Watching this year’s Indy 500 took me back to my childhood. I grew up within ear shot of a high-banked, dirt oval race track. Every Sunday night during the summer, my dad took me to the races. I had an uncle that raced for a few years and traveled the midwest circuit. He was forced into early retirement due to injuries. All that happened before I was old enough to go to the track, so I never saw him race.
All weekend I would look forward to race time on Sunday at Springfield Speedway (Illinois). The quarter mile track ran stock cars, midgets and the occasional destruction derby. But the main event was always reserved for super modifieds. These were very loud open wheel and open cockpit cars built low to the ground. They would slide through the turns spraying dirt from the spinning wheels. I so wanted to drive one.
Photo Credit: Armin Krueger
The track wasn’t much. No box seats, no skyboxes; we sat on bleachers. You went to watch racing. The speedway was constructed in 1947 and attracted a number of racers across the midwest. Once September came around my mom wouldn’t let me go to the Sunday races because of school the next day. So I would open my window, listen to the roar of the cars while lying in bed, and imagine I was in the stands. Below is a shot of the track soon after it officially opened. The final checkered flag came at the end of the 1988 season. You can visit an homage web site here.
Photo Credit: Marvin Scattergood
Today’s Indy car technology is amazing, racing around the track at speeds of well over 200 mph. Despite the numerous yellow flags and some stupid driving errors (sorry Danica), the final few laps could really have been exciting, as the announcers kept telling us. Scott Dixon easily prevailed.
I was never attracted to NASCAR in the same way as the open wheel cars. Most likely it has to do with all those Sunday evenings at Springfield Speedway. Thanks dad.