Naturally, after almost a century, there are numerous Month of May traditions – instituted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, implemented by clubs and groups and those personal remembrances that make the Indianapolis 500 so endearing and enduring. Indy Racing League vice president of public relations Steve Shunck talks about his yearly treasure hunt:
It’s hard to know where to begin. There’s “Back Home Again in Indiana” sung by Jim Nabors, the Gordon Pipers, Pole Day, Bump Day, Carb Day, the “500” Festival Parade, Front Row Parties, Last Row Parties, seeing old friends, getting Long’s Donuts before the sun rises, dinner with pals at Mo’s Steakhouse or just sitting in a favorite section or seat during practice or qualifying.
But I know my month of May officially begins when I do one thing – make my annual trip to The Mail Room, which sells “500” racing collectables at 5230 West 16th St. (the corner of 16th and Lynhurst). My annual pilgrimage there waves the green flag on all other activities for the month.
And as usual I went there earlier this week to kick things off with a crisp $20 bill. And yes, $20 does go a long way if you are willing to dig a little, blow off some dust and do some wheeling and dealing with owner and all-around good guy Frank Gilbert.
Since my first purchase at The Mail Room in 1989, I have walked away each year with something different that is still part of my home “museum.” Memorable purchases include numerous Indy 500 programs, bronze pit badges, Bobby Unser press kits, Indy Star newspapers proclaiming that year’s winner, ticket stubs, starting lineups, event posters and even an Andy Granatelli autographed STP sticker (way cool).
So this year I had to top my past purchases. And you know what? I hit gold after some digging and searching (that’s half the fun). How about a commemorative IMS Christmas glass from 1963 (the year I was born), 1973 (my first Indy 500) and 1980 (the Yellow Submarine wins and I sat in Paddock Penthouse row A – not bad for a high school sophomore with his dad) and the last treasure I unearthed was a 1960’s ceramic coaster, change tray or ashtray about three inches in diameter – it has the IMS wings and wheels and reads – 500 Mile Race Soovenir of Motor Speedway.? Ah, the days before spell check!
If you can’t make it to The Mail Room this May go online and check them out – www.500racing.com and you can start your own May tradition with a little piece of Indy history.