This is my second episode of my adventures in racing. Posted on Facebook last week. A new story will be here on Thursday. Enjoy.
First Turn Terrace Family
Marco Andretti and Sam Hornish , Jr. barreled out of the fourth turn heading for the checkered flag. They appeared to be one 8 wheeled car instead of two. Hornish edged past Marco just before the finish line. Those of us in the First Turn Terrace watched on the video board, then turned to salute the winner as he drove by.
Everyone gradually packed up their coolers and other belongings . We shook hands, and as always, said, “See ya next year.” Sadly, there was no next year. Later in 2006 the speedway would tear down the First Turn Terrace over the winter to make room for the new motorcycle course.
I had missed the 1984 race. I decided to get a reserved seat instead of general admission for my return in 1985. The First Turn Terrace was my first choice. It looked like a great view, all of turn 1 and the short chute. I was not disappointed. From the top row I could also see a bit of turn 2. My next concern was who else sat here. Were they just casual fans who would change every year, or were they diehards like myself?
Per tradition (mine) , I was one of the first to arrive at the track. Since this seat was new for me, I decided to check it out first before walking around. The track view was great. I said hi to the other three people in the stand at the time. They were several rows down and to my left.
After a stroll through the infamous snakepit (a story for when the kids are asleep), I saw people settling in near my place. I returned to my place, said hello, and we talked about how we thought the day would go. Others soon filled in the empty spaces. These newcomers were the regulars I would spend the next twenty race days with.
The man next to me was an older gentleman who always had a cigar stub in his mouth. It could very well have been the same cigar all twenty years since I never saw it lit. He was obviously a veteran race attendee, although he never said for how many years. We discussed our favorites drivers and favorite races.
The row immediately in front of me included a young couple from Southport, and a family from Wisconsin. They were very nice people. One of the men from Wisconsin also was steeped in race history. I really loved talking to him every year. On my other side two seats were part of a large group from Canada. They could not get seats all together, so they rotated their scattered sections each year. I think it took five years before I met them all.
Each year, I could look at my watch and know who would be the next to appear. The cigar man was usually one of the last. The Canadians’ timetable varied depending on who was sitting there. The Wisconsin group was always there at 10 o’clock, pretty much on the dot.
The reunions made Race Day official. We shared food and drink. Someone began a driver pool . We talked about how the rest of the previous year had gone. I looked forward to seeing these people again as they had become part of my race day family.
Our best bonding experience was in 1992. Indiana has had milder winters than that race day. Some people brought blankets. They were kind enough to share them with those of us who thought just wearing warm clothes was enough. We took turns using the blankets. If the stands had been made of wood, we probably would have burned them. This was also the worst 500 I have ever been to. The great finish only slightly helped.
When the Speedway called in the fall of 2006 to inform me that my grandstand was being torn down, my naive hope was that surely some of the group would be relocated near my new seat in G Stand. I knew it was a long shot, but I searched both sections of G to see if any of them were there, then walked around just hoping to find some of my family. It was a fruitless search. I have not seen any of them at the track since the end of the 2006 race. The family had officially dispersed.
I now attend the race with my best friend from college and her family and friends. Somehow they ended up with seats in G Stand by random luck. We plan to find a new location together should G Stand ever become a part of Speedway history. I’ve lost one family there. I don’t intend to lose another.