I usually write my article over the weekend. My plan was to do this one during the race. I was sort of sure that I could write this and listen to the race on the radio. Then the Indianapolis Motor Speedway lifted the television blackout. I started out trying to listen to the radio while watching a muted television, but that didn’t work out. Well ... the race is now over and you can see how far I have progressed.
As the race was about to get started I listened to Josh Kaufman sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” before watching the fly-over. Shortly after that those jets flew over our house, and I got a glimpse of them through the trees. Our neighbor Charlie O’Donkey, a donkey who likes to think that he runs the Southport Equestrian Center, seemed to be upset about the loud jets and complained vocally for several minutes.
I have one last “Personal Recollection” for this article, and it takes me back to my junior high and high school days. On Madison Avenue between our old house (now the Longacre Bar & Grill) and my dad’s Sunoco service station (now Rust Check) lived a family with special ties to the Indianapolis 500.
I became friends with Nancy Wilcox when we were in junior high. I had known her for a while before learning about her father.
Howdy Wilcox II competed in only one Indianapolis 500, the 1932 race, and he finished second. If this sounds confusing, let me help you. In 1919 Howdy Wilcox won the Indy 500, but these drivers were not related. It took the Indy 500 historian Donald Davidson to trace back both families to discover this and end some squabbles.
Howdy Wilcox II was diagnosed with a major medical problem that kept him from competing in any future races.
A few years after his only race, a new club was formed. Nancy’s dad and the 1932 winner, Fred Frame, were two of the first three drivers to complete the race at an average speed of more than 100 mph. The first to do so was Billy Arnold, who won the 1930 race. In a few years the Champion 100 Mile an Hour Club was founded, and each member received a plaque.
Nancy’s father was killed in a racing accident in 1946. Nancy, her sisters, Donna and Sandy, and mom Hazel were all at the racetrack when Howdy II died. I remember seeing the plaque hanging on a wall in their home. I stopped and looked at it many times, often getting cold chills as I admired it.