The Boys Are Back In Town
To be honest, they are no longer boys. Time has flown since the Eric’s first Indy 500 in 2004 when Buddy rice won and a tornado tore through Indianapolis shortly after the race. That year George brought his daughter, Katie and I brought Eric. I thought Eric might have fun, but how much fun could a 14 year-old have with two “Old Fogies” and a little girl with Down Syndrome. Little did I know that I would be fostering in him a long and abiding love for all things IndyCar.
Through the years that followed, George and I bought 4 tickets—it was believed that we would get tickets for us and whichever of our kids decided they wanted to go. To my surprise, Eric ALWAYS wanted to go. Eric has chosen one lucky friend every year since we began buying our tickets. There were a few times he brought girls—one a good friend and one was a girlfriend. The two friends who have been coming to the races the most often are his friend since sixth grade, Charlie; and Michael, who he has known over 12 years. We have never had enough tickets to bring both at once. This year Eric could not decide who to bring to the 100th Running and decided to bring both Charlie and Michael. It took some last-minute scrambling around to get an extra ticket, but we did. Thanks to those of you who re-tweeted my plea and tried to help us find a ticket.
Eric has worked several nights fixing up his beloved Explorer so it could make the four-hour drive, but hopefully they it make it and AAA doesn’t have to rescue them. They will be staying in Columbus, Indiana, which is a favorite spot since they have several fishing holes—and they LOVE to fish.
These guys have been inseparable since Middle School, they may have played different sports—hockey for Eric and soccer and lacrosse for Charlie and Michael. They still had one thing in common, a love for IndyCar (and hunting and fishing). Girls have come and gone in their lives, but their friendship has remained a constant.
The years have changed them, but they have remained friends. Charlie graduated from Middle Tennessee State University and works for Nissan. Michael went a different way and chose a profession with hooves instead of wheels and runs a farrier service. Eric, after a few career changes has settled on being a mechanic. I wonder where he got that. He has an abiding love for classic cars, which will never make him a rich man, but a happy man who will spend hours under the hood of one of his classic cars. His favorite is a 1967 Firebird that belonged to his dad.
We started their love for racing on a local level with the Nashville race in 2003, that was the year Gil DeFerran won and I’m not sure Eric had a favorite driver until the 2004 race, when Tony Kanaan won in Nashville. He has been a Kanaan fan ever since. He has “TK-radar” and has numerous autographs and die-cast cars that he has chased TK down for during all of the races. One of the highlights for him was at Barber Motorsports Park in 2011, when our gracious friends Silvia and Tad Pierson introduced Eric and Charlie to the man himself. That one was definitely unforgettable.
I have so many race memories with them I hope you don’t mind my pictorial trip down memory lane. I want this in one place to be preserved and shared. I hope you all have these memories of your time at the races. I hope you all remember the person who introduced you to this sport—through the triumphs, tragedies, and change will still be a thriving sport to follow in the years to come. I hope our children take their children and we have started a love for racing that will span the generations.
So the boys, or should I say young men, will be reunited for this momentous race. It’s just fitting that they experience it together. I hope they stay friends throughout the years and reminisce about this day. It will be a memorable experience—hopefully they will have the maturity to realize that they they are a part of history in the making. I hope that when they are old men, and are around for the 150th running, that they get together—no matter how their lives have changed and go to the race together. I will be long-gone, but I hope they remember me—and George–as the ones who began a thread that will tie them together throughout the years.