Hello, Newton County

I pose for a Kodak moment at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As many of my readers know, my wife, Karen, and I enjoy taking short vacation trips to different parts of the country. Over the long Memorial Day weekend, we drove to Indianapolis, Indiana, to take in and experience the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

The event is more than just the race on Sunday. Friday and Saturday events lead up to the race so we had tickets and parking privileges for all three days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

Friday was Carb Day in which there are several events including practice runs by the racers, the Freedom 100 race, Pit Stop Challenge and then ended with a concert featuring Kool & the Gang and headlined by Foreigner.

Arriving at Indianapolis on Thursday evening, we met my cousin, Patty, and her husband, Bob, from Pittsburgh, Pa., at a house we rented for the weekend just on the outskirts of the downtown area. We were located minutes from the racetrack. To make sure we knew where we were going we made a practice run after dinner. Using the GPS navigation system in Bob's car made that search pretty easy.

We had no problem getting to the track and our designated parking area inside the IMS on Thursday. We spent the first part of the morning learning our way around. We even picked out an area close by the parking lot where we could watch Sunday's race. Realizing there would be about 300,000 people in attendance we made sure we had everything we would need to watch the race from the infield observation mounds near the second turn of the 2.5 mile track.

We returned to IMS on Saturday to do our souvenir shopping and to visit the fan zone midway where we drove simulator race cars, and got a bunch of promotional swag from vendors and sponsors of this year's race.

We also visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, which also happens to be near turn two and where we parked the car.

The museum was celebrating the 50th anniversary of legendary race car driver Mario Andretti's only victory at "the Brick Yard." Andretti is the the only driver, however, to win the Indianapolis 500 (1969), the Daytona 500 (1967) and the Formula One World Championship (1978).

Now, 79 year old, Andretti is retired from racing, but still drives for The Indy Racing Experience. He takes guests and VIPs 18 and over on high speed rides around race tracks in a special two-seat racer.

He made the news last week when on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, the 79-year-old Andretti was giving a business associate a ride around the high-banked oval when the car broke loose coming out of Turn 2 and spun out. Neither Andretti nor his passenger were injured, according to the news reports.

Mario and his family emigrated to America when he was a boy. They settled in Eastern Pennsylvania.

He became a fixture around Pittsburgh when he later opened a Toyota dealership there.

The big race on Sunday was exciting to watch, mostly from a big screen Jumbotron positioned trackside where we sat in our comfy lawn chairs equipped with personal shade umbrellas, with soft sided coolers full of food and beverages on the ground beneath us.

Our racer won. But we didn't bring any milk to drink at the end of the race to celebrate.

Jeff Dezort, Newton County Times editor, has worked at the newspaper since 2001. Before that he was a reporter, photographer and assistant editor of the Harrison Daily Times.

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