The living Medal of Honor recipients were honored during the Festival Parade in 1999. On Race Day, I was wearing my Indy 500 Race Day best, standing in the parking lot behind the Pagoda and up comes four vans and let out the MoH honorees for a trip around the Speedway with honors. Each in turn came up to me and shook my hand as I welcomed them to the Speedway. After shaking the hands of about 35 heroes and watched them head toward Gasoline Alley, I slowly walked back to my seat...speechless...for quite a while... I'll always remember that very special occasion with those wonderful men...who all served '...above and beyond the call of duty...'
Every Memorial Day a flood of memories comes back to me.
I grew up on the west side of Indianapolis. In high school we would skip school and go to Carb Day and have a blast. We really didn’t watch much of the track action to be honest. There was too much to watch in the infield!
I remember walking through the infield and seeing Mario Andretti’s transporter and watching them load it. We started talking towards the guy standing by the transporter and realized it was Michael Andretti himself! This was before he raced at Indy and he was working for his dad. He was a very nice guy, he answered all our questions. You would have never guessed he was racing royalty. It was just like talking to my neighbor. This was back when the Coca Cola field was filled to capacity days before the race. In the mid to late 80’s.
A few years after high school I met my girlfriend, her grandfather was a car owner. Most of her family was involved with the team. Her brother and dad were members of the pit crew. It was also interesting to hear the gossip going on behind the scenes. They would always chat about what they were struggling with to get the car setup and ready to compete. The guys basically lived at the track the whole month, sometimes working around the clock. It was pretty intense. A few times when I was at the shop I was asked to help them load the transporter before they headed out to a race. I remember bracing myself to pick up a rear wheel as if I was picking up something heavy and the wheel practically flew up in the air. I was amazed something that big could be so light.
The whole month of May was special. Lots of energy in the city, tons of nightlife, race parties etc. Nonstop fun. It wasn’t uncommon to see celebrities out on the town during the month of May.
Years later I was forced to move from Indianapolis after being laid-off from my job. Since then I have traveled all over the country as a computer consultant for the last 12 years. I try to make it back to the 500 every chance I get. It always reminds me of all the great times I had when I was younger. When the balloons fly and the fighters fly over – there is no way you can resist being proud to be American. To this day, the spectacle of the Indianapolis 500 is one of the most electric things I have ever witnessed.
I’ve been to the 500 several times since I left Indy. I always park in the same complex that I lived in back in the day and walk the same path I did back then. I love taking in the sights and sounds of the race. Of course I have to pick up some White Castles and some King Ribs to make my trip complete. I can’t explain it, but my eyes always tear up during the invocation. I will always miss it. Sitting in the stands, getting burnt to a crisp. And having not a care in the world.
When I am unable to make it back to Indy for the 500, Memorial Day is filled with mixed emotions. It’s just not the same watching it from 1000 miles away. I remember when I was a little kid we would sit out in the back yard listening to the cars engines roar in the distance (probably 10 miles away) and listening to the race on the radio.
It was a great time to grow up in Indianapolis. Thank you for the memories and giving me one more thing to be proud to be a Hoosier and most of all, an American.
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Great Story... When I was young my father was in the Air Force stationed in Indianapolis as a recruiter. He would take me to the track to watch the practice runs of the cars. He also was able to get us a ride around the track where we stopped and looked at the bricks at the starting line that they said were part of the original brick track. One other thing I noticed was the houses behind the track had very high stands in their backyards that would allow them to watch the track activity from their house. I thought that would be great to go out in your backyard and watch the cars anything you want. Those are some great memories and I always enjoy the Indy 500.
Growing up on the southside of the track we were very poor. The only way for me at age 16 to ever see my own home towns race was to first to get to the track, then worry about it. I walked down the railroad tracks all night with 2 dollars mom scraped up. During the long walk all night I kept seeing newspaper trucks loading up news stands. I eventually found an old kids wagon in the trash with 3 wheels but rolled fine. At 4am I bought one paper but loaded up the whole newly stocked stand and put them all on the wagon. Walked another few miles and at daybreak sold them to people camping as they woke up. Finally seeing the race on tuesday it resulted in getting kicked out of emmerich manual high school for missing tuesday after memorial day. The principal didnt buy this true story. So I joined navy at 17 left Indiana and family. The race rained out, sun and mon. Since most people had to go home, I earned enough to go from general admission to Tuesdays rain delayed front row penthouse tickets. Ironically my single seat was right next to Sweade Savage's wife and posse. We were sitting very near to Swedes fatal 4th turn that year. My eyes saw everything. That's alot of growing up in one week. I've watched it live every year since. My mom Beverly Moore was classmate's with Mary Hulman and was dating Roger Mkclusky at time of his fatal crash then in despare met my very tall and handsome dead beat dad. I now build really big big boats and live oceanfront on west coast. If I would have stayed in high school and missed that year I wouldn't have lived everyday since like it was my last. Thank you Mary, Swede, Indy star and news and Mom for knowing I'd figure it out, you dont steal to benefit after your not poor anymore.
Great story...I grew up in Oregon on a small ranch and watching the Indy 500 on TV each year was a national holiday in my house. I was into every aspect of it that I could see on TV. Once all the sports channels came about and they started televising practice live I recorded every second. In 1998, 21 years after my first memory of my first Indy 500 on TV I got to take in the moment in person. I spent the entire week leading up to the race at Indy. From the time the gates opened each day until they kicked me out. It was the most amazing thing I have ever attended. It was a dream to be there. Even got interviewed by Calabro for the news the morning of the race while standing outside gasoline alley with the earliest arrivals. I had traveled farther than anyone else in that group so I got the interview. Amazing experience and recommend it for anyone's bucket list!