One hundred years ago, in 1916, automobile racing began in the city known as “The Crossroads of America”, now known, in 2016, as the “Automobile Racing Capital of the World”! It only takes a drive-by or a fly-over to recognize the magnificent structure and track that is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” dominated the sports scene in Central Indiana for those 100 years, sharing the spotlight recently with football, basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey. Many have tried to emulate the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but no entity has been able to copy or replace the tradition that is the 500 Race. Race drivers, car owners, sponsors and fans are in awe and express reverence for
The roar of the engines of the cars as they practice on the track begins in April and can be heard for miles around. The thrill and excitement of seeing the drivers and their cars as they race to win the checkered flag and the Borg-Warner Trophy dominate on Race Day.
As a youngster, my Dad took my sister and me to Race Qualifications on the weekends preceding the big 500 Mile Race. At that time the roar of the Novis made it difficult to hear or to carry on a conversation. We were fascinated by the power of those engines and the skill of the drivers and grew up knowing the names of all the famous drivers (and still do!).
Attending the 500 Mile Race is an event in itself. Whether a person has a “pit pass” (enabling them to get closer to the cars and drivers), is a guest in a suite, or a fan in a grandstand seat, each is a witness to history at every moment.
Several of my clients were involved with racing, established and supported its traditions. The American Dairy Association (Milk Promotion Services) awards the winning driver, at the completion of the 500 miles, a bottle of cold milk. This tradition originated by driver, Louis Meyer, who requested a cold drink of buttermilk upon winning the 500 Race in 1936.
This association with ADA/MPS brought about the establishment of the “Fastest Rookie” award. This year marks the 42nd year for the “Fastest Rookie” program that honors the rookie driver and crew who reach the pinnacle of racing sports by earning the fastest laps in Qualifications at the Speedway. This is awarded strictly by the numbers – no voting for your favorite. The award is earned on the track with speed and agility. Bill Puterbaugh was the first winner in 1974. His name is displayed along with the many other drivers such as; Rick Mears, Marco Andretti, Michael Andretti, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Scott Dixon and past winner, Juan Pablo Montoya, on the trophy in the Speedway Museum. It was a leap of faith when the ADA Statewide Manager, Myrna Metzger, assigned to me and Ted Hollingsworth, the launching of the Fastest Rookie Award in its early years. As with so many traditions at the track, if the program is worthwhile, the momentum moves it forward. This year over 300 people will attend a “Fastest Rookie Luncheon” where the Rookie will be honored by the Indiana Dairy Farmers and their families.
There is one tradition that takes precedence over others at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That is the celebration that honors the men and women – past and present – who have served in our U.S. Military Services to protect our country and our freedom. Active duty members of the armed forces take part in the presentation of the colors as patriotic music is played and sung. “Back Home Again In Indiana”, “God Bless America”, our “National Anthem” and “Taps” are played and broadcast to those in attendance and worldwide through the 500 radio & television networks. A prayer is offered for the safety of the drivers, crew, fans, and those serving our country on active duty. For the 400,000 fans, the military jet flyover, release of balloons and announcement by Mary Hulman-George, “Gentlemen and Ladies, Start Your Engines” is a thrilling start of America’s Greatest Race – THE INDIANAPOLIS 500!
God Bless America.