A 30 Year Indianapolis 500 Flashback

Imsradio I’m headed to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend.  30 years ago I was headed there as a “rookie” with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

I received a phone call that spring from then “Voice of the 500” Paul Page along with Bob Jenkins informing me I was going to be a part of the network.  At the time though they told me I was just going to be more of a “helper” than actually being one of the voices of the race.

As was the tradition back then, the network held a breakfast for everyone on Wednesday before practice began at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hotel.  It was at that breakfast I was informed I would be part of the broadcast as the announcer on the back stretch position. (The position was discontinued after the 1981 race when I moved to the third turn.)

I remember the excitement at the start of the race and seeing those 33 cars come by me on the the first parade lap. When the green flag flew it was down to business.

Just 9 laps into the 1980 Indianapolis 500, Bill Whittington crashed coming off turn 2 and suddenly I was describing to the world the incident and aftermath.  Quite something for a guy that had grown up in a small  southern Indiana town listening to the Indianapolis 500 as a boy.

Johnny Rutherford would go on to win that 1980 Indianapolis 500 but I also won that day.

Being a part of that broadcast and 14 more of them before heading to the CART series to do radio for them in 1996 fueled my love of auto racing. It opened the door to many opportunities with the sport.  It allowed me to travel to such places as Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Canada to broadcast races.  It gave me the opportunity to do radio for the last Formula One race in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace. It also allowed me to make lasting friendships with so many involved in racing from drivers to owners to series officials to media members and race fans themselves.

No matter what my personal feelings are about the state of IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given in 1980 that allowed me to be doing what I am today.

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