Memorable IndyCar Memorabilia

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I’ve always been a little intrigued when visiting friend’s homes and seeing the amount of time, energy and money they have put into creating a shrine to their various favorite sports. I say intrigued because that conveys a combination of envy, bewilderment and fascination – fascination as to where they get the money to devote to their favorite pastime, while they can’t cover their kid’s tuition.

Being a Tennessee Vol fan myself, I’ve seen countless orange-clad basements and man-rooms filled with mementos of all types and sizes. Since the Titans came to town, two-tone blue don’s many a TV room here. Seeing as how I can count the number of IndyCar fans I know here on both hands, I haven’t seen too many collections of IndyCar memorabilia. I’m kind of curious as to what kind of mementos other IndyCar fans keep.

I consider myself a pretty hard-core IndyCar fan. However, I think most people would be surprised at my rather modest collection of IndyCar memorabilia. I have just a couple of the current 1/18th scale Dallaras that are readily available. My brother gave me one of Franchitti’s car after he won Indy and the championship in 2007. In 2008, I bought an older version of Kanaan’s 7-Eleven car before he had the “slurpee” added to the bottom of the sidepod. Since it wasn’t quite current, I picked it up for $20 at one of the trailers at the last Nashville IRL race. I also have a 1/18th Jimmy Vasser 1997 Target Reynard that I bought for $5 at a Target in 1999.

I also have a few of the Racing Champions series cars from the early to mid-nineties. They were not very good. They were simply generic open-wheel cars that they would paint up similar to their real counterparts whether they were Lola’s, Galmer’s, Reynard’s or whatever. One of my most prized cars is a 1/24th scale version of AJ Foyt’s 1992 Lola, made by Onyx. It is an excellent replica and it is special to me because it was Foyt’s car the last time he drove at Indy and I was there to see it. It was my first year back at Indy in twenty years.

When I did my IndyCar drive last October, my girlfriend surprised me with a purchase of a plaque she bought in the museum gift shop at the Speedway. It features a section of brick and asphalt from the start-finish line that was taken up the last time they refinished the track. It is tastefully done and comes with a little certificate of authenticity from the Speedway – for whatever that’s worth.

I don’t know if you can call this a collection since I actually use them, but I have many polo shirts that I have acquired over the years. Aside from the usual IRL and IMS shirts, I generally buy the polo shirt of each Indy 500, although I didn’t buy one this year – they were all polyester. The only one I found that was 100% cotton resembled a giant American flag, which I didn’t buy. I’m as patriotic as the next person, but that’s just not something I would wear. But that was reserved and conservative compared to the polo’s there made by Izod. Hopefully, now that they’ve become the title sponsor, they will come out with something a little more boring for us old guys. My favorite polo is the shirt I save for attending races in person, only – a Marlboro Team Penske polo I found on e-bay. If you see me on race day at Indy, that’s what I’m wearing.

The usual tapes, DVD’s and books fill up my bookshelves, but the memorabilia I have that I cherish the most is my collection of Indy 500 programs – mostly by the way I got them. In my last move in 2001, I mistakenly threw away a box that contained all of my programs from Indy that ranged from 1964 to 1995. When I realized what I had done, I was absolutely sick.

For my birthday in 2003, my girlfriend surprised me with her results from a yearlong project. She had been spending countless hours on e-bay, replacing each program I had lost along with many more. Her goal was to present me with a program for each year since I had been born. Although she couldn’t acquire each one before my birthday, that year she managed to get all but five of them. In her search, she was also able to go ahead and get the program for the 1996 US 500 along with the 1957 program, which was before my time.

This collection is many different things to me. First of all, it was a very thoughtful effort on her part to make up for my stupid mistake. It also is something that I use as reference material many times while writing for this blog. They also serve as just casual light reading material. To this day, I generally learn something new every time I pick one up. It’s probably just as well I threw the old ones away. They were practically worn out. The ones she bought on ebay were mostly in mint condition. Although I do keep them in protective sleeves, I don’t treat them as museum pieces

But the most endearing thing about them is that they serve as a constant reminder of my childhood. The ads are corny, although it’s amazing how many cigar, cigarette and hard-liquor ads filled the programs back then. The graphics were elementary, but were probably state of the art for their day. The sponsors did a better job in using the drivers in almost every ad, than they do today. The drivers seemed more serious back then – probably due to the fact that each program contained a “Memorial Page” near the front, paying homage to the many drivers that had been lost in the previous year.

The newer programs offer a lot more bells & whistles. The 2009 program in particular, was chocked full of extras in conjunction with the Centennial Celebration, including a pouch inserted in the centerfold that included replicas of important documents representing the history of the Speedway. It seems that for the past six or seven years, the programs have been getting thicker. Yes, there are a lot of ads but they are crammed absolutely full of information. This year’s program probably featured as much information about Danica Patrick as it did Rodger Ward.

Lately, they have commissioned a well-known artist to design65indy the program cover. Each cover since 1976 has been unique,  some better than others. From the early fifties until 1976, each program was a classic glossy white cover featuring the wings & wheel logo holding an oversized collection of the seven colored racing flags. The only exception was in 1961 when the cover was gold in recognition of the 50th anniversary and in 1966, when the cover donned two medallions commemorating the 50th running of the 500.

If I was told that I had to give up all of my memorabilia except for just one part of it, I would give up all of my cars, my books, my DVD’s and shirts & jackets. I would give it all up – just so I could keep my programs. To me, they are the single necessary item that any fan should have. I would recommend anyone to get on e-bay and add a few to their collection.

Like anything on e-bay, you have to sift through them a little bit to find the bargains. Although you can find some that go for over $100 each, my girlfriend generally paid from $5 to $15 for most of mine. She said the most expensive one costs $25. I’m lucky to have someone who is not only that thoughtful, but is patient enough to watch the items and knows how to play the e-bay game. I’m not that patient.

What are your thoughts? Does anyone else have the collection of programs or do they have other things they go after to cherish? Let me hear from you either via the comment section or e-mail at geophillips14@gmail.com.

George Phillips

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24 Responses to “Memorable IndyCar Memorabilia”

  1. The only programs I have are from the 2000 European GP and the CART Rockingham 300 from 2001 and a shirt my sister brought back from 1999 race at Surfer’s Paradise – other than that, my shelf is mainly books.

    (Not quite motorsports related, but I still have the program from when the Republic of Ireland beat Northern Ireland 3-0 in Dublin for the ’94 Soccer World Cup Qualifiers; however that’s a different story)

  2. I am not one to really collect things, but I really like the idea of collecting programs. When I was at Indy last year, I thought about buying one because they kind of catch a unique moment in time. I didn’t and now I wonder if I should have. I looked at eBay for some of the really old ones a few months ago, but they got a bit too spendy for me. Someday…

  3. 22yro with 17 Indy 500s Says:

    I’ve been lucky enough to collect all of the programs from 1954-2009, I’ve also been able to find several of the program cover posters that can be hung on walls. I also have an original post card sent to someone in Dayton,Ohio on August 20th 1909 writing their brother on the amazing events they had witnessed at this new test track. I hope to add some car parts eventually. I wouldnt mind collecting a garage sign at some point as well.

  4. I’m not so much into programs as I am into the clothing. Whenever I go to a race, (and there have been many), I buy a t-shirt with the event on it and anything else that looks cool. Most of my stuff is CART or Champ Car sanctioned, which I is my way of thumbing my nose to unification when I wear them. Most of the stuff I only wear when I go to the races, but I also hasve a closet full of pretty low key jackets, polos and baseball caps that I proudly wear all the time. And you would be right in saying IZOD as title sponsor makes me happy…

  5. That’s a nice sounding colection you’ve got there, George. I wouldn’t sell yourself short there at all.

    I try to pick up programs for just about every event that I go to. For me, that’s Indy 500s since 1996 (not a political statement there, just the first year I was old enough and lived close enough to go), assorted CART/ChampCar/IRL races from 2000-2007, sports car races of the ALMS and SCCA varieties, USGPs from 2000 though 2005, a couple NASCAR races, a half dozen or so SCCA Runoffs, a couple of Rally America events, a couple dozen sundry midget/sprint/miscellaneous short track shows, and probably a few others that I can’t remember at the moment. I only own a couple of diecasts, because they’re kind of pricey (read that: I’m cheap), but I have tons of posters because they’re way more affordable (read that: they range from $10 purchase price all the way down to free). I used to get Indy 500 starting grid shirts every year, until I realized that they were too gaudy for my tastes and that I’d basically never wear them. I pick up a team hat once every couple of years or so, but largely stay away from t-shirts and polos, because I already have so many that I never wear and I know I’m too much of a packrat to weed any out if I get new ones. On the other hand, that could change quickly, if the new Izod shirts come in at under $50 each…

    Nice column, George, and way to make me feel like less of a weirdo for my collecting habits. :)

  6. By the way, that new IZOD Foyt ’61 shirt looks fairly nice, but I’ve found out (and I think I said this before) that IndyCar.com only shipped to the US and Canada – which is silly in this day and age. I wonder if IZOD will bring about a change to that approach

  7. tim nothhelfer Says:

    I think IICS can make huge strides in marketing with model cars….
    My memorabilia is very limited to programs and a very few cars. My wife has Johnny Rutherford bio autographed for her as a gift and I won (changing tires against the stop watch) a checkered flag signed by the field at the 2005 ISC opener at Homestead.
    My favorites are the snapshots I take at the track.
    I don’t ask for autographs….

    • oilpressure Says:

      I’m like you. Autographs do nothing for me.

      • I have CART yearbooks, DVDs, race programs, selected, low-key hats, visors and shirts (button-down and golf) from teams, drivers, races and venues. I have signed raced-used car parts, including a Dixon brake disc, an Andretti II rear wing endplate, front wing element… I began to feel sheepish asking a driver to autograph gloves or parts when someone told me that many things (from CART and NAPCAR) are sold on eBay and that the drivers likely don’t enjoy autographing things for us to resell. At the time I was surprised. I thought, ‘sell this? It’s mine (precious souvenir)!’ I have never been an eBay user- only window-shopped a few times for cameras and lenses, so I still don’t know what racing memorabilia may be found, other than your race programs…

  8. Brian Martin Says:

    I am a big fan of Indy programs also and have several dating back to 1946. My Indy collection consist of several types of memorabilia ranging from autographed photos, liquor decanters commemorating the race, die cast cars, and I even have two bricks that were part of the original track surface. My wife took some of my old starting grid tee-shirts and made a quilt out of them which hangs on our wall in the living room. I have to say the die cast cars are my favorite. I prefer the 1:43 scale cars because they have great detail and small enough that they do not take up much space but I have several 1:24 and 1:18 scale cars. I think my favorites are the four 1:18 scale AJ Foyt cars that he drove to Indy victories and along with my 1:18 scale Mario Andretti 1969 Brawner Hawk and his STP dirt car.

  9. Except for DVDs, about all I’ve got is a poster on the wall from the Long Beach Grand Prix, the only Indycar race (it was CART at the time) I’ve been able to attend.

    I love the stuff, and it would be fun to have a rec room or garage filled with the stuff, but I’ve already got posters for my favorite movie, and junk that’s branded with my favorite make of automobile, and assorted other jetsom that seemed fantastic at the time but now just needs to be dusted.

    But it does make it easier on my friends; they know if they give me something with a particular logo on it, I’ll probably like it. It makes Xmas shopping a lot easier.

  10. I have a lot of things around my house and office. I have the last several program covers signed by most of the drivers and winners and framed. They are beautiful. I have the slice of brick and asphalt framed with the pagoda. several polos, books and two Carousel1 cars. Foyt’s ’67 Coyote and Vuky’s 1953 Fuel injection special. I have the Mears book and I have a signed picture of Paul McCartney. He stayed at the Speedway Motel in ’64 with John, George and Ringo.

  11. The majority of my collection consists of 1/64 scale die casts. They are on my desk at work. I have about 26-28 right now. But the goal is a field of 33.

  12. Great stuff George. My favorite piece of personal memorabilia is a picture of me and Chuck Yeager in Victory Lane in 2003.

  13. i have every program since 1991 except 1996.since i couldnt attend the race that year.the fun thing about the programs are you can watch the video of any race and read the program that goes along with that years race.i keep a scoring sheet every year at the race .then while watching the race i can follow the progression of every car as the race is played out..

  14. Great little storey George. I think its great to collect things and Motor Sports is a good place to start. While I do not have many programs, I agree, the 3-4 I kept from the 1991 Formula One Season are indeed a great reference, who drove for who, what engines did the cars have etc. I even have one from the last US GP for over ten years from Phoenix AZ. I now collect F1 team base ball caps (have over 100) and F1 body parts, just like Brian McKay, Rear Wing End Plates off the spoiler my fav. They are colorful, covered in sponsor logo’s of the time, also light and because they are smal and generaly dead flat, can be hung on the garage wall with ease. All the best, Campbell, Melbourne Australia

    • Chris Thomson Says:

      Hello Campbell,

      I attended the US GP in Phoenix in March of 1991 and was a member of the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Team that performed before the race. I have been searching for memorabilia specific to this race and am curious if you are willing to part with your race program? Also, kindly let me know if you any other sources for additional memorabilia.

      Thanks very much,

      Chris Thomson
      Sherwood, Oregon

  15. I live in Indiana and have been to the 500 3 times and 4 other Indy car races. I have all the Indianapolis 500 programs since I first attended in 1973. My most prized memorabilia are a brick that was actually in the track at one time and a license plate signed by 8 drivers including Lynn St. James and Mario Andretti

  16. Mike Harris Says:

    Folks – I have covered open-wheel racing for AP since 1970 and have worked 41 consecutive Indy 500s as well as hundreds of other Indy car, CART, Champ Car and IRL IndyCar races. I retired from AP in July 2009 and I’m now downsizing from a house to an apartment and need to get rid of a lot of stuff, including most of my race programs, media guides, scale model cars, team and sponsor hats, shirts and jackets, etc. If anybody is interested in buying any of it,or knows of somebody who might be interested, I’m not looking to get rich.

  17. My dad work for C.A.R.T from 98-03 I attended over 50 races collecting just about anything and everything. I have gloves from a Scott Dixon and Kenny . I have may signed poster and such the cards and programs you name it I have it … I have a full size helmet signed by Mario. Stuff from the movie Driven.I have tons of the Fedex and I believe it’s cool green I don’t remember the name of the company now … Umbrellas.My family owns three Honda mopeds used at the tracks . I have had signed by every single driver. Does anyone know were to sell this stuff I’m looking to maybe make some cash off it.

  18. Ohh we also have the huge main carpet from the head office lobby with the original logo.

  19. charles collins Says:

    i have a lot of 500 programs 194 6 t0 present but i do not no where to go here in indianapolis ind to sell them any ideas call 317;6362270 ask for chuck

  20. Shane Palethorpe Says:

    I have the flag from atop the control tower at the first Indy Car race ever held outside the USA. Perfect condition 1300mm x 2750mm.
    Gold Coast Indy race 1999. Would suit any Indy Car enthusiast, only one of two.( other one is now a bedspread )
    Anyone interested in making me an offer, let me know.
    Can send photos, perfect, flawless condition.
    Location Australia

  21. Shane Palethorpe Says:

    Contact re Flag : chicama08@yahoo.com

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