A couple of years ago the Perry Township/Southport Historical Society held a program on the Southside’s contribution to the race. I hope to get some stories from several of the folks who participated in that wonderful event.
Now that the UIndy and Marian University basketball seasons are over, I am thinking about writing short race-related articles leading up to the Indy 500.
When I was in junior high I became friends with a classmate, Nancy Wilcox. I remember getting off our school bus at her bus stop and walking home. As we became better friends I recall being inside her house. One day I saw the most impressive plaque hanging on the wall. I studied it closely and then asked her some questions.
The plaque honored Indy 500 driver Howdy Wilcox II for being a charter member the Champion Spark Plug 100 Mile an Hour Club. I learned that Howdy was the father of my friend Nancy. He finished second in the 1935 Indy 500.
A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about the club and Howdy finishing second. All of a sudden I began seeing similarities to something from my past racing experiences. Back in the mid 1960s some of my buddies and I put together a car that we raced in the Midwest and earned enough points to qualify for the national championships in Indianapolis.
I was the driver. This type of racing put the cars in many classes to ensure close competition. These vehicles were raced two at a time until a winner was crowned.
Now ... here is where my thoughts led me to see some similarities to Nancy’s dad and his second-place finish in a race also held in Indianapolis and having a connection to 100 mph. I was competing in the NHRA Nationals, which are held annually at Lucas Raceway Park.
In my first round of competition I came in second, which eliminated me from any further competition. My speed was 102 mph. So, here is the deal. We both were racing in Indianapolis; we both finished second; and we both were recognized for exceeding 100 mph.
The only discrepancy in all of this could be found in the length of our competition. Wilcox traveled 500 miles at a speed of more than 100 mph; I, on the other hand, accelerated to a little over 100 mph in a quarter-mile. I don’t see a big problem with this.
I just can’t believe that I hadn’t made this connection before ... maybe that’s why no one else has ever compared me to any Indy 500 driver.
Along the same line of thinking, I’m fairly certain that Wilcox’s daughters, Donna, Nancy and Sandy, never made the cool connection.