Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

May 17, 2010

The Indianapolis 500: A Personal History

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:03 pm

Please pardon this half-month indulgence. You are about to get regaled with stories of Indy past. My personal history with the place stretches back to 1959, and I have seen evolution and history unfold before my eyes. I consider myself one of the luckiest people on earth as I prepare for my 46th Indianapolis 500. Many critics call me a ‘place fan’ as if that is a bad thing. It’s not, and I am.

In 1959 I was five years old. I had a never-married aunt (my Godmother) who was a voracious reader and huge sports fan. She never held a drivers license and did not ever take up driving. She also chain smoked Kents. One of her favorite sports was auto racing and she was at the track more than my own father. She particularly liked the drama of pole and bump days at the track, and in 1959 she decided to take me, her godson, to the track for pole day via cab, to and from. Her routine had been set years prior. The ‘track pack’ included a couple of packs of Kents, a large paperback or two, a stopwatch and a comfy cushion. She would then plant herself in the Paddock Penthouse and proceed to read until cars took to the track and during breaks in the action. At that point her stopwatch appeared along with the trusty Star time/speed conversion chart.

From the moment she took me in to the place I was hooked. As a five year old kid, fidgeting and the desire to roam to buy treats and souvenirs was overwhelming. She did not feel like making the climb up and down stairs, so she would hand me $5 at a time (big money in ’59) so I could occupy myself for a while. As soon as the cars hit the track I was transfixed. The noise, speed and smell were indescribable. Tom Carnegie’s voice became engrained.

That is how my love affair began. For two long years I was only allowed to attend pole day, bump day and occasional practice days until I was considered ‘old enough’ to attend. Then, in 1961, I was officially allowed into the family circle. That is where the story picks up tomorrow.



  1. Dear Defender: It is easy to understand your passion and devotion to the 500 and all traditions Indy…while I am not from Indiana, I remember the first time I watched the 500 on TV, the first live broadcast on ABC in 1986 when Bobby Rahal topped the field and took the checkers…wow! what a spectacle and I was hooked on Indy Cars…after traveling around the country seeing both IRL and CART/Champ Car events (from Long Beach and Fontana to Vegas to Portland to Phoenix to Sonomoa to Milwaukee to Chicago to Nashville to Loudon to Richmond to Cleveland to Homestead/Miami and even Disney World) I still love the last Sunday in May because of the 500 and the excitement that the race and all of its traditions bring…too bad we are stuck having to endure another year with the Dallara and its topped out speeds…I am ready for a new chassis/engine combo and having the drivers try to break a new speed record somewhere down the line…where is 250 MPH already?

    Comment by Neil Rubin — May 17, 2010 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  2. Seeing as how your “time” starts about 1959, you probably remember when USAC was the sole sanctioning body. To be sure, the officiating left a lot to be desired, but the racing was like fine wine, to be bottled and preserved. My favorite ‘500 of that time was 1974, when a man who really deserved to win above all the others finally did it, and Johnny Rutherford became one of open-wheel’s all time greats, as well as my favorite all-time driver. Man, was that a time! Seems like we all have great memories of Indy…….

    Comment by DOUG — May 17, 2010 @ 3:00 pm | Reply

  3. I also meant to mention it’s fitting you start today’s blog with a picture of Rodger Ward. That number one on his car indicates it’s 1960, the year he finished second to Jim Rathmann. Many consider that ‘500 to be the greatest of all time.

    Comment by DOUG — May 17, 2010 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

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