My 500 traditions with my father and family
My favorite racing memories are the traditions that my father and I started in the late 1960’s to 1980’s.
The first time that my father took me to the track was the rain-out pole day in 1969 when Jigger Sirois failed to qualify. We returned every year for the first day of qualfications and sometimes the race. We would wake up at 5am and park on Falcon Lane off of the third turn. At 6am when the track opened, we would watch the mad dash of cars and motorcycles race into the track. Then with the other hundreds of people, we made the long trek from the third turn to the grandstands across from the pits. Every year we would bring the same food for breakfast (donuts), the same lunches (sandwich, pickles and cookies) in a big paper bag and a thermos filled with ice, juice and cans of soda. Of course, we also brought a rain poncho in case it rained. We had it down to a science.
The 1970’s and the 1980’s were exciting times. The grandstands were packed by 8am on pole day. For many years, we heard Tom Carnegie say “It’s a new track record” and the crowd would go wild. It was so thrilling when Tom Sneva cracked the famous 200 mph lap barrier and then a few years later cracked the 210 mph barrier. There were so many great legends back then like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Gordon Johncock and Rick Mears to say the least.
Over the years, I continued to follow the qualifications and race throughout the month of May. In the early 1990’s, I started a new tradition when I went to qualifications with my wife. Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about the history of the 500 dating back to 1909. Now, I am teaching my kids all the famous drivers over the 90 years by playing “500 bingo” and “500-monopoly” games I created. They have already started to learn some of the top drivers from the early days like Ray Harroun, Ralph DePalma and Jim Hurtubise from the 1960s.
The old traditions continue and new ones are being formed. Just this past year, my father and I went back to qualifications again although we walked from my house in Speedway instead of the third turn. We brought similar food and drinks but in a thermal lunch bag instead of the paper bag. Now, I am forming a new tradition with my kids. For the last two years, I have taken them to the track on a practice with our thermal lunch bag. Due to their young age, they do not last long. Next year, it would be a wonderful time to start a new tradition by going to qualification with my father, my wife and my kids on the 100th anniversary of the track.