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June 05, 1976 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-06-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

rage Six

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

The carnal thunder of

By JIM TOBIN
The crowd exploded. A woman
clutched hor little boy at the should-
er, wept and laughed, stamping her
feet. Eyes grew wide and the fans
jumped from their seats as thirty-
three brutish racing engines roared
to life under the harsh Indiana sun.
"Gentlemen ... start your
ceenginnessa!" was all Indianapolis
Motor Speedway owner Anton Hul-
man had said while 300,000 cheer-
ing, screaming, ranting race fans
listened. One hundred feet from
where I stood at the pit wall, a tril-
lion horse-power shook the endless
grandstand and drowned those of
us foolish enough to stand so close
to the wave of grinding engines.
THERE IS LITTLE so terrifying as
man-made monster automobiles
which the snetato" cannot tame. I
felt msvelf step bsckward, away from
the pit wall separating me from the
machin s, the wind on my face feel-
ing like a rolling tide of hot, stinging
force.
But the fever was contagious and
when the Buick pace car, customiz-
ed, jacked up and looking like some
little town's street drag demon,
rolled out of the pits to lead the
growling cars around Indianapolis's
two - and - a - half mile oval for the
warm-up lap, I again drew closer to
the ferocious parade, I and the quar-
ter-million ethers who had driven
their gaudy campers, timid Fords and
Chryslers here to watch thirty-three
heroes and fools risk their lives at
200 mph in the Indy 500.
In the elaborate pre-race cere-
monies, played to the hilt because
this is Indianapolis's one grand show-

case, one of the speakers called the
race, "the world's greatest event!"
Choking in surprise, I took a look at
the beaming faces nearby and had to
wonder if they did not believe as
much themselves.
THE PACE CAR shot by the starter's
stand on the parade lap with its
raging caravan, following close be-
hind at a mere 90 mph. The pit
crews stared at the drivers, their at-
tentive postures expressive of a single
prayer, that the $90,000 engines
would at least survive the green flag
to start the race, at least not make
them look foolish after four weeks
of drudgerous, dirty work in the
Speedway's "Gasoline Alley," rac-
ing's most glorified garage.
"Here they come," the announcer
murmurred in a funny little nervous
voice as the whir grew louder and the
racers were suddenly around the
fourth turn and into the front
straightaway, weaving from side to
side trying to heat up their giant
slick tires. A quick flourish of green
flag - Starter Pat Widan finally,
irrevocably, committed the cars to
the ferocious competition before
them, and thirty-three of the world's
most determined competitors, in elev-
en rows of three, jammed their feet
to the floor of their missiles - on-
wheels. There was no ceremony left,
no marching bands or baton twirlers
or pompous welcomes to Indiana.
Only fear and speed and sound as
the racers did what they were sup-
posed to do - drive faster than any-
one else at whatever risk was neces-
sary.
j HAD BEEN TO the race five years
before, but I had forgotten that
the cars moved so, so fast on the oval

ribbon of pavement at Indianapolis.
There is something strange that hap-
pens to one's vision when the cars
go by on that first lap. They are at
first unchained and roaring to get
ahead of each other in this bizarre
race to get gack to where they al-
ready are, faster than their compe-
titors. They drive so as to be almost
inscrutable, like a shadow fading
when the sun goes behind a cloud.
Watching them come down the
straightaway my eyes couldn't fo-
cus; as they pass they sudden-
ly seem to surge forward even faster
in some supernatural, impossible ac-
celeration. The whine mixed with
the acrid smell of burning kerosene
and the glaring, late - morning sun,
and the crowd seems to lose its mind
for a moment.
A sudden spurt of even more pow-
er carried them around the turn;
they were gone except for' the whine
of the engines that is never passed.
One balding, perspiring young man
in a "Penske Racing" windbreaker
dashed a few steps after the fleeing
cars, shot his hand toward the sky,
and yelled "SSSSHHHHOOOMMM!"
Only that, nothing more - it cer-
tainly said what I was feeling and
nothing else would have 'meant any-
thing at all. Fear had changed to
fascination.
But the grand beginning was real-
ly more of a finale for the entourage
of fans who had arrived the night
before to camp out and drink beer
around the sprawling white speed-
way. Mere blocks from downtown
Indianapolis, the long, oval arena is
abutted by Sixteenth Ave. and
Georgetown St.; these are the long
corridors of bawdy action the night
before the race. A huge American
Legion post field and hundreds of
ill - kept residential lawns of crab
grass were crammed with gleaming,

souped - up campers, vans, a
derous motor-homes spilling o
dle-aged, middle - income
with their friends and childr
would-be spectators lined th
on their rickety aluminus
chairs, watching even more
incoming crowd roll along to
ner of the speedway or the
only to stroll back again.
A mustachioed man in a Bi
er t-shirt, about thirty, doze
to his green cooler in the ii
ning rays, a can of Pabst c
in his hand. Strolling ca
along the curb, wary of the
motorcycles close at hand
startled from my other side
other, gentleman, hair slick(
and his ample belly covere
greasy, green-striped shirt, w
staring into space while let
rank residue of the afternoot
cascade down upon the rel
wheel of his car. When I turn
a moment later the urine 5
flowing, and I left before fint
just how deep the reservoir #
I)ARKNESS CAME ON os5
shattered by the glare of
dianapolis streetlights. The
of unsheathed motorcycle
ripped the humid darkness a
screamed up and down the,
"Show us your tits!" bellowed:
of men to every passing wom
some, drunk, began to ts
shirts up in acouiescence, th
restrained by their glowerir
companions.
One hundred thousand
around the Speedway. It 51
until five o'clock the next a
the race was hours off and fe
of it, but it was right the
them all; its engines, chrot
and steel had lured them, I
the next day's rivers, they *
ting themselves loose. The

A. i. Foyt

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