My Favorite 500: Teacher makes '97 memorable
Tony Stewart's 1997 run turned a NASCAR fan into an Indy 500 fan. (Getty Images)
My favorite 500 is a bit unconventional, but it was the rain-delayed race in 1997. My second-grade teacher at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, Mrs. Reed, wheeled in a TV that Tuesday morning and made a day of it for class. We each picked a name out of the hat, and gave away certain prizes depending on where our driver finished. My driver just happened to be Tony Stewart. For an 8-year-old, it was cool to have a driver from Indiana who led the most laps and was up front the entire race.
Since childhood, I’ve always been more of a NASCAR fan. Growing up, late-May was never about Andretti or Unser for me, nor was it was ever about the infamous split for 1996. To me, May was always about watching Davey Allison and Dale Jarrett run “The Winston” and the Coca-Cola 600. With the Indy 500 never being on live TV, the tape-delayed repeat was always up against NASCAR and the 600. NASCAR always won out.
But ’97 was different. Being delayed until Tuesday, it was the first time I was really able to sit down and watch the race as it was unfolding. I loved it. The sound and look of the cars, the pageantry, the history; it all made sense to me after that day. It’s the greatest day of school I ever had.
I went with my Dad to the Indy 500 for the first time back in 2010. From then on, I’ve tried to go to the Speedway as much as possible throughout the Month of May. In 2014, I came to the track without a ticket, just planning on hanging out in the Media Center. Our head of engineering Jake Robinson gave me a ticket out in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2. It was amazing, and it cemented the idea that I need to go to this race every year. This year will be my fourth straight year attending the Indianapolis 500.
I’ll always love NASCAR. It’ll always be my No. 1 passion in sports. It’s what I grew up on. But, after working here at The Fan for the past 5 years, and getting to experience the Month of May like few people can has made me come to love the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. None of this happens without Mrs. Reed wheeling in a television on that Tuesday morning in 1997.