We’re chronicling 100 days of Indy 500 history on #SpeedRead leading up to the historic 100th Running. With 48 days to go, Jeff Vrabel continues exploring the many tie-ins between the Indy 500 and pop culture.
More Vrabel: Late-night TV hosts at Indy | The “500” in reality TV shows | In old TV | In silent movie | In “Cars” | In “Turbo” | The Beatles at IMS | Pace Car drivers | Snake Pit rebirth | The ultimate “500” playlist | David Letterman, pit reporter | Indy 500 on Atari 2600 | On “Jeopardy!” | More 100 days blogs
The year 1961 was a pretty big one for A.J. Foyt: It was the year of his first Indy 500 victory, the golden anniversary of the race, the last year the front straightaway was all brick and, nearly as important, the year of his most notable appearance on a game show.
The date was June 1, 1961, just a few days after his victory, when Foyt and inaugural “500” winner Ray Harroun both showed up on “I’ve Got a Secret,” a panel game show created by the guys behind the highly successful “What’s My Line.” (The two game shows were sort of cousins to each other; posts about Foyt’s appearance online frequently mix up the two titles.)
The show found a panel of four contestants trying to determine the anonymous guests’, well, secret. Foyt, who we’ll just go ahead and say looks pretty dapper in suit and tie and no racing helmet (which is weird) is introduced as “Mr. X,” and Harroun as “Mr. Y” from Anderson, Indiana. Foyt’s secret, which he whispers to host Garry Moore: “I won the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race last week.” Harroun’s is, say it with us, “I won the FIRST Indianapolis race — 50 years ago.”
It says something to the media of the time that not one of the four panel members recognizes either Foyt or Harroun, so there’s a little weirdness in watching people stare at A.J. Dang Foyt being like, “And you are?” But to their credit, the panel figures it out pretty quickly, thanks to a guy wearing the most 1960s pair of glasses we’ve possibly ever seen. Afterwards, Foyt and Harroun go on to compare their two wins in terms of speed: Foyt’s average was “a little over 139 miles per hour,” and Harroun’s a little under 75. “Now think of that,” says Moore, “our conception of speed has changed so radically in the past 50 years, but your rate was considered phenomenal at the time.” And both men vouch for the safety of the race, especially the legendary Mr. Y: “It’s still safer than just riding on the highway with some of these hot-rodders.”
(Bonus: If you’re into this sort of thing, there’s also a clip of Formula One legend Stirling Moss on “What’s My Line” in March 1958.)