My journey to the 500

Finally in 2015 I will be attending my first Indy 500. I became a fan in 1985 so it’s been along time coming. Here is how my 30 year journey began.

Spring 1985- Language Arts class assignment– read a biography. The class took a walk to the library and we were directed to the biography section and told to choose a book. I picked AJ’s off the shelf but returned it. I was a girl, was I really interested in a race car driver. Well I must have been because I picked it up again and this time I checked it out. Of course that could have had something to do with me being a huge fan of Knight Rider. I loved the show so I had a bit of a thing for cool looking cars.
I really enjoyed the book. I don’t believe we had to write a report or anything. If we did I don’t have it.

May 26, 1985 – Watched my first 500 on TV– My dad was watching tv in our front room. I sat down next to him and asked what he was watching. (I never get tired of telling this story.) Dad said, “The Indy 500.” I replied, “Oh yeah, I read about AJ Foyt in school.” Dad said, “AJ is doing not so well, he is in ___? position.” OH MY GOSH! Are you kidding me? I had no clue that AJ was still racing. I watched the rest of the race with my dad. I don’t remember the race itself, including the spin and win (this is very disappointing) but I do remember watching and being amazed that I knew many of the drivers. AJ mentioned them all in his book. I felt an immediate connection. However, once the race was over I didn’t give it much more thought.

May 31, 1986- My dad didn’t forget though. He reminded me that the 500 was on and bonus– David Hasselhoff would be singing the National Anthem. Sure, I will watch. Again, I don’t recall much about the race but I was glad Bobby Rahal won.

May 24, 1987- you guessed it. I watched the race. I was disappointed that Mario Andretti didn’t win. I was even more disappointed that Al Unser Sr. tied with AJ Foyt becoming a four time winner. I liked having my hero, AJ being the only one with that honor.

May 29, 1988- Rick Mears won both pole and the race. AJ wrecks on lap 58. I didn’t really care for Mears (although I like him now) so I wasn’t too interested in this race.

May 28, 1989- At this time it became a tradition although I still wasn’t a huge fan. AJ finished fifth. Best finish yet (well since I had been watching). Little Al and Fittipaldi touched sending Al into the wall. Emerson Fittipaldi won the race.

May 27, 1990- Arie Luyendyk wins the race. I enjoyed watching him race. AJ had another good finish in sixth.

May 26, 1991- Rick Mears becomes a four time winner. I was not excited. AJ had no chance of winning so I was pulling for Michael Andretti (he finished second) or Arie Luyendyk (third). I’m really starting to enjoy this tradition though and know it is something I will watch every year. I’m hooked.

May 24, 1992- “Little All wins by just a few tenths of a second.”- Bob Jenkins. My dad and I were hoping Scott Goodyear would win. AJ finished ninth. I also enjoyed watching Lyn St. James. She had an okay race but it was fun watching a girl for the first time (for me).

OCTOBER 1992– notice the date. Yes October. This was my first trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My family was in town for my cousins wedding and my dad suggested we go to the speedway. Sure! Sounds fun.
I wish I had better memories of this day. Dad and I had fun. We went to the museum and did the bus tour of the track. I still didn’t appreciate the race enough to be totally awed by this like I would be now. I do remember the banking and being on bus wishing it would go faster. Dad and I laughed and had a great time. We bought some souvenirs and they have become some race day swag to this day. It was the first of only two trips to the speedway with my dad but remains one of my favorite memories. I just wish I realized at the time what a special day it was.

May 1993- POLE DAY– my dad suggested we go visit my cousin and attend Pole Day at IMS. Sure sounds fun. Again I wish I knew what an incredible day this would be and how much I would try to recall it years later. As a matter of fact when we left the speedway last weekend (2015) I said to my boys as we left- just think about the fun things we did and let them all sink in. When you are older these will be precious memories for you. 1993 was my second and final trip with my dad to the speedway. I would return in 1994 with a girl friend and then not attend until 2008 with my son- by that time my dad had passed away. My dad died at age 60 from Melanoma.
Dad and I found seats in the main straight. Dad had a newspaper and wrote down everyone’s qualifying speed. We enjoyed our time very much and then A J Foyt announced his retirement. Wow! Such a bittersweet moment. I finally get to see AJ on the track and then he he decides to retire. It was a part of history though and I was there. I will never forget that. Sharing it with my dad made it even better.

May 30, 1993- the race had much more meaning to me this year for a couple reasons. One was we all picked names and paid $1 a car. Winner would win $33. I won with Emerson Fittipaldi. But it was bittersweet, dad was so disappointed with Emerson’s break from tradition by drinking orange juice that I had a hard time enjoying my victory. Also still disappointed that AJ was not racing. However, this was an amazing year in my 500 (and IndyCar) journey. I became a much bigger fan. I also had to pick a new favorite driver. I chose Arie Luyendyk. He would become my new favorite.

May 29,1994- earlier I attended Pole Day with my girlfriend, Deanna. She picked little Al in our family pool and won the $33. Disappointing race for me but was at the point in my journey that every race is exciting and something I enjoy more every year.

May 28, 1995- this year I was dating my husband. We had been together for five months at this point. He was invited to a wedding so of course I was to be his date. I wanted to skip the wedding and just attend the reception, giving me time to watch the race. Steve did not agree. I love my husband and we’ve been married 17 years but that he is not an IndyCar fan is still such a big disappointment. Ladies, don’t think you can change your guy– you can’t. However, I really should not have attended, the groom would later divorce and eventually marry my sister. I ever should have missed the 500 for that wedding. Fortunetly Jacques Villeneuve won and he meant nothing to me so if I had to miss the end of a race I guess that was the one to miss. I was able to watch all of qualifying and the first half of the race.

May 26, 1996- Buddy Lazier won with a broken back. Buddy was one of my dad’s favorites so he was very happy. Tony Stewart was a rookie and quickly became a favorite of my sister.

May 27, 1997- I had Arie Luyendyk in our family pool so I won the $33. At this time we began allowing everyone to pick their favorite driver and draw the rest from a hat. Arie was my favorite so I chose him. Dad was still pulling for Goodyear (2nd).

May 24, 1998- Biily Boat wins the pole for AJ Foyts team. That’s what I like. Eddie Cheever Jr. wins the race.

May 30, 1999- I had both Arie Luyendyk and Robbie Gordon in our family pool and I really liked both drivers so I was hopeful one would win. Arie planned to retire after this race so another win would have been a nice ending for him. Arie won the pole but crashed during the race. Robby Gordon made his last pit stop on lap 164. Unfortunately, it was too early and he ran out of gas with one lap left. Kenny Brack won the race. Another win for AJ at Indy. I was so happy for AJ but due to some out of town guests at my parents house it was bittersweet. My parents allowed them in on our family pool and they had Kenny Brack. They laughed when Arie crashed and again when Robby ran out of gas. That frustrated me beyond belief. And of course they couldn’t understand why I was glad Brack won when I actually lost money because he did.
A new rule was made- family only on Indy 500 pool.

May 28, 2000- Chip Ganassi crosses the “picket line” and returns to the 500 with Jimmy Vasser and Juan Pablo Montoya. Al Unser Jr also returned after moving to the IRL full time. On top of that there are two women in the field, Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher. Unfortunately St. James crashed and took Sarah out too. Montoya wins and then departs at seasons end for formula one and then NASCAR.

May 27, 2001- In our family pool we choose one driver each and then pick names out of a hat. I picked Helio Castroneves but didn’t want a rookie with a name I couldn’t pronounce. My brother in law wasn’t there for the picks so I gave Helio to him and took a different driver- that was a mistake. More teams, including Penske and Green, return to Indy. Arie Luyendyk also returns. Great to have lots of favorites back. Helio wins the race after rain delays, including a 17 minute red flag.

May 26, 2002- I chose Arie as my pick for the family pool but quickly became I fan of Tony Kanaan. He would become my regular pick after this race. There was controversy over the end of the race. Paul Tracy still believes he should have been declared the winner of the race. Helio wins for the second time.

May 25, 2003- I’m a bit distracted during this race. I watched at my parents house and prayed my sweet three month old son would sleep through the race. I was still so sleep deprived I don’t recall much from this race. I was hoping to see Helio win a third time and was disappointed he didn’t. I also loved that AJ Foyt IV became the youngest driver to compete at age 19. Gil de Ferran won.

May 30, 2004- Matthew was just over one year old and I was pregnant with Zachary. What I remember the most of this race was Matthew playing with the dollar bills from our family pool. He loved putting the money in the back of his toy cement truck. My dad liked Buddy Rice so he was glad to see him win. The race was shortened due to rain.

May 29,2005- Tony Kanaan was on the pole. My favorite! Another girl was in the race- Danica Patrick. She made history becoming the first female to lead at Indy. Dan Wheldon won the race but Danica was the big story of the 2005 Indy 500. I had two little ones watching with me. Thank goodness for my mom. She was more than willing to help so I could watch the race. We learned earlier (November 2004) that my dad had Melanoma. He had surgery and was on medication during the race to fight the cancer. He didn’t feel great but made an effort to watch with me.

May 28, 2006- this would be the last 500 I would watch with my dad. He liked the winner Sam Hornish Jr. so I’m glad looking back that he won. I really wanted Marco Andretti to win. Dad probably would have enjoyed that too. We both would have loved to see Michael Andretti win too. Guess we were big enough fans that we were pretty happy with most winners. Dad and I discussed that we should really follow the whole season and not just the 500.

May 27, 2007- Dad passed away in February. I watched the race at home by myself. The race will never be quite the same. This year also leaves no doubt as to how big of a fan I am. It’s my husbands birthday and also my best friends surprise 30th birthday party. The race was delayed by rain. Steve took the boys to the party but I refused to leave until the race was over. Tony was leading- I wasn’t leaving until I knew the result. The race was restarted and Dario won on lap 166 when it began raining for a second time. I went to the party. My friend forgave me. I’m not sure if Steve has.
I did begin following the whole season and I loved watching more races.

May 25, 2008- We had moved to our new house. Three women qualified for the race. Scott Dixon was the race winner.

September 7, 2008- I convinced my girlfriend- the same one whose party I was late to during the 2007 Indy 500- to come with me to the IndyCar race at Chicagoland Speedway. I promised we would go out to eat and get pedicures. Since we both had young children at home this was too good to pass up. We had a great time. We left the race thinking Scott Dixon had won. When I watched the news after arriving home I called Kristen to tell her Helio actually won. Oh man we missed a fence climb. No fair.

Well I will have to update/finish this at a later time. Zach has been running a fever and we are out of town for a wedding. I had hoped to run through all the 500’s, IndyCar races I have attended and visits to the speedway leading up to the trip we plan to make tomorrow but have ran out of time. Kids will do that to you. Good news is after a trip to immediate care and some antibiotics, it looks like Zach will be able to attend the 500. I would have been heartbroken if only Matthew and I went. After all the Indy 500 is all about family in my book. Can’t wait to share this with my boys. 

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