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Heroes Of The 500

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Heroes of the 500 Preview

 


It’s nearly May, and for me, that means only one thing, “a year’s waiting is about to come to an end”.  The Voice of the 500 Paul Page first uttered that phrase in the classic 1992 version of his now-famous “Delta Force” introduction to the ABC television coverage of my favorite sporting event, the Indianapolis 500. It’s something that has stuck with me since the day he said it.  In the movie Le Mans, Steve McQueen’s character says, “When you're racing, it's life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting”.

That’s how I feel about May. There’s May, and then there’s the 11 months waiting for May. And a year’s waiting is about to come to an end.

I love the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the World Series. The Super Bowl is great, so are the College Football playoff and Final Four, but since I was a young boy, my favorite sport has been auto racing.

And while I’ve loved NASCAR since I could first make out Richard Petty’s 43 on my family’s Zenith in Toledo, Ohio, there’s been nothing that’s captivated me quite like the Indianapolis 500. When I was a young boy, my uncles told me about this place, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that THEY had been coming to since they were boys. It was a place where dreams could come true, or be shattered. It was a place where heroes were larger than life.

To a kid, it sounded a lot like a giant Disney World. A true “E” ticket ride. The first Indianapolis 500 I remember seeing anything from, was in 1975. To a 5-year old, the Jorgensen Eagle driven by Bobby Unser, with his screaming Eagle helmet, was unlike anything else in the Hot Wheels box.

While many of my friends had posters of Pete Rose and Johnny Bench and Mike Schmidt on the wall, I had Bobby and Al Unser, and then Rick Mears, (and then Cindy Crawford and Alyssa Milano, but that’s another story).

My uncles told me that when I turned 12, I would be old enough to come to this magical place, Indianapolis for the first time. I got a calendar and crossed off the days until finally, May 15, 1982 we hit the road in a station wagon for the trip from Toledo. I told everyone I’d stay up all night for the trip, of course, I didn’t make it the whole way, and I was sound asleep in the back when the car hit 16th Street headed for the Waffle House.  All of a sudden I was rousted from pretty good sleep in the back of the wagon by a booming voice that just said, “RADIO INDIANA, WIBC INDIANAPOLIS”.

That welcome to Indianapolis stuck with me the rest of my life, and every time I came back to town, I cranked it up at the top of the hour, just to take myself back to May 15, 1982, the first time I laid eyes on my beloved Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

I hoped for years to get an opportunity to work and live in Indianapolis, and it finally happened in 2008. And then, in one of the great honors of my life in 2012, I was offered a job at WIBC, the station that my heroes Sid Collins and Donald Davidson had been such a big part of. I now have the honor of producing the Heroes of the 500 radio program and writing this blog of the same name.

There are so many Heroes of the 500, from the 756 starting drivers, to the car owners both famous and not as well-known, to the announcers, who painted a picture with words to a young boy from Ohio, and to countless millions around the world.

Over the next few weeks I hope you enjoy just a few stories of the Heroes of the 500.

Mike Thomsen

Profiling the top ten female drivers at the Indy 500. Audio titled heroes-women-one
Heroes of the 500 1 of 33 Share #1 Al Unser Sr. Share #2 A.J. Foyt Share #3 Rick Mears Share #4 Wilbur Shaw Share...
An in-depth look at some of the greatest stories ever told about the Indy 500. Audio titled heroes-may-moments-2016
A look back at the top ten most heartbreaking moments at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (fatalities excluded)...
A look back at the ten most exciting finishes to the greatest spectacle in racing! Audio titled heroes-finishes