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Indianapolis Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

Indianapolis Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

It’s funny how two years away from something you love can seem like a millennium, but the Pandemic-scared past years left a hole the size of Indiana for those who love the Indy 500; thankfully they are now “Back Home Again”.

For the multiple thousands of fans who hold the same tickets for the race year after year, camping on the front lawns of neighborhoods nearby, clogging the narrow streets of the Town of Speedway, and filling every hotel and restaurant within (fill in the blank) miles of Indy, 2022 couldn’t arrive soon enough.

Two years away for both fans and participants, gave Roger Penske’s ownership team an opportunity to do what they saw fit in order to bring the track and the property around it into what many called “Penske proper”. It’s been noted by most racing media how progress has been made on and off the track over the two seasons of Penske ownership; but the 2022 running should open the eyes of more fans and racers alike; the improvements are numerous and hard to miss.

The previous Hulman-George regime worked a miracle back in post-war 1945, rescuing the 36-year-old facility that resembled an airfield chocked by weeds, without any proper chance of returning to its pre-WWII “glamour”. But the new, Hoosier-raised owner, Tony Hulman, must have had a direct line to heaven. A miracle allowed the 1946 race to be run without too much trouble after a massive repair job (not improvements or up-grading) brought a huge crowd to the track that would stay in the H-G family until they decided to sell to an anxious RP almost 65 years later. Many conjecture that the Pennsylvania business giant/race car maven was just waiting to be the next owner, operator and savior of the storied facility. There apparently were several serious buyers interested and making offers, but Mr. Penske won out, bringing not only the track into his fold, but the Indy Car series as well; after all an owner has to have races to make the track profitable. How much did he spend and is continuing to spend? Many conjecture as to the amount, but unless you have Roger’s email address or phone number the amount will remain just that.

So, the sun is out this 106th 500 morning, the media center is alive with writers, the loud 6:00 am fireworks spectacle signaled the opening of the gates and a rush for parking. The sun gleams off of every inch of the renewed facility, 300,000 fans are flocking in, and this writer can’t wait for all the pre-race pageantry to begin. Because when Jim Cornelison sings “Back Home Again in Indiana”, everyone gathered will know that they are finally, Back Home.

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