A Bowl of Indy Stew – The Night Before Day 3, 1986
We all have our favorite dishes. For some it’s a hot and juicy steak fresh from the grill. Others prefer a healthy salad with arugula and other trendy greens. In Indiana, a great breaded tenderloin is always a popular selection. But at New Track Record, you can always count on a hot, steaming bowl of Indy Stew to hit the spot. Here comes the fourth bowl of Indy Stew from the 1986 pot.
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The year 1986 was a marathon for fans. In the case of our heroes, we snuck in the night before the first day, encountering yellow shirts and feeling like the petty criminals we were. Days one and two also brought rain and an entertaining vomit story as well as an introduction to our new friend Nick the biker. Good times. The race was postponed until May 21, the following Saturday. We followed our regular modus operandi: we arrived the night before and found a parking spot at a machine shop on Olin Avenue.
Now, if you are an Indy regular, you are familiar with the elusive “back way” into the track on race day. Everyone thinks they know the best one. People have the “best” way to get to the track and the “best” race day parking. They will not be swayed. We all want to be “in the know.” One back way into the track is the 10th Street-Holt Road-Olin Avenue route.  The only problem is you need a parking pass to gain access to Holt Road. Normally. On the third day of a race, you only needed to show up. But against the possibility of being blocked by the local constabulary, we had managed to come into possession of a parking pass for the Goodyear lot, which was directly across from where Olin Avenue entered onto 16th St. Full disclosure: we came into possession of a “facsimile” of a parking pass for the Goodyear lot. We really did not want to park there. We just wanted access to 16th Street, so we could get into the track and park in Turn 2. That was our goal every year. And this year it worked.
Sometime Friday evening, my friends Marv, Gil, and I rolled down Holt Road to Olin Avenue and parked in the small parking lot of a machine shop directly across from the Goodyear lot. We hoped the police would see our parking pass and stop traffic to let us in when the gates opened. Now was the time to stroll down 16th Street and Georgetown to take in the sights, sounds, and stench of the night before the 500.
It was a rather laid back evening. The crowd was much smaller than the previous weekend, so we did not anticipate anything unusual happening. We were wrong. We struck up a conversation with some guys who had parked behind us. They were from Illinois and wanted to have a good time. They were loud, funny, friendly, and drunk. In other words, it was a typical bunch of guys you see at the race. As the night wore on, an argument between two of the guys began. We had front row seats and watched the situation escalate. It got loud, and there was some pushing, shoving, and swearing. Again, typical of a bunch of drunk guys. What wasn’t typical was what happened next. One guy went to the back of the car, opened the trunk, grabbed a hammer, and came back and drilled his adversary in the side of the head. NOW all hell broke loose. Hammer guy and a buddy took off running while hole-in-the-head guy hit the ground. We just watched. First aid was delivered while another buddy ran to get law enforcement. Within minutes one of Indianapolis’s finest was on the scene. He interrogated the remaining guys and cast a suspicious eye at us. After close questioning, he seemed satisfied that we were not involved. Another officer arrived and began a search for hammer guy. The original officer walked up to 16th street to meet the EMT’s. When he walked away, hole-in-the-head guy woke up, looked around, and TOOK OFF RUNNING with his remaining friends in hot pursuit. We just watched. Within moments, the constable came back to find everyone but us gone. Now it WAS our fault. After delineating our various deficiencies as human beings, he just stood there and glared at us. If you have ever seen the movie M.A.S.H, you may remember the Bobby Troup  line. Bobby’s character is assigned to drive Hawkeye and Trapper John around Tokyo to help them find a golf course. In anger and exasperation, he says: “Goddamn army,” and “Goddamn army jeep.” The IPD officer must have been channeling Bobby Troup. After glaring at us, he shook his head and spit out, “I hate this goddamn race.” He pointed his finger at us and said to have the crew behind us come find him on 16th Street if they came back.
After a while hole-in-the-head guy and hammer guy CAME BACK TOGETHER! They and their buddies loaded up their car and headed back to Illinois. It was an odd turn of events. Those who have attended the race regularly, particularly if you have spent the night before the race around the track, know the violence that bubbles up on occasion. It still does. Indy has been cleaned up, but it will never be sanitized.
Dawn approached. As we prepared to pull out on 16th Street, more trouble boiled over. Another group had pulled in along Olin Avenue earlier in the evening. We discussed the hammer episode with them and watched as one of their crew drove an RC car along the street.  We even took pictures with them. As they prepared to mount up, one guy knocked another to the ground and began stomping him. You often hear about someone being “stomped,” but until you see it in person, you just don’t understand the violence of the act. We just watched.
While things were being sorted out after the police arrived, the bomb to open the gates exploded overhead. We pulled out on 16th Street with our ersatz parking pass. The same officer who investigated the hammer episode was directing traffic. With a glare, he stopped traffic and let us in line. We told him to have a great day. We drove through the gates, and after three tries we were FINALLY going to see the 1986 Indianapolis 500.
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One more helping of 1986 Indy Stew is still at the bottom of the pot. The next serving will be the last of the 1986 vintage. We’ll hear about golf clubs, suntan lotion, and the song “Black Leather Jacket and Motorcycle Boots.”
1. Click on this link to see the “back way” the elite often use to get to parking close to the track. You will need to zoom in to see the roads. Follow 10th Street west from downtown to Holt Road. Follow Holt to Olin Avenue. We were parked on Olin between 16th Street and where Olin bends around. Sweet, huh? http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1392&bih=649&q=map+of+speedway,+indiana&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x886b57d0bc256bb1:0x70cfba96bf84d40,Speedway,+IN&gl=us&ei=3BldT4OaGcnvggfOioGiCw&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CCUQ8gEwAA
2. It is unbelievable to me that some military guy has not put Bobby Troup on YouTube with his “Goddamn army” speech. So in lieu of that, I’ve linked you to the song that made Bobby Troup famous: “Route 66.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLUYf6cekMA
3. We took a picture of the RC car guy. In the Indianapolis Star the next day, what do we see? That’s right. A picture of RC car guy driving his car in the infield. Small world.
What type of wine do you recommend with Indy stew?
If it’s the night before the race, make it Boone’s Farm or Annie Green Springs.
Oh boy. How many times have I sat on the top of a truck or car and watched all the madness going on around me. Sometimes I couldn’t resist and just joined in. Can get away with a lot if you just don’t give the local constabulary a ration of crap.
What a great experience! Those night before the race outtings, prove to be a liberal education. You have given the readers a vivid picture of what goes on. Good and bad. Indy lives in us all.
Thanks for passion and realism for a sport that has been great and will return as great soon.
See link to All American Racers and the Delta Wing.
Props to Ben Bowlby.
Debut at Sebring (practice laps only)
Racing at LeMans.
What tales the Speedway could tell. Your 1986 tome sounds distinctly like mine in 1973, which involved rain, rain, and more rain; a collapsed pup tent in the first turn Snakepit going up and down; topless blanket toss; Motorcycle riders heaving beer cans at trash cans yelling, “FORE,”; and the author riding a Cub Cadet lawn mower when the actual third day of the race began, 50 miles away from the Penthouse seats, tickets acquired after two days of rain.
Someday, I may tell the tale, when most of the innocent have passed away.