1962 was another outstanding and record-breaking year for the Indianapolis 500 mile auto race. New records were set in both the time trials and the race. Perhaps the most outstanding feature was the breaking of the 150 mph barrier. Parnelli Jones wrote his name into Speedway eternity on May 12th, the first day of time trials, when he ran his four-lap average at 150.750. He was the only driver to top 150 mph.
We received our tickets on March 27th. They were $12 Tower Terrace seats located in section 41, row L, seats 6, 7 and 8.
On Tuesday, May 29th, Bobby, Dad and I got everything ready and put it into the car in preparation for the annual trip. After eating our dinner and checking to see that we had everything we should have, we once again started on our yearly journey at 12:41.
We hadn’t even gotten to the street yet when a light green car pulled up and stopped in front of our house. I knew almost immediately that it was my good friend Jimmy Hoover coming to visit me while I was home on vacation from George Air Force Base for two weeks. As soon as he saw me, he asked if I was leaving to see the race at Indianapolis. We got out of our cars and talked to each other for about five minutes. After ending our little chit-chat, each of us headed our separate ways.
We went to 3rd and North Grand, east on North Grand to 5th Street, north on 5th to Sangamon Avenue, and east on Sangamon on out of town. As usual, the traffic between Springfield and Decatur was stop and go, with slow drivers and speed zones slowing us down quite a bit. We arrived Decatur about 1:30. It took ten minutes to get through the city.
As we traveled on our way, we listened to the Milwaukee Braves-Chicago Cubs baseball game on our car radio. The Cubs were getting beaten badly, and the three of us were amused by some of the comments of the Cubs announcer. About the fourth of fifth inning, he started saying he wished it would rain so that it would be an incomplete game. The game was a slugfest, and although the Cubs tied the score a couple of times, they finally lost 11 – 9.
Shortly before 3:00, we stopped at our usual place, Chrisman. As our car came to a slow stop, we noticed the place looked odd. It was vacant. We looked inside and then asked the filling attendant what had happened. He told us the place was closed down and suggested we go to the little joint across the corner from this one, so we decided we’d try it. It was the same kind of place, a restaurant, but not quite as large as the other one. We got out and stretched a little and then went in and sat down at the counter. Dad had a cup of coffee, Bobby a Coca-Cola, and I a 7-Up. When we finished our drinks, we went outside and walked around for a few seconds. At 3:15, we got back into the car and resumed our trip, with our next planned stop the last one, Crawfordsville Road and Fisher Street in Speedway.
In less than ten minutes, we were in Hoosier-land. The long straight road, which started a few miles east of Decatur, now came to an end, and it became curving and winding. As we went up and down through the land of the Wabash, we took notice of the pretty land that could only be found in Indiana. As we traveled through the small towns of Danville, Montezuma, and Avon — just to name a few — I thought how much they looked like some of the small towns around Springfield and of the many times, mostly on May 29th, that I had traveled though them. Although this was the ninth consecutive year to see the big race, I never tire of seeing everything along the roadside between Springfield and Indianapolis.
As we got closer and closer to our destination, the traffic became heavier and heavier. I can always tell when we’re just about there by the modern, attractive homes on the west side of Indianapolis. We started looking for the turnoff, Lynhurst Drive. A new four-lane highway had been built on Route 36 going east into the city. At last, we came to our turnoff, identifiable by the Standard Service Station on the left. Dad said to pull into the filling station, so I did. I told the attendant to fill the tank, and he put in 10.9 gallons at $3.48. Dad wanted to use the bathroom, but after waiting for what seemed an eternity, he decided he could wait until we got parked. Then, just as he was getting into the car, the two men who were in the bathroom came out, so Dad got to use it after all.
Despite the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Lynhurst, I happened to hit an opening in both lanes at the same time, so I quickly dashed into the lane going north. The policemen were doing a good job of keeping the traffic moving, so it didn’t take too long to get to Crawfordsville Road. When we crossed the famous 16th Street, I knew we were just about there. When we got there, I turned right and went a few blocks until I reached Fisher and then turned left. Our “home” is on the left hand corner, so we didn’t have far to go. Dad said to back the car in, so I did. He guided me and told me when to stop. I stopped the car, put it out of gear, looked around a little, raced the engine slightly, and then turned it off.
It was 5:10, and once again we had arrived safely and soundly. Dad had been talking to the wife of the owner of the home, Mrs. Kramer, so when Bobby and I got out of the car, we did likewise. Mrs. Kramer seemed to remember us but couldn’t recall our name until we told her it was Dalbey. After we paid our $1.50, we sat in the car for a few minutes and talked.
Dad asked me if I wanted to eat first or go down by the Speedway for our first view of the race crowd. I said I wanted to see the people, so the three of us took our first walk down Crawfordsville Road to see some of the thousands of persons who had come to see the race. The traffic was heavy and getting more so. We decided to take advantage of the small crowd touring the Speedway Museum and tour it ourselves. As is the case every time we go through it, there was something new to see this year. Several more race cars had been added, and some of the companies that built automobile parts had displays. Many people were trying to buy tickets at the ticket office.
We bought a couple newspapers in front of the museum and then went back to the car and ate our supper. Bobby had prepared a large amount of food for the three of us, so we didn’t have to worry about going hungry while we were there. We had coffee, milk, and water to drink, plus baked beans, pears, potato chips, cup cakes, bananas, sweet rolls, salad, dressing, and a couple of other items.
We cleaned up our dishes, read parts of the newspapers we had bought, and then got acquainted with our neighbors on our right. They were a young married couple about my age. There were nice, friendly people. They had just bought a new, red Corvair. Dad wanted to hear all about the car and the husband was happy to talk about it, so those two talked about the Corvair while the wife, Bobby, and I talked about the 500-mile race and events connected with it. She said they were from Nebraska and her husband was waiting to be called into military service, so they decided to come and have a good time while they could. The three of us talked about the race, the 500 Festival, all of the people around us, the many experiences we had had in our previous trips, and other items connected with Memorial Day at Indianapolis. She was very pleasant and easy to talk to.
After we had talked for about an hour or so, Bobby and I decided to take a walk down around the Speedway to see what was going on. There, we really saw what Indianapolis was like the night before the 500. We saw a couple of street parties before we got to the Speedway. On the other side of the road, there was a small pickup truck with a canvas over the top of it acting as a roof. Inside were about a dozen people laughing, singing, and drinking beer. It was getting to the place now where we could hardly walk without stepping on or kicking a beer can.
When we got to 16th Street and Georgetown Road, we walked down 16th Street, which runs along the south end of the Speedway. The people and cars were really thick now. Cars were moving bumper to bumper at a snail’s pace in both directions. On the north side of the street, the cars were lined up in three and four rows back farther than we could see. Many of the occupants of the cars were sitting on top of them and really having a joyous time. Some of them were playing cards, some were drinking beer, and some were singing and yelling as loud as they could. Those who had set up camp on the street were doing about the same thing.
On the other side of the street, where we were walking, there were many vendors trying to sell many different items. A couple of the vendors were selling rather large buttons with humorous remarks on them. Bobby and I really got a big laugh out of some of them. Some of the remarks were “I HATE SEX,” “I LIKE SEX,” “TO HELL WITH WORK,” “TO HELL WITH THE BOSS,” “TO HELL WITH KHRUSCHEV,” “MEMBER OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS — IN CASE OF TROUBLE, GIVE ME A BEER,” and several other funny remarks. The more we looked at them, the more we laughed.
A short distance down the street, we came upon a vendor selling Indianapolis Motor Speedway t-shirts with streaking racecars on them. When he saw me walking by, he shouted to me, “Take one home to your mother.” Both of us just let out a big laugh right in front of the vendor.
As we continued on our way, we saw distributor demonstrations for cars, go-kart races, religious fanatics yelling and passing out pamphlets, hot dog stands doing a land office business, many stands selling Speedway pennants, caps, sweaters, buttons, and several other demonstrations. Everybody was really having a good time. When we got down to the Holiday Inn, we stepped off to the side and leaned against the fence by the parking part of the Holiday Inn and just watched the thousands of people having such a merry time. I think this is the biggest night of the year for many race fans, and they really live it up.
After viewing the crowd for about half an hour, we started back. We were walking behind this fellow who was pretty happy, apparently from drinking too much. He decided to kick one of the many beer cans lying on the sidewalk, but as he took a big kick at it, his shoe came off and went flying through the air, landing several feet up on the sidewalk. The fellow had to hop all the way on his left foot through the heavy crowd to get his stray shoe. It was really comical, and we got a big laugh out of it.
When we got back to 16th Street and Main, we went into the drugstore on the corner. I go through the store every year. The place was quite crowded. We looked around a little and bought a newspaper before we left. It was getting pretty late, and Bobby decided she wanted to go back to the car, so we did.
While we walked down Crawfordsville Road, we came upon some nut in the middle of the road that was showing off and beating on two big barrels and trying to sing while he was doing it. I laughed so hard at the nut that my side started to pain me and I was having a hard time getting my breath.
When we got back to the car, things were pretty quiet. Our nice neighbors on the right appeared to be asleep, but our left side neighbors were still awake and fiddling around in the dark. They were from Texas, and he was a typical Texan with his ten-gallon hat on. I told him I had spend a couple of months in Texas and how hot it was in the summer. His reply was, “Oh, that’s not too hot.” After that, I didn’t say any more to him.
Dad looked as if he was asleep, but Bobby and I ended that when we opened the car doors. The three of us talked for a few minutes about what was going on, and then I decided to go back and see some of what I hadn’t seen yet. I walked back to the drugstore at 16th and Main, crossed the street, and walked west on the north side of 16th Street. Most of the people were sitting on their front porches or in their front yards watching all the activity. The cars were lined up now in four lanes farther back than I could see. I walked slowly to take in as much as possible.
The street parties were in full swing and really going strong. Most of the people in the cars had set up tables on the street and were talking, playing cards, dice, or other games, and drinking. The first intersection west of 16th and Main was completely filled with party-goers. I walked three or four more blocks and then crossed over to the other side of the street and walked the other way. There were several groups of college and high school students having their own gay street parties. I came upon one group of fellows who were really having a good time. They were jumping on and off their car, singing, running around, and making wisecracks at girls who walked by.
The lane next to the curbing on the south side of the street was the only one open to traffic. Pretty soon, an open convertible with two girls in it came by. The girls didn’t know the boys were hiding in the front of their car. When the front of the girls’ car was about even with the rear of the boys’ car, one of the boys suddenly stepped out in front of the girls, put his right arm straight out in front of him and said, “STOP!” The driver immediately slammed on the brakes and stopped just a few inches in front of the boys. The stop was so sudden that the front end of the car bounced up and down half a dozen times or more. The girls weren’t happy with what had happened. A couple of the boys asked if they could get in the car and go riding with the girls. The girls said no, started to drive off and then the boys ran and jumped in the car anyway. There were almost standing on their heads to get the girls’ attentions, but the girls just ignored them.
One half block down towards Main Street, another group of college kids were whooping it up. Unlike the aforementioned group, this was a mixed group, boys and girls both, and they were having just as much fun. There were doing the limbo, beating on barrels, and blasting out on the trumpet. The kids lined up in a straight line and one by one went under the limbo bar held by two of them. Each time it was lower than the previous time. After a while, they had to give up. There were three or four barrels, and they really worked them over good. They beat them with both their hands and feet to make as much noise as possible. While two of them beat the barrels, the rest of them kept time by yelling, singing, and clapping their hands. I, along, with several of the neighbors and passers-by, just stood in the yard and watched and laughed at them. After beating on the barrels for a while, one of the fellows took a trumpet and started blasting away on it. It was so loud that, on a normal night, I think it would have been audible two blocks away. The spectators and I were getting a big laugh out of the free show.
I watched this show for 15-30 minutes, and then I walked down to 16th and Main Street and then turned right and walked down Main Street for a few blocks. There were as many parked cars here as there were on 16th Street. Everybody seemed to be laughing and having a merry time.
About four blocks down, I noticed there was a large crowd, mostly males, gathered in the parking lot of a filling station on the corner. As I got nearer, I could hear Hawaiian music playing, so I could guess what was going on. I didn’t want to miss anything, so I strolled over to the filling station. Sure enough, it was just what I thought. A couple of gals, dressed like Hawaiian hula dancers, were swaying their figures across the parking lot and giving the guys a big thrill. I watched this show for about 15 minutes and then started walking back the same way from which I had come. I walked real slowly as to take in as much of the action as possible. When I got back to 16th and Main, I walked the short distance to Georgetown Road and then took a walk down that street. The beer cans and the drunks were really thick along here. Georgetown Road runs along the west side of the Speedway parallel to the main straightaway. The traffic was bumper to bumper in both directions and moving very slowly. Many of the people were young folks about my age and having some of the best times of their lives. Almost every front yard was being used as a parking lot. After what seemed like blocks and blocks, I finally reached Gate 6, which is almost even with the start-finish line. A little north of Gate 6, there was a huge spotlight going around in circles and emitting a stream of light which could be seen far from the Speedway and which really lit up that part of the Speedway. I watched the activity for a few minutes and started back to 16th Street. I had to be real careful of the traffic for a couple of reasons: 1.) I had to walk almost in the street, and 2.) some of the drivers were feeling the effects of their drinking and were driving in quite odd ways. It was getting to the place where almost every other step I took I was stepping on a beer can. At last, I got back to 16th Street and then down Crawfordsville Road back to the car. With the exception of Indiana, almost every license plate I saw represented a different state. Cars filled not only the streets but the gutters, too.
For the odd time that it was, between 2:00 and 2:30 AM, the people were doing a variety of things. They were sleeping, drinking beer, reading books and magazines, playing various musical instruments, cooking either late midnight snacks or early breakfasts and eating them, playing cards and a few other games, and doing other things until it was time to move inside the Speedway grounds. Some of the couples were keeping to themselves and seemed to be enjoying each other’s company quite a bit.
When I got back to the car, I opened the door as quietly as possible but still managed to wake Dad and Bobby. They asked me how everybody and everything was. We talked and laughed for a few minutes and then decided to sleep for a while. Bobby and Dad sat in the back seat while I lay in the front seat with my head on the left side of the seat by the steering wheel. I took off my shoes, and Dad had removed all the inside door handles, so that made it a little more comfortable. I finally got to sleep for a while, but at 5:00, the traditional opening bomb went off, indicating the official beginning of race day and bringing to an end my abbreviated night’s sleep.
The three of us sat up, opened our eyes, and looked out the windows at the cars and the people. The lines of cars on Crawfordsville Road had grown tremendously in just the couple of hours we had slept. The cars we could see had not started to move yet, and many of the people in them were still asleep. We watched the activity and listened to the radio for a few minutes. Then, we washed up a little. We had brought soap, towels, and a washrag with us. At 5:15 AM, the water really felt cold on my face, but my face felt better after I got some of the dirt off it. Our young neighbors to the right were still sleeping.
At 5:30, we took our yearly walk down to Gate 6 and watched the miles and miles of cars go under the track and onto the infield. It sprinkled for a few minutes but not enough to bother anything. We saw the usual sights that we see every year at Gate 6. There were thousands of cars with every make, model, year, and state being represented. The same was true of the people. Some were still asleep, and some were still feeling the effect of their beer drinking.
We started walking back to the car about 6:30 and had to be real careful as we walked so that we wouldn’t be hit by the oncoming traffic. We got back to the car about 6:45 and decided it was time for breakfast, so we checked to see what we had. We had a hearty meal of pears, cupcakes, potato chips, oranges, potato salad, regular salad, baked ham and beans, bananas, coffee, and water. I started to drink my milk, but I knew in an instant it was sour, so I drank some of the coffee and water. Despite what it may sound like, it was a good breakfast. It had variety if nothing else. When we were stuffed with food, we put away what we didn’t eat, put all of our scraps together, and then washed our glasses, silverware, mouths, and hands. When that was done, we sat in the car for a while and talked, read the newspaper, and listened to the radio.
At 8:15, we decided we might as well leave for the Speedway, so we checked to see that we had everything we should and had left in the car everything that we wouldn’t need. We took our tickets, cameras, film, field glasses, caps, and sunglasses. We got out of the car, locked all the doors, said goodbye to our neighbors who were awake by now, and started walking slowing to 16th Street and Georgetown Road.
The first place we stopped at was the Standard Service Station, where we used the bathroom facilities. It cost each of us a quarter and we had to wait in line a few minutes, but we felt much better when we left. As we continued on our way, the crowd became larger and larger. Many people were still sleeping in their cars along the side of the road. Many of them were cooking their breakfasts. As we do every year, we ran into Veterans Administration members selling little pins if you gave them money. We gave them some money so that they would quit bothering us. By the time we got to the Speedway, the crowd and the traffic were really heavy. I took a couple pictures of the entrance to the Speedway, and then we gave our tickets to the ticket taker. He tore off one part of the tickets and gave us the rest of them.
As usual, the first thing I did as soon as I was inside the grounds was to buy a 50¢ official racing program. Then, we started walking slowly to the viaduct at the starting line and took in the many sights along the way. Before we had gone too far, I had to stop and use the men’s room. The place wasn’t real sanitary and it had a bad smell to it, but it was good enough for right now. We saw hot dog stands, soft drink stands, stands selling books, magazines, pennants, caps, sweaters, and other items. At last, our walk came to its end as we reached the viaduct. We turned right and went down low underneath the track. About a minute or so later, we were on the infield and came into contact with daylight again. We walked around the infield for a while, seeing all the people, the garage area, and other attractions. At 9:30, we went to the Tower Terrace seat area where our seats were located.
Before we went to our seats, we walked down the area between the seats and the pit area. All of the pit crews were getting their tires, gasoline, time watches, paper cups, and other items into their proper places. Many of the crews were running the engines of their cars. In this group was the Bowes Seal Fast Special Crew Car No. 1, to be driven by 1961 winner, A.J. Foyt. We noticed that the crew members had worried looks on their faces as they raced the engine. There were many pictures being taken of pit crews, drivers, race officials, and other people. We walked down to the entrance to Gasoline Alley and stayed there for several minutes. We saw several celebrities, including Jimmy Daywalt, Troy Ruttman, Clarence Cagle, and Harry Harty.
About 10:00, we went to our seats. As we walked by the pits, we looked in our racing program to see whom the driver of each car was. The car of Parnelli Jones was in the first pit north of the entrance to Gasoline Alley, and it was drawing a little larger crowd than the other cars were.
The usher helped us to our seats. We put all of our equipment under our seats and then looked up and down the straightaway at the track and the huge crowd of people. For the first time in the history of the Speedway, the entire front straightaway, with the exception of a few bricks kept as a memento, was covered with asphalt.
A few minutes after 10:00, the pit crews began pushing their cars to their starting positions. Less than one hour remained now until the green flag fell, indicating the beginning of the race. While all this was happening, the Purdue University band and a couple of other bands were marching up and down the main straightaway to a happy audience. The band, as usual, was doing a terrific job. The majorettes and especially the golden girl made a big hit with the male racing fans in attendance. At 10:00, the bands played On the Banks of the Wabash. After the cars had been rolled onto the track many movie and TV celebrities, plus famous people from other areas of life, were introduced over the PA system and then driven around the track in official Studebaker cars for the race fans to see. Of all the celebrities who were present, the one who made the biggest hit with the audience was Marlena Schmidt from Germany, Miss Universe 1962. She was really a pretty gal.
At 10:30, several USAC and Speedway officials made the final inspection of the track. Many famous people were being interviewed over the PA system. Among them were drivers, chief mechanics, car owners, race officials, retired drivers, plus some of the famous movie and TV people who were there. With each passing minute, the excitement and tension increased.
At 10:40, the enormous crowd rose to its feet as the Purdue Band played The Star-Spangled Banner and then sat down. At 10:45, the crowd stood again as the band played Taps, honoring those who had been killed in war and those race drivers who had won the 500-mile race but were now dead. After Taps was played, the first group of multicolored balloons was released from a tent behind the Tower. Everybody looked back and up to see one of the most spectacular sights in their life. At 10:50, the band played the last song, Back Home Again in Indiana, while one of its members sang the words.
When the song ended, it sounded as if everybody started to whisper. They knew it was only a matter of seconds now. The excitement and tension were reaching their climax. Most of the people remained standing. Drivers, pit crew members, and officials were the only people on the track now. All 33 drivers were in their cars. Helmets were on and fastened, shoulder harnesses were tied, seat belts were tied, gloves were on, and pants and sleeve cuffs were buttoned. Portable starters were inserted in the front of the cars, and the crew members assigned to the starters were itching to start their engines. Drivers and pit crews held last minute conferences. Everybody was ready to go and just waiting to hear those four famous words.
At last, at 10:53, the PA announcer said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mr. Tony Hulman.” A couple of seconds later, Tony pronounced loud and clear those four famous words that send everything and everyone into a frenzy, “GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES!”
Almost instantaneously, the 33 big engines came to life with a tremendous roar. The noise of the 33 engines all going at the same time in almost the same place is tremendously loud, but to the race fan, it is one of the sweetest and most beautiful sounds he knows. When the starters were removed and the drivers indicated they were ready to go, one crew member from each crew standing at the back of his car raised one of his arms into the air to indicate to the officials that his car was ready to be pushed away.
About a minute later, Sam Hanks, driving the Studebaker Pace Car with Tony Hulman as his passenger, slowly pulled away from the starting line. One by one, the cars were pushed away as they disappeared into the southwest turn, and crew members scrambled to get themselves and their equipment back to their respective pits. The deep, thunderous sound of the fastest starting field in 500-mile race history could be heard as it traveled down the backstretch. The eternal wait was on.
It seemed forever until the cars appeared again. All eyes were focused on the northwest turn, and a few seconds later, the pace car appeared and started down the main straightaway. A huge cheer went up from the crowd. Led by the front row of Parnelli Jones, Rodger Ward, and Bobby Marshman, the rows of three appeared one by one. The pace car was traveling at a good clip as it went by us. The 33 cars were lined up perfectly. I don’t think they could have made a better formation. Some of the drivers looked around and waved at the crowd as they passed by while others looked straight ahead. The eleven rows of three each was one of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen anywhere. All 33 cars had started without any trouble, which was rather unusual. The enormous crowd of 200,000 or more gave the drivers a tremendous applause as they passed by. Some waved, some cheered, and some did both.
One more time around and the green flag would fall. Once again, all eyes turned to the northwest turn. Patiently, but nervously and noisily, the crowd waited out the time. Bombs were still going off and balloons were still soaring into the sky. Most of the people were standing on the seats.
Suddenly, a loud cheer went up. The pace car came out of the turn, and it really moved as it came down the straightaway. The field was just a short distance behind and picking up speed. The Studebaker streaked down the pit apron; starter Pat Vidan waved the green flag, the drivers charged full blast for the starting line and THE RACE WAS ON!
As everybody expected, Parnelli Jones jumped into the lead. As they came by for the finish of the first lap, it was Jones, Ward, and Foyt. Jones set a new record for almost every lap he led. He was traveling at 146-147 mph until the 17th lap when the yellow flag came out.
All of the drivers immediately slowed down. There was a pile-up of cars at the end of the northwest turn. Four drivers were involved, including Jack Turner, Bob Christie, and rookies Chuck Rodee and Springfield’s Allen Crowe. Turner received a broken toe and various bruises, but Christie, Crowe, and Rodee were unhurt. When track officials had the mess cleaned up, the green flag came out again, as records continued to fall and be set.
Jones led for all but five of the first 125 laps. Then, he ran into some bad luck and lost his brakes. Consequently, he had to slow down considerably.
Midway through the race, the Thompson Harvey Aluminum Special had to drop out when an oil seal worked loose in the rear axle housing. This was the only car not powered by an Offenhauser engine. Instead it had a Buick engine.
A.J. Foyt, 1961 winner, was up near the front of the pack until he made a pit stop on his 69th lap. There was much confusion during the stop, and during the process, somebody didn’t fasten the wheel nut on the left rear tire. When Foyt got to the first turn, the wheel came off. He pulled into the infield unhurt but was out of the race.
Rodger Ward led the race from about the 170th lap to the end. Len Sutton and Eddie Sachs tried hard to catch Ward, but they ran out of time. Rodger won his second 500-mile race with a record average of 140.292, finishing 12 seconds ahead of Sutton.
Finishing behind Ward, Sutton, and Sachs were Don Davis, Bobby Marshman, rookie Jim McElreath, Parnelli Jones, Lloyd Ruby, Jim Rathman, and Johnny Boyd. The first four cars broke A.J. Foyt’s 1961 record of 139.130 mph. It was the first time Len Sutton had finished a race at Indy. Eddie Sachs put on another excellent show this year, just as he did in 1961. He started in 27th position and finished third with an average speed of 140.075 mph.
Most people agree that, barring unforeseen trouble, Parnelli Jones would have won the race if his brakes hadn’t gone out. He was setting new records for almost every lap he led, and his car was running faultlessly.
Rookie Jim McElreath’s sixth-place finish brought him the honor of Rookie of the Year. He started in seventh place with an average of 149.025 mph. About ten minutes after Rodger Ward received the checkered flag, Pat Vidan, the starter, waved the red flag, which means the race is finished. Eddie Sachs’s pit crew was near our seats, and when he tried to get out of his car after the race, he was so cramped up that he couldn’t stand by himself and had to be helped by his crew members so that he wouldn’t fall down.
When all activity on the track had stopped, the three of us took a tour through the garage area. We saw several of the cars and a few of the drivers. One of the drivers we saw was Ebb Rose. He was with his wife and mother and was talking to some of the fans touring the area.
The cars looked much different than they did about four hours ago. They were covered with dirt, grease, oil, and other items, which distracted from the beauty of them. Those that finished the race or most of the race had taken a beating.
The crowd touring the garage area was real large and it made for difficult maneuvering. If you weren’t careful, the impact of the crowd would move you.
After we had seen everything we wanted to see, we walked across the track and across the pathway between Grandstands A and B. Everybody looked tired and sunburned. Just before we left the grounds, I bought a paper, which told about the Rodger Ward victory. The traffic, both pedestrian and automobile, was real heavy. There were still plenty of beer cans to step on.
We arrived back at the car shortly before 4:00. Our young neighbors on our right were already back from the race and were resting in their car. It really felt good to sit down and get off our feet for a while. The first thing we did was take off our shoes and then drink some water. We had quite a lot of food left and we were hungry, so we had what might be called an early supper. It made me feel much better. While we ate, we talked to our young neighbors. We were all tired but had really enjoyed watching the race. I still had several pictures to take yet, so I cruised around the area taking various shots. After I took my pictures, we sat in the car and looked at some of the many newspapers we had gathered. We also took in the heavy automobile and pedestrian traffic. The traffic was bumper to bumper for many blocks, but it was moving steadily. When we began feeling a little more refreshed, we cleaned up the mess we had made while eating, washed our silverware, hands, and faces, and then put everything back the way it was.
When the traffic began fading out a little, we decided we may as well leave. We checked to see that we had everything, and then we said goodbye to our neighbors and left. Dad drove, I sat in the front seat, and Bobby sat behind me. We drove the few feet out to the street, turned right, and stopped at the stop sign. When there was a lull in the traffic, we turned right and went to Lynhurst Drive. The policeman signaled us on, so we turned left and drove south on Lynhurst. Most of the neighbors were sitting on their porches or in their yards and watching the heavy traffic go by. The traffic was stop and go all the way to the intersection of Lyndhurst and Route 36. As might be expected, it was almost all race fans heading home after a long and tiring but still pleasant day. As we always do, we noticed several boys standing along the side of the road selling the latest edition of the Indianapolis newspapers. When we got to the intersection, we turned right onto Route 36. Incidentally, we left the parking lot at 4:50 and waved our final goodbye to our neighbors in the Corvair.
The traffic was still moving in spurts on the highway. Slowly, it began thinning out. We ran into the usual number of pests who were driving excessively slow and holding up traffic, plus those drivers who were out for a holiday afternoon spin. We had our radio on, and every newscast had a story about the 500-mile race. When we got to Danville, there were still young boys in the streets selling the late afternoon edition of the Indianapolis newspaper. We traveled through the Hoosier State, observing the pretty spring scenery at roadside tables.
At 7:15, we arrived at Chrisman and pulled off to the left and stopped at the same place that we did yesterday when coming over. We got out and stretched a few seconds and then went on in. We sat on stools as we had yesterday, but these were to the left of where we sat yesterday. I took off my sunglasses, and my eyes felt much different. There were several race fans there. Each of us had a complete, hot meal that really felt good. I also had a good, cold glass of milk and one of water. When we felt we had had enough, we paid our bill, used the restroom and left. We got into the same seats we had before we stopped and once more drove west on Route 36 to Springfield.
Many farmers we saw along the way were enjoying the end of the holiday by sitting on their porches and watching the traffic go by. Most of the sights we had seen during the evening hours of May 30th.
About 8:45, we arrived at Decatur. For the first time this year, we ran into some rain. It wasn’t very much, but it was enough to let us know it was raining. When we got out of Decatur, we picked up our pace again, and shortly after 9:30, we arrived at 1157 N. 3rd Street in Springfield.
We stopped in the driveway beside the back steps. I was a little stiff from having sat in the same position for two hours and had to kick my legs a little before I could walk up the steps. It took each of us two trips to get everything out of the car and into the house. We left everything in the kitchen temporarily and then went in the front room and sat down and told Mother all about our trip. Dad and I both washed up a little bit to get some of the dirt off our faces. My arms were still hot from having sat out in the sun so long, and it stung when I ran water on them.
Once again, our annual trip was over, and for the ninth consecutive year, it had been a most happy and enjoyable time for me. It was Dad’s tenth and Bobby’s third trip. I enjoyed every minute of the trip from the time we said goodbye to Mother until we said hello to her again.
Despite the usual predictions of possible rain for the race, the weatherman once again smiled on Indianapolis on Memorial Day. The race get faster, the crowd gets larger, and the outside activities connected with the race increase in number every year, and 1962 was no exception.
The Indianapolis 500 is unlike anything else. Nowhere and at no other time can one find so many people having such a wonderful time. The 500-mile race continues to be the greatest single-day sporting event in the world, and I think it always will be. I consider it a privilege to be able to attend this marvelous event. Each year is the same, and at the same time, each year is different. A person must see the race and everything connected with it in person before he can appreciate what a tremendous thing it is, and after nine years, I still marvel at all of it. There is almost too much to tell all in one story. Each year when I get home, I’m tired and say to myself, “I’ve had enough for this year,” but I also know that I would be unhappy if I was anywhere else on May 30th. Come Thursday, May 30th, 1963, I once again plan to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 47th running of the annual Memorial Day Indianapolis 500-mile auto race.
Pace Car — Studebaker Lark
500 Festival Queen — Jerilyn Jones