Memorial Day Grows Into Racing’s Holiday

Charlotte, NC (May 21st, 2012) – It seems like just yesterday, certainly not 50 years ago.

I can remember May 30, 1962 right down to the smell of the fresh cut grass. It was Memorial Day and my father Lou was teaching me to golf. It was good sport for a nine year old, but it wasn’t the one I was really interested in that day.

We had a 10 a.m. tee time at a local golf course just outside of Manitowoc, WI. For the first four or five holes, I was engaged in the process soaking up all the tips my dad – a pretty good golfer – could muster.

That all ended at 11 a.m. That’s when I pulled out my ‘pocket sized’ transistor radio to start listening to the Indianapolis 500 broadcast. The thick rectangle brick, about the size of two packs of cigarettes, delivered the call of the race through a single, totally uncomfortable to wear earpiece.

I didn’t care. This was the Indy 500 and if you wanted to be a part of it live, this is how you did it in 1962. You listened to it on the radio. There was no live television broadcast of the race back then. The Internet didn’t exist. Social Media? Back then, socializing meant face-to-face interaction. Only Dick Tracy had a personal telephone built into his wristwatch – the rest of us talked on rotary dialed landline phones.

My golf game went to hell after the fifth hole as the 1962 Indy 500 took the green flag in my ear and mind’s eye. One of my all-time racing heroes, Parnelli Jones followed a Studebaker Lark convertible pace car to the green flag (Jones won the pole in a blazing four-lap average of 150.370.)

In what was to be the first-ever race where all but the single strip of bricks at the start/finish line were left exposed from the original track, Jones dominated the first 300 miles before slowing with brake problems. That left the door open for Rodger Ward and his Leader Card Special to lead the final 150 miles and collect a then record $125,015 purse for winning the 46th-annual Brickyard classic.

Flash forward 50 years to this Sunday. The Indy 500 will again take center stage on a Memorial Day holiday that has grown into a bacchanal of motorsports.

In addition to the ‘Greatest Spectacle In Racing,’ NASCAR’s longest event – the Coca-Cola 600 – is also on tap this Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, short tracks, auto crossers and car clubs everywhere will celebrate the holiday with countless high-octane events. For anyone with motor oil in his or her veins, this is the best weekend of the year.

And – thanks to the advance of time and technology – we won’t miss a single minute of it. The television networks, Internet sites, the ever-growing Social Media Twitter and Facebook crowds – and of course, radio networks – won’t allow that to happen.

That’s way cool – and you won’t have to wear that annoying earpiece either.

Last Call –

Loved the fact that for the first time ever, SPEED included the name of the spotter with the rest of the crewmembers during the gala introductions prior to the All-Star race in Charlotte Saturday night.

The spotters are the most underappreciated group in the garage – especially in the media – and it was nice to see them get their names included for a change.

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