My First and Only Race
by "Methanol Mel" Anthony
I was only at the Speedway once, and that was in 2001. There was the usual awe when our three generations (Grandson, Son, and I) arrived at the track. It was awesome, We were in the 4th turn up in the top row along side the ESPN booth.
Getting back to our seats after a long restroom line, was a real workout. However I would do it again if I get the opportunity.
However I did get in one lap at the speedway, (Tour Bus).
We did have a ball dodging rain storms and trying to make all the pre Indy races. We made three out of four, However the Fairgrounds Champ dirt car race was washed out and postponed until September.
Indy - the best fun place to be in May !!
Memories of Pat Vidan
By Randall Cook
I have many memories of the Indianapolis 500 over the years. And I was lucky enough to have worked as a mechanic on cars in the race for many years as well. However, one of my more vivid memories involves meeting 500 starter Pat Vidan in 1972.
At the 1972 500 a friend and myself got ourselves hired to sell programs on qualifying weekends and during the race in order to get ourselves into the track for free and to make a few extra bucks. During qualifying you could walk around in the stands hawking the programs and still get to see all of the qualifying runs. And on race day our strategy was to sell programs right up until the start only because once the race started the fans basically quit buying anyway. Since we had access to all of the grandstands we could go just about anywhere to watch. Just before the start of the race we found a couple of empty seats in the Tower Terrace area with a view of the starting line and sat down. This gave us a clear view of one of the more disjointed and jumbled starts in the 500 up to that time.
What started the whole thing was that A.J. Foyt's turbocharged Ford vapor locked on the grid and wouldn't start when the command was given to start the engines. Chief Steward Harlan Fengler actually got on the public address system (as he often did) and started yelling for A.J. to get his car off of the race track. Foyt's crew finally pushed his Coyote to the end of the pits where they kept trying to get it started. This wasn't until the pace lap had already begun.
Fengler then instructed Vidan to add one more pace lap although this went beyond all precedent for the start of the 500 up to that point. And remember that this was when there was only a parade lap and a pace lap before the start. I can still see Pat Vidan holding a furled green flag on his platform atop the inside wall with one finger in the air calling for a start the next time around. At the last second Fengler must have changed his mind about holding up the start of the race just for Foyt and called for Vidan to go green which he did at the last possible moment. I seem to remember that the pace car was actually coming off of the track anyway expecting to see a start behind them. When the green flag was dropped most of the cars were still in low gear so the start wasn't much of a "flying" one.
I happened to run into Vidan in the Garage Area parking lot the day after the race and just walked up asked him what happened on the start. Although he didn’t know me at all Pat was a complete gentleman and was very polite in his comments. He stated that he was ready to wait one more lap for the actual start but, "Harlan said to go green, and I went green". He continued talking and went into a little more detail but I couldn’t help but think what a great guy he was to take the time to speak with me. Even at that younger age I realized that Pat Vidan was more than just another flagman.
I have no idea why but to this day I can remember how good Pat made me feel as he told his story of the start to some kid who was only a program seller. And I can still see Pat zipping up a big soft sided leather bag in which he carried all of his colorful flags as he continued putting them in the trunk of his car while he spoke. The whole incident left a big impression on me at the time.
Pat Vidan retired from his flagging duties at the 500 after the 1979 race and he passed away in 1983. There have been several different chief starters at Indianapolis since then and they’ve all been good. But to this day whenever I look up and see someone wave the green flag at the 500 I can’t help but think about Pat Vidan. To me he’ll always be the person who defined the role of the flagman at the Indianapolis 500.
The 1957 Indy 500 My First race!
By Glenn Dennee
I was invited to the 1957 Indy 500 by George Bignotti, He got us beds in someone's basement! That worked ok.
Best part of that trip was the Night before the 500 midget races! Thats right "RACES" plural, They usualy had 3 races the night before the 500, Not sure why that year there were only 2, My guess is the 150 lapper?
There were usualy 3 races held the night before the big race every year back then. This took place right across the street from the South end of the big speedway at the 16th Street speedway. They ran 2 complete programs that night,
We stayed up all night watching them, They were pretty some good races. We Left there shortly after the last race was held.
The main events were won by Chuck Rodee who won the first one that night at 150 laps,The second was won by Len Sutton at 50 laps. It was around 4 am by then. Then around 5 am the speedway opened, Most I remember about the race was I slept in the stands in turn 3 for most of it.
Sam Hanks was the winner of that race I think, I am not to sure as I was asleep for most of it?
Editor, Is this guy a diehard midget race fan or what?
My First Indy 500
by JR Williams
In 1952 I was in my senior year in a private high school. My father struggled hard to be able to finance my education. Coming from a below middle-class family, it was strange that my best friend was amoung the wealthiest in the school. He owned an MG-TF.
One day, in early May, I suggested to him that we skip one day of school and drive his MG to Indianapolis to watch the 500.
That evening, the phone rang while I was eating dinner with the family, and it was my friend. He told me that his father didn't want us to skip school, but that if I could get three tickets, he would charter a light plane and fly us out.
I purchased three $5.00 infield tickets and we flew out of the valley after school the day before the 500. The plane was a Stinson Voyager and the pilot's name was Walter Gerlock. Don't know how I remember that as I'm terrible with names.
In any case, we flew as far as Columbus, Ohio where we spent the night and on to the Speedway the next day.
What a thrill, the Speedway Airport was jam-packed with planes and there were shuttle buses to take us to the Speedway. We walked from the entrance all the way through the infield to our seats inside of turn three. On the way we were overwhelmed with the sights and sounds. People passed out drunk in the grass from partying all night, others offering passersby free beer to help them erect their pipe-frame bleachers (long since banned), young women parading around in all sorts of dress and undress. It was a fair, carnival, circus and race all in one place.
The sounds of the engines were exciting. Unlike today where the sounds are such high-pitched screams that ear plugs are required, back in those days there were no turbochargers and the engines ran at much slower RPM. The highest pitched was the famous supercharged NOVI. Most were Offies, but there was also the Cummins Diesel.
photo from aXe's collection
Vukie in 1952 on His way to the Steering problem
The day and the race wore on, and it looked for sure that Bill Vukovich was going to end up being the winner. Then, with just a few laps to go, a $.28 steering clamp broke, he ran into the turn three wall right in front of us, and his day was over.
When we flew out of the field after the race, the aircraft were lined up a few abreast, and someone waved a checkered flag sending us off. We flew all the way back home and arrived just before dark.
I'll never forget that Memorial Day of 1952 and the fact that I only paid $15.00 for it.
The 1964 500 – Tragedy And Transition
It Had The Potential To Be The Best
By Bill Blaylock
When I think about the Indianapolis 500 and the upcoming transition to a new rules package, I cannot help but reflect on the changes that I saw in the 1964 race. No other running of the 500 has offered more diversity and transition into a new era. The changes that surfaced were not the result of new rules; they were evolutionary and they were inevitable. That race was also the most tragic I have ever witnessed.
Until the second lap accident, and the loss of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald,
Eddie Sachs Dave McDonald
The 1964 race could have gone down in history as one of the most interesting and exciting. I remember climbing up into Grandstand C with my three teenage buddies that morning. The weather was perfect for racing. And I remember how we grinned at each other as we sensed the color and the noise from the field as it came by slowly on the parade lap. We could feel a momentous event at hand.
Looking back, it was for me clearly the most diverse 500 field in my lifetime, in several respects. The engines were diverse. It was the first year for the Ford four cam V-8, which introduced a new distinctive sound to the Brickyard, in part because of a cam tower that turned something like 14 gears.
Ford V8 4 Cammer and most of its timing gears
There were also three supercharged Novi's and of course the traditional Offys.
The chassis at Indy have never been so varied. There were the best of the roadsters, including Watsons and others, like Bill Cheesbourg's laydown from 1960 (formerly owned by Salih, and sometimes referred to as an Epperly), Johnny Boyd's Kuzma and two roadsters by Trevis. And there were of course the Lotus cars and a Brabham, and a crop of new rear engine cars from American shops for Ward, Branson, Hangsten and Veith (Huffaker's MG Liquid Suspension cars), the Shrike for Sachs and the radical but treacherous Mickey Thompson "roller skates." The field also included three Novi's -- two rear drive models and Bobby Unser's FWD Ferguson.
There was even a variety of tires in the race, with teams running Firestones, Allstates and Dunlops. Goodyear also had a presence during the practice sessions and laid the groundwork for its appearance in years to come.
And just imagine how mixed the field would have been if only a couple of cars on the DNQ list had made it in.
Bobby Johns tried to get Smokey Yunick's "sidecar" up to speed, only to spin it into the wall
Cliff Griffith gave it a try in Pete Salemi’s dirt car, getting it up to something like 144 mph. I still remember watching his run on bubble day. The crowd loved it and cheered him on lap by lap. His 144 was four mph short of making the field, but it probably stands to this day as a record for a dirt car. That would become Cliff's last effort to get in a 500 and the last effort by dirt car.
The driver profiles for 1964 were as diverse as the cars. There was the old guard, like Foyt, Sutton, Ward, Dick Rathmann and Ruttman, and there were younger drivers who had recently come up through USAC’s traditional ranks, like Rutherford, Harkey and Johnny White. The road racing clan was represented by the best from the grand prix side, like Clark, Gurney and Brabham, and the best from the SCCA, with the presence of MacDonald and Hangsten.
The Colonel Art Malone in one of the Brutish Novi's
There was even that drag racer in the line-up, as Art Malone qualified one of the Novi's (I mean no disparagement of drag racers here; in fact, when one thinks about its potential acceleration, who's to say that a little drag racing wasn't the right background for a two wheel drive Novi?).
Unfortunately, the chances for a great event ended on the second lap with the fiery MacDonald/Sachs crash. The race was restarted after almost a two hour cleanup, but it played out for the most part as a single file run. Clark led through lap six, and then Marshman passed him and started pulling away. But he went low through a rough spot in one of the corners and shaved off a transmission plug. He was out by lap 40. The lead reverted to Clark for nine laps, then his left rear Dunlop tire started chunking and took out the suspension on the Lotus. With Clark out on lap 49, Parnelli and A.J. moved to center stage for what was to become the last duel for the lead between roadsters at Indy. It was only a six lap moment, but it had all of us in Grandstand C on our feet. Parnelli came by lap after lap ahead of Foyt, until he pitted on lap 55. As he pulled out, his fuel tank and cockpit caught fire. Unlike Sachs and MacDonald, he was at low speed and he had not suffered a hard hit, so he could stand up and leap from his roadster, and that’s what he did, right onto the pit pavement. That put Foyt in first place on lap 55 and he stayed there to a comfortable finish. At one point he had a two lap lead on second place Ward, who struggled with excess fuel consumption all day.
When it was all over, my buddies and I joined the crowd in a long silent walk to our cars. That Foyt was the winner was probably no big surprise to anyone. But the way the race played out was totally unexpected. The results came no where close to reflecting the potential and the variety of the field that had come by us on the parade lap some five or so hours earlier. Of the 11 running at the finish, Ward's car was the only rear engine Ford. The rest were roadsters, and all of those but Art Malone's 11th place Novi were powered by the venerable Offy. There had been only one racing pass for the lead all day, which occurred when Marshman picked off Clark on lap 7. Every other change for the lead was inherited.
The 1964 500 is probably remembered mostly for its sorrowful beginning and its humdrum conclusion. Although these descriptions are valid, I think they obscure the fact that the 1964 race was historically important for racing in several respects. With five road racers in the field, an evolution in the career path to Indy for drivers was underway. The new Ford four cam V-8 ended what had been almost a Meyer-Drake Offenhauser monopoly since 1946. Corporate involvement in the form of Goodyear’s effort to get its tires in the field, and Ford’s support for the seven teams that ran its engine marked the beginning of a major shift in the economics of racing. The level of resources available for a top team started rising significantly, and would no longer be limited by the amount of prize money and the funding advanced by a well-to-do car owner and sportsman. And of course 1964 was the twilight for the roadster era.
When I reflect on Indy’s history, sooner or later I always get around to thinking about what the prospects for the 1964 race were -- with cars developed from GP racing, roadsters, the roller skates and of course the Novi’s, and with drivers like Foyt, Parnelli, Hurtubise, Ruttman, Marshman, Clark, Gurney, Brabham and others.
It keeps me thinking to this day about what could have been.
[Note: A previous version of this article was posted by the author on the Yahoo Racing History website]
All photos from aXe's collection
My favorite Indy 500 story
By Kevin M. Triplett
My favorite Indianapolis ‘500’ memory takes me back to 1984, which was the last year my parents attended the race. My Mother was not a race fan, but she enjoyed attending the ‘500’ in her native Indianapolis, and she tolerated my Dad and I talking about racing the other eleven months of the year. It was a sunny May morning, the first day of qualifying, and my wife, Mother, Dad and I were walking north behind the main grandstand and had just crossed the exit lane for Gasoline Alley, when I noticed that my Mother was not with us. I turned around and soon spotted my Mother in conversation with what appeared to be a driver. As I came closer, I saw that it was no less than Emerson Fittipaldi.
Fittipaldi was a rookie that year at Indianapolis, returning to racing after retiring from the Formula 1 circuit a couple of years earlier. My Mother happily chatted away until Fittipaldi excused himself, squeezed her hand, and headed towards pit lane. As we walked away, my Mother said she had just met a very nice man from Brazil. When I asked how she knew where he was from, she replied she knew because she had heard him speak Portuguese. My Dad and I were dumb-struck; she had no idea she had met a two-time world driving champion. When we explained whom she had just met, my Mother was unimpressed, for in her mind he was a "very nice man". Later after we got to our seats and the cars were out for practice.
I pointed out Emerson Fittipaldi’s pink car to my Mother, she asked me "Is he …..gay?"
photo from Kevins collection
The reason that Fittipaldi’s #47 W.I.T. Promotions March-Cosworth was never really very good wasnt clear.
Fittipaldi finished 32nd in the race a few weeks later, much to my Mother’s disappointment.
photo from Indianapolis Motor Speedway website,
However, in the years that followed, Emerson had much better days - as the driver for Pat Patrick and Roger Penske, Fittipaldi won two Indy 500’s. For the rest of her life, any time she heard the name "Emerson Fittipaldi," my Mother would proudly announced "I met him and he is a very nice man."
1992 Our First and one of the coldest indy 500's on record
The crashs after a lull in the racing caused by accidents and then a cold tire green flag were a lot. Cold Tires, caused a few to go right straight into the first run crash wall right in front of us in the SWVista. There were no less than 7 crashed cars parked there off the track. One car driven by Phillipe Gach was just about broke in half after being tboned by Stan Fox! Gache suffered a few broken bones. Stan was ok. Cause was Gache spinning out and Fox Screened out of Gaches view by AJ, Well AJ ducked and Fox right on his tail pipes didnt have enough notice to miss Gach.
Fox, Gache crash from aXe's collection
This being our first 500 the thing that stands out to Me to this day was that crashs sound, it didnt sound like a Short track saturday night high speed crash mangeling of Metal to Metal, it was more like a bomb going off.
I can still hear it, a Very Loud BOOM!
Story # 1
This story & Photo Brought to us By The Fan Joe Farling
Practice day May 5 TH 1968. Like most fans the place to see the cars was to stand next to the fence that guarded pit row.
Oh look, here comes the Turbine Car !
For a 12 year old boy it was so colorful, it was so sleek and I could see it up close. I snapped the picture not fully realizing the 2 legends that graced this moment. Graham Hill and Colin Chapman both seen in this picture taking the Turbine back to Gasoline Alley.
The picture was taken with a no-name camera and black and white film. Hence the lack of quality. A special time for a 12 year old 500 fan