Today is the anniversary of The Pit Window. Four years ago today, I published my first story. I am amazed at where this blog has led me. Thanks to all who have helped and encouraged me. And a HUGE thanks to all who read my ramblings. Some have been here since the beginning and many others have come on since. Here is a re-post of that first story. It seems even more appropriate this May.
Welcome to my blog. I will be writing about my experiences and adventures as a race fan. To begin, my first post is about my first 500. Some of you may have read it on Facebook, as well as the second one which will be here Wednesday. A new post will be up Thursday. Please enjoy, and thanks for reading.
My dream was only minutes from coming true. The 1962 Indianapolis 500 pace lap just started. I stood weak-kneed, my heart pounding, anticipating the start. The cars slowly rolled by three abreast, a roaring giant multi-colored centipede. They went into turn 3, then disappeared. When I saw them again, they would be racing.
Seven years earlier I first listened to the race on the radio. I had wanted to go ever since. There were obstacles. I could not yet drive. My parents had no interest in attending.
The usual kid arguments met stony denial. “Bob goes every year”; “I’ll mow lawns to pay for my ticket.” “You could just drop me off and pick me up”. I found out later that was a naïve suggestion given the race day traffic. Nothing worked.
Then a miracle happened. Bill began working for my dad. He also happened to be a race official. Transportation issue solved. Tickets were now the biggest concern. They were not readily available then as they are now. Enter Grandfather. A client gave him two tickets. All I had to do was mow his lawn and the tickets were mine.
I was insufferable to others the following week. I had tickets that I had earned, and everyone heard about it. They heard about it more than once. My friends and family were looking forward to Race Day more than I was, albeit for a different reason.
Now Race Day arrived. Bill picked up my brother and me early. His credentials allowed us quick entry and easy parking in a preferred lot behind the control tower. I thought ”This is great!” Then, for the first time, I looked at the tickets to see where our seats were.
I asked Bill where we need to go to get to our seats. He grinned, surely to keep from laughing, and said, “Go to the other side of the track, through the tunnel, then left.” Fortunately the race didn’t start for three and a half hours. The safari began immediately.
The intrepid hikers eventually completed their quest, slogging through thickets of cars, seas of campers, and mountains of beer cans and trash. We then ascended the final summit to our seats, and basked in our victory.
The race began. The centipede had turned into a snake as the cars chased each other single file around the track. It ended all too soon for me. Rodger Ward drove a great race and had very quick pit stops to take the win. Jim Hurtubise and Len Sutton, finished the race for the first time in their careers. They acted as joyful as Ward as they came by on their cool down lap.
After another hike over taller mountains of trash, angry rolling seas of cars, and hordes of campers eager to leave, we returned to the parking lot. We waited a couple of hours until traffic eased.
While we waited, many people connected to the teams walked through the area. I noticed a man introducing himself to everyone as he walked through. He extended his hand and said, “Lou Meyer.” I introduced myself and he started to walk away. Then it hit me. He won the 500 three times! I called after him, using all of my 15 year old sophistication, “Didn’t you win ..?” The question never finished as he just said, “Yeah,” and kept walking. It was a lesson in humility I’ve never forgotten.
My 50th race is just 28 days away. Much has changed in my life since Memorial Day 1962. Much has also changed in racing yet the 500 endures. Much has not changed though. I still sleep very little the night before the race. I must bring specific food and drink to the track. My knees still get weak and my heart still pounds as the command to start engines is given.
Each year when I arrive at the track on race morning, I fondly remember my first race, all the scheming to get there, the spectacle, and the lesson in humility from a former winner