Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Indy 500 Brings Out the Kid in Me

I Had One Just Like It...Only Smaller
As a child, I was bitten by the bug of auto racing.

Blame my grandmother.  She worked for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gift shop, and she would always bring me the coolest t-shirts and toys.  My entire room was decorated in auto racing.  I had curtains with race cars on them.  I had crossed checkered flags on my wall, and I had a ceramic Bobby Unser and Rick Mears cars racing for the win on the wall.

One of my earliest toys that I can remember was a van with a trailer and on that trailer was A.J. Foyt, Jr.'s number 14 Gilmore-Copenhagen Coyote.  It came with a figure of A.J. himself along with his father, A.J. senior.  I played with that car until the wheels fell off.  I also had a big plastic yellow Pennzoil car with Johnny Rutherford's name on it.  I remember when Rick Mears started driving the Pennzoil car, so I marked out Rutherford's name and added Mears' name.

This was always the month.

The month of May in Indy was my favorite time of year.  For some kids, it was Christmas they pined for.  For me, it was sitting in front of my radio and listening to the Indianapolis 500.

I could identify all the cars.  I could identify all the sponsors.  I would voraciously read anything that had to do with the Indy 500.  In short, the Indianapolis 500 is a big part of my life and has always been like another family member to me.

As sure as I'm sitting here, I believe IMS is a living, breathing animal. You have to treat it with the utmost respect.  As we've seen this week alone, it has no favorites.  It will crush a driver's dreams as quickly as it will reward them.  How else can you explain that Rick Mears led 429 laps at Indy and won four 500's, but Michael Andretti led 431 and never won one?  Fairness means nothing to the racing gods at Indianapolis.  It's one of the only races where you can become immortal for how you LOST the race.

I even had the chance to work there for a few years and be a part of the events.  You really appreciate what it takes to put on that big event every year when you work for the Hulman-George Family.  It was a 2:30 a.m. wakeup call on Race Day that found me at my post by 4:00 a.m. slinging hot dogs and working with our team.  My mom was the concessions stand manager and I was her assistant.  We had to be a team.  Each person had his or her role, and if one broke down then the line would get out of hand.  "Just don't look up," my mom would say.  "We have to serve them all."

I anxiously await this upcoming Sunday each year.  With a kid-like glee, I'll turn on my radio on Race Day and get ready to listen once again to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.  Later in the day, I'll watch the rebroadcast knowing full and well who won the race earlier in the day.  The Indy 500 is one of the big reasons I got into radio.  I still dream one day of being a turn announcer.

I dream someday of getting rich and buying an IndyCar team.  Well, get to ad clicking.  I'm going to need a lot of help.

Maybe it will happen...maybe it won't.  At 39, you still have to have dreams.

So many things have changed in my life.  My mom and dad are now both gone.  My grandma has long since passed.  I have no idea what happened to that plastic Pennzoil car, and A.J. Foyt is now 80 years old.  One constant...on Sunday (weather permitting) the green flag will drop on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

It will be race day yet again in Indianapolis, and it will continue each year long after I'm gone.

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