August 20, 2014

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Indy Memories

Both good and not-so-good.

As I write this, the running of the Indianapolis 500 race is about to begin...under a threat of rain.

It brings back memories of two races I attended during the 1970's...one which, in a play on words of the phrase associated with that race, could be called "The Greatest Spectacle in Raining".

1973 was a race which produced both heavy rains, two days of raining, and...tragedy.  And I was there for the first two days, with my father and brother.

All that happened in those two days was almost non-stop rain and an opening-lap crash in which one driver was seriously injured.

Before the race was over, on the third day, another driver was also badly hurt, and died in the hospital a month later.

The second race I attended, with my dad, four years later, had better memories.

It featured the first woman (Janet Guthrie) to qualify for the race.  I don't believe this year's two female drivers, Danica Patrick and Sara Fisher, were even born yet.

It also featured a great finish in which A.J. Foyt became the first driver to win four 500's.

Foyt was always known for charging off to a fast (sometimes too fast) start. But he drove a steadier race this time around, challenging leader Gordon Johncock in the second hundred of the race's 200 laps. (Johncock, by the way, won that rain and accident-marred 1973 race.)

He pressured Johncock enough that the front-runner blew his engine in the final laps, giving Foyt the victory and history.

The other thing I remember from that race is that, while I wasn't there as a reporter, I filed a report for WOUB, for whom I was working while in college.  So I can include in my background reporting from the Indy 500.

Things have changed in the last 20 years.  There are three races going on this Sunday besides Indy, including the NASCAR 600 in North Carolina.  But, since I doubt I will ever attend a World Series or a Super Bowl, Indy is absolutely the biggest sports event I have ever witnessed.

Ladies...and Gentlemen...Start Your Engines!

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