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June 05, 1976 - Image 19

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-06-05

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Saturday, June 5, 1 976


Page Seven

Saturday, June 5, 191b THE MiCHIGAN DAILY Page Seven

e Indy 500

car radio while "Woodstock"
streamed from another - the festi-
vities of that event and this one
seemed similar.
One married couple in tennis shoes
and windbreakers sat, almost hid-
den, on the teeming corner of
Georgetown and 1Ath. They said they
were from Scottsdale, Arizona, and
they'd come to the Speedway the
night before the race every year.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world,"
said the man. "This is all an integral
part of the race. It's almost like it's
programmed for you. The sirens go
by, the helicopters . . . We used to
walk up and down but we got tired of
it and then we realized that we
could sit right here and let every-
thing go by. And we've seen every-
thing go by."
t TALL MISCREANT, in an "Indy
500 '76" t-shirt perhaps 19,
strolled the length of Georgetown
Ave. past the creeping cars. At ev-
ery window he lunged, screaming at
the top of his beer-soaked lungs at
the shocked passengers. A hundred
cars he must have nassed, shrieking
and wagcing his tongue at people.
Why did he do it?
"I'm fucked up, man. What can I
say?" That seemed to be enough ex-
planation; this was Indy and people
were doing exactly what they pleas-
ed, doing things as crazy as risking
fiery, horrible death on an asphalt
oval, trying to get around it faster
than 32 other fools.
All the drive of Indianapolis and
the racing world, the speed and
courage that brings these masses to
the Speedway on Memorial Day
Weekend, seems to be embodied in
the person of one A. J. Fovt. No driv-
er is as popular, none seem to cap-
ture the attention of the fans as
does Foyt, who has won at Indiana-
polis three times and is almost al-

tim those missiles around the track
were what these fans would never be,
aut on this night they could shout
ad drink and swear. This and the
text day's deadly driving are part
f the same entity.
huge block of hard-eyed teen-
tgers formed a long gauntlet along
he street, pressing close to cars as
hey crawled forward. They would
ang on the windows, grab the car
y the rear, hoist it off the ground,
hen drop it suddenly when the driv-
r gunned the engine. The rubber
hrieked, burning on the hot pave-

Rutherford, the winner (top); Foyt, the runner-up (bottom)

LS~ r/Y t r ~r ~l ri~rrl Irr ~~~ r

anxiety and calm that characterizes,
a professional about to risk his life
for a great deal of money. The long
pit wall is lined with the thirty-three
machines (they are almost always
called "machines" rather than.
"cars") but only Foyt's draws a
crowd. He sits between a couple of
leathery cronies who whisper inau-
dibly into his ear and make him
laugh. He drinks in the attention
but stays remote from the fans who
crave his smile and recognition.
Foyt's bronze head is like his body
thick, solid, like a stone cube
with edges smoothed by the ferocious
acceleration of the race track. It is
hard to tell where he gazes behind
those impenetrable sunglasses, but
his occasional distant, grave looks
are softened by the easy smile that
reveals a trim line of perfect teeth.
His jutting chin sticks out like a
bully's, but his quick grins to the
fans who holler out his initials are
grudgingly kind.
fingers of his left, squeezes
them, lets them romp, then grabs
them again. His smiles, except to
friends and the members of the crew
who stand nearby, are frozen and
automatic. His recognition of his
worshippers appears to be mere rou-
tine, something that he learned was
part of the game a long time- ago. A
Barbie Doll of a young woman, with
long, meticulously waved hair and
a snow-white jumpsuit prances up
and asks to pose with him for a pic-
ture; he acquiesces, with a brawny
hand planted around her shoulders,

showing a broad set of teeth as the
camera clicks, then sits down im-
mediately without a further glance
or word in her direction. Bang, bang,
bang - he slips people memories,
then forgets them.
One assumed he was nervous as his
hands continued to fiddle; the nar-
rowest track in racing with thirty-
two over - competitive fiends charg-
ing down his tall awaited him. When
Pat Vidan would wave the green
flag twenty feet above his head as
he passed beneath the starter's
stand a scant hour later, none of the
tension would matter any more -
transformed into the competitive
rage that has made Foyt the demon-
ic darling of racing and Indiana-
It was an irregular race, halted af-
ter only 255 miles had been chalked
up on the spedometers of the hungry
race-car engines-but it didn't seem
to matter. The anticipation o'- he
night before, the starting line "'ak
of excitement had already been
achieved, and the rest was denoue-
ment. While officials desnerately
tried to dry the track when it seem-
ed the rain might abate. the fans
sat patiently, hardly seeming to mind
the fact that the cars had stopped.
The festival had come off as usual,
with beer and cars resplendent. A.J.
had only come in second, but he
would have another chance next
year and the year after. The fans as
well, would be back.
Jim To'bin is (hr Daily's co-director of
f/se 'dilorial page.

zeit as stench and smoke rose and
he car surged forward - all to the
lasty approval of the gauntlet.
"They love that, don't they?"
niled a helmeted cop with an 18-
ach steel flashlight in his hand. He
rinnned widely, partly in amusement
f the childish antics, partly because
e seemed to love the screaming
ires a little bit himself.
The night appeared charmed.
Waying drunks atop campers teet-
red at the edge as they drove by but
ever fell. Rushing ambulances and
alice cars, on their way to some
nseen accident or crisis, barely
issed the adventurers who danced
layfully in front of them. "Ram-
n' Gamblin' Man" blared from one

ways the favorite to win it an un-
precedented fourth.
morning of the race, a tall man
in a Firestone jacket next to me by
the pit shook his head. "He's an ar-
rogant dude, man. He's too much into
himself and his money. But he is a
driver, alright."
An hour and a half before speed-
way owner Tony Hulman tells him to
"Start your engines," Foyt perches
himself on the pit wall looking for
all the world like some big-time gam-
bler at a rodeo in his native Texas.
From the bright-red leather-studded
cowboy boots to the dark, dark blue
sunglasses which hide his eyes, Foyt
shows the curious combination of

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