SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Borg-Warner trophy is just days away from being presented to the winner of the 107th Indianapolis 500.
The trophy will be on center stage Sunday, brought out with the field of drivers before the race and waiting for the winner afterwards, but where is it every other day of the year? And who takes care of it?
The trophy is more than five feet tall, weighs 110 pounds and has 109 tiny faces on it — its caretakers has to be very delicate when handling it.
Fred Wright is one of those caretakers.
”It’s an honor and a privilege, really,” Wright said.
Wright is one of four handlers for the trophy when it is out and about in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
”If you see the trophy, you’re going to see one of the four of us,” Wright said.
It’s a big responsibility. The trophy is nearly 90-years-old, chalk full of history and loved by millions of fans. Wright takes his job very seriously.
”You just have to pay attention to detail,” he said. “We try not to ever get in a hurry and always think through what we’re going to do.”
When the trophy is on the move around the Speedway, it does so in a Chevy van. Wright said it does have to be taken apart to fit, though. Both the base and the top of the trophy sometimes have to be removed.
”A lot of people don’t know this, but the top of the trophy, they call the helmet, is removable and sometimes we have to take that off to get it in tight places,” Wright said. “But we try not to do that in public, because we want people to see the trophy the way it looks.”
Wright does acknowledge how cool his job is, especially on race day. If you look close enough, you can see Wright with the Borg-Warner as it is brought out the Yard of Bricks before the race and when it meets the winner of the Indy 500 afterwards.
”I did nothing to earn it but I guarantee my grandchildren and hopefully their children will say, ‘There was granddaddy and the trophy,’” Wright said.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles sees the Borg-Warner as the most unique trophy in sports.
”You get into all the intricacies with all those faces on it, the average speed of winning the Indy 500 the year they won it,” Boles said. “It’s pretty impressive.”
The more than 100 tiny faces adorning the trophy are crafted to an exact likeness of the more than 100 race winners.
”It really is an entire panoramic view of every angle of the driver’s face,” Boles said. “Hundreds and hundreds of those photos to come up with that sculpture.”
Fans can see the trophy in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, when it isn’t out globetrotting.
”I think the first time it ever went overseas was when Takuma Sato won the Indianapolis 500 and it went to Japan,” Boles said
Most recently it went to reigning 500 champ Marcus Ericsson’s home country of Sweden, escorted by a team of pros.
”Those folks go through training,” Boles said. “They have to know all about the Borg-Warner trophy, they have to know history about Indy 500 and they wear their white gloves.”
Wherever the trophy team is, the Borg-Warner is never out of their sight.
”It does stay in the hotel room with them and if it does have to fly then it typically flies next to the person that’s flying,” Boles said.
No matter where the coveted prize of the Indy 500 is, it’s always got a line of people waiting to take a picture… but no touching!
”When you say, ‘Don’t touch it’, people don’t understand,” Boles said. “That silver, when you touch it, it’s really hard to clean off.”
The trophy is made of sterling silver and worth millions of dollars.
Boles said workers at the IMS Museum do great work to keep the trophy shining and polished.