no place else. It was a very fortunate thing that he and Tony were introduced, because they clicked. He and Tony were pals, and what better a working relationship than that?

"There is a sense of history (with the Speedway) that I have that is very personal. I walk in here when nothing is going on, and I feel the place is just alive with history."

Bill Shaw, 57, was born in Akron, Ohio, where his father was director of aviation at Firestone during World War II, and now resides near Nashville, Ind. He spent much of his formative years on the north side of Indianapolis, and made his living working in motorsports and public relations in California and Washington, D.C.

According to Shaw, it has taken time for he and his family to be comfortable with the idea of letting his father's trophies "out of our sight," as he put it. But Shaw feels that sharing the priceless pieces of history with fellow Indianapolis 500 fans, via display at the Hall of Fame Museum, is the right thing to do.

"There was a time when having those items on display in your home was the way to display and honour them," he said. "The thing to do with them now is to put them on display here. If there is a place to display them other than at home, this is the place.

"What better time than Dad's 100th birthday? We're all comfortable with what we're doing. It (the collection) should be put on display, where it can be shared. It should not be stored in the dark."

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day), from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (EST). Extended hours are in effect during the Indianapolis 500. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children ages 6-15 and free for children age 5 and younger. Track tours are available when the track is not in use for the same price. Call (317) 492-6784 for more information.


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