What is likely the most unique souvenir in the history of the Indianapolis 500 — a real Indy racing car autographed by nearly 250 people who have driven in the world’s most famous race — will be auctioned Wednesday evening, May 25, to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The car is The Stinger, a contemporary racing car wearing the colors of the Marmon Wasp that carried Ray Harroun to victory in the first Indy 500 in 1911. Though the centennial of that race was held five years ago, the race this year will be the 100th running of the event, which was not held during war years.
The car was built for the centennial and since then, Indy racer John Andretti has been taking the car around the country to get it autographed by every living Indy veteran.
“The Stinger was introduced at the 100th anniversary of the Speedway,” Andretti told Classic Car News. “We’re bookending the centennial era with the auction happening this year.”
Andretti said the autographs present a cross-section of America racing. “One day we got Joe Saldana (almost forgotten by many fans but a two-time Indy starter), the next day it was Cale (Yarborough) and the Allisons (Bobby and Donnie), and then it was Jackie Stewart. It’s an amazing group of people who have raced in the 500.”
Andretti not only had to hunt down the drivers, he had to take the car to nursing homes for some to sign, to one ailing driver’s driveway. Another was in jail and signed while wearing shackles.
“It’s been a real adventure,” Andretti said.
The goal for the auction is to raise at least $1 million, and Barrett-Jackson and its chief auctioneer Joseph Mast hope to help in achieving that goal.
“We’ve helped charity auctions,” Barrett-Jackson chief executive Craig Jackson told Classic Car News. “This one is a bit different.”
Barrett-Jackson raises millions for charity at its four annual auctions. It also has done a couple of other such special charity events.
“This is a neat opportunity, especially being the 100th running of the Indy 500,” he added. “This is a piece of history that can’t be duplicated.”
Indeed, several drivers who signed the car have died in the meantime.
“They’ve been promoting it through the racing world, but not in the collector car world,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to get the word out to our world, too.”
Already, the car has generated nearly $50,000 for the hospital as Window World, which is sponsoring the project, has donated $189 for each driver’s signature and $1,890 for the 189th autograph. Founded in 1995 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Window World has become the country’s largest replacement-window and exterior-remodeling company with more than 200 locally owned outlets. The $189 figure is what Window World charges for its standard replacement windows. Its Window World Cares charity arm provides funding for St. Jude hospital.
“We are extremely excited to partner with Barrett-Jackson, the nation’s leader in collector car auctions,” Tammy Whitworth, Window World’s chief executive, said in a news release. “We need a powerhouse auctioneer so we can raise the most money possible for the children fighting for their lives at St. Jude.”
In addition to its Indycar body and chassis, the Stinger carries a race-winning Honda engine and wears Firestone tires embedded with the names of every driver who has the 500 on that brand of tires. The seat in the car came out of a car raced by four-time IndyCar series champion Scott Dixon.
The auction takes place May 25 in the facility in Indianapolis where the Stinger and other racing cars are constructed. For more information, including a list of all the drivers who have signed the car — 29 of them Indy 500 race winners — see the Stinger website.