Hooked on History and Fast Cars

Jennifer driving a Museum Pace Car
Jennifer driving a Museum Pace Car.

A little-known fact about me: I love a fast car. My mom’s 1965 Chevrolet Impala inspired that love, but the 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray stole my heart. It seems only fitting that I now find myself at the IMS Museum, surrounded by cars built for speed. It’s the perfect place for someone who is hooked on history and fast cars.

The Indianapolis 500 has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a born-and-bred Hoosier, there was no doubt we would listen to the race on the radio every Memorial weekend throughout my childhood. Like many other fans, listening to the race with my parents was a tradition.

I loved hearing the engines come to life after the iconic command to start. The full-throated roar as they raced across the Yard of Bricks sent vibrations straight through the radio! The excitement from Paul Page and Bob Jenkins was contagious. Their remarkable ability to describe every moment in vivid detail made me feel like I was there, especially when they screamed, “One more lap to go!”  My first in-person Indy 500 at age 16 was everything I imagined and more. I was hooked! I returned in 1990 to see Arie Luyendyk win his first Indy 500, and it has been Team Arie for me ever since!

Joining the Museum Team

Jennifer and her kids at the track in 1997
Jennifer’s first photo with Arie Luyendyk (background) and her kids at the track in 1997.

I joined the IMS Museum team as the director of philanthropy and membership in 2018 to further establish the membership and fundraising program. I held similar positions at the Indiana Historical Society and Indiana Landmarks. The IMS Museum provided the perfect opportunity to combine my love for Hoosier history and historic places with my passion for racing. I started my fundraising career at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis 20+ years ago and studied at the IUPUI Lilly Family School of Fundraising. I’ve been fortunate to work with organizations that I am passionate about and believe are valuable to our community. The IMS Museum is no different. It’s an honor to work on this team, preserving and sharing 100+ years of incredible stories and history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Passion for the Sport

These last three years at the Museum have exceeded all expectations. Race fans are like no others. Their passion for the sport, the traditions, and the history is immeasurable. Many have demonstrated their enthusiasm and supported the Museum by joining our membership program. Since its launch five years ago, the program has grown to include more than 800 members. I love to hear their stories because storytelling is at the core of the Museum’s mission. Some tales can be told through featured displays like the Andretti: ICON and Incredible Engines of the Indy 500 exhibits. However, I’m most excited about our efforts to bring them directly to members through in-person events and our growing online content.

Museum Programs for Fans

Jennifer and Arie Luyendyk with the Borg-Warner Trophy
Jennifer and Arie Luyendyk at a spring 2018 Distinguished Speaker Series event.

The Distinguished Speaker Series is just one of several programs the Museum has created over the last two years. It’s an opportunity for fans to hear from racing legends like Mario Andretti, Tony Stewart, Bobby Unser, and (of course) Arie Luyendyk. Members have enjoyed tours of the Andretti Autosport and Arrow Schmidt Petersen race shops. They’ve gone behind-the-scenes at Over the Ropes, Under the Hoods with racing experts and Museum curators. And they’ve gotten to know up-and-coming stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES like Jack Harvey and racing personalities like pit reporter Jamie Little at our Fuel Up Friday events.

Commitment to Connections

The world seems a little upside down right now. However, the IMS Museum team commits to staying connected to our valued members, donors, and fans. I hope you’re following us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube), enjoying our robust online content, and tuning into our newly introduced Zoom Casts. If you haven’t already, please join me and become a member or make a generous donation today. And if you’ve already given—thank you!

I look forward to seeing you at our next event! I’d love to hear about how you got hooked on history and fast cars too!