When I was a boy of about 13, my father took us to IMS for the first time. He worked for Colonial bakery in Indianapolis and the bakery sponsored a car in the 500. We went to time trials. I remember not only the speeds of the cars, but the smells and sounds. You could literally feel the cars as they flew down the front straight. IMS is a literal attack on your senses. Hearing the engines rev and speed down the front straight was like nothing I had ever heard. The smell of the fuel expelled from these rockets on wheels seemed to burn your nostrils. The taste of the bologna sandwich my father brought that day may have been the best bologna sandwich I ever had. Not only the taste of the sandwich, but the promise of a slushy offered on good behavior. At the age of the 13, I discovered what it was like to FEEL the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Every sense of the IMS, coming together to converge, would be permanently inside my heart my whole life. That day set the tone for a passion I would carry with me into adulthood. My father passed away when I was 15 years old. I wasn’t incredibly close to my father. However, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would connect me and my dad forever.
In college, I was enrolled in the Photojournalism program at Ball State. Part of the curriculum was to take an internship. My photography professor, Bob Heintzelman, introduced our class to an internship shooting for Reuters International News Service. I immediately showed interest and signed up. It was in this month of May and 5 more years after that would bring all those childhood dreams back to life. I never imagined I would have ever had this opportunity in life. I was there every day the track was open. Most of the days, it rained. It never washed away my passion for this place. IMS brought me closer to my dad. It reminded me of the time he brought me and my brother to the track, to show us what IMS is all about and why he loved it. What isn’t to love about IMS? It attacks your senses. IMS isn’t just pavement, or bricks, or buildings or even cars. It is a “feeling.” And I never wanted it to go away. I was overwhelmed in the excitement of the history, the rules and the drama that is IMS. I had the opportunity of a lifetime and am forever grateful. I was able to rub elbows with some of the drivers and mechanics. I was permitted to get so close, one day I inhaled some of the fuel as one of the teams started the car. I nearly passed out. I did not care, although I would not do it again. Being in the pits was a dangerous place to be. Paying attention was not an option. I loved it. I loved every single minute of it. I was sold for life.
In my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to see 15 races with my best friends, my brothers and colleagues. I remember every single race. I remember how I felt. I never had the opportunity to see a race with my dad, but I would like to think he was there with me for every one of them. I imagined him looking down on me with a smile on his face.
A couple years ago, I took my daughter who was 11 at the time, to Pole Day. I was excited. She was excited. For the first time in my life, I was able to pass on what my dad shared with me so many years ago. I had the opportunity to share with her the “feeling” of IMS. The day did not disappoint. She came within inches of meeting Danica Patrick; her hero. We had the best of days together. She was interested in the qualification process, what everything in the pits was. Watching her stand at the fence gazing at the pits, my heart felt happy. My daughter was as amazed as I was when my dad brought me there for the first time. She had the “feeling.” Her senses were attacking her all at once. Everything had come full circle. Like an oval. Like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For that, I am forever grateful. Once you have the feeling of IMS in your blood, heart and bones, it can never be taken away. Ever. Someday we are going to go see the race together. My hope, is one day, she will take her kids.
— Jim & Autumn