This weekend, we, in the Indianapolis area, gear up for the thrilling tradition of the Indy 500 at Speedway. My family has very fond memories of race week and it is an event we can all look back on and cherish. I specifically remember walking the concourse for the first time during the time trials in 2003. Taking in all the sights, smells, and sounds for the first time was an overwhelming and thrilling experience. Hearing the engines start up and seeing the cars whirling past was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
My dad had the privilege of pit passes during the time trials in 1987. He was watching a reporter conduct an interview when he overheard a man saying that the driver was Mario Andretti. Knowing that Andretti was one of my grandfather’s favorite, my dad was very excited and jokingly said he wondered if he could get Andretti’s autograph.
The man that pointed Andretti out overheard and commented, “You’re going to have to jump the firewall and I don’t think they like that. I guess it depends on how bad you want his autograph.” My dad said he really wanted the autograph and the man smiled back then replied: “I guess you’re not going to know unless you take a chance”.
He saw the interview ending and knew the window of opportunity was closing. My dad jumped the firewall onto the racetrack and Andretti had a rather surprised look on his face as my dad handed Andretti the program and asked him for his autograph. Andretti then realized where my dad had come from and grinned while signing the program.
Life lessons are learned through experience. Having someone who has been in your situation before to give guidance and encouragement gives you the extra push to take chances that you might regret later in life for not taking. This year I have the privilege of seeing the race live for the first time. I hope that I can add another great tale to our family memories, but I can’t imagine that I can ever have an experience that comes close to my dad’s. Rest assured, I won’t be jumping the firewall at the 2017 race!
Every family has stories to tell. What are your favorite family stories? How do you continue to revisit them?