Rarely seen Indy 500 history from inside ‘The Vault’

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- You might’ve heard about a secret collection kept underneath the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

It’s called “The Vault.”

We weren’t allowed down there or even to take photos.

But CBS4's Frank Mickens got a peek inside, thanks to the museum’s latest exhibit.

FRANK: "So here we are at the IMS Museum and this is Jason Vansickle, one of the historians here."

FRANK: "I’m looking at this medal. What exactly is that?"

JASON: "This is a pendant that they gave out in the beginning years of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The two years prior to the Indianapolis 500, they had races here in ’09 and ’10. And they would give these pennants out."

"The bomber jacket here is the Champions Spark Plug 100 Hour Club. If a driver averaged the 500 miles over 100 miles an hour, they would receive this jacket. It was such a big deal for some of the drivers, that some of them were actually buried in their jacket."

FRANK: "So that dates back to what? Is this 40s?

JASON: "Yeah, about 30s and 40s is when it started."

FRANK: "So I did ask, ‘Hey, can we go inside the vault and show people what’s in there?’ And I was given the, ‘Well, wish we could but we can’t.’"

JASON: "Well, to keep the collection in a tiptop shape and to keep the humidity levels down, we try to keep the door shut as much as possible. We don’t like people coming and going."

FRANK: "Alright. Al Unser Jr. What year was this from?"

JASON: "That’s from 1970 when his father won."

FRANK: "Oh, so this was when he was a kid. That explains how small it is."

JASON: "His father won in 1970 and '71 with the Johnny Lightning special. And they made a matching fire suit for Little Al."

FRANK: "What do you hope people get from these artifacts that they typically don’t see on display day-to-day here?"

JASON: "It’s a good way to show the collection’s broader than just the cars. The Indianapolis 500 is such a big part of Indiana’s history and tradition. And just keeping these artifacts is a way to help generations down the line understand that, and get a grasp tangibly, of what this place really means."