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For 11 months a year, it pays tribute to many of the most
revered drivers in auto racing history. During the month of
May, however, it becomes the focal point of dreams and
aspirations for more than 33 drivers, a reminder of the glory
and tradition associated with winning the fabled Indianapolis
500-Mile Race. And on just one day each year, it is awarded
to the newest champion of the “Greatest Spectacle in
Racing.”  It is the Borg-Warner Trophy, one of the most
coveted trophies in the world of sports, awarded annually to
the champion of the Indianapolis 500.

With the capture of the checkered flag at the Indianapolis
500 comes the honor of having one’s face sculpted onto the
77-year-old trophy (as of 2013).  Separate squares are
affixed to its sterling-silver body, on which each winner’s
face, name and winning year are permanently etched.

In 1935, the Borg-Warner Automotive Company
commissioned designer Robert J. Hill and Gorham, Inc., of
Providence, R.I., to create the trophy at a cost of $10,000.
The trophy was refurbished in 1992 and today (2013) is
valued at $3.5 million.

Unveiled at a 1936 dinner hosted by then-Speedway owner
Eddie Rickenbacker, the Borg-Warner Trophy was officially
declared the annual prize for Indianapolis 500 victors. It was
first presented that same year to champion Louis Meyer,
who remarked, “Winning the Borg-Warner Trophy is like
winning an Olympic medal.”

Today, 90 faces grace the trophy’s squares. The faces date
back to Ray Harroun, winner of the first Indianapolis 500 in
1911, and include two sets of dual victors (one driver started
the race and the other finished it) for 1924 and 1941. Four-
time champions A.J. Foyt (1961, ‘64, ‘67, ‘77), Rick Mears
(1979, ‘84, ‘88, ‘91) and Al Unser (1970, ‘71, ‘78, ‘87) are the
only drivers to have their faces appear more than three times
on the trophy. Mears is the only one of those three to have a
new likeness rendered for each of his four victories. Tom
Sneva (1983) is the only champion who appears on the
trophy wearing his eyeglasses, by his request.

Besides displaying Indianapolis 500 champions, the trophy
features a 24-karat gold head portrait of the late Speedway
Owner and President Anton “Tony” Hulman in tribute to his
rejuvenation of the track and the Indianapolis 500 after World
War II. Hulman’s image was added in 1988.

A silversmith is commissioned each year to create the new
champion’sportrait/sculpture in bas-relief for placement on
the trophy. Since 1991, an 18-inch tall replica of the trophy, a
“Baby Borg,” has been crafted in sterling silver for
presentation to the champion. A new tradition began with the
1997 winner as Borg-Warner also presented the winning car
owner with a “Baby Borg.”

Each May, the Borg-Warner Trophy is featured at a number
of Indianapolis 500 events, including the drivers’ meeting at
the track and the 500 Festival Parade in downtown
Indianapolis, both on the day before the race. Immediately
after each race, the trophy is hoisted into Victory Circle with
the winning car and driver for photographs.
Here is a humorous article from an English newspaper
upon Dan Wheldon's 2005 Indy 500 victory.
Dan Wheldon with winning car and Borg-Warner Trophy
WHEN they say that the Indianapolis 500 is one of the
biggest prizes in motor sport, they’re not kidding. As this
week’s pictures of Dan Wheldon, the hitherto unremarked
British driver who fabulously covered himself in glory at this
year’s Indy 500, firmly reminded us, the Borg-Warner
Trophy is one of the biggest prizes in sport, full stop. For
successfully skimming round America’s most famous oval
circuit for 500 miles at the kind of speeds normally
achieved in this country only by off-duty policemen,
Wheldon found himself adjacent to a lump of silverware so
vast that it mocks the very idea of a mantelpiece.
Now, when it comes to trophies, motor racing has always
been ready to nudge the boundaries of unwieldiness. One
thinks of Formula One, with its silver-plated wheelie bins
and metallic paddling pools. But the Borg-Warner goes the
extra mile. It appears to have been snapped off the back
end of a cathedral and, with the fairly straightforward
addition of a door, could easily be converted into walk-in
storage for garden tools.

Research indicates that this is just about the only trophy in
world sport that stands as tall as the person likely to win it –
and that’s including the prizes on offer in horse racing,
where the odds on that kind of thing happening are,
obviously, shorter. Sportspeople being human, it’s
implausible that the sight of Wheldon cavorting near this
shiny monument won’t have caused a nationwide outbreak
of that familiar phenomenon: trophy envy. Even Steven
Gerrard, who was so recently privileged enough to claim
ownership of the European Cup — not exactly a shy trophy
itself — must have spent at least a moment thinking to
himself, “but look what that other guy got”.

Wheldon is the first British winner of the Indianapolis 500
since Graham Hill in 1966. So, in a sense, the Borg-
Warner Trophy is coming home. Or, at least, it would be if
the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ever let the thing out of
its sight. (It was commissioned for Indianapolis in 1936 by
the Borg-Warner Automotive company and since it was
reconditioned, in 1992, it has been valued at $3.5 million.)
Instead, Wheldon walked away with a considerably more
portable 18-inch replica, a “mini-Borg”, which winning
drivers have received since 1989. But that’s probably just
as well. Since September 11, there isn't an airline in the
world that would accept an item such as the Borg-Warner
Trophy as carry-on luggage.  Our understanding is that the
trophy breaks down into at least three separate stages,
not unlike the rockets that carried men to the moon all
those years ago. You’ve got the domed top section,
capped with the figure of a marshal wielding the
chequered flag. (More than that, an apparently naked
marshal, and you don’t see too many of those these days,
what with the general tightening of safety measures.)
Below comes the vast cup area, with its thrillingly
implausible handles forming a track-style motif that is
almost broad enough to drive on, and with its body
barnacled with the busts of previous champions, each one
the size of a clenched fist. Beneath that, doing the hard
work of supporting the structure, is the knee-high circular
plinth, again gargoyled with previous winners and soon to
include the head of Wheldon. But even with the trophy
disassembled, the would-be exporter would have little
option but to crate and ship.

By Giles Smith
The Times
June 4, 2005
Bobby Rahal, Buddy Rice, David Letterman photo with mini-borg trophy
side view of Borg-Warner Trophy photo
2004 Indy 500 Champ Buddy Rice and
team owners Bobby Rahal and David
Letterman with their mini-Borgs.
Side view of Borg-Warner Trophy
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IndyCar Trophy Photos
The Astor Cup Championship Trophy
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Other Indianapolis Motor Speedway Trophies
How Big Is It?
Before the 1911, there were numerous shorter auto races
held at the Indy Speedway in 1909 & 1910.

There was the Remy Grand Brassard Trophy,  the G&J
Trophy, the Cobe Trophy, the Prest-o-Lite Trophy and the
Wheeler-Schebler Trophy, which was another huge trophy
like the Borg..  Other prize trophies included the winged
Speedway Helmet and the Brassard Arm Band.

Photos of these awards and recipients can be found in
my series on 1910 --  
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Like the Borg-Warner Trophy, this is an
event trophy that stays at the speedway.
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