I spent many of my formative childhood years in Indianapolis. At the time, Indianapolis had only one event of interest: The Race. (Now it has The Colts!) The Race. That's how it was known in that fair city, and I presume it still is.
From an early age, I was familiar with such names and personages as A.J. Foyt, Bobby Rahal, The Unsers, The Andrettis. I remember with clarity my excitement when Janet Guthrie became the first woman to race in The Race. I know that Jim Nabors (yes, Gomer Pyle) always sings "Back Home Again in Indiana" and remember the concern felt by all Hoosiers when he was quite ill (needed a liver transplant, I believe?) and possibly wasn't going to make it to The Race. He's not even a Hoosier himself.
I remember the year the rabbit ran out on to the track, forcing a yellow flag--it somehow mysteriously survived. I recall the wrath of my grandfather and uncles when The Race ran a bit long one year and the idiots at the television station chose to begin the next program right. on. time. so that nobody in Indianapolis got to see the exciting finish (and I include the people who actually attended The Race, as they were, no doubt, extremely shit-faced by the time the finish line was crossed). Of course I know about the milk.
We lived near enough to The Track that my kindergarten class did a racecar project. Each kid was assigned a driver (maybe two, there couldn't have been 33 kids in my class) to root for. My driver was Rick Mears. I believe Johnny Rutherford won that year, though (going from memory here--yes, I just checked it out, I'm right--1976). To view the proximity of my kindergarten to The Track, click here. (You may have to zoom out a click or two--the track is in orange, just north of 16th Street.) We could hear the cars practicing throughout the month of May from inside the classroom with the windows closed! How cool is that?
The Track is a popular field trip destination, too. We attended the time trials many times as a family, and once with my brownie troop. (Yes, I was in brownies. And I absolutely adored the little orange tassels that came with the socks. But I digress.)
Now I don't keep up with racing hardly at all during the year. My son is getting into NASCAR, which I assume must be due to something in the water here in the South.
And then May rolls around and I'm suddenly compelled to drive like a maniac. The phrase "Carburetion Day" gives me warm and fuzzies (although I guess it's "Carb Day" now which sounds like a national holiday to celebrate potatoes). I have a burning need to find out who is sitting poll position and which celeb will be in the pace car. Suddenly I know things about this year's race such as the fact that Peyton Manning (yay) will wave the green flag and that there are THREE women racing (that's like, 1/11th of the field!).
I guess there was something in that Indy water, too!