This is a series spotlighting the men and women who work at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and their stories from the Racing Capital of the World. For more, click here.
Planted in the middle of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield is a nondescript building at the intersection of Fifth Street and Hulman Boulevard that resembles a small house. Although no one actually lives there, the inconspicuous structure serves as a home away from home to many of the most important individuals who work events at the Racing Capital of the World, members of the IMS Safety Patrol.
The most common occupant of the building is Dick Matlock, who has an office there and is charged with organizing parking and other services during the nearly 200 events of all kinds held annually at IMS. Matlock’s career at the track began in 1964 when he became a member of the famed IMS Safety Patrol – the “Yellow Shirts” who assist customers by providing information and direction during IMS events.
After retiring from his day job, Matlock continued to work part-time for a few years at different places before IMS employee Jim Campbell – now the chief of the Speedway, Indiana, Police Department – contacted him 13 years ago to offer Matlock his current job at IMS.
“It’s a full-time, part-time position and I’ve got 20 people working for me,” Matlock said. “We’re in here off and on for 12 months a year for anything that comes in here like business meetings, luncheons, banquets, tire testing or whatever. It’s a fun job.”
Shortly after accepting his position in special events, a work acquaintance teased Matlock stating he ‘could train monkeys to park cars.’ While that less-than-complimentary quip didn’t sit particularly well with the mild-mannered Matlock, he wasn’t especially upset by it either. To the contrary, the remark inspired Matlock to have a little fun.
“One of my friends from Tower Terrace came and got me a few days later and said I have to show you something, and it was a stuffed monkey in the gift shop with a white shirt,” Matlock said. “So I bought the monkey and dyed the shirt yellow, and at that time I was driving a moped and I had the monkey on my moped as I went by his office so he could see my monkey, so that’s how it got started. Then everybody started giving me monkeys and I got the nickname as The Monkey Man. It grew and at one time I had 187 monkeys.”
Matlock, 75, has dozens of monkeys on display at his office, and while he enjoys seeing them every day, he’s delighted to share his collection with special visitors. “Now when I see little kids in the area I’ll bring them in here and give them monkeys to take home with them,” Matlock said. “It’s a fun thing.”
Matlock has enjoyed a variety of interesting experiences in his more than five decades at IMS including meeting a number of VIPs.
“When F1 was in here (United States Grand Prix, 2000-07), me and another guy got to bring one of the princes from across the street to the track and that was a big deal, though I can’t remember the country he was from,” Matlock said. “I also got to meet Vice President Dan Quayle, along with the governor and the mayor of Indianapolis. It’s fun doing this job because you get to meet a lot of interesting people.”