A little change of pace today…..
I did this last year on the Cool Album of the Day facebook page and today I’m going to make it an official tradition and take it to the website as well. On this day, the Sunday before Memorial Day is the day that The Indianapolis 500 is run, and on that day, we’ll always be featuring “Back Home Again in Indiana.” I do know that it is not an album but a song. However, we’re pretending not to notice this one day of the year.
For those of you that do not know, that song has been sung before “The 500 Mile Race” as it used to be known, since 1946 and since 1972 it has almost exclusively been performed by Jim Nabors. Mr. Nabors is ill this year and he will be on tape.
Friends that know me or read my posts on facebook know that I have an absolute passion for this event. To me it’s the World Series, Super Bowl etc. all rolled into one. Why do you ask? We’ll let me say that as a race fan to be that passionate you almost have to be born into it. I don’t really know anyone that starts to follow the sport at age 30 and goes crazy for this weekend like I do.
So that takes me to why? Here it is in a nutshell. It’s all about family, tradition and the great memories I have of my father on this day. He was born in Northeastern Italy and came to our country as a teenager. Because of that he was never a big fan of what we know as traditional American sports like baseball, football, basketball etc. So we had very, very few sports related father-son moments. We had other great times like any close-knit family, but not sport-related. That all changed when in the mid-to-later part of the 60s and Mario Andretti entered the scene at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mario was born and raised not all that far from where the Carta family had migrated from just before the war. In fact, his family would leave for many of the same reasons that ours did.
So there was an immediate connection. Dad had been to some races before this and he used to tell me stories about them. One of his favorites would be describing the “roar” of the car engines after the “Gentleman, Start Your Engines” command.
For the first time that I could remember, I saw him getting excited about a sport that I could like as well. We had something to share in that world. We eventually would make something a family tradition, even if it was not a “traditional” tradition. Every Indy 500 race day we, as a family, would paint something around the house while we listened to the race via radio. There was no same-day television at the time. It would be shown the following weekend. So there we were, outside either painting the fence, or painting to the stone blocks on the base of the house or even the front porch as we listened to Mario on the track. I still remember those days, very clearly in fact.
The first time I was able to go to the race was 1971. We went with about three or possibly for car loads of Carta family members. I was able to witness it in person. I’d eventually make the journey to Indy many more times. I have to say that there is nothing, nothing that comes close to the start of The Indianapolis 500.
You get to your seat a few hours before the race. You’re relieved once you’re in your seat because you literally fought about 350,000 other fans to get there. Now I know that that’s a turn off for most people, but when you’re sitting there, and you’re part of it well, it’s a special feeling.
The Purdue band plays for a while, Memorial Day is remembered with the playing of “Taps” and then eventually “Back Home Again in Indiana” is sung, the balloons fly, the command is given and the cars slowly begin to crawl away. That’s when the goose-bumps have you covered. The colorful cars ride by once, twice, three times as the drivers wave and you give them the same. It’s a blast not only to your visual sense, but also your sense of smell as the burning rubber and exhaust fumes fill the air.
Then it starts, then it’s green flag time. Try and picture this: You’re sitting there on the home stretch where there are close to 200,000 people between turn four and turn one. As the cars appear in far down in turn four, all 200,000 fans get up on their feet. Then the roar goes up only to be drowned out by the roar of the 33 cars going past you at 220 miles an hour. I get chills just thinking about it. There is nothing, nothing in sports I believe that comes close. Yes, being born in it, and having those family times to remember makes it all that much the better.
So this Sunday that’s what I’ll be thinking of when I watch a race that I have not missed since I was about six or seven. I can’t wait to hear “Back Home Again in Indiana” especially.
So the day before I remember those that gave all for our country, I’m going to take a day and remember Dad. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even get to see Marco Andretti win one of these things.
NOTE: I hadn’t shared this publicly until now. About a month after publishing this piece I received the email below from Mr. Andretti. Someone in his entourage was a reader of our site and forwarded the piece to him. He read it and sent that wonderful note to me. I was quite excited to say the least.
— Larry Carta
Give Jim Nabors a listen below.
“Back home again in Indiana / oh it seems that I can see / That gleaming candlelight still burning bright / Through the sycamores for me / That new mown hay sends all its fragrance / From the fields I used to roam /Oh I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash / Then I long for my Indiana home”
Here’s a video of Mario’s win in 1969!