This past week at my Toastmasters club, each member reminisced about his or her first Indy 500. I thought I would share my memories of the race along with some documentation from the Indianapolis Star.
As some of you might know, I attended Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifications with my dad and uncles starting in the early 1950’s. I really enjoyed watching the activities from many vantage points around the track. One of my favorites is in the grandstand outside of turn one. I especially liked watching the drivers work their roadsters through the curve. Every driver had his particular groove around the track.
My dad enjoyed listening to the race on the radio instead of being there in person, so I was left to my own devices to go to the race. Finally, on Thursday, May 30, 1963, my chance arrived. One of my neighborhood buddies, dad was an Indianapolis Motor Speedway patrolman and saved us a place along the fence inside of turn one. There I was with 275,000 other people watching all of the pre-race festivities from our prime spot on the fence.
We were unaware that Indianapolis Star photographer Tommy Wadelton was documenting the action from the other side of the fence. There we were in the middle of his photograph published in the Indianapolis Star on May 24, 1964. That skinny kid in sunglasses with a flat-top in the second row is me. Just to my right behind me was Jay Skoda and to my right in the front row was Larry Stroudman. I wasn’t wearing a hat to cover my head on that sunny day and that caused me to get a bad sun burn on my scalp. So that’s why you most always see me with a hat of some kind.
Oh well, back to the race. My favorite driver, Parnelli Jones, started the race in pole position. Jim Hurtubise started in the middle of the first row. Hurtubise led the first lap of the race, but Parnelli recaptured the lead on the second lap. About mid-way through the race, signs of oil started to show on the external oil tank of Parnelli’s car. Every lap we wondered if he would be black flagged for dropping oil. Finally, the concern about dropping oil went away. Yahoo! Parnell won the race with Jimmy Clark finishing second in a rear-engine Lotus Powered by Ford racer.
Memories of my first Indy 500 are fresh in my mind today, some 49 years later. That 1963 race was the first of many at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was probably one of the things that sparked my interest in automotives. See you at the track.
For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.