With NASCAR visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for the Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard, we asked a few members of the motorsports media to share Brickyard stories. Today, Dustin Long of NBC Sports offers a memory from his youth.
My first trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway actually began the night before my mother pulled me out of elementary school to attend Carb Day. I went to a store in my hometown of Lafayette to get an autograph book.
This is how long ago that trip was: The first autograph in my book is from Janet Guthrie.
Through the late ’70s and early ’80s, my mother took me to Carb Day, giving me a chance to collect autographs from that era’s drivers. My book, which I still have, includes signatures from A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Tom Sneva, Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr., Danny Sullivan, Arie Luyendyk and Emerson Fittipaldi.
The most memorable autograph, though, came not from a driver but a car owner.
One year, after the pit stop competition, I spotted Roger Penske. When he approached, I asked for his autograph. As I handed him my book and pen, he handed me his beer can to hold. I’m sure it was just a natural reaction since he needed both hands to sign my book and there wasn’t anyone else around to hold his beer.
Still, the thrill was immense. Suddenly, this 12-year-old not only was getting Penske’s autograph but holding his beer. When he finished signing, he returned my book and pen and I gave him back his beer.
When I walked over to my mom, I exclaimed: “I got to hold Roger Penske’s beer!’’
I probably held that can for 15 seconds at most but it is a memory that I’ll never forget.