Memorable IndyCar Memorabilia
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 design 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.