Catalyst for a Career

Jason Vansickle, curator of vehicles, 2019

I have always been interested in automobiles since I was a young child. My father and grandfather played a significant role in this interest — they both were “hot-rodders.” I have many early memories of my family members working out in the garage or going to car shows in the summer throughout my youth.

First “500”

Unlike many “500” fans, I did not attend my first race until later in my early childhood, at the age of 10. Before that, I listened to the race live on the radio and watched the tape-delayed broadcast later in the evening. But I still remember how excited I was to go with my family to the 2001 “500.” Sitting in Turn One, I was amazed to see firsthand 33 cars roaring into the turn at the start of the race. Besides the actual race, I was excited to see Jim Nabors sing his rendition of (Back Home Again In) Indiana in person. I still have the ticket for my first seat (Southwest Vista Section 2 Row F Seat 4) in a small case at my home office. It is interesting to think about how that event was a catalyst for a career at the IMS Museum.

Later, I started researching the history of the automobiles and personalities behind the companies. I always held an interest in history and also the Speedway, especially its founder Carl Fisher. With this passion, I decided I wanted to work in a field that relates to historic automobiles. As an American history major at IUPUI, I took every chance I could to tie automotive history into my papers or projects.

Jason Vansickle, tour guide, 2011
Leading Tours

I have been at the IMS Museum in some capacity for close to ten years, starting as a tour guide while I was attending IUPUI. I still remember sending the email in March 2011 asking if the Museum needed any help or took volunteers. After the race, I received an email asking if I wanted to come in for an interview. During the meeting, I was invited to be a museum tour guide. I admit I held some anxiety regarding public speaking. Surprisingly,  it was easy to talk about my interest and passion for the Speedway. I really enjoyed leading the tours.

During my time as a guide, I soaked up every piece of information I could from Museum hosts and our historian Donald Davidson. I also took a short stint working at the Dallara Indycar Factory, along with working at the Museum. After I graduated, I accepted a full-time position at the museum starting in June 2015.

A New Career

In 2018, I was promoted to curator of vehicles. As curator of vehicles for a world-renowned organization, I am a steward of the collection. The IMS Museum holds many automotive assets: “500” winners, famous cars from other racing disciplines, and passenger cars relating to Indiana’s rich automotive history. The care and preservation of these artifacts for generations to come is a main goal of mine. Preserving these automobiles will allow future generations of guests to understand the risks these drivers took to achieve greatness. They will understand how the Speedway’s visionaries developed a place and event that became so intertwined with Indiana culture.

This position provides a chance to lead the Museum for the next generation. This future is not determined by one person but the entire IMS Museum staff along with our guests and supporters. With the help of our visitors, members, and donors, we look to develop new and exciting exhibits. Eventually, we hope to offer a new state-of-the-art building and experience for future guests.

Over 60 years ago, Karl Kizer, Tony Hulman, and Wilbur Shaw crafted the idea for a museum to celebrate the drivers and the history of this iconic 2.5-mile oval. It developed from a 12-car museum to a collection that exceeds over 200 vehicles and hundreds of memorabilia and artifacts. It is an honor to be a part of the team that will steer this Museum to its next 60 years.