Last week, ESPN Classic started showing old Indianapolis 500 races, much to the delight of those who worship the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.  The first race was the 1985 offering.  I tweeted that this was a special race for me and I would get into it later.  Well, it’s later.  And it is also Mother’s Day.  Part of the reason this race was so special to me.

The 1985 500 was the first time that my entire family went to the Speedway to watch what I already  knew was the most amazing show on earth.  At that time, tickets were VERY hard to come by so I continued the tradition of parking and sitting in the infield.  We parked on a fairway of the old golf course, grabbed our coolers and photo bag, and headed for the area between Turns 3 and 4.  I said, that is the area where a lot of things happen, we should go there.  (For those of you who know what happened in that race around Lap 120, you know that this decision was not one of the best in history.  Sort of ranks up there with Napoleon invading Russia in Winter.)

We all reached our standing position and could see the cars going through the short chute.  My father loaded the camera since, how could I know how to do such a “hard” thing, and started shooting the, shall we say, landscape before the race?  Some of the scenery was quite uh, revealing.  Let’s just say, it was the first time my younger brother got to see a naked woman.  OK, moving on… Turns out my father loaded the camera completely wrong ALL day, and I got NO pictures from 6 rolls of film shot from this 500.  As most of you know, Danny Sullivan won the race. Danny became a huge favorite of mine when he was driving for Doug Shierson and Domino’s Pizza in 1984.  I worked at Domino’s through my first 2 years of college, so clearly, Danny was “my” driver since we were working for the same company.  The incredibly stupid view of a young man.

I was heading to the Main Campus of Penn State in the fall, my first time away from home, so this was a great way, at least for me, to spend our time together as a family. We had sandwiches and plenty of drinks and snacks.  We stayed in the infield for about 3 hours after the race to let the traffic die down a bit.  I could have stayed there all day.  I only wish that I could have seen the future then, and remembered every single detail because this trip to the place that I still to this day revere so, would be the last vacation we would ever take as a family.

Later that year, my mother took her own life.  No one knows why.  No one ever will.  Any thoughts of the 1985 500 always brought back bad memories instead of good back then. A place that I so dearly loved, was also the location of our last time together as a family.  But as the years went by, the pain lessened.  As they say, time heals all wounds.

This 2nd weekend of May, Mother’s Day, has always brought mixed feelings over the past 25 years.  Missing my mother is still painful, but knowing that the Indy Cars will be returning to the hallowed grounds of IMS, lifts my spirits more than you can imagine.  Of course, if you are reading this, you probably can imagine.  As Al Unser, Jr. said after he won his 1st Indy 500, “You just don’t know what Indy means.”  Yes we do Al.  And it means so many different things to so many different people.

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