In 1910, fascinated by that new invention, the automobile, brothers Walter and John Brant borrowed money to buy a Lozier and Chandler car dealership in their hometown of Indianapolis. The next year, two Lozier cars entered the very first Indy 500, known inaugurally as the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race. One Lozier car placed second. With that first competition, the brothers became enamored with the race and the track.
By 1915, they had formed Indiana Oxygen, the state’s first industrial-gas production plant. Soon after, Indiana Oxygen added Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) to its customer roster, providing compressed air for race-car tires to replace hand-pumps during the track’s growing 500-mile race. The innovation cut tire inflation from minutes to seconds.
Today, Indiana Oxygen still services the Indy 500 as its oldest continuous accessories supplier. It provides nitrogen gas for operating on-board air jacks and pneumatic tools for changing tires, as well as teaming with Lincoln Electric Company to provide welding operations required by race teams.
The privately held, family-run business runs a bustling weld-repair garage at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here, along the track’s Accessory Row, Indiana Oxygen supply Lincoln Electric TIG-welding equipment, repairing or fabricating parts to keep race teams in business. The two companies have partnered since 1989 in the Welding Garage.
“The hierarchy at the track recognizes that Indiana Oxygen and Lincoln Electric have been a team for so many years and that we do our job well,” says Jim Fuller, retired long-time Indiana Oxygen employee and Welding Garage veteran. “We rely on each other and work so closely together. Indiana Oxygen likes the relationship with Lincoln Electric, and I think the track is very comfortable with that.”
Wally Brant, president and CEO of Indiana Oxygen, couldn’t agree more.
“We have a very strong partnership with Lincoln Electric,” Brant says, “and one of us could not get along here without the other in the services we offer.”
Race Day Unlike Any Other
Indiana Oxygen begins ramping up for the Indy 500 in January, determining how many gas cylinders are needed and bringing in new freshly painted cylinders in preparation for open-wheel racing’s biggest day. It’s a day that never gets old to this team of seasoned track professionals.
“Things change each year here -- from the age of the driver, to the composition of the teams, to new rules from the sanctioning committees,” says Fuller. “It is hard to explain the feeling you get being out here for the Indy 500. When you see flag drop for that first Indy 500 lap, the hair on your neck stands up.”
The significance of race day, a day like no other in motorsports, brings one thought in Wally Brant’s mind: “We’re in the big leagues.”