Rain Can't Dampen Fans Spirits!

By REX W. HUPPKE
Associated Press Writer

INDIANAPOLIS (The Associated Press 05-24-1998 14:06
EDT) -- A.J. Presutti might as well have been in heaven. He
stood on a grassy slope just outside the fourth turn at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a checkered flag in his
hands, a beer in his jeans' pocket and 10 of his best buddies
around him.

"I'm bringing them in the fourth turn, baby," Presutti bellowed,
waving the flag through the air.

He was not alone in his revelry. The threat of rain and wet seats
from early morning showers couldn't dampened the spirits of the
thousands who flocked to the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

As the pit crews put the finishing touches on their buzzing, rattling
high-horsepower toys, the crowds flowed into the stands and
onto the infield through wet grass and thick mud. All the usual
picnic blankets were replaced with plastic tarps, and the heavy
smell of nacho cheese and pork tenderloins filled the air.

Clouds covered a military aircraft flyover that roared overhead as
part of the opening ceremony, but the sun came out just as
Jim Nabors began belting "Back Home Again in Indiana." The
speedway then released hundreds of colored balloons that
floated away as the race was set to begin.

Presutti made the trip from Chicago, staying with his Indianapolis
pal Aaron Nelson. With the Bulls in town to play the Indiana
Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals, the two were living a
sport fanatic's dream.

"This is incredible," Nelson said, grinning through a thick brown
beard. "No sleep. That's what this is all about."

About 30 yards away, along a muddy, rock-covered path near
the infield parking lot, David and Donna Strube walked along
and savored the part of the race they enjoy most.

"It's just the whole atmosphere," Donna Strube said. "We love
the cars, of course. But the people, the atmosphere is just
incredible."

For the 13th straight year, the Strubes traveled from St. Louis to
meet up with their seven kids. The family is originally from
Indianapolis, so going to the Brickyard is something of a tradition.

That tradition includes assigning two of the kids to cart along all
the burgers, pickles, buns, beers, sodas, sandwich meat and
salads. That allows the others to walk around unburdened.

"We've got it down to an art," David Strube said.

Others didn't think that far ahead. There was about one plastic
cooler for every two people, some carried cases of beer, a few
brought beat-up red wagons to carry kids and containers.
Modifying the races motto, it's surely the greatest spectacle in
tailgating.

Along the track, huge dryers inched along, removing all traces
of the rain with a jet-engine roar. In the pits the Indy cars, ranging
in color from subdued black to in-your-face neon green, received
their final checks.

Back in the infield, the excitement mounted. Presutti gripped his
flag and waited for the engines to roar to life. David Strube
marveled at the event he never gets sick of.

"There's nothing in the world like the start of this race," he said.

The call was made for the engines to start.

And they're off.


  
PREVIOUS STORY            INDEX            NEXT STORY