Indy 500 Tells F1 There’s Legally Only One ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’

IMS boss Doug Boles said they’re “prepared to take every measure possible to protect our brand’s intellectual property.”

byJerry Perez|
F1 photo


This may bother some of you, but the greatest spectacle in racing isn't the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, NASCAR's Daytona 500, or the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I've attended all of them, and the Indy 500 has them beat in terms of atmosphere and pure significance. (Le Mans is the only one that comes close.) But it doesn't matter how I feel about it, because the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" slogan is trademarked by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and has been since 1986.

Despite this, F1, NASCAR, ESPN, and even LL Cool J (yes, really) have all been dropping those same words during recent live TV coverage, marketing material, and in the case of the famous rapper, the opening of the Miami F1 GP—which, by the way, is far from being the greatest spectacle in racing. Indianapolis Motor Speedway management isn't happy about this, of course, and has had to remind them about their protected trademark.


"We will once again address it with the appropriate people and are prepared to take every measure possible to protect our brand's intellectual property," IMS president Doug Boles told "It continues to be disappointing that others can't create their own brand identity without infringing upon ours."

According to the report, the first instance of F1 infringing on the Indy 500 slogan dates back to when Liberty Media began promoting the Vegas race as "the greatest racing spectacle on the planet." At the time, Boles told the Indy Star that he had been in touch with F1 management and they "couldn't have been more gracious" and that "they've got it."


Well, it turns out they didn't, because later that year, LL Cool J referred to the Miami GP as "the greatest spectacle in motorsports" during the Liberty Media-sanctioned pre-race ceremonies.

Most recently, ESPN uttered the famous words during an F1 pre-season ad, referring to the series as "the greatest spectacle in motorsports" once more. And even NASCAR's marketing department can't seem to stay clear of the trademark, after rolling out a Daytona-related ad titled "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."


To some, this may seem like a very silly fight to pick. After all, people should be able to call whatever event they prefer as the greatest of something. Technically, yes. Legally, no. It's important to understand that these phrases are being used in promotional materials seen by tens of millions of people. And in the case of F1 TV coverage, those words are heard around the world and used as ammo by F1's marketing department when selling sponsorships worth millions and millions of dollars. In easy-to-understand terms, those words are money.

"Sometimes people give us a hard time when we shut down a mom-and-pop company, but if you don't shut [them] down, and someone like F1 does this, then you have no standing to shut them down. But it's harder these days. You didn't use to have all these different mediums.

"You have to enforce it every single time," Boles told the Indy Star.

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