“My love for the sport started with my Dad.”
“Me, my brother and my cousin were infatuated with Indy.”
“My father always instilled the history of the 500 and open wheel racing.”
“My father was an IndyCar fan and I can clearly remember climbing up into his big chair to sit next to him and watch races.”
“My mom is my biggest support. Since we discovered racing together, I feel like she more than anyone else understands my drive and my passion for IndyCars.”
When asked the question “When and How did you become an IndyCar fan?” most responses were tied together by the common thread of FAMILY; Fans remembering watching with their parents, grandparents or other family members. This is important to us here at IndyCar Mom, because that is what we are all about…..sharing the IndyCar love with kids and families, in hopes of bringing a new generation of fans into the series.
Enjoy these stories that were shared with us. We’ll post one or two a week until the 2014 season starts! Have a story you’d like to share? Just tweet one of us, or message us on Facebook and we’ll try to include yours!
“So… where and how did my love for IndyCar start. And it is a very strong love. I love pretty much all forms of motor racing, but will pick open wheelers over any other series any day of the week.
My love for the sport started with my Dad. He LOVED racing. Dad was a WWII veteran. Came home to Kansas City, learned the trade of upholstery, but eventually went to work for Trans World Airlines as a mechanic. He worked for TWA my entire life. He was an excellent upholsterer and mechanic. He and my Mom were married for about 12 years before I was born. They actually both loved racing. Kansas City was the home of Olympic Speedway and Lakeside Speedway. It was close to the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, the location of LOTS of sprint car and midget racing at the time.
Dad worked with a gentleman at TWA named Al Bozart. Al was a well known midget racer in KC, and though he also owned/raced sprint cars, midgets were his specialty. Bozart was the car owner/mechanic. Dad became one of his crew. In addition to turning wrenches, Dad did all the tuck and roll for the seats of all the cars. They were at racetracks every weekend for years… my Mom in tow. At one point, Dad became Bozart’s “test” driver and was offered a midget ride by a woman (cannot remember her name) who Bozart ran a car for – the cars were always painted pink. My Mom vetoed his driving career, preferring a live husband to a dead midget racer, although she never made him come home from the track.
Dad LOVED Indy. In that era, Indy was THE PINNACLE of racing. Formula 1 was nothing (certainly in the US) compared to Indy. The pedigree of the racers at the 500 in those days were from the dirt tracks around the country. Dad knew many of them… the Bettenhausen’s, Ruby, etc. My earliest memories (probably in the 5-6 year old range) were listening to Sid Collins on the radio calling the race live. It was a special day, because we were out of school and Dad had the day off from work. We’d “help” him work in the basement while listening to the race, eventually moving up to the patio for a cookout with the radio in tow.
He took me and my sister to the tracks around KC all the time. Even at that young age, he created an image of the Speedway in my mind that was equal to St. Peters in Vatican City. Indy was larger than life. As I grew older and ABC started showing a highly edited version of the race on TV, I watched… with my Dad… eyes glued, always wanting more. We planned special meals to watch the races. As the TV coverage expanded, our special meals and parties expanded.
Dad was the old school, champ car / midget / sprint car racer fan – Foyt, Ruby, Bettenhausen, Unser, Vukovich, Leonard, Johncock, Parnelli… these were his guys. He respected Mario, but Mario was a “furiner”. J (He did eventually become an Andretti fan.) Mario was my most vivid early memory of the 500 winner. Mark Donohue was MY guy in 1972, along with the beautiful #66 Sunoco McLaren. This was my earliest memory of looking at race cars and seeing art. A couple of years ago at the Centennial… I was literally shaking to see this car actually take laps at the Speedway.
Dad always wanted to go to the 500. He told us stories about Mom and him making plans and even setting off towards Indianapolis a couple of times, but for one reason or another, they never made it to Indy. My Mom passed away in 1973, when I was 11. My Dad remarried a few years later. We continued to watch the race and follow the action.
I left for college in 1980. In January of 1982, I decided to surprise my Dad. I wrote the Speedway, they sent an order form, I filled it out and sent it back. To my surprise, a few weeks later I received confirmation that I could buy two tickets. I sent my check immediately. Over the March spring break… I handed my Dad a plain blue envelope. He had NO idea what it was… he probably thought it was bad news. Needless to say… he was speechless and had tears in his eyes. Four days later… he had a massive heart attack. Thankfully, he was actually in the hospital having an angiogram when it happened, so while significantly weakened, he made it through and would live for another 15 years. I’ll never forget his words to the Dr. “My son there, just gave me two tickets to the Indy 500 in May. There’s nothing you’re going to do to prevent me from going.”
And so we went. Stopping along the way to walk around high school tracks for his exercise therapy. We stayed in Terre Haute, leaving there Sunday morning at 3:00 AM after breakfast at the PACKED Denny’s next to the hotel. Our seats were behind the first pit box at pit-in – Howdy Holmes was the occupant of that pit stall that year. We watched the bands, watched the cars grid, heard Jim Nabors and taps and saw the balloons and then watched the massive crash triggered by Kevin Cogan (or was that Coogan as AJ pronounced it) begin right in front of us. Of course, we went on to witness (at the time) the closest 500 finish in history. Thrilling doesn’t begin to describe the energy and excitement that day as we listened to Tom Carnegie call the last 10-15 laps as Mears ran down Gordie. From that year until the split… I bought my Dad (and myself) an Indy Star mail subscription for the month. I’d call him a couple of times a week after the papers got going and we’d talk about who was fast and who was slow.
That was the only time I was at the Speedway with my Dad. I wouldn’t trade that one single day for any other than maybe the days my children were born. Dad and my step-mom became big “Airstreamers” after his retirement. They were in the club and went all over the country. They attended the Airstream (Wally Byam Club) 500 rally in 1992. Indy for the whole week. Sat with Tom Carnegie at dinner one night. They sat in the Penthouse for the race… and yes… Dad was there for Little Al and Scott beating Rick and Gordie for the closest finish. That was his last time at the Speedway. We continued to talk racing and watch races on TV when we were together until he passed away in 1997. (His gravesite, which he and my Mom purchased before I was born, is literally less than a mile from Kansas Speedway. He never saw the track finished. But you can hear the cars from where he rests in peace. I think he would like that.)
I started taking my son to Elkhart when he was 3… Little Al and Rahal picking him up and playing with him outside the transporters. He could tell Mario and Michael’s cars apart because of the orange roll hoop and paint trim. We went to Indy for pole weekend in 1994… eerily enough, two months after I had a heart attack (much milder than Dad’s first).
Years have passed. My life has changed. After divorce and college and life have distributed my family, a very special person who I met some years ago, who knew absolutely nothing about racing, has become a HUGE IndyCar fan. She LOVES Danica and Sarah and Pippa and Bia and TK and … the list goes on. My son’s love of IndyCar has declined, like I believe many kids his age/generation has. I think the split had something to do with that, not to mention the increase in popularity of the NFL, NBA, etc. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been at the race every year now since 2009. Every year… every morning… I walk through the south tunnel and emerge in front of the museum, my eyes are literally full of tears and I can barely breathe. I have almost no words for race morning. It’s something that is very difficult to adequately describe. To fully appreciate it, you have to experience. Two years ago, my sister asked if she could come with us because she just thought she should do it once. I’ll never forget the look on her face and the visible reaction she had to the cars as they went out for practice Friday morning. What was a bucket list trip for her in 2012… was repeated in 2013. The three of us are already planning 2014.
Indy is special. It’s tradition. It’s history. It’s danger and excitement. It is part of me. It has been virtually my whole life. When I come up out of the south tunnel – I feel my Dad. I think of him. I am SO grateful that he introduced me to this form of sport and this beloved place and event when I was a kid.
I know this is pretty long. Apologies. There is so much more I could add. The 500 and the Speedway and IndyCar has been a part of my entire life. And it stems from my Dad. Thanks Dad.