Lifelong Southsider Mark Stansbury was only nine years old when he went with a family neighbor to see his first Indianapolis 500 in 1964.
“Our neighbor invited my dad to go to the race at the last minute,” Stansbury recalled. “Dad couldn’t go, so he suggested that he take me; so off we went. We had seats on the inside of Turn 2. At the time those bleachers were small steel bleachers, very uncharacteristic of what you’d see there today.”
He had been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in previous years for time trials and to visit the museum but never to the 500-mile race.
Young Mark and his neighbor could not anticipate the tragedy that would happen early in the race.
“Little did we know that the race would stop due to a terrible accident,” he said. “I remember realizing the cars didn’t come around (second lap) and saw all black smoke. I remember later that they announced Eddie Sachs had died.”
The horrific crash also claimed the life of Dave MacDonald whose car swerved into the inside wall of the front stretch after coming off Turn 4. The fuel tank on MacDonald’s racecar exploded upon impact and Sachs, with nowhere to go, drove into the fiery crash.
Stansbury did not go back for another “500” until the 1980s, but listened to the broadcast on radio and watched highlights on TV.
Meanwhile,he attended high school at Manual for two years before his parents moved to a home in Southport in 1970. He graduated from Southport High School in 1972 where he took an art class and several industrial arts classes.
“Being an artist never crossed my mind,” said Stansbury, who took a class, Purdue Engineering Graphics, at IUPUI.
He started sketching to pass the time between phone calls at a company where he answered technical questions from technicians.
“I was taught how to draw concept drawings in three-view and isometric and freehand,” he said. “I began to enjoy capturing the detail and saved several sketches. My family and friends asked for a copy; my parents loved them, and it progressed to a hobby from there.”
Owning his own business, he continued to sketch in the mornings. His interest in the “500” resulted in his first racecar sketch of a boat-tail racer from a Model T that was displayed at the Speedway for a roadster show.
“The car was supercharged,” Stansbury said. “It (Model T) was an instant inspiration because of the amount of detail, its age, and the graphics on it. You just don’t see “Indian gas” on signs anymore.”
Stansbury’s second car that he sketched was the famed Johnny Lightning racecar driven to back-to-back “500” wins by Al Unser and there’s a story behind the sketch.
“While drawing it at the Speedway under the trees behind the Pagoda some years ago, it was nearly done when suddenly a bird pooped on it,” he said with a grin. “I had no napkins, handkerchief or towel: my hand had to be it. I was quick enough and it (smudge) is barely noticeable on it today.”
Among his more interesting sketches are:
*A go-kart that the customer raced but was later killed in a midget car race on the Fourth of July.
*The No. 3 car of Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe among the newer racecars sketched.
*Two dirt-track drawings, one of A.J. Foyt and another up on two wheels.
*The Barney Oldfield sketch was a detail challenge and is all about no tire changes during the 1920 race.
*A top view of the famed Borg Warner trophy.
*A DeSoto with wire wheels that Stansbury believes was not raced in the “500.”
*A racecar with spinning wheels coming out of the pits was a challenge to get the smoke and proportion to look right.
*The No. 83 Lotus Ford driven by Bobby Johns in the “500.” The twin No. 82 racecar won the “500 with Jimmy Clark in 1965.
A sketch that brings back memories to those who went to the track in the ‘50s and ‘60s is the sketch of the old wooden front entrance to the track.
“With regard to the Speedway sketches, it seems that when I post these on my Facebook site, or on pictorial Indiana, it sparks a lot of talk about the cars, and interesting background, as well as the perspective of the drivers,” Stansbury observed. “Then you get those who were there and saw the cars run, chime in which makes it even more interesting.”
Some of Stansbury’s “500” sketches are on display in the Eiteljorg Museum, 500 W. Washington St., and in the Pumpkinfish shop in The Garage, 906 Carrollton Ave., suite 440, near the new Bottleworks Hotel.