Silver Crown
Thursday, 23 May 2019


#56 Kevin Thomas, Jr. #56 Kevin Thomas, Jr. Rich Forman Photo


Written By: Patrick Sullivan

(Part 3 of 4 in a series of introspective short stories from the Hoosier Hundred)

Perhaps it is because I was raised in the heartland, but there is something about old State fairgrounds ovals that always get me. I loved going to races at Sedalia Missouri, Des Moines, Iowa, and later Springfield and Du Quoin, Illinois. I loved big covered grandstands like those in Hutchinson, Kansas, as well as Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Yet, there has been nothing that moved me quite like attending races at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

To me it was like attending a baseball game at old Yankee Stadium. You didn’t have to be a Yankees fan to appreciate that you were looking out on a piece of turf that had been occupied by the likes of Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. The Indiana State Fairgrounds had that same ambience. You knew Barney Oldfield was the first to travel a mile in a minute at the old place, and so many legends, from Rex Mays and Bob Sweikert, to A.J. Foyt, Rodger Ward, Parnelli Jones, Al Unser and Mario Andretti had come here and won.

As a sprint car fan, it didn’t take an Indianapolis 500 pedigree for me to marvel at the talents of a new cadre of stars. Thus, I loved watching Chuck Gurney hot lap, admired the ability of Jimmy Sills to manage a race, and Jack Hewitt’s swashbuckling style. Because I had moved to Indiana, and enjoyed an active announcing career, when Dave Darland stunned everyone in 1995 by winning the Hulman and Hoosier Hundred, it felt like a win for one of our very own.

Context has always been important to me, and for that reason, the race once known as the Hulman Hundred was always a highlight of the year. In the days before I moved to the Hoosier State, coming back to Indianapolis meant the start of summer, and it afforded me a chance to visit the hallowed ground at 16th and Georgetown.

That said, on a certain level, I enjoyed my trip to the mile most of all. It felt like a satisfying trip to the past. You could close one eye and think that you had been transported back in time. There were the smells of a fairground, and later you would hear the booming voices of the late Bill Donella, Gary Lee, and Larry Rice. These were men I admired and would eventually work with.

The whole experience was part of a big racing weekend, and with this race soon to be relegated to the history books, a kaleidoscope of memories tumble forth. I remember the night we all thought the pace car was going way too fast, and everyone roared when we realized A.J. Foyt was at the controls, and General Chuck Yeager was his passenger. I remember when Jack Hewitt arrived with the paint on his new car still drying. Little did we know that Jack, and his mechanic Bob Hampshire, were about to rewrite the record book. I think about the opportunity to watch men like Gary Bettenhausen and Sheldon Kinser race, and how at this racetrack, fans truly appreciated the craftsmanship of George Snider.

For me, the best place to sit as a fan was as high as I could on the turn four side of the main grandstands. Even now, my heart races just thinking about the sight and sounds as the most beautiful cars in the land rumble down the long front straightway and take the green flag.

There is still work left to be done. Yes, times have changed. However, do not forget, in another time and place, many of those racing tonight would have been mainstays at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Many of the drivers who will appear on this night are already legends in their field, while others, like Kody Swanson, Chris Windom, Kevin Thomas, Jr., Justin Grant, and Tyler Courtney, are well on their way. In a race and place where history has been made, I have been honored to be a small part of it.

"Hoosier Hundred" activities get underway with pits opening at noon eastern, grandstands at 3pm, drivers meeting at 4pm and practice from 4:45-6pm, with qualifications and racing to immediately follow.  Tickets are $25 for advance adult general admission and $30 the day of the event.  Infield tickets are $20, while general admission for children 11 and under is $10.  Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members.

Watch the race live and on-demand at  Listen live on the USAC app.  Follow along with live updates on and, plus live timing and scoring on the Race Monitor app.