My wife and I traveled back to Indianapolis for the “500” to take part in the vintage race portion of the event. The fact that I was going to drive alongside of Al Unser Jr., Bobby Unser, and Mario Andretti on the Speedway for the 100th was a dream come true. There were 118 vintage cars from all over the world that would be running in three classes for three days. The event was a complete sell out so the crowds were awesome.
We had transported our Truesport 91c-01 Indy car two weeks prior, so it was waiting for us at the Speedway when we arrived. The Truesport is powered by a Judd AV 2.65 turbo running on methanol. This was a lifelong dream of Jim Trueman but because of his untimely death in 1986 he was never able to see the final completion of the car. The car had been campaigned by Scott Pruett in 1991 and Brian Till drove the car in ’92 on a limited schedule. The Truesport had been in storage for 19 years when we purchased it and hadn’t been driven on the Speedway since Scott drove it to 12th place in ’91.
Wednesday during speed week is always a community day so it was free entry for all. The day started out with overcast skies and a 60% chance of rain. I had started the car before loading it in Sana Barbara and discovered that two cylinders had low temperature readings and traced the problem to the injectors, which I installed at the track. We pre-heated the engine in the pits just when it started to rain but warmed it up anyway to check the new injectors and that took care of the problem.
We woke to clear skies on Thursday, “Carb Day” to a sellout crowd and our run time was scheduled for 9:00 am so we needed to be at the track by 7:00. The pre-heat takes about 95 minutes and there is always the putting a wrench to the car and setting up radios, topping the methanol and checking tire pressures. I was working with a new crew out of St. Louis so there was a little learning curve, but off on to the track we went.
The crowds had arrived very early to watch and listen as we all warmed up our engines. There were times you couldn’t get next to your car because so many spectators wanted to take a close look and I was quite surprised that so many people knew a lot about the Truesport and Jim Trueman’s story.
The crew pushed me off and I merged onto the track and found some running space. We have very few rules, no passing in the turns, pass on the right and stay in your mirrors. I had driven the Speedway a few times before but this time, the 100th running, just felt so special and I was honored to be a part of the show.
The Speedway gives you a different feeling all the way around the oval as a driver. Heading down the front straight is like driving into a canyon of busyness. First off, if it’s a hot day you see the heat rising from the track like a mirage and the cars ahead of you look like they are floating. Next, with cameras flashing like a light show, you pick up on the sound of your engine echoing off the grandstands and of course you just press harder on the accelerator pedal. You swing to the outside and dive down into Turn One keeping the line low but just enough to set up for Turn Two. Turn Two is fast and you don’t want to drift up towards the wall too fast. There is a bump in Turn Two caused by an underground spring which surprises you the first time you hit it! The low line misses the bump or you can always go high. The back straight is wide open and there are no grandstands, so it’s very bright and you have grass on your left. Now the speed picks up even more (162 mph) so your focus is on Turn Three which is coming up. This is the dangerous portion of track in that if cars are having problems they are thinking about getting off the track and are slowing down. The varying closing speeds (between 165 mph and 100 mph) can catch you by surprise and with all that’s going on it can be crazy. Entering Turn Three you are down on the grass but as you are turning into the corner you look to your left to make sure other cars on the line are at speed. The line for Turn Four is now to the outside wall and you let the car drift up. Many Indy drivers end up in the Turn Four wall because their tires just let go. Then down the straight again for another lap quickly scanning your gauges.
I want to thank my family and friends, especially David and Jeff, for all of their support and encouragement. This was a dream of a lifetime for me. I’ve spent three years getting up to speed to do this run on the Speedway and a lifetime of work in the car world. What a thrill! Now it’s on to the SVRA Meet at the Speedway and three more days of running!