A return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

I’m not sure I should admit this.  When I arrive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Wednesday, it will be just the second time I’ve stepped on the grounds at 16th and Georgetown since doing my last IMS Radio Network broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 in 1995.  I haven’t attended the race since that time either.

For many years, I was involved with CART as a broadcaster and that precluded my “visitation.”  In 1996, I was at Michigan International Speedway for what became a disaster with the start to the U.S. 500.  (I was a pit reporter on radio and had to help fill over an hour of a red flag.)

It’s really amazing I haven’t been back to Indianapolis more.

Growing up in southern Indiana, my family would always make the 70 mile drive to Indy for Pole Day every year.  We’d sit in the upper grandstands across from the pits and watch all the action.  Memorial Day, we’d be around the radio to listen to the race. (No TV back then.)

My older brothers took me to my first Indianapolis 500 in 1966, where I saw Graham Hill win, and Jimmy Clark spin right in front of me in the north short chute and hit nothing!

I remember the Lotus cars coming to Indy.  The roar of the Novi machines. The silence of the turbine cars of Andy Granatelli.

Somehow though, after  many years of spending every day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway whenever the track was open, I’ve faded away, or should I say my rabid interest has faded.

I have a very hard time of letting go of the past.  I enjoyed my “traditional” Indianapolis 500 month of May. I liked the best drivers in the world coming to the track on 16th street to see if they could tame the 2.5 mile oval.  Nascar stars, Formula 1 stars, USAC stars, anyone that was anyone in racing came to Indy in May.

I also saw different chassis, different engines, even different drivers.  I still remember Emerson Fittipaldi coming to Indianapolis and racing in a pink car.  Good God, it was Emerson Fittipaldi!

I miss the likes of Jim Hurtubise always putting up his “Gone fishing” sign on the shop.  I loved him trying to keep a roadster in the field, and finally giving in and turning the engine compartment into a giant ice chest full of beer in the garage.

I guess what I miss are the great stories and the even better racing lies that flowed during May.

It will be great seeing old friends like Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti, and so many more from my history at the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar racing in general.

However, I know it will never feel exactly right no matter what the racing is like to me.   I’m stuck in the past when “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was exactly that, the premiere racing event in the world and the only one to be run on what I believe is sacred ground at 16th and Georgetown. 

I’m a Neanderthal when it comes to the Indianapolis 500, I know it.  I’ll enjoy myself this weekend at the Speedway but I’ll be thinking a lot about all the history I saw and was a part of at Mr. Tony Hulman’s greatest accomplishment the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Maybe my burning desire to be there each May will be reborn, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.


1 Comment

  1. I will hold my breath that you indeed find that desire reborn!

    Have fun this weekend.

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