Tales From The Track

Memory Lane
Stories From The Stands

The following stories came from James, who began attending in the late 70's.
"Even though we were underage there was never a problem until 1986. After we had driven into the infield and were trying to recover from Sat. night enough to begin Sunday's drinking, me and a few friends were tossing a frisbee about and somone had left a single can of beer on the car. A group of cops came over and started hassling us about it. Of the group of four, only one was above about 5'-6"."

[Ummm, kinda like these guys?]
Short Fuzz
May 1998

"Anyway, they hassled us but would not arrest us if we poured out all of our remaining beer (probably 4-5 cases of Milwaukee's cheapest). We were bummed, but as we were emptying all this beer, a group of press came over and started taking photos and asking questions, and more people came to watch and then a news team came over. Mind you it was only 8 in the a.m. Well, I guess it got too exciting for us and beer is a carbonated beverage. One of my buddies took to shaking the cans before we opened them. The cops were pissed but they didn't get too wet and I guess with all the press they left us alone. It made the loss of our day's barley hops rather enjoyable to hose down the crowd around us inlcuding the press. We still had some bourbon in the car for the day."

"Apart from the general strangeness of the snake pit, the event I looked forward to every year was the burning of a car. You know how it went, a couple guys show up in an old Impala with the roof cut off and spray painted up with "Show us your tits" and they flip it. The crowd around eggs someone on to puncture the gas tank, then someone lights it."

"I think it was 81 or 82 that I saw three cars burned before the end of the race."

"Once, while the cops came in to clear room for the fire truck, a guy lobbed a beer bottle at the cops standing around the burning wreck. This started a chain reaction of the guy trying to hide behind the crowd with the cops chasing him and the crowd simultaneously sheltering him and narcing on him. They eventually caught the guy."

Boy meets James Garner

My brother was a Boy Scout in 1961 in Indianapolis. He used to go to the track & sell newspapers as a boy. Our house was located in Eagledale just walking distance to the track. On Race day, he went to the track & came home with a big red horn. When Mom asked him how & where he received the horn, he simply replied that a guy named James Garner had felt sorry for him & that he had asked him to sit in the tower with him all day to actually watch the race! Needless to say, my brother got a real earful on just who James Garner really was & he finally realized how lucky he had really been!

Walt has been to every Carb Day since 1981!
My story is about Carb Day in 1992. My friends and were just done crusing through the Turn 4 crowd. We were heading back to the pits. We were about 30 feet from crossing the road for Tunnel #7 when we saw a furniture truck approaching the tunnel to exit the track. Obviously the three guys sitting in the cab of this truck decided to take a quick trip to the track after making a delivery. They were a little toasted and forgot they entered the track via Tunnel #2 which has a 15 or 16 foot clearance to hand a tractor trailer truck.

Well this guys headed down the tunnel at full speed and pealed the top of their truck off. You see tunnel #7 has a 8' or 9' clearance which is perfect for cars. The truck hit so hard it lifted it off of its rear wheels momentarily. Anyway, these guys never got out of the truck and just backed it up to head towards tunnel #2. Did it without blinking an eye.

I always wondered how they explained that to their boss.

The following story came from Bruce, who has only missed 3 races since 1973!
"One year we spent Saturday night in the north 40. We heard some commotion towards where the RV's were parked. We wandered that way, and there was a guy standing on top of one with a box of t-shirts. Any lady who climbed up the ladder to the roof and displayed her assets got one of them."

"OK, OK, thank you honey! Who's next! Come on up, ladies! Here's one! Come on up, sweet thing, let's see them! OK! OK! Oooohh... Looking good! OK, here's your t-shirt. OK, ladies, come on, don't be bashful! Who's next!......"

Don's been attending the Indy 500 since 1974
I checked out your Traditions Section and was wondering about "Back Home Again In Indiana." How long has the song been sung as part of pre-race festivities?

My first Indy 500 was to be the '73 race, but after 2 days of rain my self-employed dad and I 0went home. I had been BEGGING him to take me to the race since I heard the radio broadcast in 1970. I was 5 in 1970 and he said I could go when I was 8. Three years is an eternity when you're 5!! In spite of missing the race that year, I did get my coolest Indy souvenier without seeing the race. My dad and I got to meet Jim Nabors at the Speedway hotel lobby. He autographed my ticket for me and I still have the ticket. This year will mark the 25th time I'll attend the 500. I've missed the race twice since 1974. I still get just as excited now as when I was 8.

AP Photographer certainly appreciates his view

My first race was in '67. It was a rainout after 20 laps, we came back the next day for more rain and then on the 3rd day we had a race. It ended with a last lap crash right in front of us and AJ Foyt weaving thru to get the win. I was hooked at the age of 9.
The years rolled by and I attended some races and listened on the radio to the ones I couldn't get to. I remember the feeling of hearing the start of the race on the radio and not being there, since 1986, I haven't missed a race except in '91 when I forgot to get my ticket order in on time. Since 1994 I have been lucky to live a dream. I got on with UPI as a photographer. I have been with AP for the last 3 races.
The thing that I find hardest to describe is the feeling you get, standing out in turn 3 up against the fence, looking at all those people and knowing that is just a drop in the bucket compared to the ones watching at home and listening all over the world.
Back Home Again in Indiana, taps, the flyovers, the balloons go up. Then the command to start their engines. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. As the cars roll by for the parade laps and the pace lap I try to concentrate on my task at hand, to photograph this great event. The race starts, I hear them as they approach down the backstretch. I am in focus and ready as I will ever be. The first cars come thru turn 3, I am still teary eyed and now shaking. After 2-4 laps I begin to settle in and enjoy the race and do my job. I just keep thinking, is this great or what?
Words can not describe the feelings, of atmosphere and that you will get, by attending this event, it is truley awsome. I hope someday you too, will be able to attend if you never have.
The luckiest guy on earth

Bus to Babylon - 1979
In 1979 my best bud and I decided we'd go to the 500. I'd been the year before with my Dad,and after a year of stories Bill had to go. Being young and broke,we ordered infield tickets,figuring if we had enough money we would "upgrade" when we got there.

We bought round-trip Greyhound tickets from Va. to Indy; I think they were $60. We boarded the bus Friday afternoon. It was an eventful trip. There are some strange people on cross country busses, I think we met them all. Changed busses in D.C. and Pittsburgh. As soon as it got dark (halfway into Ohio) somebody fired one up. Being the only longhairs on the bus, it looked very likely we wouldn't be on the bus when we got to Indy. Fortunately, the driver was a race fan. When we told him where we were going and that there's no way we'd screw it up, he realized we had a stealth toker on board.

The Borg.  We will assimilate you. Got to Indy in the morning and walked to the track. We spent the day there. This was the year extra cars qualified, so we saw that. While we were in the gift shop a lady came in and asked if they had any Rick Mears stuff. When they told her no, she said "Well, get some! I'm his mom and he's going to win tomorrow!"

As we were walking towards the beer line, here comes this guy walking towards us carrying the Borg-Warner trophy. To our surprise, he set it on the ground so we could take each others picture with it!

Spent that night partying on the street. When the rain started, we set up camp (along with a few hundred other people) under the small bridge outside the track. On the way to the track in the morning we bought tickets about 20 rows up in "A" for $50 , then sold our infield tix for $20. The race was great, both of us hoping Mears would blow it at the end so A.J. would win! After the race we walked back to the bus station and another endless bus ride. It is one of the great memories of my life. Dad and I will be back this year , but boy am I glad we don't have to ride another damn bus!

Mud Wrestling on the ol' Ugly Truck
I've witnessed the last 10 Indy 500 Races (even rainout races). Turn 3 in the infield has to be the wildest party I've ever witnessed. Every year the same group of guys driving the same ole beat up truck/van/scout (whatever the hell kinda vehicle it is) set up a mini-stage platform on top of their party mobile. The parking spot is horrible - right behind the infield bleachers. However, I don't think they come for the actual race! I have witnessed some crazy scenes on top of that platform. The most memorable invovles mud wrestling, a girl with a cast on her leg and a rather drunk and chubby Samoan man. The guys rasied approx. $60.00 for this handicapped girl. The only issue was she had to mud wrestle for the cash. By the time it was over her and the samoan were wrestling in the mud and I recall somebody wrapping their fingers with the singles and [censured]. Unbelieveable! My friends and I always sit in the turn three hill (lawn seats rock!). The entire Indy 500 experience isn't complete without taking a stroll by the ugly truck and watching the action. I love the Indy 500 for all its worth. The entire experience - eating the expensive food, drinking beer non-stop, paying $3.00 for the extra ice (never seem to bring enough), my first sun burn of the year, my college buddies from all over the U.S., and the diverse crowd.

PS- I think its Eddie Cheever's year! Cheever! Cheever! Cheever!

Guy meets Lazier in garage after race
Ive been going to the 500 since '92, and my grandparents have been going since the '30's. This year was my favorite experience. Last year I had my picture taken with Jaques Lazier after he missed the show, so I decided that I was going to get him to autograph it. Being without a garage pass made things a bit difficult, but I found a "hole in the fence" and managed to look like I belonged. I went to Truscelli Racing's garage but was told Jaques was meeting with engineers. After several more tries, a nice lady suggested I try after the race. Little did I know that this was Mrs. Truscelli. I made the most of my time in the morning, and met almost the entire starting field. After an enjoyable race I got back into the garage area. Again I was told by Mrs. Truscelli and Mrs. Lazier that he was busy, but this time I decided to wait. After a few minutes, I was taken inside the closed garage, cut in front of all the reporters, and got to spend a few minutes with Jaques and his wife, who are really nice people. Jaques said he didn't understand why he was being blamed for the St. James/Fisher incident, and that his water bottle broke 5 laps into the race. This was a wonderful end to a great race, and most drivers are nicer than you think after 500 miles in the car! M.S.

The A&A Coffee Shop
I have been going the Indy 500 since 1961. My dad, my uncle and my cousin and I would all go together for my first ten 500's. We would leave Crown Point, Indiana at 5:00 AM and always stop at the A&A Coffee Shop in Lebanon for breakfast and a pit stop. I always remember my dad ordering a short stack of pancakes and I of course would want to get what he ordered.

One particular year we left unusually early and arrived in Indy before daylight and decided to get a little sleep in the car before going to the track. My dad and uncle slept in the car and my cousin slept in the trunk with the lid down. I lay down next to the car in someone's yard. The next thing I know I was rudely awakened when someone dropped an ice chest on the ground and cold water splashed in my face! Not a good way to wake up.

I stood up and stretched and by then my dad and uncle were getting out of the car. My dad unlocked the trunk and my cousin was still sleeping. There were already many people making there way toward the track. My cousin, still in the trunk started to rise like a dead body coming back to life. You should have seen the look on the faces of some of the people passing by when they saw him "rise from the dead". We all started to laugh and talked about that moment for many years.

I still look forward to going to Indy every year just like it is my first race. I am the only one left of the original four. I love the 500 and traditions are a big part of going to Indy every year. My wife Beth goes with me every year now and she realizes how important the 500 is in my life and always will.

Bad Girls, Bad Girls, Whatcha Gonna Do?
I go to Indy every year and meet up with about 15-20 friends that come together from Chicago, Atlanta, Buffalo and Texas (me). We always camp out in a yard at the corner of 24th and Mayer. We ususally get the lawn chairs out and watch the circus go by all Saturday night (even if it rains). We are one block from (the 4th) turn and the crowd is pretty big and steady flow of traffic.

The 99' year gave us great entertainment. There was a convertable that kept coming by with two chicks and some sleezy dude - all drunk. Each time they came by the girls gave us more of a show. After about 2 hours of this they finally stopped the car for a few minutes. Both girls got half naked and the crowd closed in.

I wont go into details but lets just say that the group I was with decided to back off 'cause a cop would surely have cuffed about 50 people for what was going on in the back seat.

The car left and came back about 30 min later (now its dark). The car stopped again and the now REALLY drunk 3 in the car started yelling at a group of girls half a block down the road. Im not sure what it was about, but the next thing we knew, the sleezy-dude goes into his truck and pulls out a bag with what we assumed was a gun.

The crowd scattered, one of the drunk chicks hops behind the wheel and floors it in reverse, nearly running over a 50 year old dude who was fondling her minutes earlier. One of the guys in our group ran to get a cop.

Minutes later, 3 cruisers pull up. Sleeze-boy runs away, leaving his 2 ho's to deal with the cops. It turns out that the dude wasnt packing a gun, but rather a bowling ball (ok - we over- reacted about the gun!).

One of the cruisiers has a crew from the TV show COPS and gets it (and US) all on tape. He later told us that we would SURELY have been on TV if only we all hadn't started singing the COPS theme song when they cuffed the chicks. TOO BAD. True story.

Karen's Backyard
This will be my 29th year, not all in a row, of partaking in the festivities in Karen's backyard on 4828 W. 24th Street. My most memorable experience is all of them. The comaraderie of everyone in her backyard is just fantastic. A good time is had by all and everyone respects each other.

Good food, good times, great beer. Better women. THANKS KAREN!!!!
Note, parking/camping in people's yards is available in this area.

Too Many On Roof
This one dates back from time trials, around 1975 or so. We used to drive down from Michigan and park in the infield. There were some younger fellows, probably high school seniors or so. They had rented a white van and equipped it with lawn chairs, coolers, cookers, etc. They even had the foresight to bring a ladder so they could get on top of the van and watch the goings on. What they didn't think of was how much weight six or seven of these guys had, especially with the horsing around that was occurring. We watched as through the course of the day the van roof slowly became indented. Toward the end of the day, the roof was collapsed enough that the fellows ( fairly well lubricated by this time ) were laying on their backs inside the van and pushing up with their feet trying to restore the roof. All but one, that is. He sat on the ground and cried. Our assumption was that it was either in his name or his dad's!

Don't pass out there!!
Remember the old restrooms they used to have in the infeild (early 1970's), especially the one just behind the "Snake Pit" in Turn 1 ? They had no privacy. There were no stalls for you do your thing in. They were just long concrete block buildings with a "commode" that was nothing more than a trough with a hole cut in it every 3 feet that ran the length of the building.

Somehow (and I'm not sure how) I ended up asleep (Ok, passed out) across about 3 or 4 holes. When I woke up, there was a guy taking a "dump" about two holes down from my head ! Yuuuuucccckkkkk !!!!!

Also one year, to get a better view of the track, I was standing on the trunk of a 1968 Dodge Charger that had a beautiful "mural" (sp?) painted on the trunk, when along came the owner. I thought I was "dead meat" !

Instead the guy looks up at me and says "It's OK man, just don't put any dents in it......". ( Like he wasn't worried about the expensive paint job ! )

NHRA U.S. Nationals at Clermont
Indy Nationals Campground Stories.....Were You There ?

The Burnout King
Anyone who was camped at Clermont Lions Club Park from 1968 to 1977 will remember the "Burnout King" '68 Chevelle - burn outs until the tire blew out-- went through 8 tires that weekend!!
The "Canadian Flash" moon racer
"Mr' Bardahl" who spiked his beer with 30 wt. oil
Wally "don't shit in the trailer" Walker from Kentucky
the near riot in 1971 when 6 ISP units were called in and someone stole the keys from one of the ISP cruisers (pass them back up thru the crowd and there will be no questions asked).

Hoosier Hospitality
I've been going to the 500 since I was 9 years old. The 2003 race will be my 28th Indy 500. As a young person I went to the race with my dad, but he no longer wants to attend. In 1992 a friend named Bob started going and he's been a regular ever since. On the eve of the 2000 race I figured we would head toward Broadripple for some dinner and sight seeing when Bob suggested a change of pace. We went to downtown Indy and ended up at Buca D' Beppo. The portions at Buca are quite large and the tables are all very close to one another. We started to share our large portion of garlic bread with the people next to us. We learned that the dozen or so people to our left were all linked to a couple who lived in Indy. Some were going to the race and some just came for the fun and the long weekend. The conversation naturally turned to our Raceday plans and how and where we were watching the race. When the weekend's hostess (Polly) figured out that Bob and I would not be drinking heavily she drew us a map to her house on a napkin and invited us to the postrace party. When the race was over we thought,"Why not?" and headed to the party. If it didn't go well we would say,"thank you" and leave. By the time we left it was 11pm! We really hit it off with our new friends in Indy and have now added to our Indy traditions. They've been to my home near Chicago and we all sat together at the first U.S. Grand Prix. "Don't talk to Strangers" may be good advice for children but not for adults!

Our friends even have a relative with a racing name! I get to mingle with Tony Stewart when I go to Indy!

Fan Takes A Spin On Track
(This article appeared in the Detroit Free Press May 12, 2001)

Roberto Guerrero has crashed before at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But Friday's wreck was the first with someone in the backseat.

Guerrero was driving in an Indy Racing League ride-along program with Scott Schroepfer of McHenry, Ill., who paid $1,000 for a few laps around the 2.5-mile oval at about 160 m.p.h.

Coming down the front stretch, the car's rear wing came loose.

"The wing pretty much fell off," Guerrero said. "It didn't fly away, but it slid all the way in the back. And it's funny, because I heard a little weird noise. And when I went by, they told me (via radio), 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' But by then I had already turned -- I was already spinning. We spun twice, and I just kissed the wall with the nose a little."

Schroepfer apparently was more amused than terrified. "And that was amazing," Guerrero said. "As soon as I stopped, he said, 'Oh, man, that was awesome!' "

The crash came the day before pole qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. Guerrero, named Friday to drive the rest of this year's IRL series for team owner Dick Simon, was participating in the ride-along program for the first time.

"They were out of drivers," said Guerrero, 41. "And I said, 'Well, that's perfect. I'm going to be getting in a real car, and I haven't been on the track since last year. That would get me acclimated.' Unfortunately, it got me acclimated the wrong way."

Simon said: "It got his heart going." Guerrero: "It woke me up."

The wreck apparently brought the IRL's two-car ride-along program to a screeching halt. Earlier this week, in separate incidents, the cars suffered a blown engine and broken suspension system.

Family Sells Pop for Generations
This story comes from Jake.

My family and I worked worked at the Indy track in the fifties and sixties, we would sell pop corn, hot dogs, sodas, you name it. My first Indy race was in 1953 and I fell in love with it. My Dad was a friend of the Vukovich family and he talked to Billy Vukovich the day before he was killed, and billy told him that he was going to make headlines the next day one way or the other, and of course he did, as he was killed. My Dad was real down after that. Anyway we went on selling our food and sodas for the next few years, and even our kids and grandkids after us worked there. I left Indy in the sixties for work on the west coast, but I always had Indy in my heart. I took my wife to the track on vacation in 1975 and again in 1995 and it really hadn't changed much over all the years. Yes the bricks are gone, and the race cars have changed, but the smell of racing and the atmosphere is the same.

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