Near Kokomo, outside the hamlet of West Middleton on Sunnybrook Farm, where I was raised, an annual event was the radio broadcast of the Indianapolis 500. Sid Collins, who started his radio career at Kokomo's WIOU, was the "Voice of the 500." After Tony Hulman announced, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" the excitement was "on."
During the parade lap, announcers from various posts around the track would describe each car in two or three rows. "We go to Howdie Bell in Turn Two!" (Someone out there will correct me on the exact turn Howdie Bell covered; sorry for any error on that.) Each announcer's voice was raised against the sounds of Offenhauser and Novi engines of the cars as they passed.
The pace of narration increased as the cars neared the end of the pace lap and the "call" of the Race was handed over to Sid Collins in the tower. He would described the pace car as it will into the pits and the thirty-three car field roared toward the yard of brick of the start/finish line and Pat Vedan (sp?) waived the green flag, cannon went off and balloons were released to signal the start of the Race.
The 1964 race was memorable because two great drivers, Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald, were killed as they came out of Turn Four. The Race was red-flagged for the first time in Speedway history. In 1966, there was a crash at the start of the Race. A.J. Foyt crawled up the fence as he tried to escape fires and mayhem. In 1967 and 1968, faulty gear boxes caused the turbines of Parnelli Jones and Joe Leonard to crap out near the end.
The Indianapolis 500(r) has lost a lot of its luster. The split between CART and what became the IRL along with technology making cars too expensive and proprietary to their billionaire backers for "average" teams to afford to run at IMS, shelled the lure of the 500. The Race always was sold out. The past few years the people who direct cameras during the Race seem careful to avoid shots of the stands, large stretches of which are empty.
Tomorrow we will talk about the Race. Sunday it will be run. The names are different from when I was a kid---wait! There is an Andretti in the field---and the cars faster and more expensive. But still, maybe it is part of being a Hoosier, but the Race still is the Greatest Spectacle in Motor Racing(r)!