By Paul E Gable
(Ed. Note – Paul E Gable is the editor of The Shelbyville News, Shelbyville, Indiana. He is my son and the accompanying picture is of my grandson, Brenden, climbing the fence at the speedway.)
INDIANAPOLIS – There is no greater place in the world than Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
What is it about a place that continues to bring thousands upon thousands back every May?
What is it about a place that has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression and has not changed its configuration in over a century?
What is it about a place that has families keeping tickets in the family for generations?
Growing up in South Carolina, I was introduced to racing at an early age. I can recall watching Dale Earnhardt Jr. race at Myrtle Beach Speedway. It was, however, stock cars and the racing done at places like Darlington, Rockingham, Daytona and Charlotte that interested me.
Names like Castroneves, Fittipaldi and Luyendyk were very foreign. It was names like Earnhardt, Petty and Allison that were household names.
The running joke as a child was we, in the South, learned how to count as follows: 1, Rusty (2) and Earnhardt (3).
In recent years, I’ve gained a great appreciation for the IndyCar Series and the drivers and cars that go into making it a premier series.
I’ve gained an appreciation and likeness for Tony Kanaan, and quickly became a fan of cars that would hum their way around an oval race track and actually have some sort of a characteristics of a car unlike today’s modern stock cars.
And over the month of May, my appreciation, again, moved to a different level as I took our oldest son to his second Legends Day and then covered another Indianapolis 500, my fifth for the newspaper I work for.
Having married a native Hoosier, I heard many stories from my in-laws and other family members about Indianapolis, but it was just that — stories.
It’s not until you drive under that awning that reads “Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” that the goose bumps hit and the full appreciation comes to life.
And, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first, fourth or 75th consecutive trip to the famous track.
I spoke with an individual Sunday morning before the race who was attending his 75th consecutive race.
That is tradition.
That doesn’t happen anywhere else.
And, I met a member of the “IMS Safety Team,” who was attending her first race and was “blown away” with the amount of people and all the pageantry that goes into “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Again, that is tradition.
A time-honored tradition.
We can talk about Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and the frozen tundra in Green Bay, but no other venue can compare to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As I have for several years, I got out early and walked the hallowed grounds, visiting the yard of bricks, Gasoline Alley and other areas of the track that I enjoy before it gets too busy.
The history of IMS comes rushing back.
I swear I could see where Mario Andretti began slowing down, and I think I saw Fittipaldi drive past an unhurt Al Unser Jr.
Drivers have come and gone. Tony George has come and gone. But the one constant through all the years has been Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Take a quick look around the stands and you can see what makes this place special. While you may not be able to see completely around the whole two-and-a-half mile oval track, you can see the rust in the stands, the awnings and, if you look close enough, you can see the various celebrities and dignitaries who have been coming to the race since its inception.
You can see the ghosts of Wilbur Shaw, Tommy Milton, Gaston Chevrolet and Mauri Rose.
You can see the exact spot where Bill Vukovich was killed, where Salt Walther’s car exploded and you can feel the chills associated with Swede Savage’s untimely death.
You can understand in minutes what makes this “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
And as the Firestone commercial says, “Take me out to the Brickyard.”
So again, what is it about a place that continues to bring thousands upon thousands back every May?
What is it about a place that has me looking forward to bringing our two sons to the greatest place on Earth?
The answer is simple. Everything.