A little bit of letdown, Jimmy Wilson had discovered, was inevitable.

The Indianapolis 500 had come and gone, and Jimmy was fortunate enough to be a part of the great event. An entire month of excitement and aura built day by day, climaxing with a crescendo of emotion on race day.

When the race was over, everyone went home and life went back to normal. Or at least something that felt a little bit normal.

Jimmy smiled as he thought about the experience. After a bit of drama on Pole Day he had landed a last-minute ride with the Valis team and put the car in the show with a solid qualifying run. Race day was pretty decent, and they ran as high as fourth before a long stop for a broken clamp dashed the team’s hopes. A few laps later a rod departed through the bottom of the block and that was all she wrote.

For the past week everybody Jimmy encountered wanted to talk about the 500. Which was kind of nice, because overall it was a good month. But after a few days Jimmy grew restless; he was more interested in what was out in front of him.

On this Sunday morning, the first day of June, Jimmy had decided: time to move on. It’s time to think about summer, and sprint car racing.

The fact that he was driving on the old National Road toward the Franklin Fairgrounds made it easy to think about sprint cars. Franklin was one of his favorite tracks, and it was only a month ago that he scored a big win there at the Marshall Taylor Classic. He was fired up about getting back on the dirt with the Ellison Special.

There was one element of running the 500 that he hoped would stick with him for a while, however: Money.

Jimmy was scored 15th in the 500, and the team’s winnings were $19,500. A couple of days after the race Jimmy stopped by the Valis Racing shop to pick up the check for his 40 percent: $7,800. Almost eight grand!

Winning a typical sprint car race in the Ellison car would earn Jimmy $750. At four bucks an hour, he would have to work almost a year at the grain elevator to make $7,800.

When he stood in line at the bank waiting to deposit the check, he kept staring at those numbers. That seemed like a lot of money. Shoot, any check with a comma in the numbers is definitely a good thing!

Jimmy’s first thought was to quit the grain elevator job and take it easy this summer. But that was only a fleeting idea, because Jimmy knew that winter always seems to come along and money inevitably gets tight.

His injury last year – a badly broken arm in late September – was a reminder of that reality. When he was laid up with a big cast on his arm, unable to do much of anything, his bills kept rolling in. Rent, the light bill, insurance for his truck…those people weren’t interested in hearing about the cast on his arm. They weren’t interested in much of anything, except getting paid.
But he had to admit, his year was off to a good start. Winning the Marshall Taylor race also brought a windfall – almost six grand – and along with his Indy winnings it totaled a good bit of money.


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