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 was valued at $3.5 million in 2013.
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.”
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.
An American silversmith was commissioned each year to
create the new champion’sportrait/sculpture in bas-relief for
placement on the trophy. Beginning in 1990, Will Behrends
has scuplted each bust since (as of 2020.)
The winner of the Indianapolis 500 does not get to keep the
Borg-Warner Trophy. It is permanently housed and displayed
at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.
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.
THE BABY BORG
Drivers now get a miniature version of the trophy. Officially
called the BorgWarner Championship Driver’s Trophy, it is
affectionately referred to as the “Baby Borg.”
Starting in 1936, the winner of the race received a wooden
plaque with a small, half replica of the Borg-Warner Trophy
affixed on it as their take-home prize.
After the 1988 Public Drivers’ Meeting, Mears inquired with
BorgWarner representatives about how much it would cost to
get two more halves of the replica trophy, because he wanted
to build miniature versions of the trophy on a base. He also
wanted a copy of his face that is featured on the Borg-Warner
Trophy that he could put on that base.
The next day, Mears won his third “500,” He got a call a month
later from BorgWarner telling him that they were creating a new
trophy, called a “Baby Borg” that was exactly what Mears had
In January 1989, Mears received a 14-inch version of the Borg-
Warner Trophy with his likeness sculpted on the black marble
base, and so has every winning driver since. Beginning In
1997, the winning car owner also has been awarded a “Baby
Here is a humorous article from an English newspaper
upon Dan Wheldon's 2005 Indy 500 victory.
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
June 4, 2005
2004 Indy 500 Champ Buddy Rice and
team owners Bobby Rahal and David
Letterman with their mini-Borgs.
|Side view of Borg-Warner Trophy
|The Indianapolis 500 Trophy
|Other Indianapolis Motor Speedway Trophies
|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 -- Memorial Day weekend
-- July 4th weekend
-- Labor Day weekend
US Grand Prix
|IndyCar Grand Prix of
2014 - Present
|Fuzzy's Triple Crown Trophy
Awarded to driver who could win
the three 500-mile races:
Indianapolis - Pocono - Fontana
Brickyard Grand Prix
The Driver and Team Trophies
Like the Borg-Warner Trophy, this is an
event trophy that stays at the speedway.
Red Bull Indianapolis GP
BC 39 'Driven to Save Lives'
(2018, 2019, ...)
|BRICKYARD 400 - 2019
The Driver and Team Trophies
|Nascar Xfinity INDIANA 250 Trophy
The trophy arrived in Indianapolis in 1936 from NYC. It had the winners of the previous
races already on it (1911-1935).
In 1936, Louis Meyer was the first driver to then have his image added to the trophy.
Tony Hulman's likeness is on the trophy and is in gold.
Johnnie Parsons first name is misspelled on the trophy.
The only bust wearing glasses is Tom Sneva. Bobby Rahal's did wear glasses, but
they fell off and have been lost to the ages.
The faces 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, Rick Mears and Al Unser 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 while Foyt only got
a new face on his last win in 1977.
Who is the naked man on top of the trophy waving the flag? He has no name.
After the winner of the 2020 race is added, there will be a total of 117 faces on the trophy.
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|For Mario Andretti's 50th Anniverary of
wining the 1969 Indy 500,
a Baby Borg was made for him.