Record breaking performances by Parnelli Jones, the magnificent showing of the Lotus-Fords, the qualification of all three Novi-powered cars, the diversified starting field, and the oil controversy were highlights of the 1963 Indianapolis 500-mile auto race.
We received our tickets on May 8th, which is the latest we’ve ever received them. Dad ordered them at the same time as in previous years, about the middle of February, but this was the first year we didn’t get the tickets until May. In other years, it was either March or April. When the tickets hadn’t arrived by Friday, May 3rd, Dad decided to call the Speedway and see what had happened. One of the ladies in the Speedway ticket office talked to him and told him that the tickets were late arriving from the printers. In addition to this delay, our tickets were in the section that was being mailed out last. The lady told Dad that if we hadn’t received our tickets within a week to call back again, but that proved unnecessary.
Once again, like last year, I came home from George Air Force Base in California to see the big Memorial Day Classic. I arrived home on Saturday, May 25th.
On Wednesday morning, May 29th, we did all of our packing. As usual, it looked as if we were going to stay for a week instead of a day. We packed blankets, pillows, jackets, caps, field glasses, camera, film, sunglasses, medicine pills, and raincoats. In addition to these articles, we took cooking utensils and food. The food included hamburgers, hamburger buns, mustard, ketchup, bananas, fruit salad, apples, cup cakes, potato chips, deviled eggs, pears, eggs, bacon, coffee, milk and water, plus a few other items I may have forgotten. Our utensils included knives, forks, spoons, plates, glasses, napkins, plus liquid soap and a washrag for washing the dishes. The most outstanding utensil was a new cookout stove we had bought since last May 30th. It came in handy and worked real well. We cooked our baked beans, eggs, and bacon on it.
About 12:00, after we had eaten dinner, we started putting our equipment in our 1957 Chevrolet. The equipment pretty well filled the trunk and about half of the back seat. All three of us checked and rechecked everything two or three times before we left. At the last minute, I discovered that I didn’t have my traditional old paint shoes on, so I rushed up to my room and made a quick change. With that important job done, we were ready to go. With Bobby in the right rear seat, Dad in the right front, and me in the driver’s seat, I turned the ignition on, we waved goodbye to Mother and Susie, and at 12:29, we started on our annual trip to the Indiana capital.
We went to 3rd Street and North Grand, turned right onto North Grand and went to 5th Street, turned left onto 5th Street and went north to Sangamon Avenue, turned right onto Sangamon and west east out of town. After we crossed the Route 66 bypass, we went over the new Interstate Route 55 for the first time.
We arrived in Decatur about 1:15. The city seemed about the same as every other May 29th afternoon that we had seen it. At 1:30, we went over Lake Decatur and were on our way out of the city. We had gone through the first and only big city on our way. We traveled east on Route 36, and at 2:30, we arrived at our familiar stopping place, Chrisman.
A surprise was waiting for us. Our traditional resting place was no longer there. It had been torn down and only a vacant lot was there now. Last year, it was closed but not torn down. We stopped at the coffee shop across the road from the former one. It was 2:33 when we stopped. The shop left a lot to be desired as far as cleanliness is concerned. The first thing we did before we went inside was use the restrooms. I always feel better after that. I had a cup of coffee, Dad had a chocolate milkshake, and Bobby had two dips of vanilla ice cream with strawberries on them. She couldn’t eat all of it, so I ate what she couldn’t eat. Because of my coffee, I had to use the restroom again before we left.
At 2:56, we were on our way again. In 10-15 minutes, we were in Indiana. The long straight road I had become accustomed to in Illinois now came to an end, and from now on, it would be mostly curves and hills. We saw the same things we had seen for the past nine May 29ths, but I never tire of seeing them again. The many small towns we go through are just like the small towns around Springfield. I was unlucky and got behind a driver who had nowhere to go and all day to get there. To further add to my trouble, there was an almost endless yellow line on the highway. The line behind me continued to get longer and longer. Finally, the highway became two lanes in each direction. He was nice enough to move over to the right hand lane. I released some of my frustration onto the accelerator, and in a short while, we had left our source of frustration far behind. For a while, I drove 70-75 mph to make up some of the time I had lost. When I felt I had made up the time, I slowed down a little. The traffic began getting heavier, so we knew our time was getting short.
As we were nearing Indianapolis, we encountered something new. We came upon a sign that said “SPEEDWAY” and had an arrow pointing to the right. We were taken by surprise and didn’t know what to do. Should we stay on the regular road as we always had done or should we take the new road? At the last second, we decided to take the new road. All three of us were apprehensive as to where we were going. The road curved to the right for a distance and then straightened out. We were going north. Pretty soon, we saw another sign and it said “SPEEDWAY” with an arrow pointing to the right, so we turned. It curved to the right and then straightened out, and then we came to our first light on the new highway. There was a big overhead sign that said Crawfordsville with the arrow pointing straight ahead. We thought it probably meant Crawfordsville Road, but we weren’t sure. We were going south now. I was beginning to wish we had taken Route 36 all the way in. None of us knew for sure what we were doing, but we kept going anyway.
A few minutes later, Dad’s and my faces lit up with joy as we recognized a familiar landmark. The two of us discovered the famous, tall, black smoke chimney located across the street from the south end of the Speedway. Now we knew we were on Crawfordsville Road and Lynhurst Drive, our regular turning-off place, and pretty soon we came to Fisher Street. We turned left and stopped at the house on our left. Our worry and apprehensions were over. The new road had led us right to the front yard of our “home.” From the time we turned off Route 36, we felt uneasy as to where we would land up, but in the end, worry and apprehension turned to jubilation as the new highway had led us to the exact place we wanted to go to. I stopped on Fisher Street and backed the car into the yard and turned the engine off. The time lost behind the slow driver had been made up, the new highway had been conquered, and now we were safe and sound at our temporary home. It had taken us four hours and five minutes to complete the trip. It was now 4:34 pm.
We got out and walked around the yard a little bit. A minute or so later, Mrs. Kramer came out and welcomed us for the ninth time to their home. Dad paid her the $2.00 fee, and then the four of us talked for a few minutes. She said her husband wasn’t home now but would be a few hours later after he got off work. While we were talking, Mrs. Kramer received another customer, so we had to say goodbye.
Bobby asked Dad and me if we wanted to eat supper now, but we decided we didn’t want to. We decided instead to take our first walk down by the Speedway. We saw the usual things we always see — the long lines of cars beginning to form, the five o’clock rush traffic, vendors selling their wares, and all the other events traditional with the 500-mile race. When we reached the Speedway, we decided to tour the Speedway Museum. As usual, the place was crowded with people both looking at the race cars and trying to buy tickets. We walked down one aisle and up the other, looking at all the many race cars on display. We had seen most of them before, but we always enjoy seeing them again. In the middle of the aisle, there are pictures of the winner of every race. After touring the museum, we decided it was suppertime. As we were leaving the museum grounds, we bought our first newspaper from a paperboy. While walking back to the car, we noticed that both the cars and the people were becoming more numerous.
We were curious to see how our new outdoor oven would work, so we got it out and cooked hamburgers and baked beans on it. Dad got the fire started, and then Bobby put a couple of hamburgers on one side and the baked beans on the other side. When we tasted our cooked items, they tasted just like they do when cooked at home.
As mentioned earlier in this story, there was no shortage of food. About the only thing we didn’t eat was some of the eggs and bacon. It was quite different from eating at a table with a roof over our heads, but we had a lot of fun. I like to sit and watch all the cars and people going by as we’re eating.
When we decided we had had enough to eat, we cleaned up our mess. Bobby had brought some liquid soap and a washrag, so now she had her chance to use them. While she was washing the plates, silverware, and cups, Dad and I put some of the food away. We couldn’t do too much because Bobby had everything arranged a certain way and we weren’t sure just what that way was. Bobby finished what we couldn’t do. All three of us thought it was a good meal.
When we had all of our food put away, we sat in the car and read the newspapers we had bought. As always, the Indianapolis newspapers were full of information on the big race. It made for interesting reading because there was a lot we didn’t know. I came across one article and called it to Bobby’s attention. It said that Internal Revenue Service agents would be at and around the Speedway to keep an eye on the scalpers.
It was beginning to get dark now, so we decided to take a walk down by the Speedway to see what was going on. The area was becoming more and more infested with the 500-mile race spirit. Most of the ditches on the sides of Crawfordsville Road were filled with cars. Most of the people were taking life easy and having a good time doing it. Some were eating supper while others slept, played cards, drank beer, listened to the radio, and found other ways of entertaining themselves.
When we arrived at the intersection of Crawfordsville Road, 16th Street, and Georgetown Road, we decided to go east on 16th Street. There was no shortage of vending stands and vendors. I’m sure some of the items being sold were junk, but the people were buying them anyway. The religious radicals made their annual appearance and handed out their handbills, about 100% of which went straight to the ground and stayed there. As usual, there were the high school and college youngsters pushing and running their way through the crowd. Most of them were drinking beer, and their talk showed it. The quiet person is out of place here. There was a plentiful supply of firecrackers this year, and every few minutes one would explode.
When we reached the southeast corner of the Speedway, we came upon the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway Motel. It was on the other side of the street, but we could tell that it was really a fancy motel. In addition to the motel itself, there was a restaurant as part of the motel. Business seemed to be real good.
After viewing the motel and all the crazy people, we started walking back. Although I’d seen this same scene for the last nine years, I still couldn’t keep from laughing at everything that was going on. The traffic, which consisted largely of sightseers, was almost bumper to bumper and going nowhere fast. Open convertibles full of young people having a joyful time were plentiful. The sound of empty beer cans being kicked around abounded everywhere. On the Speedway side of the street, the lines of cars extended back eastward indefinitely. In addition to being high, the drunks used some language that most people wouldn’t consider normal. One vendor along the street was demonstrating how to operate some household item, and his audience extended back into the street. Pretty soon, we came to the First Aid Station located across the street from the main entrance to the Speedway on 16th Street. When we went by, there were no casualties being worked on.
Our first stop was the usual one at the corner drugstore. The store was overflowing with customers, and all the employees were busy trying to keep up with things. I bought a couple of newspapers. We looked around the store for a few minutes and then left.
We continued on down Main Street. A couple of doors south from the drugstore, we were attracted by a window display. Several people were looking at something in the window, so we decided to see what it was. A television set had been installed in the window and it was in operation. A discussion program was in progress. Among those on the program were Freddy Agabashian, Al Dean, Dan Blocker, Jose Jeminey, and three or four other people who were connected with this year’s race. Naturally, the topic of conversation was tomorrow’s race. It was an interesting program, and we watched most of it. Then we walked on down Main Street a little farther.
Like every other year, there were four lanes of traffic on Main Street extending southward farther than the eye could see. Just like on Crawfordsville Road and 16th Street, the people on Main Street were having their street parties. Beer was being consumed by the caseload. There was no shortage of singing. The drunkards didn’t confine themselves to the street area. They were staggering all over the sidewalks, too.
When we had gone a couple of blocks, we decided to turn around and go back. We stopped at the television set again. This time, another racing program was on. It was a film of that afternoon’s drivers’ meeting in front of the tower. It showed all the drivers in their respective starting positions, plus the race officials giving the drivers their final instructions before the race. The officials included Harlem Fengler, Sam Hanks, Tony Hulman, Paul Johnson, and a few others. When the drivers’ meeting was concluded, the program changed, so we continued on down to the intersection of Main and 16th Street.
It was after 11:00 now, and Dad and Bobby decided they had seen all they wanted to see, so they went back to the car. I walked west on 16th Street. The high school and college kids were having some of the best times of their lives. Beer drinking and loud talking were the favorite pastimes of the young crowds. Most of the girls were as bad as the boys. Many of them were sitting on tops of cars. Some had set up chairs and tables in the street and were playing cards. There was both live and radio music.
Pretty soon, a couple of girls in short shorts came walking down the street. About a half dozen boys started to follow them making some improper remarks. The girls tried to ignore them, but before long, the boys had encircled them and the girls’ forward progress was stopped. The girls tried to get out of the circle, but the boys became adamant and moved in closer, much to the disgust of the girls. The girls began fighting back. Fearful that something serious might break out, I continued walking slowly down the street. Judging from the way they were being treated, I think the girls should have done something to get the attention of a law enforcement officer.
I continued on down the street and took in some more sights. The many blocks filled with cars extended farther back than I could see. At the end of four blocks, I crossed the street and walked back toward the Speedway. Most of the people who lived in the houses along the street were taking in all the merriment. Many of the yards by the street curbing were littered with beer cans and bottles thrown by some of the intoxicated party-goers.
When I got to Main Street, I decided to go back and see everything again. In my mind, I was thinking I only get to see this show once a year, so I’d better see as much as I can. Every once in a while, I would stop for a minute or so and just look around me to see what was going on. Although I was by myself, I couldn’t refrain from laughing aloud at some of the activity that was taking place. Some of the residents were in the same situation. I walked three blocks and crossed over to the other side of the street and started walking east again. Many of the people walking down the street were giving the revelers quizzical looks.
A couple blocks later, I came upon the girls in the short shorts. By now, the boys had them in one of the front yards halfway between the sidewalk and the house. The girls were quite angry and were showing it. They were using physical force to try to free themselves and they were also using audible profanity. Apparently, the boys couldn’t understand what the girls were telling them because they were drunk, or else they chose to ignore the girls’ wishes. It didn’t look good. I kept a close watch on what was happening, but at the same time I maintained a safe distance to stay out of trouble in case a fight broke out.
I kept walking, real slowly, and at the same time kept an eye on what was going on behind me. When I reached Main Street, I crossed over to the other side of the street and continued walking east. In between streaking people and cars, I managed to cross the dangerous intersection of Crawfordsville Road, 16th Street, and Georgetown Road without getting hit.
When my heart started beating normally again, I walked north on Georgetown Road. In a couple minutes it was 12:00 midnight, so now it could honestly be said that it was Memorial Day at Indianapolis. It seemed as if I was stepping on or kicking a beer can with every other step I took. The traffic was bumper to bumper, and it moved in spurts. Squealing tires and noisy horns were common sounds. The drunks were alternating between the road and the yards. Walking was difficult because I had to watch out for both people and cars. If you didn’t get out of the way of some people, you might find yourself on the ground. After what seemed an eternity, I finally came to Gate 6, which is located approximately at the starting line and is where many of the cars go underground to get to the infield. I could plainly see the stream of light being emitted by the huge spotlight inside the Speedway. There was also quite a bit of light coming from the garage area. I observed the lights, cars, and people from this spot and then started the long walk back.
As was true of 16th Street and Main Street, there were plenty of young people having a frolicsome time. Every once in a while, a carload of girls would drive by and receive aggressive attention of a group of boys walking by, especially if they were in a convertible. The boys’ efforts were in vain, however, as most of the girls continued on their way and paid little attention to the boys, other than to curb their aggressiveness. A couple of fellows, well into the state of intoxication, offered me a beer as I walked by them, but I ignored them and laughed to myself. At long last, I arrived at the three-way intersection. It was between 12:30 and 1:00, but the place was really jumping. It was unmistakably the night before the 500.
I turned right and headed down Crawfordsville Road. The shoulder of the road was lined with parked cars. Many of them had newspapers or blankets covering the windows to keep the light out. Others were sitting between cars and cooking and eating food. I don’t know whether they called it a midnight snack or a real early breakfast. Some of the food smelled really good. Of course, there were others who didn’t partake of such a sedate life. They were the ones who were singing, dancing, laughing, drinking, and in general having a merry time. Every once in a while, I came across a car parked on the side of the road that didn’t have newspapers or blankets over the windows. Inside some of the cars were young couples engaging in some of the more pleasant activities of life.
It was 1:00 when I got to the car. Now came the problem of getting into the car and closing the door without waking Bobby. I opened the door, slid across the front seat, took off my shoes, and started to lie down when I heard somebody say, “Is that you?” I said, “Yes, I didn’t mean to wake you.” She wasn’t angry, so we talked for a few minutes. Dad was sleeping on the cot on the right side of the car. I took my shirt off, locked my wallet in the glove compartment, hung my watch on the gearshift, lay down, pulled the blanket over me, and attempted to sleep. It was now 1:15 AM.
At 4:45, I awoke. Actually, I hadn’t slept the entire three and a half hours. I had tossed and turned because of my cramped condition for quite a while before I went to sleep. I sat up and saw Dad and Bobby were still asleep, so I lay down again. I started to read a newspaper, but it crinkled and I thought it might wake Bobby up, so I put it down. The noise around us hadn’t abated any since 1:15. There was just as much now as there was then.
At 5:00, I heard a big BOOM. Of course, it could be nothing else but the traditional opening bomb down at the Speedway. The Speedway had officially opened. The bomb, in addition to its normal function, woke up Bobby and Dad. Bobby opened her eyes, and Dad opened his and sat up on his cot. As usual, the line of cars on Crawfordsville Road extended for some blocks past us, and there was the halfwit who started honking his horn almost at the same time the bomb went off. I’m sure the policeman heard him and started moving the traffic so that he could hurry and get into the infield. The three of us just sat for a few minutes until we had woken up a little.
Pretty soon I got out of the car, stretched my arms and legs, and then walked over to the highway to see what was going on. Some of the passengers in the parked cars were still sleeping, but most of the drivers were awake and ready to move ahead, although it would be a little while yet before they did so.
When I got back to the car, Bobby asked Dad and me if we wanted to eat breakfast now or wait until later. We decided to wait until later. It was time now to make our yearly trip down to Gate 6 at the Speedway to watch the cars as they went under the viaduct and into the infield.
When we started our walk about 5:30, there were already some people on their way to the Speedway. When we arrived at the Standard Service Station on Crawfordsville Road, we stopped for a while. Bobby used the restroom while Dad and I had some coffee. The service station was doing a good business with its coffee and doughnut business. At this time of the day, they really tasted good. Bobby, along with the other women in the line with her, had the misfortune of getting behind a couple young women who used the restroom much longer than they should have. Their stupid scheme didn’t go over so well with the three of us or any of the other women waiting in line. To pass the extra time away, Dad and I had a second cup of coffee. When Bobby finished using the restroom, we resumed our walk to the Speedway.
We could tell by looking at many of the people that they had just awakened. Many others, of course, were still sleeping. Despite the early hour, there was plenty of active life everywhere. Radios were blaring, cars were going by, policemen were blowing their whistles, etc. When we reached Georgetown Road, we turned left and walked the long distance to Gate 6. The hot dog and hamburger concession stands were doing a good early morning business. The sound of beer cans being stepped on and kicked around was a common one. For the most part, the two lanes of traffic moved in spurts, and the pedestrians had to be careful not to get in front of a car when it started moving. We walked over the famous bridge located near our destination, and a minute or so later, we were at Gate 6.
I stood on my toes and could see the words ALLEN CROWE printed on the pit wall. I noticed that the Indiana State Policeman who were directing the traffic were the same ones who had been doing it for the past few years. The cars came by the dozens, and there seemed to be no end to them. Of course, they were coming from three streets — Crawfordsville Road, 16th Street, and Main Street — so naturally there were quite a few cars. The policemen did a real good job of keeping the traffic moving right along. Some of the people had bought their $3 general admission tickets back farther in the line, but others waited until they got to the gate and purchased theirs from one of the Speedway patrol men on duty. The cars were of every make and year. Some of them contained so many people that they were almost dragging on the ground, while a few had only one passenger. Something new I noticed while watching the cars was the large increase in the numbers of women going into the infield. In past years, there didn’t seem to be this many women. There were several cars that had two, three, and four women in them and no men. What was the attraction? Some of the people who were standing up in open convertibles and those with their heads stuck out windows had to be told to sit in a normal position while going underground and into the infield. Most people probably wouldn’t get any enjoyment from watching everyday cars go under a viaduct, but to the three of us, it is part of the 500-mile race scene and we enjoy seeing the cars and their passengers. After watching the cars for quite a while, one wonders if there was an end to the two lines.
About 7:00, we decided it wasn’t getting any earlier and we still had breakfast to eat, so we started the long walk back to the car. It was a little safer walking back because we were facing the traffic and could see just what the cars were doing. All the concessionaires were trying to induce the passers-by to buy their products. As we walked, we noticed that the traffic was still bumper-to-bumper. When we reached 16th Street, it was still the same way. We turned right onto Crawfordsville Road and went back to the car.
When we came to the Standard Service Station, I decided to stop and use the restroom. This turned out to be the most frustrating event of the whole trip. I gave Dad the keys to the car so that he and Bobby could get breakfast ready. I had planned to stay just a few minutes. When I got inside the station, I saw there were already a dozen or so other men waiting in line. I gave the attendant my quarter and took my place at the end of the line. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a slower moving line. The longer I stood, the more impatient I became. I thought about leaving, but I had to use the place too bad to do that. When I got close to the front of the line, I thought to myself that Dad and Bobby probably had already cooked and eaten breakfast and mine was back there getting cold. Most of the men standing in line with me were just as impatient as I was. At long last, I got my chance to make myself feel better. When I got out, it was about 8:15. It had taken 30-45 minutes to do something that normally takes about five minutes. I was still burned up, but wasted no time in getting back to the car.
Surprisingly, neither Dad nor Bobby was angry at me for having taken so long. Bobby knew well what I’d been through because she had been through the same thing as we were walking to see all the incoming cars. Happily, Bobby had not cooked any eggs or bacon for me. Apparently, she knew I’d be at the filling station for quite some time. I told them I was sorry for being so late, and they understood fully and told me to sit down and have something to eat. Bobby cooked the eggs and bacon on the outdoor oven while Dad and I searched the basket for some other food. I also had some potato chips and pears. I was rather hungry, so the eggs and bacon tasted good. I ate my breakfast, and then we listened to the radio, read our newspapers, and observed all the activity going on around us.
While I was eating, Bobby started washing the plates, cups, and silverware, and Dad put the food back into the food basket and then started putting everything into the car. When I finished eating, I pitched in and helped Dad. As was true the previous night, when we ate supper, Dad and I weren’t sure just where and how everything went, so instead of getting everything too messed up, we let Bobby arrange everything as she wanted. Because I had fouled up the works by taking so much time at the service station, we had to hurry a little bit.
When Bobby finished all of the work, we put everything into the car and then gathered up everything we had to take with us to the race. These items included camera, film, sunglasses, caps, field glasses, Bobby’s sweater, car keys, and the most important item of all — the tickets. We checked to see that we had everything, locked the car, and started on our way to the Speedway. It was after 8:30, so we were behind our usual schedule. The pedestrian traffic was really heavy now. About halfway to the Speedway, we ran into something we run into every year — members of the VFW selling the little red, white, and blue tags. The three of us each gave a donation of a quarter, got our tags, and continued on our way. When we arrived at the main gate, Gate 1, the pedestrian gate, we had to work our way through an enormous mob of people before we got to the ticket-takers. We gave our tickets to the gateman, he tore off the first stub and gave them back to us, and we walked into the Speedway grounds.
As usual, I stopped at the first vendor I saw selling Speedway souvenir programs and bought one. Dad and Bobby bought one for themselves, too. Because the traffic was so heavy, we couldn’t make much time in getting into the infield. As we crept along, we took in the array of people and concession stands. There were concession stands selling racing magazines, post cards, hats, caps, sweaters, and many other items. The food concession stands were selling hot dogs, hamburgers, barbeques, soft drinks, etc., but no beer. There is enough beer brought into the grounds from outside without any having to be sold inside.
By the time we arrived within a short distance of the entrance to the tunnel that goes under the track and up to the infield, the crowd was so large that we were squeezed in with everybody else so tight that we couldn’t even raise our arms. Normally, we arrive ahead of this heavy crowd, but my long stay at the filling station had delayed us quite a while. This is the first time I remember running into such a big crowd at this particular time. At this point, I can’t say for sure whether we were walking or being shoved to the tunnel entrance. When we got there, we walked down the walk, then straight for a while, then up the walk. It wasn’t quite as crowded walking through the tunnel. I could at least swing my arms back and forth a little bit. Now that we were in the open, we could move and breathe quite a bit better.
We turned right and walked down to Gasoline Alley. Dad and I both agreed that this seemed to be the biggest crowd we had ever seen here. Dad decided he had to use the men’s room and I decided I could use it, so in we went while Bobby waited outside. With that important job done, the three of us walked down to the passageway that leads from the garage area to the pit area. A sign hangs overhead with the words GASOLINE ALLEY printed on it. It was past 8:30, so all the cars were already in their respective pits. We thought we might see some famous people, but the huge crowd killed that plan. After stretching our necks for a couple minutes, we gave up and decided to go to our seats.
We turned around and walked back until we came to the steps that take you to the northern half of the infield. From there, we found the entrance to Section 41 of Tower Terrace and went there. The ticket-taker tore off a stub, and we went in. We turned left and started our sightseeing of all the pits that we could see. We looked at the cars, the crews going over all the last-minute details, the layers of tires, the water fountains, the oxygen tanks, the gasoline tanks, and all the other equipment so necessary for the running of this big race. Most of the hoods of the cars were up, and the mechanics were looking the engines over closely. As we approached each car, we checked its number in the souvenir programs to see who the driver was. When we reached the Gasoline Alley entrance, the fence kept us from proceeding any farther, so we turned around and walked back.
All the time we had been looking at the cars, the traditional high school and Purdue University bands were marching up and down the main straightaway. The bands were putting on a terrific show, and the crowd showed its appreciation by its applause. The men of the enormous crowd were particularly happy with the sight and movements of the Purdue University majorettes and the golden girl.
When we reached Section 41, we went a few steps, and then an usher led us up to Row P. We turned right and walked until we came to seats 14, 15, and 16. We put our paraphernalia under our seats and then sat down. From our seats, we could see the pits of Troy Ruttman, Ebb Rose, Bob Veith, Eddie Johnson, Chuck Stevenson, and Allen Crowe. The PA announcer was interviewing drivers, car owners, race officials, and other people. Looking up and down the straightaway, I beheld that this was a spectacular sight that probably couldn’t be seen anywhere else in the world. The track was filled with mechanics, pit crews, USAC officials, reporters, photographers, entertainment celebrities, and other people, all making final preparations for the big event that would start in about an hour.
At 10:00, the PA announcer told the pit crews to move their cars into their respective starting positions on the track. For some reason, the pit crews didn’t move their cars as they were supposed to. The announcer had to tell them two more times before they started moving the cars. One by one, the cars were pushed back to the pit area entrance onto the track and pushed forward into their respective positions. While all this was going on, the Purdue band continued playing in its magnificent way, pleasing the race fans all up and down the straightaway.
Between 10:15 and 10:30, the many celebrities in attendance for the race traveled around the track in official Chrysler cars so that the fans could see and applaud them. Among those in attendance this year were Majorie Lord of the Danny Thomas Show, Dan Blocker, Hos of Bonanza, Bill Dana, Luke from The Real McCoys, Hoagy Carmichael, Connie Stevens, and a few others. All of these people were well received by the crowd, but none of them received the welcome which was given to the most popular celebrity of the day, astronaut Cooper Gordon, who of course was the astronaut who had made his orbit around the Earth just a couple weeks earlier. He had driven to the Speedway from his home in Ohio to see the race. As he came down the straightaway in his convertible and headed down the pit driveway, he was given a greater reception than any of the other celebrities had received.
By now, it was 10:30, and everyone could feel the tension. Only one half-hour remained before the big show started. All of the cars were in their starting positions. The crowd seemed to get noisier as 11:00 approached. By now, the three of us, like everybody else, could hardly sit or stand still. At 10:40, the huge crowd rose to its feet, and the men removed their hats as the band played The Star-Spangled Banner. By now, everybody was off the track except the drivers, mechanics, and crew members. At 10:45, thousands of colored balloons were released from behind the Tower and sailed into the air. Everybody turned around and marveled at the sight.
The portable starters had been inserted in their cars, and the mechanics waited patiently to use them. All drivers were in their cars and had their safety belts and shoulder harnesses fastened. Before they got into their cars, they had fastened their pants cuffs around their ankles and the sleeve cuffs around their wrists.
Most of the fans were standing and waiting out the last few minutes. Between 10:45 and 10:50, the band played its final song, the famous and traditional Back Home Again in Indiana. One of the band members sang the words as the rest of the band played the song. It was now between 10:50 and 10:55.
About half a minute later, the PA announcer slowly said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mr. Tony Hulman.” The climax of the pre-race activities had come. I put my left hand on Dad’s shoulder, my right hand on Bobby’s shoulder, and the three of us smiled broadly at each other. Tony pronounced the words loud and clear, “GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES!”
The packed Speedway let out a tremendous cheer. Almost instantly, one by one, the engines started coughing and producing the sweetest sound this side of heaven. The terrific roar made a wonderful sound. The exhaust smoke could be seen in the air.
Now, everybody was stretching his neck to see the pace car move out. With Sam Hanks in the driver’s seat and Tony Hulman his passenger, Tony checked to see if everybody was ready to go and then gave the starting signal to Sam Hanks. Very slowly, the pace car started moving and then the front row of Parnelli Jones, Jim Hurtubise, and Dan Branson. The other ten rows followed behind these three. A cheer went up from the crowd as the cars disappeared into the southwest turn. The PA announcer announced that two cars, those of Lloyd Ruby and Ebb Rose, were having trouble and hadn’t started yet. The audience let out a moan as I began to wonder if they would be started by the time the field came around. A few seconds passed, and then Lloyd Ruby’s car came to life and he immediately left to catch up with the rest of the field. At last, Ebb Rose’s car started roaring, and he too left immediately to catch up with the other 32 drivers who by now were quite a distance ahead of him. Lloyd and Ebb were given special applause by the fans.
Now came the long wait. The deep, thundering sound of 33 engines could be heard as they went down the backstretch. Now, everybody strained their neck to see the northwest turn. A cheer rose from the audience as the Chrysler pace car came out of the turn and headed down the main straightaway. One by one, the 11 rows appeared and followed the pace car. A few seconds later, a most beautiful sight passed in front of us. Some of the drivers waved to the crowd as the crowd waved back and applauded. One more time around and the race would be on. This was the official pace lap. The lap before was the parade lap. Once again, we followed the sound around the two and a half mile track and waited for the cars to come out of the northwest turn. The crowd let out a cheer as the pace car appeared and really sped toward the pit area, and the 33 cars picked up speed. Sam Hanks and Tony Hulman went flying down the pit driveway, the starter, Pat Vidan, waved the green flag, and the race was on.
As expected, pole position holder Parnelli Jones was the first one to go through the southwest turn. As they came down the straightaway for the completion of the first lap, Jim Hurtubise, second-place starter in one of the three Novis, went ahead of Jones and crossed the starting line first. It was the last time Hurtubise led the race. At the end of the second lap, Jones and Hurtubise had exchanged positions.
During the third lap, the yellow flag came out and the crowd rose in anxiety. It was announced that rookie Bobby Unser in one of the Novis had hit the wall in the south chute and was out of the race. The car was hurt but Unser wasn’t. The audience moaned in disappointment as one of the sentimental favorites was already out of the race.
As if this wasn’t enough, another rookie, Art Malone, in another Novi, pulled into his pit while the yellow flag was on. Again, the crowd moaned in disappointment. Malone couldn’t get the car into high gear. His crew worked quickly and sent him on his way again. Two laps later, he was in the pits again. The crew went to work and sent him off again. Two laps later, he was in again. His crew did their work and sent him off again. With 18 laps gone, Malone made another pit stop. His pit crew decided the malady couldn’t be remedied, so the car was withdrawn from the race. With less than 20 laps completed, two out of the three Novis were out of the race. The only hope was now with Hurtubise.
Prior to Malone’s departure, Johnny Boyd, who started 27th in the Bowes Seal Fast Special, left the race after 12 laps with valve trouble.
Meanwhile, Jones was increasing his lead over the remaining cars. After 20 laps, 50 miles, he led the second-place car by 22 seconds. Behind Jones came Hurtubise, Roger McCluskey, Jim McElreath, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Marshman, and Rodger Ward.
Elmer George and rookie Johnny Rutherford left the race after 21 and 43 laps respectively with mechanical trouble.
The yellow flag came out again on the 47th lap when Bug Tinglestad, in the Hoover Special, crashed into the southwest retaining wall and eliminated himself from the race. On the next lap, Allen Crowe, in his Gabriel Shocker Special, lost his right front tire just as he was entering the southwest turn and crashed into the wall. Neither Tinglestad nor Crowe were hurt, but their cars were too badly damaged for either of them to continue racing. With the race one-fourth completed, seven cars were out of the race.
While the yellow flag was out, Bobby Marshman and Jim McElreath made pit stops and provided the audience with some of its most anxious moments. Marshman approached his pit too fast, applied his brakes, and spun. McElreath was right behind Marshman and going faster than Bobby. All of the action took place right in front of us. I jumped up in nervous excitement and started screaming. Immediately, everybody jumped up to see the action. The two drivers continued spinning but, through some miracle, managed to avoid making any contact with each other. There were black skid marks going every which way. They managed to straighten themselves out and continued on their way. With a sigh of relief, everybody sat down again. This was one of the biggest scares I’d ever received while watching a 500-mile race.
The green flag came out again, the crowd regained its composure, and the race continued. Parnelli Jones still led, followed by Roger McCluskey, Lloyd Ruby, Bobby Marshman, Don Branson, and Jim Hurtubise.
On the 63rd lap, Jones made his first pit stop. He received fuel, two rear tires, and a new right front tire in 25 seconds. Roger McCluskey went into first place but had to make a pit stop on the 67th lap.
With McCluskey sidelined for a few seconds, rookie Scotchman Jim Clark, driving one of the two Lotus-Fords, went to the front of the field. He and teammate Dan Gurney had been running near the head of the field since the start of the race. The serious challenge of Clark for first place now became apparent to everybody. Most people had expected the two cars to make a good showing but not this good. Clark surprised everybody by running almost 150 mph consistently and maintaining the lead until the 96th lap. He stopped for his first and only pit stop of the race. As it turned out, this pit stop was one of the bad breaks that plagued Clark and kept him from winning the race. Instead of the normal 20-30 second stop, his stop was 32.3 seconds, not good by Indianapolis standards.
While Clark had been leading the race, Bob Veith and Bobby Grim made their departures from the race scene, and on the 99th and 100th laps respectively. Jim Rathman and Duane Carter also called it quits. All of them had to drop out because of mechanical trouble.
On the 101st lap, Jim Hurtubise, in the only remaining Novi, went streaking down the pit apron with huge clouds of smoke emitting from the back of his car. His pit crew remedied the malady and sent Jim back into competition. After he left his pit, a USAC official noticed a puddle of oil that had leaked out of his car onto the pit apron. The official ordered starter Pat Vidan to give Hercules the black flag, and with 102 laps now completed, all three of the Novis were out of the running.
Jones continued to set new records on almost every lap. He was traveling at the unbelievable speed of 149-150 mph and seemed to have no trouble doing so. While the other cars seemed to be straining to keep up their pace, Jones and his Agajanian Willard Battery Special were touring the track at higher speeds and with less trouble. Clark and Gurney continued to surprise everybody by remaining in the top five.
Chuck Stevenson, in the Bardahl Special, was finished after 110 laps with mechanical failure, and two laps later, Eddie Johnson, driving the Drewry’s Special, hit the wall and sustained rib and foot injuries but wasn’t hurt seriously.
Jones made his second pit stop on the 126th lap. He received four new tires and a tank of fuel in 26.2 seconds. As it turned out, he chose a good time to make a pit stop because Lloyd Ruby, in his Fink Special, hit the wall in the northwest turn and spun into the infield. Ruby was unhurt, but his accident caused the yellow flag to come out again. The yellow flag helped Jones because Clark was unable to make any headway during this time.
When the track was cleared and the green flag came out again, Jones pushed the pace up to about 150 mph. Clark held on to second spot while McCluskey was third and Eddie Sachs was now fourth.
In addition to Clark making a strong bid for first, McCluskey and Sachs were fighting their own private battle for third place. This battle included broadsides though the turns and, on at least one occasion, a wheel-tapping episode in one of the corners.
Paul Goldsmith, in his Delmer Special, left the race after 149 laps. With 160 laps, or 400 miles, gone by, 17 cars were still in the race.
On his 163rd lap, Jones made his third and last pit stop. He received four new tires and a full tank of fuel in 26.2 seconds. His lead over Clark had been big enough that he was able to get in and out of his pit without relinquishing the lead to Clark. Clark was unable to move into first place, but he did cut a big chuck out of Jones’s lead.
When Jones returned to the track, he and Clark proceeded to put on a show that had everybody going wild with excitement. The Scotsman figured he had a chance now to catch the leader and increased his speed to 150 mph in an attempt to do so. With each lap, he reduced Jones’s lead. After 178 laps, there were only 4.5 seconds between the two front-runners.
Then misfortune hit Clark. Eddie Sachs spun out in the southeast turn, and this caused the yellow flag to come out again. In addition to being unable to make any gain, Clark got caught behind Ebb Rose, who was running considerably slower than the rest of the field, even during the yellow-flag period. Jim didn’t know it then, but he could have passed Rose and not been punished for it. As a result, he lost 15 or more unnecessary seconds, which in the end could have been the factor that prevented him from passing Jones and going on to win the race.
At 180 laps, the crowd received a surprise when it was announced that smoke had been seen coming from Jones’s car. This brought about the biggest controversy of the race. Harlan Fengler, the chief steward, noticed that the lead car was leaking oil and directed starter, Pat Vidan, to give it the black flag. When J.C. Agajanian, the owner of the car, saw what was happening, he rushed over to Fengler and became engaged in a bitter discussion with him. The two of them exchanged some bitter words, but in the end, Agajanian won out and the black flag was not given to Jones.
With the oil controversy settled temporarily, the drivers drove on to complete their remaining laps. Unless an unforeseen emergency arose, Jones would finish first and Clark second.
With 196 laps completed and running near the front of the field, Bobby Marshman suddenly spun in the southwest turn and was out of the race. It was really a tough break for Bobby. He had driven a terrific race from the start.
With the yellow flag out because of Marshman’s spin-out, Roger McCluskey, who had third place wrapped up, spun in Jones’s oil and was out of the race. It was a sad goodbye for Roger, who had driven a wonderful race and was only about one and a half laps from the finish line.
The yellow flag was still out when Jones came down the straightaway and became the first driver to receive the checkered flag while under yellow-flag conditions. Thirty-two seconds later, Jim Clark finished second. The remaining finishers were as follows: third, A.J. Foyt; fourth, Rodger Ward; fifth, Don Branson; sixth, Jim McElreath; seventh, Dan Gurney; eighth, Chuck Hulse; ninth, Al Miller; tenth, Dick Rathman; eleventh, Dempsey Wilson; twelfth, Troy Ruttman; thirteenth, Bob Christie; and fourteenth, Ebb Rose.
It was rather amusing to notice that difference between Christie’s and Rose’s running times. Christie finished thirteenth in 3:40:25.18. Rose finished fourteenth in 3:46:40.63. In other words, for 6 minutes and 15 seconds, Rose had the track to himself. His car didn’t run properly at all during the race, but the trouble was never serious enough to take him out of the race. He just kept going, and finally, after everybody else was finished, received the checkered flag.
It’s also interesting to note that the red flag wasn’t used this year. The red flag means the race is finished and is given to those drivers who are still running after the first few finishers are done but who still have quite a few laps to complete before they go the entire distance of the race. All drivers still running at the finish completed the full 500 miles.
When he was interviewed in Victory Lane after the race, Jones said he still couldn’t believe he had won the race. He was too dazed to believe the truth.
After the celebration in Victory Lane had subsided a little bit, Jones and his wife, car owner J.C. Agajanian and his wife, and Speedway president Tony Hulman were driven around the track in the Chrysler 300 pace car for the acclamation of the audience.
When the pace car and its passengers returned to Victory Lane, thus leaving the track devoid of all activity, we gathered up all our equipment and started our long process of getting out of the Speedway. After getting out of the Tower Terrace section, we fought our way through the crushing crowd and walked back to the garage area.
As always, the garage area was mobbed with race fans trying to get a look at the race cars and drivers. The only driver we saw was the 10th-place finisher, Dick Rathmann. He was drinking a can of beer and talking to some member of his pit crew. His racing uniform was soaked with grease and dirt. We also saw A.J. Watson, a name that needs no explaining to race fans. In contrast to what they looked like before the race, the cars were covered with oil and dirt. Most of them had really been through a strenuous test.
Bobby and I got separated from Dad, but there was no panic among each other when we got away from the garage area a little bit. We found ourselves near some restrooms, so we decided to use them while we had the chance. From there, we walked down to the infield area on the southwest turn. The area looked like a dump. Beer cans, paper cups, soda bottles, waxed paper, and other debris were scattered all over the place. Plenty of work lay ahead for the Speedway cleanup crew.
We walked across the track and in between Grandstands A and B. When we reached the back of the stands, we turned left and walked toward the main gate. Like every other year, there were boys selling the Indianapolis Times with the story of the race on the front page. The headlines this year were “Parnelli Jones Wins With Record 143.137.” This edition is always delivered by helicopter to the winner of the race as he is celebrating his victory in Victory Lane.
We walked out the main gate and then turned right and started walking down Crawfordsville Road. The traffic, both pedestrian and car, was really bad. Everybody looked tired and sunburned. Before the race, everybody was going crazy trying to get into the Speedway. Now they were doing their best to get away from the place.
When we arrived back at the car, we opened the doors and windows and then sat down for a while. I took off my shoes to relax my feet and rubbed some Mentholatum into my face and arms to prevent myself from burning too much. The three of us sat in the car and watched all the activity taking place around us. Bobby asked Dad and me if we would like a little something to eat, and we both said that sounded like a good idea. We had coffee and water to drink and bananas, potato chips, fruit salad, cup cakes, deviled eggs, and pears to eat. We hadn’t had any dinner, so it tasted pretty good. We wanted to eat all we could so that we wouldn’t have much to throw away. Although the fruit salad, deviled eggs, and pears hadn’t been under refrigeration, it made no difference in their good taste. When our appetites were appeased, we cleaned up our mess and put everything back into the car.
Without my shoes on, I walked over to the side of Crawfordsville Road to observe the traffic and to take some pictures with the camera. When I returned to the car, the three of us sat and read some of our newspapers while waiting for the heavy traffic to thin out a little bit.
Shortly before 4:30, we decided the traffic was light enough that we could leave. The first thing I did was to sit on the grass and put my shoes on. While I was doing that, Bobby got everything arranged in the back seat and pushed it to the left so that she could have somewhere to sit. Our reading material was the only thing left out. Dad and I put our sunglasses on, checked to see that everything was put away, and then he turned the ignition key and we were ready to go. At 4:29, we said goodbye to Indianapolis for another year and started the ride home.
Dad was the driver, I sat in the front seat, and Bobby sat behind me. Dad turned right and stopped at the stop sign. The traffic wasn’t so bad now, so we didn’t have much trouble getting onto Crawfordsville Road. We decided to take the regular route home instead of taking a chance on the new one we had come in on, so we got into the left lane and the policeman directed the traffic so that we could turn left onto Lynhurst Drive. As expected, it moved along pretty well. Most of the residents were sitting in their front yards watching the huge exodus of racing fans from their city. There were newspaper boys at various places along the road selling the post-race edition of the Indianapolis Times, so a couple of blocks before we reached Highway 36, while we were stopped a few seconds in the traffic, I made a quick purchase and had another Indianapolis newspaper to read.
When we got to the highway, we turned to the right into one of our yearly stopping places, the Standard Service Station on the northwest corner of the intersection. The three of us got out and walked around a little while the attendant filled the car with gas, washed the windshield, and checked the oil. When the car was ready to go, Dad paid the attendant and we were on our way again. We turned right and headed west.
The traffic was still heavy, so we didn’t make very good time for quite a while. It was almost impossible to pass because of speed zones, oncoming vehicles, and insufficient space to get back in between cars. We soon ran into the holiday drivers who had nowhere to go and were taking their time in getting there. They’re always a nuisance because they impede the flow of traffic.
Route 36 between Indianapolis and the state line is hard to make any speed on in a situation like this. The road is full of curves and turns. The yellow lines along the centerline, of which there are plenty, keep one from doing much passing. If you don’t have the yellow line to contend with, you have to slow down to go through a town or city. In addition to the badly shaped road, you have to watch out for wild drivers. Many race fans have a long way to go to get home, and they take advantage of every opportunity they have to made good time. Some of them do some wild passing and narrowly manage to avoid getting into some serious crack-ups.
The day before, after stopping for a rest at Chrisman, we decided we wouldn’t stop at the same place coming home. We would find a better place. As we were slowing down for the stop sign at the intersection of Routes 36 and 71, Dad saw a little restaurant to our right and decided to stop there. It was the first time in our 10 years while coming home from the race that we had stopped at any place other than Chrisman. It was about 6:15 now.
It was an odd looking building, and we couldn’t figure out just what it was, but we went on in. We turned to our left and sat down at one of the tables with four chairs. The waitress brought us a glass of water and gave us a menu. We scanned the place, and Dad finally figured out that it used to be a caboose on an old railroad train. It wasn’t fancy by a long shot; in fact, I thought it was crummy. The old place at Chrisman was better. There weren’t many people there. One lady did the cooking while two others waited on the customers. Dad had some trouble in getting something to eat. They were out of his first two choices of a meal, but they had his third choice. He didn’t particularly want it, but it was about the only meal left that he liked. Bobby and I were luckier and got our first choices. While we were waiting for our food, a young couple who had been to the race came in and sat down behind us. After they came in, a couple of farmers came in, not together but one a couple of minutes after the other one. The service was pretty slow, but at last, the waitress brought us our food. I had two pork chops, applesauce, corn, and two glasses of milk. When we finished eating, we paid the bill and left.
It was about 6:45 when we left. We stopped at the junction and then continued on our way. In about five minutes, we left the Hoosier land and were back in Illinois. When we came to the junction of Routes 1 and 36, it seemed funny to keep on going instead of turning off to the right and stopping at our familiar restaurant, but of course the building wasn’t there anymore, so we couldn’t stop anyway.
As we continued on our way, we saw the same sites that we see every year coming home from the race, but I never tired of seeing them. The motels along the highway, the farmers working in their fields until dark, the U.S. Industrial Chemicals Company at Tuscola, the many side roads that intersect with Route 36, the children riding their bicycles and having fun in some of the small towns, the filling stations along the highway, the people sitting on their front porches in the houses along the highway, Lake Decatur, driving through Decatur, traveling the familiar trail between Decatur and Springfield, and the final stop at our back door for unloading are the highlights of our trip home from the 500-mile race.
We knew we were getting close to Decatur when the highway became a four-lane one, and a couple minutes later, we traveled over the lake and then into the city on Eldorado St. About 15 minutes later, we were on the west side of Decatur and on the last leg of our trip home.
Dawson was the last town we went through. The highway goes around Riverton, so the next city we came to was Springfield. We followed the same route getting to our house as we did leaving the city. We came in on Sangamon Avenue, turned south onto 5th Street and south on 3rd Street to 1157. We pulled into the driveway, stopped at the back door, and turned the engine off. Once again, we had made it back without an accident. It was now 9:09 PM. It had taken us 4:40 to go from Crawfordsville and Fisher to 1157 N. 3rd Street.
As we were getting out of the car, Mother, Suzie, and my cousin, Donna Coy, came to the back porch to see us. It took us three trips from the car to the kitchen to bring everything in. When we finished that, we put everything away and then sat down and talked about our trip. The big event was over for 1963.
Unlike most previous years, discussion about the race didn’t end when the last car left the track. The controversy over this year’s race will last for a long time. The main points of the controversy were leaking oil and use of the black flag. Many people believe that Jim Clark, not Parnelli Jones, would have won this year’s 500-mile race if the United States Auto Club, the governing body of auto racing, had enforced its rules. I am one of these people.
Harlan Fengler, the chief steward, should not have withdrawn the black flag once he had directed starter Pat Vidan to give it to Jones because his car was leaking oil and creating a hazard for the other cars. No car owner should be able to tell an official how to run the race. It was announced on the PA system about 20 laps from the finish of the race that Jones’s car was smoking on the backstretch. He should have been given the black flag, even if he was leading. Dempsey Wilson’s car was leaking oil noticeably during the latter part of the race, but nobody made any protest about him. The officials didn’t even start to black-flag him. Both cars should have been removed from the race. At the drivers’ meeting the day before, Fengler had stated explicitly that any car leaking oil would be withdrawn from the race. Why didn’t he practice what he preached? There was no doubt about Dempsey leaking oil. Three drivers, Eddie Sachs, Roger McCluskey, and Bobby Marshman, spun out of the race because there was oil on the track. McCluskey and Sachs were sure bets to finish third and fourth, and Marshman was among the first ten when he spun out. McCluskey and Sachs complained vociferously about the oil and said Jones should not have been allowed to stay in the race when it became apparent that his car was leaking oil. The day after the race, Sachs and Jones got into a fight in an Indianapolis restaurant. Sachs told Jones how he felt, and Parnelli replied with a fist to Eddie’s jaw. Through all the controversy, Jones remained silent and didn’t express an opinion one way or the other. If USAC is going to make laws, then it should also enforce these laws. The lack of doing so has left many hard feelings.
Another topic of conversation about this year’s race was the tremendous showing of the Lotus-Fords. For a while, it looked as if Jim Clark would be the driver in Victory Lane after the race, but Jim didn’t get the breaks that are necessary to win the 500. At 178 laps, he was only four and a half seconds behind Jones, but from then on, the yellow flag prevented him from making any headway. I’m sure that if he had maintained his pace and the yellow flag hadn’t come out, he would have won the race. What would have happened if he had won? It certainly would have caused an uproar. Dan Gurney, seventh-place finisher, probably would have done better if it hadn’t been for his 42-second pit stop on the 92nd lap. Clark and Gurney and their Lotus-Fords have really given race fans something to talk about.
One cannot talk about this year’s race without taking about the Novis. Their name had been changed to Hotel Tropicana, but to the race fans, they’ll always be the Novis. For the first time since 1958, one of the big cars made the starting field. Not only one but all three of them made it this year. Unfortunately, they still have their seemingly perpetual jinx. Two of the cars, driven by rookies Art Malone and Bobby Unser, had trouble from the very beginning. Unser hit the south wall on the second lap and was out of the race. Malone’s car wouldn’t go into high hear, and after 18 laps, it was retired. Jim Hurtubise did a good job of qualifying the other car at 150.257 and started in the middle of the front row. He did well in the race until he had to retire at the half way mark with an oil leak. Will one of the sentimental favorites of the Speedway ever roll into that paradise called Victory Lane? After these many years of trying, they certainly deserve to win. If one of them ever does win, I think there will be a celebration unlike anything else in the history of the Speedway. Race fans and officials will cry with joy at the sight of a Novi in Victory Lane.
Parnelli Jones has established a fantastic record in only three years at Indy. In 1961, his rookie year, he started fifth and finished twelfth. He led the race for several laps, but his car wasn’t in top shape and he was red flagged at 196 laps. In 1962, he became the first driver in Speedway history to travel 150 mph. He led most of the race until his brakes went out. He finished seventh. This year, he won the pole position for the second time in his three years.
Rodger Ward has established an almost unbelievable record of consistency in the last five races. From 1959-1963, he has finished first, second, third, first, and fourth. Rodger was lucky to finish fourth this year. During most of the race, his position ranged from fifth to tenth. If Sachs, McCluskey, and Marshman hadn’t spun out, he probably wouldn’t have finished higher than sixth. Much of his luck must be credited to his great mechanic, A.J. Watson.
The 500-mile race isn’t the complete story of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While the race itself had changed tremendously during the last decade or two, the physical appearance of the Speedway had changed also. Since he became owner in 1945, Tony Hulman had poured millions of dollars into improving the huge plant for everybody. No longer is the track correctly known as The Brickyard. It is now covered with asphalt except for a three-foot section at the start-finish line. These bricks remain for sentimental reasons.
The Speedway Museum, opened in 1956, is too small now, and a newer and larger one will be built in the near future. This museum is one of Indiana’s biggest tourist attractions and draws people from all over the world.
Almost all of the old wooden grandstands have been torn down and replaced by modern steel and concrete structures. More seats are being built for the expected increase in attendance in the coming years.
The Indianapolis 500 remains the world’s greatest single-day sporting event. It has a history and tradition all its own. Although the race itself is the most important part of my annual trip to the Hoosier capital, still it is only part of the trip. From the moment I begin packing until I arrive home and finish unpacking, I live in a different world. The trip from Springfield to Indianapolis and back is not boring to me, even though I see the same sites year after year.
The 500 Festival has given a tremendous boost to the 500-mile race. The parade, golf tournament, bowling tournament, Governor’s Coronation Ball, and the Mayor’s Breakfast have become part of the big race. The USAC Awards Banquet and the annual meeting of the Champion 100 mph Club are annual events that take place at Indianapolis in May.
The enormous mass of humanity at the Speedway every Memorial Day is composed of every size, age, and class of people in the US. The traditional, informal, unofficial Night Before the 500 festival is a part of the Indianapolis racing scene. The Purdue University Band, the majorettes, and the golden girl marching up and down the main straightaway before the race is a sight that never fails to please me immensely. The eleven rows of three cars each lined up in perfect formation behind the pace car as they move down the front straightaway is a breathtaking sight that must be seen to be understood and enjoyed. I always cry a little and get a lump in my throat when I hear Tony Hulman say those four words that send everybody into a frenzy, “GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES!” The terrific roar of those 33 engines coming to life, no matter how loud is may be, is the sweetest sound a racing fan knows. Every year, as I view and enjoy the many pre-race activities, I stop and think how lucky I am to be able to see in person the annual Memorial Day Indianapolis 500 mile auto race, the world’s greatest sports spectacle.
Pace Car — Chrysler 300
500 Festival Queen — Linda Lou Mugg