The first year of my third decade at the Speedway was quite different from any of the 20 years that preceded it. There were changes not only at the Speedway and in the race but also in some of my own personal habits.
Because of last year’s tragic race, there were many changes made to the physical plant of the Speedway. The outer retaining wall and the inner wall along the main straightaway were raised to a uniform height of 32 inches. In connection with this wall project, about 1,800 chair seats in front of the Paddock and Grandstand A were removed. These two projects were done in an attempt to prevent a recurrence of Salt Walther’s fiery crash of last year.
The pit area was extended 856 feet northward, and this gives each pit crew about 35% more working area than they had previously. A new and wider pit entrance was also constructed just south of the fourth turn.
An observation stand was built on the outside of the track at the start-finish line. It is a two-level stand with the starter on the lower level and the Chief Steward on the upper level. This was done to give both of these officials a better view of the action on the main straightaway, particularly for the start of the race.
This was the first year in the history of the race that it was held on a Sunday. In previous years, when the race was on May 30th and that day came on Sunday, it was held on Monday the 31st. I didn’t think the race would ever be run on Sunday, but now it has been and it may be the permanent day for the race. Next year’s race will be run on the last Sunday of May also.
From a personal viewpoint, there were three changes that made this year different than any previous year. This was the first year I didn’t see the first day of time trials since I started seeing them in 1966. There were two reasons why I didn’t go: 1.) I didn’t want to use any annual leave at work, which I would have to have done, and 2.) the cost of lodging for two nights was too much, particularly since I would be doing the same thing again in two weeks.
This was the first time I came home the day after the race instead of race day night. I decided I was tired of fighting the terrible traffic after the race and feeling worn out when I arrived home and also decided there was no reason why I had to tolerate these conditions.
The third big personal change this year was driving over and back by myself. After 20 years of seeing the race, Dad decided that because of his poor health it would be better if he stayed home. Bobby also decided that it had become too much of a strain on her and it was time to stay home.
On Friday the 24th, I packed as much of my equipment as possible, and on Saturday I finished the job. I decided to use our 1973 Chevrolet Malibu, and it was the first time it had been to Indianapolis. On Saturday morning, I did a few little jobs around the house, got myself ready, ate dinner, put my equipment in the car, and at 1:35 I said goodbye to Dixie and started my trip.
I stopped at the Standard Station for gasoline but they didn’t have any regular gasoline, so I had to go to another Standard Station and this time I was able to get regular gasoline.
From the service station, located at Jefferson and McArthur Streets, I went north on McArthur to North Grand Avenue, east on North Grand to 8th Street, north on 8th Street to Sangamon Avenue, and then east on Sangamon Avenue until I left the city.
This was the first year of the 55 mph speed limit, and it was aggravating not to be able to go 65 mph as I had done in the past. One sight I observed as soon as I left Springfield and noticed all the way to Indianapolis was the enormous amount of farm land under water. It was certainly distressing to see, and I hoped that I wouldn’t see any rain at least until after the race.
It was 2:30 when I arrived at Decatur, where everything looked about the same as it had in other years. I continued on my way and saw the same sights which I never tire of seeing. The Cardinals-Cubs baseball game was my listening entertainment as I traveled, and then at 3:55 I arrived at the Colonial Kitchen at the 36-1-150 intersection.
There was scarcely anybody in the place, and I sat at a table and had a cup of coffee and a dish of orange sherbet. The refreshments tasted good, and after using the restroom, I paid my bill, and at 4:15 I resumed my trip.
For the first time since 1968, I continued on Route 36 instead of going north to I-74. I thought with the uniform 55 mph speed limit that there wouldn’t be much difference in the time. Also, I still enjoy seeing the little Indiana towns on the route and the pretty green scenery that is so prevalent at this time of the year in Indiana.
It was 4:25 when I crossed the state line, and I encountered almost no heavy traffic the remainder of my trip. It was about 5:45 when I reached the I-465 intersection and saw the sign saying SPEEDWAY pointing to the right. I followed the road and went north a couple miles until I saw the US 136 EAST sign and took it. A few seconds later, I was on Crawfordsville Road and stopped at the Standard Station across the road from Mario Andretti’s tire store. This station was also out of regular gasoline, so I bought the low-lead type. I was really amazed when it only took 7.4 gallons to fill the tank. That averaged out to an incredible 25.6 miles per gallon. With the good feeling of having a full gasoline tank, I continued on my way, and at 6:10, I arrived at Mrs. Bray’s house.
Mrs. Bray was happy to see me and said she thought I would be there earlier, but I told her I didn’t leave home as soon as I had planned and therefore I was late in arriving. We talked for a few minutes, and then I took some of my equipment out of the car and carried it to the upstairs room, which was my home for about one and a half days. I didn’t want to eat supper this early, so I stayed for a few minutes in my room and read the newest edition of National Speed Sport News.
About 7:30, after I finished my reading, I decided it was time for supper, so I got in my car and went to the MCL Cafeteria, about a mile from Mrs. Bray’s house. There were several persons in the cafeteria, but the line of customers moved right along and it didn’t take long to receive my meal. My supper was Swiss steak, baked potato, corn, rolls, and coffee. All of the food tasted good, and I was fortunate to have a quiet, pleasant area in which to eat.
When I left the cafeteria, I did some window shopping at some of the stores in the shopping center and left about 9:00 because the stores were closing for the day. My stomach still didn’t feel quite full, so I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts shop next to the Standard Service Station and bought four donuts, which I ate on my way back to the house.
Mrs. Bray had the television set on when I went into the house, and highlights of Saturday afternoon’s 500 Festival Parade were being shown, so I watched that for about an hour and then went to bed. It wasn’t real late yet, but I knew I’d be getting up early in the morning, so I decided I’d better go now and get a good night’s sleep.
It was about 5:30 when I opened my eyes, and when I looked out the window, I was pleased with the weather. The sky was mostly blue with no hint of rain. I lay in bed for a couple minutes and then got dressed and went downstairs to use the bathroom. It was a pleasant surprise when I found neither anybody in the bathroom nor anybody waiting to use it. I washed my teeth, shaved, combed my hair, and then took my cosmetics upstairs and put them away.
The next order of business was breakfast, so I went downstairs and found an empty table and sat down. One of the ladies helping Mrs. Bray brought me a cup of coffee to drink while I was waiting for my food, and a couple minutes later, she brought my food. Breakfast was two fried eggs, four pieces of bacon, two pieces of toast, and a second cup of coffee. It was a good breakfast, and I felt better when I was finished. I sat and talked to another couple at the table for a couple minutes, then paid my $2.00 and returned to my room.
A few minutes before 8:00, I went to the car and gathered my belongings to take to the Speedway. These items included the movie camera, still camera, film for each camera, field glasses, Thermos bottle, cupcakes from home, sunglasses, cap, and most important of all, my ticket. Somehow, I managed to get all these items arranged in my carrying bag, and at 8:00, I started my walk to the Speedway. Before I crossed Georgetown Road, I stopped at the White Castle eating place and had my Thermos bottle filled with coffee.
There was a large crowd of people going through the entrances but the lines moved steadily, and within a minute or so I was inside the Speedway grounds. My first stop was just a few feet inside the gate where I bought four souvenir programs. Just a short distance from where I bought the souvenir programs was an attraction which interested me and several other persons. It was an F-104 fighter plane. I recognized it immediately because I had seen them several times when I was stationed at George Air Force Base. I don’t know how it happened to be on display here, but it was a popular attraction. A few minutes later, I arrived at the tunnel by the starting line and walked under the track and up into the infield.
Instead of going straight to my seat, I decided to see what was happening in the area behind the Control Tower. There were a lot of people looking through the fence surrounding the garage area although the cars were already in their pits. As I was walking toward the garage area, I happened to look to my left, and just a few feet from me stood Tony Hulman, the president of the Speedway. He was talking to a couple men and signing his autograph for anybody who wanted it. He greeted everybody warmly and was popular with the fans.
Another attraction was the Scottish marching band. They were rehearsing their marching routine before they went onto the race track and were attracting a large audience which enjoyed their entertainment. The two Scottish dogs at the front of the parade were a popular subject for persons with cameras, including me. The band stopped for a rest period, and the two dogs were surrounded with persons who wanted to pet them and take their picture. The dogs seemed to enjoy the humans as well as the humans enjoyed their company. After its break, the band practiced a few more minutes and then went onto the racetrack.
When the band left, I decided to go to the Tower Terrace area and see what was going on in the pit area and on the track. Instead of going to my seat first as I had done in the past, I decided to do my sightseeing first and then go to my seat to stay for the rest of the day.
The pit area was abuzz with activity as the marching units paraded on the track and pit crews made final repairs and checks on their cars. I recognized several drivers, both former and present ones. Among the former ones I recognized were Sam Hanks, Duke Nalon, and Mark Donohue. The many famous celebrities, drivers, officials, cars, and marching units were popular subjects of camera fans. I watched the activity for quite a while, and then about 9:15, I went to my seat.
This was the first time I met my two race companions. Since Dad and Bobby did not attend the race this year, they asked my cousin, Ted Coy, and his wife, Margaret, if they would like to use their tickets. Ted and Margaret were real happy with the offer and bought the tickets within a few days. Because they left Springfield later than I did on Saturday and did not know where their lodging would be, I decided it would be easier for all of us if we met at our seats. Ted had gone to a refreshment stand to get some cold drinks for him and Margaret, so she and I talked for a few minutes until Ted returned.
Ted was a real interesting person to sit with and talk to, both before and during the race. He was thoroughly familiar with the cars and drivers plus all the activity that had been going on at the Speedway up to race day. This made it real easy for the two of us to talk to each other.
Between 9:45 and 10:00, the PA announcer directed the pit crews to push their cars onto the track and into their starting positions. For those pit crews who were located near the center of the pit area, it was a long push to either end because of the increased length of the area this year.
The various celebrities from different areas of life were introduced to the fans and then driven around in Hurst/Olds official cars for everybody to see. Most of the names were ones I wasn’t familiar with.
The traditional first song played by the Purdue University Band, On the Banks of the Wabash, was played at 10:00 as the cars were being lined up on the track. At 10:30, the new Chief Steward, Tom Binford, and some other USAC officials took a final inspection trip of the track and pronounced it in excellent condition for racing.
A few minutes after the USAC officials returned to the starting line, the PU band played The Star-Spangled Banner, and then a new pre-race ritual was initiated. A minister from one of the Speedway churches gave the invocation. Although I don’t know for sure, I assume this was done in observance of the race being held on Sunday.
To regress a little bit, at 10:30 the pit crews were allowed to start their engines and run them for a couple minutes. This was another new practice which was initiated this year. It was done in the hope that it might prevent any car from not starting at the regular starting time.
After the invocation was given, Taps was played in keeping with the true meaning of Memorial Day, and then about 10:50, Jim Nabors sang the familiar Back Home Again in Indiana.
The long wait for the big moment was just about over. The crowd was noisy and restless as it waited out the last few seconds of quietude. Those few seconds passed quickly, and then the PA announcer, Tom Carnegie, introduced Speedway president Tony Hulman, who pronounced those four famous words loudly and distinctly, “GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES!”
A couple seconds later, that wonderful sound of the engines pervaded the air to the pleasure of everybody. I immensely enjoyed just standing at my seat and listening to the drivers race their engines. This is the only time this can be done, and I always enjoy it to the utmost.
One member of each pit crew help up one of his arms to indicate his car and driver were ready to go. A couple minutes later, the Hurst/Olds pace car, driven by 1960 winner Jim Rathmann, slowly pulled away, and one by one the cars were pushed away to start the parade lap. As is usually true, there was one car that wouldn’t start, and this year that unwanted honor went to Rick Muther, who started in the 24th position. His car was pushed to the inside retaining wall where his crew worked on it while the other 32 drivers lined up for the start. Rick finally got started as the field came into the fourth turn, and his crew immediately pushed him away.
As the field came down the main straightaway for the start of the pace lap, fourth-place starter Gordon Johncock came through the pit area and stopped for a quick talk with his pit crew. A few seconds later he was back on the track. At about the same time, Rick Muther came flying down the straightaway in an attempt to get into position before the start.
A couple minutes later, the pace car appeared in the fourth turn and turned off into the pit area. Now it was up to pole position driver A.J. Foyt to pace the field to the starting line. The drivers had been told at the drivers’ meeting on Saturday that the end of the pace lap would not automatically be the start of the race. The field would have to be in correct formation or it would keep going until it was aligned correctly. As they approached the starting line, the drivers kept their good formation, and just before the front row reached the line, starter Pat Vidan waved the green flag and the race was on.
Most of the fans were surprised when second-place starter Wally Dallenbach jumped into the lead ahead of Foyt. Sharing equal concern with who took the lead was the question of whether everybody got through the first turn okay. When the PA announcer announced that everybody had gotten through the first two turns without any trouble, a big sigh of relief went through the crowd. If there had been a fiery mishap such as happened at the start of last year’s race, it would have cast a cloud of gloom over the remainder of the race and perhaps over any future race.
At the end of the first lap, Dallenbach held a big lead over Foyt and seemed to be pulling away from everybody else. His glory was brief, however, and on his third lap he came slowly through the pit area and was finished for the day with a cracked valve.
At the same time, Dick Simon, Mario Andretti, and Gary Bettenhausen came into the pits and were finished before the race hardly started. Simon had a cracked valve, Bettenhausen had a broken valve, and Andretti had a burned piston. It was certainly disappointing to lose these drivers so soon.
Shortly after these four left the race, Mike Mosley had a blown engine after six laps, George Snider had valve trouble after seven laps, and on his eleventh lap, Rick Muther was finished with piston trouble.
When Dallenbach left, Foyt took the lead and maintained it through the 24th lap. He lost it on his first pit stop for two laps but then regained it when he returned to the racetrack.
Johnny Rutherford had started in 25th position but was now fighting Foyt and Bobby Unser for the lead.
Foyt was in the lead from laps 27-49 and then Unser for laps 50-52.
In the meantime, Johnny Parsons, Jim Hurtubise, Larry Cannon, and Jimmy Caruthers had left the race. Cannon’s car stalled, and this brought out the first caution flag of the day on the leaders’ 62nd lap. This was as far as anybody could remember the race going before the yellow flag was shown and was a good indication of how safe this year’s race was compared to last year.
There were several times after this when the yellow flag was shown, but none of the incidents were of a serious nature, and only one involved personal injury. On his 115th lap, Jerry Karl crashed into the wall in the third turn and suffered only a slight leg injury.
By now, Rutherford and Foyt were fighting for the lead with Foyt staying only a few seconds ahead of Rutherford. This battle continued for several laps and was a big crowd pleaser. On his 65th lap, Rutherford took the lead for the first time and held it through the 126th lap.
During this same time, Steve Krisiloff, Jan Opperman, Tom Sneva, and Jerry Karl had left the race.
Pit stops were more numerous this year than in any previous race. Each car was allotted a limit of 285 gallons of fuel, which meant the cars had to average at least 1.8 miles per gallon. This reduction in fuel also resulted in a reduction in speed.
On the 127th lap, Foyt regained the lead and maintained it for 10 laps, and then Rutherford led for one lap. About this time, smoke started coming from the engine of Foyt’s car to the great disappointment of many fans. He was black-flagged, and a couple laps later came into his pit. His crew worked on the car for a while and then sent him back onto the track, but the problem wasn’t solved. He was again black-flagged, and this time he went straight to the garage area and quit for the day. His problem was later determined to be a broken oil line in the turbo scavenger pump.
Rutherford regained the lead, and I wondered if Lady Luck would finally smile on him and he could maintain the lead for the rest of the race.
In addition to Foyt, Al Unser, Salt Walther, and Roger McCluskey had made their exit from the race. Al had worked his way up to third position. It was real pleasing to see Walther go 141 laps after finishing less than one lap in each of his other two races and particularly after his wonderful comeback from his fiery crash in last year’s race.
Rutherford’s good luck continued during the last quarter of the race. Bobby Unser made a good effort at catching Johnny, but the fuel situation and the smooth operation of Johnny’s car prevented Bobby from getting into first place. Johnny was the first driver to cross the finish line, and Bobby was 22.32 seconds behind him. The winner took an extra lap and then drove to Victory Lane, and the audience gave him a tremendous ovation.
Finishing in third position was Bill Vukovich II, and last year’s winner, Gordon Johncock, took fourth-place honors.
David Hobbs finished fifth, which is his best finish at the Speedway. He was the only foreign driver in the race and drove a good, steady race all day.
Jim McElreath came from 30th starting position to finish 6th, and Duane Carter Jr. finished 7th, which earned him the Rookie of the Year award.
Bob Harkey started 31st, in the last row, and moved up little by little to finish 8th.
Ninth position went to the hard-luck driver of the Speedway and my perennial favorite, Lloyd Ruby. Once more, Lloyd’s hopes were frustrated by bad luck. He started 18th and steadily moved up and at one time was 3rd. His car ran smoothly all day, and he appeared to have 4th position locked up until he pitted on his 188th lap with a dry fuel tank and no more fuel to put into it. His pit was directly in front of me, and when he stopped and shut off his engine, he had to put his arms on the steering wheel to prevent his head from falling down with dejection. He sat like a statue for a long time, and his eyes stared into space. His pit crew felt bad because they were helpless to do anything for him. When I realized what had happened, I couldn’t believe it. Eventually, Lloyd got out of his car and helplessly watched his certain fourth-place finish drop to ninth.
Jerry Grant finished in 10th place and completed 175 laps. Jerry had a sick engine for a long time and had to drive next to the inside wall in order to stay out of everybody’s way.
A few minutes after Johnny Rutherford was given the checkered flag, the remainder of the cars were given the red flag, which meant the race was finished. Since speed and timing were no longer important, the drivers came slowly to their pit area and then lingered around for a while and talked to their pit crews. The tension and worry were over now, and the name of the game now was relaxation.
Ted and Margaret stayed for a couple minutes and then decided to leave because they wanted to get on the road and started for home. I had really enjoyed having them for race companions.
The winner and his wife were driven around the track in the pace car for everybody to see, and then he was interviewed by the press at the starting line. After this was done, I walked south along the pit area fence to the Control Tower and then went back to the garage area.
I had heard and read several times that the garage area restrictions are lifted after the race and anybody who wants to do so may go through the area. For many years, I had wanted to see this area but hadn’t been able to do so. Now, my chance was here. There were several hundred other fans that had the same idea and the guards were only letting a limited number in, so I waited a while and took in what action I could from behind the fence.
About an hour later the crowd had decreased considerably, and finally the guards decided to let in anybody who desired to do so. I took advantage of the situation and enjoyed it immensely. Several of the drivers had already changed into their street clothes and were visiting with the fans. I toured several garages and recognized several drivers, among whom were Bill Vukovich II, Lloyd Ruby, John Martin, Jim Hurtubise, Bob Harkey, Dick Simon, Gordon Johncock, Duane Carter, and Wally Dallenbach. Jim Hurtubise and Lloyd Ruby were the most popular attractions and were kept busy signing autographs and talking about their bad luck in the race. Lloyd was still the same picture of dejection he was when he pulled into his pit after 187 laps with an empty fuel tank, but this didn’t diminish his popularity with the fans, including me. I was one of several fans who received his autograph on their souvenir programs.
By 5:00 the grounds were quite devoid of people, so I decided to take a couple more pictures and then leave. For the first time in all of my years at the Speedway, I was able to enter the pit area. Although there were no cars or equipment in the pits and the seats were almost empty, it was still a thrill to stand in the area and look north to the fourth turn and pretend there were cars coming down the straightaway. I took a picture of that scene and then returned to the infield where I took a picture of the high amount of trash on the inside of the first turn. It was between 5:00 and 5:30 now and I felt I had seen all I could see, so I went back to the tunnel by the start-finish line and started my walk to the main gate.
It was a much quicker walk than any of my other post-race walks to the exit. There were almost no people and only a couple Speedway maintenance trucks along the way. The traffic on Georgetown Road to Auburn Street was heavy but not as heavy as it would have been immediately after the race.
When I arrived at Mrs. Bray’s house, I talked to Mrs. Bray for a few minutes and then went to my room and rested for a few minutes. I did a little reading and then dozed for a couple minutes. Shortly after 7:00, I was feeling hungry and decided it was time for supper.
On my way back to Mrs. Bray’s house I passed the Bonanza Steakhouse and thought it would be a good place to eat since the MCL Cafeteria was closed. From the minute I walked in the door, I wished I had gone elsewhere to eat. The waiting line extended back to the entrance, and I had to wait 30 minutes before I reached the serving line. When I arrived there, I discovered the baked potatoes were gone and everybody had to eat french fries. The serving line moved no faster than the waiting line. Some of the employees didn’t seem to know what they were doing, and this added more fuel to my frustration. When I reached the end of the line, I was told to take a seat and my meal would be brought to me. After a few minutes wait, I received the food and the meat was not cooked the way I ordered it. It was partly raw and rather tough. There were about a dozen youths seated in booths across from me, and their opinion of the food was the same as mine but they were more vocal in their opinion than I was. I ate all the food on my plate and then left to return to Mrs. Bray’s house.
I wasn’t full, so I drove to the Dunkin Donuts shop and bought four donuts and ate them while I was returning to the house. Now, I felt I could last until morning without getting hungry.
Mrs. Bray, her son, and I were the only persons left at the house, and we spend the evening talking about race-day activity and watching their new color TV set. We watched Mannix, Barnaby Jones, a telecast of the previous night’s 500 Festival Parade, the 10:00 news, and a half-hour program on the race. After that, we decided it had been a long day for all of us and it was time to go to bed, so we said goodnight and went our separate ways.
When I awakened on Monday morning, my watch said about 7:30. I lay in bed for a few minutes and then got up and used the bathroom. With a clean and freshly shaven face and clean teeth and mouth, I felt fine and was ready to face the day. I made my bed, got my equipment together, and then paid Mrs. Bray for my two nights’ lodging. As I was leaving, she said she hoped I would return next year. I assured her I planned to do so. It gave me a good feeling to know she enjoyed having me and wanted me back again.
It was 8:35 when I left the Bray house and drove to the Speedway. The main gate parking lot was almost full with tourists’ cars, so I parked in front of the drug store at 16th and Main Streets. The ticket office didn’t open until 9:00, so I shopped in the drug store for a few minutes. I took a real quick trip through the museum and then checked at the office to see about having the name on our tickets changed from Dad’s name to my name. The lady who waited on me said that could be done, but Dad would have to write a letter to them and ask for the change.
I walked back to the drug store and tried to buy an Indianapolis newspaper, but they didn’t have any. I got into my car and drove east on 16th Street in search of a newspaper, but it proved to be a wasted trip. I stopped at the Holiday Inn, the shopping center, and a few other places, and then turned around and started back. The Speedway Motel seemed a sure bet for a newspaper, but they didn’t have any, either. As I approached the entrance, I saw a familiar racing personality coming toward me. It was A.J. Watson. He was with another man, but I didn’t notice where they were going.
One of the things I wanted to be sure to do before I left for home was to visit with Bud and Helen Kramer. On Saturday and Sunday nights, I didn’t have time to see them, so this would be my last chance. I parked in their driveway and knocked on the back door. Bud answered the door and was real happy to see me. The three of us talked for about 30 minutes. They asked about Dad and Bobby and said it had been a long time since they hadn’t come to the race. They were real pleased I stopped to see them, and that made me happy to have done so. They are really two fine people.
I left Kramer’s at 10:15 and drove west to the shopping center where I stopped to check again on buying a newspaper. Because it was a holiday, almost every business was closed, but there was a grocery store that was open for business, so I decided to see if they had any newspapers for sale. I walked through the entire store but found nothing in the way of a newspaper. In frustration and puzzlement, I returned to the car. It was certainly puzzling as to why there were no newspapers anywhere. The only answer I could come up with was that there was no newspaper published because of the holiday.
I fastened my seatbelt and at 10:30 left the shopping center, turned right, and about a minute later was on I-74 going west. It was a fine day for driving. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining, but it wasn’t bright enough to be distracting while I was driving. I encountered no problems along the way, and at 11:53, I crossed the state line and returned to Illinois.
When I reached the 150-1 intersection, I changed my usual route and went north into Danville instead of south to Chrisman. The reason for my going into Danville was to find a telephone and make a call to Clyde and Judy Simpson in Milford, which is a few miles north of Danville on Route 1. My effort was to end in frustration. I tried three times to call the operator and tell her what I wanted, but for some reason the operators and I couldn’t communicate with each other, so I decided to forget about the idea. I thought about driving up to Milford but then remembered the day was a holiday, and the Simpsons might be gone for the long weekend and I would have wasted a lot of time and money. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see or talk to the Simpsons, but I figured I had done what I could and so decided to continue on my way home.
I turned around and drove south on Route 1 and a couple minutes later came to the I-74 intersection, and then I was on a familiar road. About halfway to Chrisman, I decided to play it safe and stopped at a Standard Station in Westville and had the gasoline tank filled. It was with a feeling of relief that I left that station with the needle resting on “F”. I continued on south, and at 1:23, I stopped at the Colonial Kitchen for dinner.
I had been looking forward to having a nice, hot dinner, but my hopes plummeted when I saw the price of $3.95. I didn’t expect the dinner to be that high and was rather disappointed, so I changed my plan and ordered a pork tenderloin sandwich and french fries from the menu. Although not as filling as a complete meal, the food tasted good and it was enough to satiate my hunger until I arrived home. Before leaving, I used the restroom, and then at 1:50, I drove out of the parking lot and started the last approximately 110 miles of my trip.
Because of the large amount of water in the fields along the highway, there was almost no work being done in them by the farmers. It was a sunny, pleasant drive all the way. I was in Decatur from about 3:00 to 3:15, and at 4:15, I drove into my driveway at home. Another fine and enjoyable trip to the big race had been made safely.
I forgot to mention that, after returning to Mrs. Bray’s house after eating supper Saturday night, I took a walk down by the Speedway. Since last year’s race, I had met a fellow postal employee who follows the race as closely as I do. His name is Ron Atkins, and he and his wife are president of the Bobby Unser fan club. The club was having a meeting on Georgetown Road across from Gate 8 of the Speedway, and he had invited me to stop by and see him.
I had no trouble finding the location. The members were viewing movie films of previous Indy 500 races. I found Ron, and he asked me to sit down and watch the movies with him and the other club members. One of the films was of the 1964 race, and it was one of the best race films I’ve ever seen. I stayed there for about an hour and then started back to the house.
The crowd of young people on Georgetown Road was rather wild, and I was glad when I could get away from them. Firecrackers were being tossed all around me, and the street was littered with beer cans. Police patrol cars were cruising the street and were being heckled by some of the obnoxious and intoxicated young persons. The scene here and on 16th Street and Crawfordsville Road was the same as it is every year, and I was certainly thankful I had a house to sleep in and wouldn’t be kept awake by all the noise.
As I mentioned earlier in this story, this year was certainly different from any of the previous 20 years. The many physical changes at the Speedway, the decreased allotment of fuel for each car, the first race on Sunday, the 55 mph highway speed limit, going to the race without Dad and Bobby, and coming home the day after the race were all factors that made it a unique year.
The race was certainly one of the safest in history. I think this was very helpful in restoring the status and reputation of this race as the greatest spectacle in racing, which was seriously damaged after last year’s trouble-plagued race. I hope there will never be a replay of that race. Some people have said it was a dull race, particularly after A.J. Foyt left and Johnny Rutherford led the race the rest of the way. I disagree with this opinion and thought it was an interesting race from start to finish.
Although there was little criticism of the race itself, the story of the time trials was much different. They were plagued with trouble and controversy from beginning to end. The persistently inclement weather was the main offender. It was an unusually rainy month, and it rained every day of the time trials. Because of the fuel situation, there were only two instead of four qualifying days, and those were the second and third Saturdays.
When the trials ended, there were several cars and drivers which had not been given even one qualification attempt. Naturally, this made the affected drivers, car owners, etc. very upset. Because of the Chief Steward’s strict, literal interpretation of the rules, the cars were ruled ineligible because another car made a second qualification attempt without a protest being made about it.
The car owners were so enraged that they sued the Speedway and USAC in court. In their suit, they even tried to prevent the race from being run unless they were given a chance to qualify. Unfortunately for them, the court ruled in favor of the defendants. The cars were not allowed to qualify and the race was held as scheduled, but the bitter feelings and unhappiness remained. It really cast a pall over the pre-race activities and is certainly one area of activity that needs much improvement before next year’s race.
Another race has come and gone, and like all its predecessors, it will be remembered for different reasons by different people. It will certainly be a memorable one for me. When Tony Hulman issues his famous edict, “GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES,” next year, I plan to be there and I predict that, as has happened in all the past 21 years, the tears will flow from my eyes as I once again get ready to watch The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Pace Car — Hurst/Olds
500 Festival Queen — Andrea McCall