Indianapolis 500 - 2017 trip

It has always been on my bucket list to attend the Indianapolis 500 and this year I had the opportunity to make the trek with several of my friends from Puyallup.  There were three couples and our tour guide Mike who has attended the Indy 500 race at least 15 times.  It is great to have someone who is an avid fan to show you the ropes so that you get the full benefit of being at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.  

We obtained tickets for the race and also got special pit pass tickets as well.  Our seats were in Section 53 in the Tower Terrace about 40 rows up from the Pits which was on our side of the track.  We were positioned about 2/3 of the way between turns #1 and #4 so we had a good view of the straightaway.  We arrived at the track on the day of the race at 8:00 AM and the race didn’t start until after Noon.

There was a lot of tradition with marching bands and of course the parade laps of the sleek race cars.  The race lasted about 3 hours due to some spectacular crashes which took out the pole sitter Scott Dixon on Lap 56 and another driver as well as Scott. There was another crash on Lap 67 which took out two more cars.  Then on Lap 184 the last crash took out another 5 cars.  All the crashes were out of our view and we had to watch them on the big screen.

The finish of the race was spectacular as 3 time winner Helio Castroneves was in the lead when Takuma Sato passed him with two laps remaining and he held on to win.  It was truly amazing how the race ended in such a dramatic fashion.

Traffic around the track was horrendous both before and after the race and it took us 3 hours to get out of the parking lot and on the road to our hotel. They didn’t announce the attendance at the race but it was our understanding that it was in excess of 300,000 people.  

While it was fun to be at the race for all the festivities, there were other things that as it turns out was just as interesting if not more so.  We went to the track on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the race.  There was the Indianapolis 500 Museum which featured A.J. Foyt with quite a few of his race cars and memorabilia throughout his racing career from all the different types of racing that he did throughout his career as well as many other 500 winning cars and engines on display.

In addition, there was a display of vintage race cars from the very early years of Indy 500 racing to cars that were 20 or 30 years old.  I came upon one of the 10 original  1935 Miller-Ford race cars in the vintage car display/pits on the side of the museum.  I spent quite a bit of time talking to the owner trying to get as much information as I could about his car.  You see, I remembered a couple of articles that I had read in the V8 Times several years ago.  As it turns out those articles were in the Sept./Oct. 1988 and May/June 1991 V8 Times.  I hadn’t realized that almost 30 years had passed since I read the articles and when I returned home from Indianapolis I went through my old Times and found the articles.  I believe the 1935 Miller/Ford that I saw, Number 23, didn’t participate in the 1935 Indianapolis race as only 4 cars actually qualified for the race.  Nonetheless, the car was spectacular and I got to see it up close and personal.

After returning home, I read the May/June 1991 article and I highlighted some very important points and they are included here:

FORD AT INDY – 1935

Construction didn’t begin until March 12, 1935 – Tucker-Miller Factory 79 days to build and test the cars before the race. Henry Ford was reluctant to cooperate with his sponsorship and it is rumored that the Ford Dealers Association sponsored the cars.  The cars were never really tested and they just made it to the track for the end of qualifying.

Initially the Ford Team drivers were: George Barringer, 1925 race winner Pete DePalo, veterans Cliff Bergere, Bill Winn and rookie driver Ted Horn.

Cliff Bergere quit the team because he felt the Fords were under powered.

DePalo quit the team before the race because he felt the cars were unready and as such unsafe.

Johnny Seymour, L.L. Corum, Bob Sall George Bailey and Wes Crawford joined the team.

On May 27, 1935 Ted Horn qualified his car at a ten lap average of 113.213 mph black and white #43.  Then Johnny Seymour qualified his car at 112.7 mph the blue and aluminum #42.  George Bailey qualified at 113.432 the unpainted #35.  Bob Sall qualified at 110.5 mph in the gold colored #46.

Laps:  Ted Horn – 145 laps  George Bailey - 65 laps  Johnny Seymour – 65 laps  Bob Sall 47 laps

The engines were 221 cubic inch stock blocks and 85% of the engine was stock.  Stock crankshaft, connecting rods, valves and pushrods.  Non stock were a special camshaft which was a different grind, and the pistons which were of special construction having four rings and a greater height from head to pin that increased compression to 9.5:1.  The oil pan capacity was enlarged to hold two gallons and was finned for cooling,  A continuous tube oil cooler was used.  The most significant change was that the engine was rotated 180 degrees and installed backwards as the car was front wheel drive.  One water pump drove off the camshaft from the front of the engine. The water outlets on the Bonnalite Aluminum heads are really on the back of the engine facing the radiator.

The cars weighed 1950 lbs as compared to a stock Ford Roadster which weighed 2597 lbs.