Who Is That Standing By The Wasp?

We got to the track first thing Friday morning on race weekend in
2003, intending on spending the whole day there, walking around
& soaking it all in. We walked to the museum and stood in line to
buy tickets, a little surprised that there was already a line at 9am.
We then got on the bus & took the one-lap tour of the track. Then
we put off going back into the museum to walk thru the Chevy
displays around the east side of the fountain. We took our time,
grabbing all the posters & keychains that they were giving away.
After buying programs, we were already carrying too much stuff,
so we went back to the truck to unload a little. then, finally, back
to the museum.

If we hadn't done all this dilly-dallying, the rest of this wouldn't
have happened.

We took our time going through the museum. I noticed the
Marmon Wasp just after walking in, and made the decision to
save that for last, and so, started with the opposite side of the
museum. My nephew was really getting into the spirit of things,
asking me all sorts of questions, and so we had this very long
conversation that my father and brother apparently grew tired of,
because they pushed on ahead while nephew and I lagged
behind.

We were just getting around the corner where Johncock's '82
car sat, when I heard someone calling my name. I looked up and
through the glass wall to see my brother standing in front of the
Marmon, motioning for me to come over. I thought that he had
just then realized that the very first winning Indy car was on
display, and wanted me to come see it - well, I already knew it
was there, but I headed over to him anyway... though I kinda took
my time doing so. all the while my brother is waving more & more
frantically.

So I pick up the pace, walk thru the opening in the glass wall &
over to the Marmon. My brother and dad are standing in front of
it, along with an elder couple whom I had never seen before. All
four of them are looking at me. I asked my brother "what's going
on?" he gestured towards this unfamiliar older gentleman in front
of me, and introduces him as Ray Harroun Jr.

I don't often get speechless in my life, but I sure did at that
moment.

I shook his hand and said hello, absolutely amazed that he and
his wife would be there, and even more amazed that my brother
figured out who they were - he had struck up a conversation with
Mrs. Harroun in front of the Wasp, where she confessed that that
car belonged to her father-in-law. she went on to tell him she
married Harroun's son, who happened to be taking a picture of
the AJ Foyt cars just behind my brother at the time.

I did manage to push past my excitement and have a small
conversation with Mr. Harroun. We talked about the first race
and the controversy surrounding the finish. I also learned from
him that his dad attended all the races until '64 when one of his
good friends died at the track. I also learned that he had tickets
to watch the race from the Celebrity floor of the Pagoda (4th
floor)... though I imagine if your last name is Harroun, you can
pretty much sit wherever you want to.

Finally, I pulled out my Garage pass, borrowed a Sharpie from a
fan standing nearby, and got his autograph.

I was awestruck by that event for the remainder of the day, and
still love to tell the story. We've attended the race every year
since, but haven't seen Ray Jr. again. People attend the museum
to make some kind of connection with the history of Indy, but I
never counted on meeting the son of the first winner of the race.
You can't make much more of a connection to Indy's earliest
years than shaking the hand of Ray Harroun Jr.

  
PREVIOUS STORY            INDEX            NEXT STORY