23 Thursday May 2013
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At the start of May, my neighborhood begins a transformation. Semi-trucks holding race cars roll off the 465 exit ramps and down the street toward the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
People who live in the immaculate 1950s brick houses that surround the track embellish their postage-stamp yards with checkered flags, “Welcome Race Fans” banners and “Park Here” signs. An impromptu dinner at Dawson’s on Main might end with a surprise sighting of Mari Hulman George tottering out of the restaurant toward an IMS van. It carries her two blocks to an inconspicuous home on the IMS grounds.
I’ve driven past the track thousands of times since we moved to this neighborhood 15 years ago. Never had I noticed this house until last Thursday night, when my husband suggested we drive by the track after dinner at Dawson’s. As we wheeled into the Brickyard Crossing parking lot, we noticed a van parked just behind a modest house on the left—the same van that had just retrieved Hulman George. The Hulman family must spend a bit of time there in May.
How could we miss this? It made me wonder how many things we haven’t noticed. And that’s why I visited the track this week for a few behind-the-scenes shots to share with you.
For out of state readers, Mari Hulman George inherited a vast fortune left by her parents, Anton and Mary Hulman, who owned The Hulman Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Like her mother before her, Mari is also the voice who calls the beginning of The Indianapolis 500: “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!”
My distant affiliation with the Hulman family: as a college student, I boarded in the home of Mrs. Cornell, an elderly Terre Haute resident who was once in love with Anton Hulman. At the time I knew Mrs. Cornell, more than 60 years had passed since she and Anton were an item. That did not keep her from asserting that she — not Mary — should have been Mrs. Hulman.
I’ll be honest: I have no real love for racing. In fact, most Memorial Day weekends, we aren’t here for the race. But I am proud to live in the racing capital of the world. It’s fun to remember the two times I attended the Indianapolis 500: the low-life, snake-pit way as a college student and the high-brow, corporate way when I was dating my husband.
Wow. People actually make a full-time living scalping tickets. Call me naive. I had no idea! These guys were from Texas, Iowa, Pennsylvania and North Carolina — all competing for the same business. I tried to interview them about their business model. That was a brief conversation! Our neighborhood is dotted with scalpers the last two weeks in May.
I so wanted to believe that I would find a few fashion shots at the track. This woman in a classic white T and jeans was the most intentional fashion I saw all day — unless you count the couple in matching Hawaiian shirts. She looks casual, but crisp, doesn’t she? I gave the best-dressed award to the racing crews. A+ for color coordination.
The guys at the neighborhood Shell station talked me into a photo op in this Indy car. You have to lie down to drive an Indy car. I guess your head can’t be sticking out of the car when you’re going 225 miles per hour.
The Andretti RV. There’s a certain Italian influence to this design.
The drivers, larger than life. I saw Helio Castroneves on his way to an autograph session, but he was holding hands with a little girl (his?). I didn’t have the heart to snap their photo.
On Community Day at the IMS, you can take a lap in your own car, but keep in mind: there’s a police car on the side of the track in case you’re tempted to see how fast you can run.
What are your weekend plans? What are you wearing to the Indianapolis 500 or wherever you’re going this weekend? And who will you give remembrance to this Memorial Day weekend?