The Indianapolis 500 is approaching fast, and if you know anything about Marmon’s history, you’ll know that the race holds a special place in our hearts. For us, the Indy 500 is a symbol and a reminder of what’s possible when you have the courage to think outside the box and that sometimes to go forward, you have to first look back. 

At the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911, the Marmon Wasp, driven by engineer Ray Harroun, eliminated the second, rear-facing passenger to help guide him and instead developed a new innovative tool, the first ever rearview mirror. 

In addition to his innovative technology, Ray had an innovative strategy: even though he started in 28th place, he didn’t prioritize speed. He focused on smooth, steady driving and as a result, didn’t blow a single tire. The strategy eliminated tire blowouts which drastically cut down on the number of tires that needed to be changed, four, unlike the second-place team, who had to change tires seven times. 

Ray Harroun in the Marmon Wasp

Ray Harroun Driving the Marmon Wasp.

“Ray Harroun was a strategist through and through,” says Marmon Wasp Engineer Ryan VanLeeuwen. “You know, a lot of times the racing spirit is to go fast at pretty much all costs. But the Indy 500 is a long race, so he really thought it through and planned for the long game, not just for top speed. And it paid off for him.”

Ray and the Marmon Wasp cruised across the finish line in first place, cementing their spot in racing history. Following his victory, Ray told reporters, “I didn’t win the 1911 500, Marmon won the 1911 500. I just happen to be the driver.” 

Indy 500 Bricks

Finish Line on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That day, Ray and the Marmon Wasp set Marmon on a trajectory of cutting-edge innovation  and engineering that continues to this day. It helped build Marmon into a $12 billion company with more than 30,000 employees and the ability to win the “races” of yesterday, today and tomorrow for our customers. 

Marmon Wasp Engineers outside Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

The Marmon Wasp Engineers outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

“In the whole racing world, race drivers, race engineers, car builders, they’re all constantly looking for a competitive advantage,” says Ryan. “And that relentless look for that competitive advantage is something that all our Marmon companies need. I think if we all remember that, and take that tenacity to our daily work, good things will happen for Marmon.”

View from tour bus on the race track.

View from tour bus driving on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Learn about our history of innovation from 1911 to the present, and explore the vast opportunities and experiences available at Marmon. Click here to discover your potential with Marmon. 

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