J.C.'s first 500

"My first Indy 500 was in 1964, although I had been going to
quals' since '56. (I was born in '54) My father was a member of
the safety patrol at the track and for years track employees could
bring their families to the track for free. After begging to be
allowed to attend the race for two or three years I scraped up the
money needed to buy a ticket in Grandstand G. Dad relented
and said I could go with him. Going to bed that night was hard,
and getting to sleep was harder. I still wasn't sure that Dad
wouldn't "forget" to wake me."

"My first of many racedays dawned clear and bright and as we
walked from the Coke lot down the outside of the track my head
seemed to be mounted on gimbals. When we got to the
grandstand, my father took me half way up the stairs on the
west end of the stand and pointed to a steel I-beam that stuck
up through the concrete. That, I was informed, was my seat.
The I-beam had been topped with a board to prevent someone
from hurting themselves and proved to be a perfect seat. There
was no one in front of me, and I could stand up without blocking
anyone's sight line."

"As I'm certain you know, the '64 500 was NOT a picnic in the
park. The death of Eddie Sachs and Dave McDonald on the
second lap and the column of smoke alongside of the tower is
something I will never forget. I have never since that day heard
the track so silent on race day. Even now when they are going
through the the "Honors" part of the pre-race, you can hear
noise. Not that day. Tom Carnigie was speechless and when he
was able to talk his only comment was "There has been a very
bad accident in the front straight". Sid Collins (radio voice of the
500) was on the mike and described the crash live then broke
down on the air. I had seen cars spin and crash, applauded as
the driver climbed out to wave to the crowd before the trip to the
infield hospital, But I had never experenced the death of a
driver."

"Eddie Sachs made it an annual tradition to march with the
Purdue Band on race day and had signed an autograph for me
as he came past. I still have that autograph and will never forget
my education that day. Indy is fast cars and crowds, but it is also
33 people risking death in the pursuit of a dream."


  
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