(WOMR file photo)
I must admit that I am a middle aged man that, is most likely, past my prime, so I have earned the right to reflect on many things!
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in the San Joaquin Valley of California, having a local homie,Billy Vukovich, who had won the the 1953 and 1954 Indy 500 decisively, was a heavy favorite to win, and was leading the race at the time of his fatal wreck in 1955, cultivated my love of racing. (I have to thank my older brothers for introducing me to racing.)
We used to go to the local short track, Kearney Bowl, on friday nights to watch good racing. Additionally, we would always gather around the console radio on Memorial Day, back in the 50’s to listen to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, the Indianapolis 500! Later, in the 70’s ABC would televise the race on a taped delay basis, and I would camp out in front of the TV to watch the race. Finally, ABC began doing the race live somewhere in the mid to late 70’s.
Fast forward to 1987, and a much older version of me:
Somehow, I think that it was on a whim in 1987, I had an opportunity to go to the Indy 500 with a friend, so I jumped all over that chance. I wasn’t sure quite how all this was going to work out, but it did!
After a flying partially there, then driving the rest of the way, we arrived in Indianapolis, and the rest of the story went like this:
Upon leaving the interstate, and driving through the World War II bedroom community of Speedway IN, we drove east on the heavily treed 16th St. As we stopped at the stoplight at Georgetown and 16th, there on the northeast corner was THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY! My jaw just dropped!
Once we got setup in my friend’s motorhome (actually it was his in-law’s motorhome), I walked over to the facility. As I was walking down Georgetown St., it is the street that is directly behind, and parallels the front straight grandstands, I could feel, and faintly hear, all the specters of all the past Indy 500’s.
This race track is so rich with history.
Think about it.
There are hundreds of people who have made this race “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing”. These are the giants in motor racing. My mind was racing with the thoughts of meeting with, and talking to, some of those greats like, Andy Granatelli, A.J. Watson, George Bignotti, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Johnny Parsons, my homie Billy Vukovich, Troy Ruttman, Jimmy Bryan, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, Jim Rathman, Rick Mears, Roger Ward, Eddie Sachs, and Jim Hurtubise, just to name a few of those magnificent men and their racing machines!
The hair on the back of my neck stood straight out!
Well folks, after a seventeen year absence, I drove down that same road, 16th St., this past Wednesday morning, and all those chilling thoughts and emotions instantly replayed inside this 62 year old redneck’s brain! I had to pull into the small parking lot that services the main offices of the speedway’s administration employees and just gather myself up.
I thought to myself, HE’S BACK!
Yes sports fans he is back, revisiting and enjoying all the luster of the on track activities of the Indy 500. The culmination of this visit will be the 97th running of the “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing”, the 2013 Indy 500!
I just can’t wait!
See you on TV!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!