There is something magical about the first of May. It’s like no other month.
As a kid, it brought me warm weather, only a few weeks of school left and, most importantly, I would receive my Indianapolis Star in the mailbox every day (most of the time anyway, as sometimes it would be a few days late and I would get three in one day).
The Speedway would open for practice on May 1, and it was a race to see who would be the first on the track. For the next month, everything that went on down at Indy would be in my hands each day.
Today, of course, with instant media this is all taken for granted. Now it is only for one week of practice and one weekend of qualifying, so there isn’t nearly as much news or attention given to the greatest spectacle in racing.
Also, since they are only allowed so many miles on each engine and the tires are limited, the amount of track time is shortened. Not much time anymore for great days of fans in the infield on their day off or taking their lunch break at the track.
There is some hope on the horizon, though. I have plans to take over all auto racing after my seventh annual farewell racing tour is over this year. I will immediately change the schedule back to 30 days of practice, two weekends of qualifying, and the race will be moved back to Memorial Day, no matter what day of the week it is.
Cars will have open engines and run tires that are harder than Chinese arithmetic. Any chassis built by a company bigger than what A.J. Watson or Frank Kurtis had, with ground effects or cars that can be flat-footed through the corners will be allowed, but given a five-lap penalty and made to run a carburetor off a Falcon six-cylinder engine. The driver will have to do a Le Mans start, running to the car at the drop of the green flag.
Steve “The Bopper” Stapp will be the Competition Director and single-handedly make the rules up as he goes. For the entire month of May, he will be given a 1965 Cadillac Coupe De Ville convertible so he can stand up in the back seat or ride around the track and pit area (reminiscent of what the German commanders rode around in during the military parades of WWII). The Cadillac will also be used as the official pace car (saving gas and the other unnecessary expenses of those other fake official pace cars) and will be driven by Bobby Unser, myself, Spike Gillespie or Jerry Spencer during track inspections or to keep a watchful eye on pit activity.
As a former sprint car driver and builder, Steve will be the perfect man for the job of keeping the Indy 500 the pinnacle of all auto races, as well as bringing back bibbed overalls and flannel shirts to the dress codes missing today at the track.
I know some people will think my ideas are a bit antiquated or complex, but as the month gets bigger and bigger each May and the real Snake Pit returns and the Yellow Shirts get their whistles blowing more regularly every day, you will see a bigger and better Indy experience. I am working on a formula to revolutionize the cars by having the engine moved five feet, seven and three-quarter inches forward, which will be the standard for the rest of my life as the Grand Executive Exalted Ruler of the Speedway, an honor I have already achieved in my local Racoon Lodge in Evansville, Wis.
So, with these ideas rolling around in my bean last week, I headed over to Hans Lein’s house to ride down to the final week of racing in Indy and the granddaddy of all races, The Indy 500. Hans was taking his sprint car and Big Car down to Terre Haute, and then to the Hoosier 100 and then staying for the race on Sunday.
I thought I would ride down with Hans in the beautiful bus he bought last year from Jack Olson of Honest Jack’s Used Cars. I planned to sleep all the way down, as we left just after daylight, I believe around 10 in the morning.
I picked up Paul Tyler, tire management specialist on the midget I drive for owner Donnie Kleven, and we headed over to Hans’ farm just before the sun came up around 9:30. When we got there, Hans said he needed someone to drive his Chevy Suburban down, as he would need it for the week to get around after he parked his motorhome.
I was in total shock when he asked Paul and I to take it, as I knew how much of an integral part of possibly winning the Hoosier 100 this would be, but I agreed to take on the task with Paul.
I headed to Indy after the race
with former USAC champion
Nick Gojmeric and got ready for
the second-biggest race in the
world that week, the Hoosier 100.
To have a clear mind for the race, I asked Paul to drive the first leg of the trip. I immediately went to sleep as we pulled out of the driveway (a trait I inherited from Stan Fox over the years traveling to the races) and to my surprise I woke up as we were pulling into Terre Haute for the sprint races.
I was upset with Paul for not waking me, so I took over the wheel before leaving the gas station down the street from the Action Track and guided it safely the last half-mile without any problems.