The Bucket List

New Berlin, WI – It used to be called the “Someday I want to _____” list. After the movie came out a number of years ago it became “The Bucket List.”

For some folks their List includes going to all fifty states and shooting their picture in front of that state’s capitol. For others it’s a trip to every major league ballpark. For me, it started when I was fifteen and after a year of listening to my begging, my Mom finally put a friend and me on a Greyhound bus in May, 1961, bound for Indianapolis with the directive to go see the Indy 500 and “get it out of your system.” We saw a great race – Foyt’s first win- but it only served to make me want to see more; at Indy as well as other tracks and races. The List was beginning to form in my mind.

I had been to the Wisconsin State Fair mile several times, but by high school and then college, the scope of the List began to widen. Over the ensuing years some of my choices have been satisfied, others are still to be realized and some will never be able to be checked off.

So here are five of the ten on my List in no particular order, with five more to come next week:

1) Le Mans: The iconic French track Southwest of Paris opened its Sarthe circuit in 1906 and has been the site of the annual 24 Hour endurance run since 1923. It also hosted a single Formula 1 event in 1967 won by Jack Brabham on the shortened Bugatti track. I was attracted to this event early on because before 1970 the drivers ran to their cars as the race began. This was something I hadn’t ever seen in the states. Also the idea of a 24 hour event gave it a place on my list as a race I wanted to see but I have yet to check it off.

2) Indianapolis 500: As mentioned, this race had been on the List since I listened to Sid Collins on the radio every Memorial Day in the 1950’s. Even if you weren’t a racing fan, the 500 was as important as the World Series. The bus trip in 1961 was long, but filled with anticipation, and I’ve been drawn back 32 times since.

3) Brooklands: Located twenty miles Southwest of London near the town of Weybridge, the 2.75 mile banked concrete distorted oval was “the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit.” It was constructed in just over six months in 1907, giving it a two year head start on Indianapolis. The track was the home to the British Automobile Racing Club and ran everything from club events to 24 hour runs to 500 milers on both the oval and a variety of road circuits. It suffered great damage during WW II and never reopened after its final event in 1939. The facility also hosted an Aerodrome in the infield along with airplane factories such as Vickers on the grounds. Today only part of the original banking remains as urban sprawl has surrounded the track, but the facility features several amazing museums and many restored buildings along with its Test Hill. An active support group holds numerous events at the site and along with Mercedes Benz, has built a demonstration road course that hosts vintage and car owner’s club competitions. I belong to this group, and as a fund-raiser have purchased a square yard of the original banking (actually they say I’m just a caretaker of the patch). We visited the track a few years ago and walked the steep banking where you can almost hear John Cobb and the Napier Railton roaring toward you. Check this one off the List.

4) Daytona 500: The second “Superspeedway” was built eight years after Darlington, opening in 1959 on the western outskirts of Daytona. The home of NASCAR’s biggest race, the track replaced the events held on the Daytona beach/road course that conducted races and speed trials since the 1930’s. I didn’t get there until 1986, but got to see Dale Earnhardt’s only 500 win in 1998. Nothing beats a trip to Florida in the midst of a Wisconsin winter, with stock car racing as a bonus. Another check mark.

5) Ascot: This Gardena, CA short track got away from me and closed in 1990 without a visit. I was always intrigued by the Bubby Jones non-winged C.R.A. sprinters that ran for years on the well-groomed 1/2- mile dirt oval that opened in 1957 replacing the original 1904 track with the same name. It was also the home of the classic Turkey Night Grand Prix midget race since 1960. The promoter for many years was the iconic Indy car owner J.C. Agajanian.

*Do you have a List? Think about it and send me some of your choices. Include any you’ve checked off as well as those still to be visited. Give some brief reasons for your choices and we’ll print some of the best responses. I’ll give you my second five next week. Respond at:

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