OpEd-Alabamians; Making the Indy 500 Better Since 1972

Yeah, maybe that’s an egotistical title, but I get to finally make an appearance at Uncle Tony’s House this weekend. Like fellow Alabamians Jim Nabors, Donny Allison, Bobby Allison and Jim Guthrie before me, I shall grace the hallowed intersection of 16th and Georgetown with my presence. I’d just like to take a second and thank all the great people at Open Paddock for allowing it to happen. I promise I’ll do all of you proud, and I won’t completely embarrass Doug while I’m there.

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Yes, my fellow Alabamians have been a major part of the Indy 500 since Jim Nabors first sang “Back Home Again In Indiana” back yonder in 1972. The Alabama Gang made some appearances back in the 70’s to try their hand at Open Wheel racing. Donnie had the most success, finally breaking out of the shadow of his older brother. In 1970, Donnie started 23rd and finished 4th for Anstead-Thompson Racing in the #83 Offy. With A.J. Foyt he’d come back the next year and finish 6th. I wonder how things would have been different had Donnie decided to stick with IndyCars instead of NASCAR. Maybe his career wouldn’t have been ended prematurely as it was in NASCAR due to a crash in the 1981 Coke 600. Bobby would do the 1973 and 1975 Indy 500 races for Roger Penske, both ending early with blown engines. Gadsden, AL born Jim Guthrie would start three 500’s with a best finish of 18th in 1996 in a Lola-Menard Buick.

I’m looking forward to reaching down and touching the yard of bricks. As long as I can remember, I’ve watched the Indy 500 every year. When you grow up in a family as tied to racing as mine, it’s just what you do. I often heard my grandfather tell stories of seeing the Offys run at Birmingham Fairgrounds. It’s because of my grandfather that I developed my love of all things technological. I’m actually carrying my grandfather’s sunglasses with me to the track simply so a bit of Jack McCormack can be at the Brickyard. My grandfather was a huge Mario Andretti fan. I think his fascination with Italians started with a gentleman who once played on his mining town baseball team named Mike Sarafini. Grandpa would often muse on “That Eye-Talyun” pitcher who should have been in the big leagues instead of working in a mine. That’s neither here nor there though… Grandpa’s favorite IndyCar driver was Mario Andretti.

If you see me there, feel free to say hello. I’ll be the guy standing around too many of these damn onions that keep following me around….


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