All About The Indy 500’s Creepy Evolving Borg-Warner Trophy

Indy 500 Borg-Warner Trophy

Yesterday Takuma Sato won the 104th Indianapolis 500 championship (his second victory – he also won in 2017) and will soon have his head added to the strangest trophy in sports for a second time, the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Indy 500 Borg-Warner Trophy (and the Baby Borg)

104th Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato
Takuma Sato celebrates winning the 104th Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 23, Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Indy 500 Borg-Warner Trophy

Standing at 5 feet, 4.75 inches, the 110-pound Borg-Warner Trophy has been part of the “Indy 500” since it first debuted at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1936. The trophy showcases, in sterling silver, the extruded faces of every Indy 500 winner in miniature, dating back to the inaugural race in 1911.

Detail of the Borg-Warner Trophy
Detail of the Borg-Warner Trophy ph: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Commissioned in 1935, it was designed by Robert J. Hill and Spaulding-Gorham, Inc. of Chicago at the cost of $10,000. The trophy was initially unveiled at a dinner hosted by then-Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Eddie Rickenbacker in 1936 where it was decided upon that it would be officially declared the annual prize for Indy 500 winners. It was first presented that same year to champion Louis Meyer, who remarked, “Winning the Borg-Warner Trophy is like winning an Olympic medal.”

Designed in the Art Deco style that was popular in the 1930’s, the trophy is made of sterling silver and is just over 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs approximately 110 pounds, of which roughly 80 pounds is sterling silver.

Key design features include the “wings” on each side of the trophy that symbolize the speed of flight and the flagman on the top of the trophy with the checkered flag (who this year, during the Covid-19 Pandemic was smartly clad in a tiny face mask).

borg-warner trophy with little mask

But what is so creepy about it are the numerous three dimensional heads of the individual winning racers that stand out from the trophy like little growths.

borg-warner trophy close up

The original trophy was crafted to accommodate 70 race winners. A sterling silver base has been added twice since 1984 to accommodate the additional winners. The current trophy has space available for the race winners through 2033.The Borg Warner Trophy evolves on an annual basis as each Indianapolis 500 winner’s likeness is added by a silversmith commissioned to create the new champion’s portrait/sculpture in bas-relief. For the last 30 years, that honor has gone to American sculptor William Behrends.

American sculptor William Behrends has been adding the race winners' faces onto the #BorgWarnerTrophy for 30 years, since 1990
American sculptor William Behrends has been adding the race winners’ faces onto the Borg-WarnerTrophy for 30 years

The process for each new “head” begins with photos and studio sittings with the Indy 500 champion during which Behrends sculpts the initial portrait in clay.

2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi visited sculptor Will Behrends in Tryon, NC to begin the process of creating Rossi's image for the Borg-Warner Trophy
In 2016, Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi visited sculptor Will Behrends to begin the process of creating Rossi’s image for the Borg-Warner Trophy

He then transforms it to ceramic, where the finer details are added before it’s cast in wax, and finally into the sterling silver image.


affixing the head onto the trophy permanently
Affixing the head onto the trophy permanently

Separate squares are affixed to the trophy’s sterling-silver body, on which each winner’s face, name and winning year are permanently etched. One of the few notable differences between all the added heads is that some are wearing open face helmets from the early years and the recent drivers (since 1971) are not wearing them.

The head of the 2016 Winner, Alexander Rossi, on the trophy

The faces date back to Ray Harroun, winner of the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, and include two sets of dual victors (one driver started the race and the other finished it) for 1924 and 1941.

One of the two “dual driver” heads on the trophy

Four-time champions A.J. Foyt (1961, ‘64, ‘67, ‘77), Al Unser (1970, ‘71, ‘78, ‘87) and Rick Mears (1979, ‘84, ‘88, ‘91) are the only drivers to have their faces appear more than three times on the trophy. Mears is the only one of those three to have a new likeness rendered for each of his four victories. Tom Sneva (1983) is the only champion who appears on the trophy wearing his eyeglasses, by his request.

Only one head on the trophy, that of 1983 winner Tom Sneva, is seen wearing eyeglasses

Today, 106 faces (soon to be 107 with the addition of Takuma Sato’s) grace the trophy’s squares with 2019 winner Simon Pagenaud being the most recent addition.

The Baby Borg

Borgwarner trophy and baby borg
The “baby” Borg compared to the full size Borg-Warner Trophy

The Victors needn’t lug home this giant trophy because since 1988 the Champions have receive a miniature version of their own….. the “Baby Borg.”

the-borg warner-championship-drivers-trophy
The Borg-Warner Championship Driver’s Trophy, aka “Baby Borg”

The sterling silver Baby Borg trophy is 14 inches high (18″ with base), weighs 5 pounds and rests on a beveled black marble base. The base is inscribed with the winner’s name and year of victory, and includes a hand-crafted, three-dimensional sterling silver image of the winner, a duplicate of the image affixed to the full-sized Borg-Warner Trophy.


For his own personal Baby Borg Trophy, 2019 victor Simon Pagenaud had his adorable Jack Russell Terrier and constant companion, Norman added as well.

Borg-Warner Pagenaud
Sterling silver likeness of 2019 Indianapolis 500 Winner Simon Pagenaud for the Borg-Warner Trophy and the Baby Borg given to Pagenaud
2019 Indy 500 winner simon pagenaud and jrt Norman
2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and his faithful companion, a jack russell terrier named Norman

If you wanna see more super cute pics of Norman, follow Simon on his Instagram

A new tradition began with the 1997 winner as BorgWarner also presented the winning car owner with a “Baby Borg.”

borg-warner indy 500 trophy

The Borg-Warner Trophy is permanently displayed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Borg-Warner Trophy™, BorgWarner Championship Driver’s Trophy™, and BorgWarner Championship Team Owner’s Trophy™ are trademarks of BorgWarner Inc. Indianapolis Motor Speedway (and Design)

Information and images courtesy of:

BorgWarner on Twitter