Indy 500

Aug 12th, 2013 | By | Category: Jack Schrock's Blog

“The greatest spectacle in racing” was the constant reminder from the radio announcer when my dad and I would get together to listen. We shared an interest in racing which always came down to the annual Indy 500.

But the race was much more than that single event. In fact, race day was the culmination of a month-long calendar of time trials, tests and so forth in preparation for race day, which always fell on a Sunday.

Attendance was not formally announced, but everyone knew it regularly exceeded 300,000 folks, many of whom came year after year. The infield crowd was even more loyal as it consisted of many social groups that would meet at one spot or another to view the race, visit, eat and sleep because many had been in line for several sleepless nights waiting to be admitted at the sound of the cannon at sunrise.

The Holmes gang was no exception. The company provided the track wreckers for years. Towers were our special guests and often drove the track wreckers while the sales force would handle the infield “incidents” which became pricklier as the day progressed. Val Reich III and Jim Demaree were the Holmes sales reps for that region and acted as coordinators, chaperones and cheerleaders. Dad and I never were able to make the trip until the mid-60s and it was a “hoot” — the race was also interesting.

I remember the Texicans had a large tent in the infield, where they served BBQ and beer and anyone caught actually watching the race was fined. I attended several times later, taking our young son John with me. He was always thrilled to see the spectators speeding through the infield tunnel when the gun was fired. And, this is where I first became connected with the Holmes company.

In those days, Holmes was a cohesive organization and the Indy 500 attracted a half-dozen from the plant and another half-dozen or more from the field sales organization. We worked all day and dined together each evening. Val collected all the leftover steak, which he distributed the next day to those on the infield who had charcoal cookers. I’m sure the health department would not have been pleased with this process, but I never heard of a death due to food poisoning.

I have a couple of tie tacks that were made from pit passes for dad, my son and I, and I’m proud to wear them anytime I wear a coat. They always prompt some questions that invariably lead to new and different stories.

Indeed, “the greatest spectacle in racing” was so much more than just a race.