My dad woke mom and I up early in 1956 and said we were “going for a ride” . As we neared the area of 16th and Georgetown, I realized we were headed for THEE RACE. I do remember the traffic and my dad was not really looking forward to getting his year old Ford all dinged up so I was quite surprised when we actually turned into the infield and pulled up to the 1st turn infield area (front row actually). The rains the week before and up to early raceday morning left the ground a bit soggy but I didn’t care…we were at the track. It was a good day!
What a thrill to actually be at the RACE and while the pre-race hoopla was exciting, nothing could beat the sound of those 33 cars as they came barreling into the 1st turn. You could pick the Novi’s sound out from all the Offys immediately as Paul Russo came through the 1st turn. Then, on lap 21, we heard a loud pop and the red Novi was sideways through the turn and against the wall. I was relieved as Russo climbed out of the car and walked to the inside of the track. As the race progressed the clear favorite for me had to be the white and pink car of Pat Flaherty. As he entered the turn, I could see that green shamrock on his helmet. Flaherty ended up winning the event that year and for me, my 1st race was a memorable experience. I have only missed 2 since then while in the Army in 1966 & 67.
Another favorite of mine, Tony Bettenhausen did not fare as well. The beautiful blue and gold # 99 Belanger Special ended up on the South Short Chute with a hard hit, ending Tony B’s day. Future winners including Sam Hanks, and Rodger Ward along with past winners, Johnnie Parsons and Bob Sweikert finished in the top 10 that year. But oh, the sound of that Novi…………..