My Husband Todd loves Insy Car racing and the Indy 500. He turned 40 in November and this May will be his 41st race! He has been every year of his life and his first race was when he was only 6 months old!
With the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race approaching in 2016, we’re showcasing the world’s most passionate and knowledgeable race fans – Indianapolis 500 ticketholders for 30 years or longer. To meet more Superfans, click here.
A 57-year-old resident of Evergreen Park, Illinois, Tom Savory will make his 40th consecutive trip to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in May. An ironworker with Local 1 in Chicago, he’s envious of the Project 100 ironworkers but admits “I would spend most of my time gazing around the Speedway, sneaking off to the museum or pestering Donald Davidson.”
Where we sit: There is a group of around 25-30 of us who sit in Section 3 of the Southwest Vista. Some are from my hometown of Clinton, Iowa, while others are from St. Louis and Central Illinois. Four of us, Mike Bray, Dave Parker and Jay Watters have a combined total of 169 races! Dave organizes the tickets and seating, Jay puts together the race pool and grills brats for everyone after the race, and Mike “brings the wood,” hauling in a truckload for our campfire. I guess my role is to keep everyone informed on “500” trivia and race facts, sort of a minor-league Donald Davidson. What was once a few rowdy teenagers has become a community as we all began bringing girlfriends, wives and kids. We lost one of our camping buddies, Pete Seiler of Indianola, Iowa, who passed away two years ago. He was a true Superfan, attending his first race in the ’40s at the age of 16. He snuck out of his house in Iowa and hitchhiked to the Speedway. There are also several locals who greet us like long-lost friends year after year. I’ve sat on the main straight a few times, but the Vista just feels like home.
At our first “500”: I first came as an 18-year-old college freshman in 1977. I still remember the electricity I felt as I walked up into the stands and looked over the incredible race day crowd. I’d convinced a couple of college buddies to come with me, we stayed with some friends on the northwest side of Indianapolis. We got caught in a massive traffic jam, ended up parking on a side street and ran about a mile or so to the Speedway, arriving during the national anthem. I was disappointed in missing the pre-race festivities, but that faded quickly as the race started. The “500” was the first race I’d seen live, and it was everything I dreamed it would be. As Gordon Johncock began to look like a sure winner, I was sorry to see him break down, not fully realizing at the time the historical significance of A.J.’s fourth win. After that day I vowed to stay near the track, and have ever since.
Our Race Day routine: It’s more like a weekend routine. We’ve stayed on the 2100 block of Main Street in Speedway for years. Our hosts, John and Dee Caszeres, welcome us with open arms. They line the walls of their garage/bar with photos of all the people who’ve camped in their yard. Most of us arrive on Thursday. We’ll fire up our grills, open the coolers, greet long lost friends and always make a few new ones. It always amazes me, the number of people who stop by to visit. We’ve had visitors from New Zealand, Canada and from all over the USA. On Race Day, I usually wake up with the aerial bomb and try, unsuccessfully, to catch a few more winks. So, I get up, stop by the American Legion for a cup of coffee and take a stroll down Georgetown Road, letting the excitement build. We head to the track about two hours before race time.
What we bring to our seats: Our voices. Mike and I were choir partners in high school and it just seemed natural the first time we sat together that we would sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” with Jim Nabors. Each year the people in the surrounding seats ask if we plan to sing again and many turn to watch us. I’ve had this dream that someone posted a video of us singing, it goes viral and the Speedway asks us to perform before the race. As far as refreshments, I like to keep it simple, a few beverages, maybe some cheese and sausage. Mike is an avid hunter and brings deer sausage or jerky. I always pack a washcloth in the cooler – it comes in very handy around 400 miles!
Our favorite “500”: Ryan Hunter Reay’s win was incredible. Tony Kanaan’s well-deserved victory was great for the fans and for racing. But my favorite moment at the Speedway was in 1992 during qualifications. Although he didn’t win the pole and the record didn’t stand, I was able to see Gary Bettenhausen blister the track as Tom Carnegie’s voice boomed, “And it’s a neew traack record!”
Brush with greatness: My birthday is June 1, and I’d wanted to try to play golf at Brickyard Crossing for my 50th birthday. My wife, Kathy, booked a foursome at “The Rollie” golf tournament, which used to be the Wednesday before the “500.” Tony George was there, along with Bobby and Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Darren Manning. We were paired with Jerry Sneva. He, in turn, introduced us to Bill Vukovich Jr. and Lloyd Ruby. It was so much fun to hear their stories and just to hang out. Also, a couple of years ago, I called the Speedway with a question about an old photo I’d found and was amazed that they put me right through to Donald Davidson. He was every bit as personable as he sounds on his radio show. And finally, I’d sent a get-well card to Roberto Guerrero at Methodist Hospital after his 1988 crash. I didn’t think much about it, but that December, I received a letter with a California postmark and no return address. I set it aside and a while later my wife says, “I can’t believe you didn’t open up your Christmas card from Roberto Guerrero!” He’d actually taken the time to send a card and handwritten note.
Our favorite drivers from the past: Bill Vukovich, Bill Vukovich Jr., Gary and Tony Bettenhausen, Mike Mosley, Lloyd Ruby, Roberto Guerrero.
Our favorite drivers today: Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden.
What the 100th means to us: I’m really excited to see what IMS has in store for us this year. The Centennial Era celebration was fantastic, and I wonder how they are going to top it. I’m also looking forward to having my family back at the race. My two daughters and son have missed the past two years due to their college graduations on Saturday, but everyone is coming this year.