Indy journal: 1970

Historic Indy 500 journals — By on June 15, 2008 5:00 pm
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Probably the most memorable event of 1970 was the difficulty in getting the race started. This was the first time in my 17 trips that the race started at some time other than 11:00.

On Saturday, May 16th, Bobby, Dad, Dixie, and I saw the first day of time trials. We left Springfield at 3:00 and arrived at the Colonial Kitchen between 4:30 and 4:45, which was certainly the fastest time we ever covered the 110 miles, both for the time trials and the race. We had to wait a few minutes because the food wasn’t available until 5:00. All four of us ate a good breakfast and then resumed our trip. It was dark when we stopped, but now it was light.

We arrived at the Standard Station on Crawfordsville Road a couple minutes after seven and had the gas tank filled and used the restrooms. Instead of going straight on, we went to Lynhurst Drive and went north a couple blocks, turned right, and drove to Fisher Avenue and then right to Kramer’s house.

Bud was glad to see us, and we talked a few minutes before leaving for the Speedway.

There was a huge crowd of people going through the main gate, so it took a while to get the tickets. We sat in the Paddock section and had real good seats. Before the time trials started, Tony Hulman, Speedway president, was honored for his 25 years of service to the Speedway. Twelve of the drivers in Tony’s first race (1946) drove a lap around the track.

It was not the most exciting time trials day I had attended, but there was still the usual excitement. Al Unser won the pole position with a 170.221 mph average, but the surprise of the day was the completely unexpected qualifying run of Johnny Rutherford. He had not done anything spectacular in practice runs, but his qualifying speed was 170.213, only 0.007 mph slower than Unser’s. It really took everybody by surprise and was good enough for the second starting position.

Shortly after 3:00, rain started coming down. We waited for more than an hour and then decided there wouldn’t be any more track activity for the day, so we left and went back to the car. As it turned out, we were right.

Although less spectacular than Rutherford’s performance, another memorable event to remember about this year was the fact that, for two consecutive years, the qualifying record was not broken. This is the first time this has happened since I have been seeing the race.

It was frustrating to be rained out again, but at least we were able to see some activity, unlike last year when the entire day was washed out.

We walked back to the car, got everything arranged, and started our trip home. It took a while to reach I-74, but when we did, the traffic moved much quicker. We took the same route home and stopped at the same place for supper. We had eaten sandwiches during the day, but the hot meal really tasted good. Our arrival time at home was a little earlier than usual, but we had had a good time anyway, despite the frustrating rain. In our five years of attending the time trials, only once (1968) have we had good weather.

I got all of my equipment packed on Friday morning and left for Dalbey’s about 10:45. I ate dinner there while Dad and Bobby put everything into the car. When I finished eating, we checked to make sure we had everything, and then at 11:53 we started our trip. We went in Bobby’s 1969 Chevrolet as we had done also for the time trials.

The traffic between Springfield and Decatur was rather heavy, and there was work being done on the highway in Macon County, so it wasn’t too good of a drive. There was also work being done on Eldorado Street in Decatur. Because of the work, there was only one lane of eastbound traffic, so that slowed us down some more. After stopping for a few red lights, we at last got out of town and into lighter traffic.

The scenery was pretty much the same as it always is, but I still enjoyed all the sights, and I am always amazed at the large US Industrial Chemicals Corporation plant just west of Tuscola. It was a fine afternoon for traveling, and we continued on until 2:07 when we stopped at the Colonial Kitchen. It took us 2 hours and 14 minutes, quite a bit longer than when going to the time trials.

There were only two other persons there, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Dad and Bobby had a piece of pie and a cup of coffee, and I had a cup of coffee and a sweet roll. It felt good to drink the coffee and later to use the restroom.

We left again at 2:35 and went north on Route 1 and 150 until we reached I-74 just south of Danville. This was about 3:00. The traffic wasn’t real bad, and we were able to travel 70 mph most of the way. When we got close to our destination, we took US Route 136 east until we arrived at the Standard Station. There, we filled up with gas and used the restrooms. We went about another mile until we came to Fisher Avenue, and then we turned left and stopped at Kramer’s. Dad and Bobby got out while Bud guided me into a spot in his front yard between the highway and his front porch. It was 4:24 PM. Our travel time was four hours and three minutes.

Bud talked with us for a few minutes as we discussed the weather, the crowd, the race, etc. He then excused himself, and we got out our lawn chairs and sat for a while.

It was enjoyable just to sit and take in the racing atmosphere. The race fans were coming into the city, and many of the city people were getting off from work and going home. The only factor keeping the weather from being perfect was the slightly-too-strong breeze; otherwise, it was a very pleasant afternoon. As I looked around and observed the behavior and activities of the other persons in the parking lot, I knew it was another night just like every other night before the 500 — wild. Some of them were already drinking beer. A young couple was lying on the ground and enjoying each other’s company, oblivious to anybody else around them. Several men were sitting in lawn chairs and watching a portable TV which one of them had brought. They asked me to join them, so for a few minutes, we watched highlights of the Old Timers Club meeting earlier in the afternoon at the Speedway. This was the first time I’d ever seen TV in Kramer’s lot.

About 5:30, we decided to eat our supper. Dad and I got the stove fire going, and Bobby put the plastic tablecloth over the trunk lid and put all of her equipment out. Our supper consisted of baked beans, hamburgers, salad and cookies, sweet rolls, and potato chips if we wanted them. All of it tasted real good. Maybe the idea of cooking over an open fire in the outdoors made it taste good. It is a popular way of eating with race fans. While we were eating, we could listen to the radio, watch TV, and watch all the activity around us all at the same time. The perfect weather was another positive factor.

When we felt we couldn’t eat anymore, we cleaned up our mess and put our equipment back into the car. Since it was still fairly early and still light, I thought it would be a good idea to take our walk down by the Speedway to take in the sights. The service station restrooms and eating establishments between Kramer’s and the Speedway were doing a good business, and the ditches and parking lots were filling with cars. There was a long line of people waiting to go through the museum, but it moved steadily, so that was a big help. As it had been for several years, Jack Brabham’s 1961 Cooper Special was parked right inside the front door. I don’t know if there were any new additions or not this year, but it was still interesting to see those cars I had seen before. I bought some picture post cards and also some paintings of race cars and drivers at the sales desk, and then we left. I bought a newspaper from a newsboy, and then we walked back to the car. We always enjoy reading the special race editions of the Indy newspapers. They are loaded with race data and information.

Bobby and Dad read the paper while I joined the TV crowd and watched reruns of the time trials. They were particular interesting to watch because a camera was on each car all the way around the track. When the time trial films were over, there was a panel of racing personalities who discussed the activities of the month and what they thought would happen tomorrow. When the show was over, I went back and joined Dad and Bobby.

We read the paper, commented on interesting features we read, listened to the radio, and just watched the activity around us. One of the radio broadcasts everybody is interested in is the weather prediction. It sounded good, although there was a possibility of rain later in the afternoon on Saturday, but that shouldn’t affect the race. By now, it was dark. I wanted to take another, more extensive walk down by the Speedway, but Dad and Bobby decided to stay in the car, so I took out on my own.

The revelry was going strong by this time. Bonfires, beer bottles, singing, and laughing abounded. I walked east on the north side of 16th Street to the viaduct and then walked back west on the south side. As usual, it was the real young people who were making the biggest fools of themselves. It is unfortunate that the quiet, non-drinking people have to be repulsed and tormented by these young fools, but it is this way every year. Controlling them is a difficult job for the policemen, which was proven in 1967 when a riot almost erupted on Georgetown Road between a group of drunks and helmeted, club-carrying State Policemen.

I continued on to Main Street and then went into the comer drugstore. I thought I might find another newspaper but I didn’t, so I walked on south a couple more blocks. I went into another drugstore for the same reason and had the same luck, so I turned around and walked back to 16th Street.

I decided to do something I’d never done before. I walked west on 16th Street and crossed over to one of the side streets and walked back to the railroad tracks. It looked like a big camping area with all the pick-up trucks, bonfires, drinking, laughing, etc. I had always thought about walking through this area, and this year I finally made it. Everybody seemed to be having a grand time. I walked down several side streets which I’d never been on before. There were a few people sitting on their front porches, but it was real quiet. I walked back to the main gate and then north on Georgetown Road. There was much activity taking place, most of it not pleasing and desirable but not any worse than I had seen in most years. Because the crowd was so heavy, I didn’t go all the way to Gate 6. Instead, I turned around and walked back to Crawfordsville Road and from there to the car. The eastbound lane of the street was filling up with cars waiting to go into the infield. The drunks and street parties were going full blast, and the filling stations and eating places were doing a good business.

When I arrived at the car, the scene wasn’t much different. Bud Kramer was still awake, and every once in a while he would get another customer. Bobby and Dad were already trying to sleep, so I opened the trunk lid as quietly as I could and got my cot, pillow, and blankets. I had decided beforehand that it might be a little quieter in the garage. I had to use a flashlight to see, but I finally got set up and was the only person sleeping in there. There was a little less noise, but I still couldn’t sleep for two reasons: 1) I was too excited to sleep anyway, and 2) loud, laughing drunks were using the urinal on the north side of the garage all night long. I managed to sleep off and on for a few minutes at a time, but the constant noise prevented me from getting a good night’s sleep. It may seem strange to some people, but revelry and noise increase instead of decrease as the night gets darker and the hour gets later.

At 5:00, the opening bomb went off and the gates of the Speedway opened to receive the thousands of cars that would be passing though its gates in the next few hours. By now, the eastbound lane of Crawfordsville Road was lined solid with cars for several blocks past us. I lay in bed for a few minutes but then got up and folded my bed and blankets and went back to the car. As I was walking, I met Dad, who was coming over to see if I was awake yet. I put my equipment in the car, and then we sat in the car for a few minutes and watched the people and listened to the radio. Some of the radio stations had helicopter reports every few minutes of the traffic conditions around the Speedway.

Little by little, different carloads of people awoke to face another day, and most of the people looked as if they had just been awakened out of a deep sleep. I went over and washed my face in the cold (there wasn’t any hot) water, and that made me feel a little better. The water faucet was a popular place because it was the only source of water.

Dad and Bobby went down to the hamburger restaurant by the Standard Station and got the Thermos bottles filled with coffee. When they returned, Dad and I got the stove fire started while Bobby got the other equipment out. It was between 6:00 and 7:00, and the activity was steadily increasing. The long line of cars was moving, although not always to the satisfaction of the drivers. They frequently showed their impatience by blowing their horns, which of course did nothing to move the traffic. The pedestrian traffic going to the Speedway was increasing also, as was the amount of equipment being carried, such as coolers, field glasses, cameras, etc.

The aroma of eggs and bacon frying in the open morning air really smelled good. The scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, and hot coffee made a fine breakfast. Bobby cooked plenty of food, and we ate all we could hold. When we finished, we wiped the cups and silverware off but didn’t wash them. Bobby said she would do that when we got home.

When everything was back in its place, we sat in the car while we read newspapers, listened to the radio, and watched the activity of the people around us. By now, most of the people in the yard were awake and out walking around or eating breakfast. Two of the people eating their breakfast were a couple from Texas who have also been staying at Kramer’s for several years.

Around 8:00, we decided we may as well join the crowd going to the Speedway, so we checked to be sure we had all of our equipment, locked up the car, and started for the Speedway. Bobby stopped at the Standard Station and used the restroom. Luckily for us, there were only a couple other women waiting, so that saved some time. When we reached the White Castle eating place across from the pedestrian entrance, Dad went in and got the Thermos bottles filled with coffee.

There was a huge mob of people going through the gates and also a little pushing and much crowdedness, but we got through okay. We stopped at the first vendor selling race programs and bought three of them. It is a long walk from the main gate to the Gate 6 viaduct, but we finally made it. This is usually the biggest bottleneck for us, but this year, despite the usual crushing crowd, the people moved slowly but steadily, unlike many years when it hardly moved at all.

Once we got under the track and onto the sidewalk, we moved right along, and a couple minutes later we came back up to the infield and saw daylight again. We continued straight ahead until we came to the underpass going under one of the infield streets. We walked under and then came back to the Tower Terrace section. Since this would be our last chance, Dad and I decided to use the restroom. Bobby took care of our equipment while she waited for us. When we came out, the three of us each took a ticket and gave it to the gateman so that he wouldn’t get confused and maybe let in more people than he had tickets for. We walked up the pit area, and I stood there for a few seconds and took in the sight, smell, and sound of activity up and down the straightaway. The sound of engines, the smell of fuel, and the beautiful sight of the marching bands brought a smile to my face. We walked down one section and then up to our seats. We were in section 43, row J, seats 5, 6, and 7. We put our equipment under our seats and sat down and rested our feet.

It had been worth waiting a year to see. I had that special feeling I get only on race day morning, and it would be almost two hours yet before the race started. The many different colors of the uniforms of the high school and Purdue University bands made a beautiful sight to see. The pretty majorettes performing with their batons made it even more enjoyable.

I decided to take a walk along the pit area fence to take in the sights, and so I stepped out on my own. There were many other persons who had the same idea. Among the crews and drivers I saw were those of A.J. Foyt, Jim McElreath, Sammy Sessions, Rick Muther, Johnny Rutherford, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Mario Andretti, Mel Kenyon, George Snider, Al Unser, and Jerry Grant. Some of the drivers had their uniforms on while others still had on street clothes. Most of the pit crews were making final adjustments and check-ups. Some of the drivers were signing autographs for the fans, some were being interviewed for radio and TV programs, and others nervously waited out the remaining time until 11:00. Among the familiar faces I recognized were Andy Granatelli, car owner, and Sid Collins, the radio announcer for the race. The pit area was really a beehive of activity with hundreds of people everywhere doing many different jobs. I went back to my seat between 9:30 and 9:45.

In the midst of all the activity, there was one factor that was making everybody uneasy. That was the weather. Unlike the night before, the sun was not shining and there was a possibility of rain.

At 9:45, the Chief Steward directed the pit crews to push their cars to their starting positions on the track. This usually isn’t done until 10:00, and some of the spectators were wondering what caused the change. Slowly, one by one, the cars were pushed onto the track, and we used our Speedway program to identify each car and its driver.

At 10:00, the Purdue University band played the first of the traditional songs, On the Banks of the Wabash. Between 10:00 and 10:30, many famous celebrities were driven around the track for everybody to see. Among them were Bob Barker, Al Hirt, Jim Nabors, Hugh Downs, Joe Garagiola, Edie Adams, Judy Ford (Miss America), Bubby Ebson, and astronauts Tom Conrad and Buzz Aldrin, plus the Queen of the 500 Festival and the 32 princesses.

About 10:30, a moan went up from the crowd as a few rain drops were seen and felt. It lasted only a few seconds and didn’t even get the concrete completely wet, but it was disturbing.

When it stopped, the Chief Steward made an inspection trip and said there was water on the second turn and there couldn’t be any racing until it dried out. The sun didn’t come out, so therefore the water didn’t evaporate very quickly. There was nothing anybody could do but wait and hope.

At 10:40, the band played The Star-Spangled Banner with Al Hirt playing a trumpet solo, and at 10:45, everybody rose to their feet again as Taps was played in keeping with the solemn purpose of Memorial Day. In the meantime, the Chief Steward made another inspection and said the track still wasn’t ready.

11:00 came, and for the first time in my 17 years, there was no roar of engines or green flag waving. It seemed strange. Instead of looking at race cars, everybody was looking at the sky and wishing the sun would come through. It sprinkled a few more drops but not enough to do any damage.

The aggravating delay upset some of the fans, and they started clapping in unison hoping to get the race started. There was nothing for the pit crews and drivers to do but pace back and forth by their cars and talk to each other. Some sat in their cars and others didn’t.

Finally, about 11:30, after a couple more inspections, the Chief Steward announced the track had dried sufficiently and the race could begin. The atmosphere changed from gloom to joy as everything started stirring again. The band slowly played Back Home Again in Indiana, and a couple minutes later, the colored balloons were released from the infield. In addition, this year there were 25 golden balloons released in honor of Tony Hulman. A couple minutes after that, Tony was introduced over the PA system and gave his famous command, “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!”

Instantly, engines came to life, and the fans let out a tremendous roar. Pit crews fanned the exhaust fumes away, and drivers adjusted their helmets, gloves, goggles, handkerchiefs, and seatbelts. The loud roar of the engines was sweet music to everybody’s ears. The pace car, with Rodger Ward driving and Tony Hulman beside him, slowly pulled away, and one by one the cars were pushed away. Pit crews hurried to get themselves and their equipment off the track and back to their pits.

Everybody was standing and looking anxiously at the fourth turn. Pretty soon, the pace car appeared and moved down the straightaway with the 11 rows behind it. They presented a beautiful sight as they went by, and the crowd responded with whistles, cheers, waving, and clapping. Now, they were on the pace lap, and the next time by would be the start of the race. There was another long wait, and then the pace car appeared and sped toward the pit area. The cars increased their speed, but just as they reached the starting line, the yellow, instead of the green, flag was displayed. Confusion and excitement reigned.

Ninth place starter, Jim Malloy, lost a radius rod and hit the outside wall twice and slid across to the inside wall. The remaining cars made another trip around the track but were red flagged on the straightaway. Now, there would be another delay. Jim was uninjured, but his car was too damaged to be in the race. The drivers stopped near the starting line, turned off their engines, and got out. It took the track crew about 25 minutes to get the mess cleaned up, and once again, disgust and frustration came over everybody. Never before had there been such a difficulty in getting the race started. During the 25-minute wait, pit crews were allowed to put two gallons of fuel into their cars. About 12:00, the track was pronounced in shape for racing.

Tony Hulman said, “Gentlemen, restart your engines,” and once again we got to hear that wonderful sound. They lined up in their starting positions with the ninth spot left vacant. The pace car made one trip around, pulled into the pit area, and at 12:07, 67 minutes late, the race started.

Al Unser jumped in front, but going through the first turn, Johnny Rutherford was first. His lead was short, however, and Unser regained it on the back straightaway and was leading at the end of the first lap. His speed was 160.427.

Rutherford was second, A.J. Foyt third, Mark Donohue fourth, and Mario Andretti fifth.

The big news was Lloyd Ruby. After three laps he was 16th, having started 25th. I had predicted he would be near the front shortly after the start, and he was proving me right.

After five laps, Art Pollard passed Foyt for fifth, and after 10 laps, Jim McElreath had moved from 33rd to 18th place.

Rookie Greg Weld was finished after 11 laps when his engine quit running, and on his 21st lap, George Follmer retired with a blown oil gasket.

After 20 laps, the first 10 were Al Unser, Rutherford, Pollard, Bobby Unser, Andretti, Foyt, Roger McCluskey, Donohue, Dan Gurney, and Ruby.

At 22 laps, Unser led Rutherford by three seconds, and Ruby was in seventh position.

At the 27th lap, Art Pollard blew his engine, and he came to a stop in the infield on the first turn and brought out the caution flag. Art was given 30th position. The green came on again on the 32nd lap, and Ruby moved into third place.

Bruce Walkup was finished after 44 laps with time gear failure, and on his next lap, Gordon Johncock’s engine gave way and he was finished.

Ruby was now third, and when Al Unser and Rutherford pitted, he moved into the lead. He was the star of the race so far, but his glory was short-lived. Just as he took the lead he was given the black flag, but before he could come in, his engine caught on fire and he was out of the race. This brought a groan from the crowd. Lloyd has had a lot of bad luck the last few years, and just when he seemed to be conquering it, it returned.

The standings at 40 laps were Al Unser, Rutherford, Ruby, Bobby Unser, Foyt, McCluskey, Donohue, Leonard, Gurney, and Mike Mosley.

At 60 laps, it was Al Unser, Foyt, Rutherford, Bobby Unser, Leonard, McCluskey, Donohue, Jack Brabham, Mosley, and Peter Revson. The average speed was 159.744 mph.

Gary Bettenhausen dropped out on his 55th lap with valve trouble, and tough-luck man Roger McCluskey quit after 62 laps with a broken suspension.

Joe Leonard was running well when a magneto failed after 73 laps and finished him for this race. Five laps later, the clutch on Bill Vukovich II’s car failed and it was all over for him.

At 80 laps, the first 10 were Al Unser, Foyt, Donohue, Mosley, Bobby Unser, Andretti, Rutherford, Revson, Brabham, and Gurney. Revson had moved from 16th starting position to 8th, but his good luck ended on the 87th lap when his engine blew and he was awarded 22nd position.

Al Unser maintained his steady lead as the 100-lap mark neared, and his car seemed to be running perfectly.

Mike Mosley was another victim of Lady Luck’s absence. He had moved from 12th to 4th position, but on his 97th lap, his radiator broke down and he had to settle for 21st position.

A broken suspension dropped George Snider from the running after 105 laps, and Lee Roy Yarbrough’s turbocharger failed after 107 laps and he was forced out. His pit area was right in front of us, and he had been in his pit several times. Each time, the crew sent him back onto the track thinking they had the problem solved, only to find out that they didn’t. One time, Lee Roy got out and walked around in disgust at having to lose so much time, but he and his crew finally gave up and pushed the car back to its garage.

Al Unser continued in front while the other front-runners tried in vain to catch him. The next car out of the race was Rutherford. It is a shame that, in seven races, Johnny has yet to finish a race. Many people thought his luck had changed for the better when he made his excellent qualifying run, but it was not to be that way. Maybe someday Johnny will get the break he deserves and finish high up in the final standings.

Cars were dropping out at a steady pace, which was disappointing although not unusual. I think the race would be more interesting if more cars were able to go the full distance, but that has never happened and probably never will.

On his 144th lap, Wally Dallenbach was forced out when a magneto failed. Things were going smoothly until the 172nd lap when Roger McCluskey, driving relief for Mel Kenyon, and Ronnie Bucknum collided with each other in the north chute. Fuel from McCluskey’s car spilled out across the track and both drivers hit and bounced off the wall, but nobody was hurt, although the cars were damaged and out of the race. The accident provided the most uneasy moments of the race for the spectators because it was several minutes before they were informed as to what happened either on the PA system or the radio. It was a great relief to learn that nobody had been hurt.

The caution light was on for 17 minutes, during which no driver could change position. This was a good break for Al Unser but bad for the other drivers. It certainly slowed down the speed.

Australian Jack Brabham retired after 175 laps when his engine conked out. As it turned out, he was the last driver to drop out of the race.

The green light came on again on the 190th lap, and fast speed resumed. If Al Unser continued as he was doing he would win, but veteran observers of this race knew that anything could happen and it wasn’t over until the 200th lap had been completed.

Al’s car continued to hold up, however, and as he came down the straightaway for the checkered flag, he received a large applause from the crowd. He took two extra laps and then drove slowly through the pit area to victory lane for the winning celebration.

Thirty-two seconds behind in 2nd place was Mark Donohue. This was his second year, and last year he finished seventh, which is a real fine record.

Dan Gurney was third after finishing second the two previous years, which is certainly a good record. I thought Dan might move up to first, but third place is an excellent finish.

Rookie Donnie Allison was fourth, and that is an excellent performance for any rookie.

Jim McElreath, 33rd starter, finished 5th. His great rise from the rear was exceeded in history only by Johnny Thomson in 1955 when he started 33rd and finished 4th.

The first five drivers completed the 200 laps.

The sixth through tenth finishers, all running when the red flag was displayed, were Mario Andretti, 199 laps; Jerry Grant, 198 laps; rookie Rick Muther, 197 laps; Carl Williams, 197 laps; and A.J. Foyt, 193 laps. Foyt almost had to crawl around the track near the end of the race because of a broken transmission gear.

Eleventh place finisher Bobby Unser was in a similar situation because of a broken transmission. Both he and Foyt had to go extremely slow and keep to the inside of the track. They seemed to be in a race by themselves as the other cars whizzed by them. It was a bad break for the two former winners.

Sam Sessions finished 12th with 190 laps, and rookie Dick Simon had 168 laps when he was red flagged.

When all the cars were off the track and being pushed back to the garage area, we gathered up all our equipment and started the long trip back to the car.

The traffic moved right along until we were behind the Paddock stands, and then it slowed down some. Many people went out to Georgetown Road and walked, so we followed them. There were a couple of tie-ups but nothing bad, and a few minutes later we reached the highway. Before we got there, I bought a helicopter edition of the Indianapolis News. The pedestrian traffic on the highway moved steadily, but we had to be careful of cars dashing onto the highway from the parking lot. It was about 4:00 when we arrived at the car.

The weather had turned out okay. The sun came out about 12:00, just in time for the restart of the race, and it had stayed out since then. We put our equipment into the car, got out the lawn chairs, and relaxed for a few minutes. I took the remaining pictures on the roll and then drank some coffee and ate some cookies and potato chips. We also listened to the radio and watched the cars and people leaving the area. Most of the cars had left Kramer’s, so we wouldn’t have any trouble getting out. A few minutes after 5:00, we thought we noticed the first little let-up in traffic, so we got everything arranged in the car and prepared to start out.

At 5:23, I drove forward a few feet and then drove right over the yard to the highway. I was very lucky and drove up just as a friendly woman driver came from the east. She stopped and let me get right in front of her. This was the first time we had not had to wait a long time at the stop sign. When we got onto the highway, we had to wait a while, but then we moved fairly well. We moved in three or four spurts to Lynhurst Drive, and then, for some unknown reason, the police wouldn’t let traffic continue west but routed it south on Lynhurst. We followed the crowd and took the first street going west. We went several blocks and then went north until we reached Crawfordsville Road by the Holiday Inn and then turned left onto the highway. A couple minutes later, we reached I-74 and we made much better time. The traffic was such that we could travel 70 mph almost all the way to Danville. Upon reaching Danville, we took the 150-1 turn-off south and headed toward the Route 36 intersection. The towns we passed through were quite similar to the ones we had seen on Route 36 in Indiana prior to last year. We didn’t make the time we did on I-74, but that was to be expected. After leaving Chrisman, we went about half a mile and then right off the highway to the Colonial Kitchen. It was 7:23 when we stopped, two hours to the minute after we started.

We used the restroom first and then went through the serving line. There weren’t many people ahead of us, so that was a help. All three of us filled our plates and then slowly and enjoyably ate our supper. There were several other race fans eating supper too, and they looked happy, too. It was nice to be able to eat all we wanted and to take our time doing it. When we had eaten all we could, we used the restroom again, paid the bill, and started the last part of our trip home. It was 8:13 when we started.

As we traveled, we tuned in the St. Louis Cardinals ball game and listened to it for a while. Between 9:15 and 9:30, we arrived at Decatur. Eldorado Street looked the same as it usually does on the evening of May 30th — busy. A few minutes later, we were leaving the city and were on the highway again. The traffic is always heavier west of Decatur than it is on the east side, and it was the same way this year. We reached Camp Butler Road shortly after 10:00, and at 10:21 we arrived at Dalbey’s. I helped Bobby and Dad unpack their equipment and then went into the living room to watch the films of the race at 10:30. It was an interesting program, and we saw some action we couldn’t see at the Speedway.

When that was over, I left and went to my own home. Once again, we had a safe and enjoyable trip, one that would give us many pleasant memories for years to come.

EPILOGUE

At the awards banquet on Sunday night, a record purse of $1,000,000.22 was distributed. It was the first time in auto racing history that there was a million dollar purse. For his victory, Unser received $271,697. 33rd place finisher Jim Malloy received $13,677.

Unser’s winning speed was 155.749 mph, compared to Andretti’s record of 156.867 of last year. His time was 3:12:37.04.

Like every race before it, this race had its surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, and Lloyd Ruby were the big names this year.

The Speedway continues to increase its seating capacity every year, and every year the size of the crowd increases, which is proof of the enormous popularity of this race. On next Memorial Day, I plan to be in attendance when those famous words, “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines,” are spoken to begin another Indianapolis 500, the world’s greatest single-day sporting event.

Pace Car — Oldsmobile 442
500 Festival Queen — Ann Ballei

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