My Introduction to Auto Racing
It’s not a job, nor a career, but a way of life. That’s how I’ve described my time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and now Born and raised in Terre Haute, I spent my summers during high school working in the Vigo County Fairgrounds office, home to the “Action Track,” and my introduction to auto racing. As a college student, I worked part-time for the IMS Safety Director. I became acquainted with June Swango, the Secretary of the Speedway and Tony Hulman’s assistant. June’s responsibilities included credentialing and essentially anything and everything involving IMS customers and fans. June lived and worked in Terre Haute, as did several of the IMS senior staff members, and only spent the month of May at the track. In my senior year of college, June asked me to join the IMS staff as her assistant and year-round representative at the track. I was thrilled that I didn’t have to search for a job, complete application forms, and be subjected to endless interviews. I had a job offer seven months before graduating from Indiana State University, working at the world’s greatest Speedway.
Ticketing, Admin, and Customer Service
The rest, as they say, is history. I spent my entire career at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, working in several different areas, but primarily in ticketing, administration, and customer service. This provided the opportunity to manage the suites, hospitality, credentials, tickets, and safety. I also served on the Speedway Citizens’ Lap Prize Committee and Victory Awards Celebration committee. I enjoyed every minute at the Speedway, including the Januarys spent in Florida (1996 – 2000) managing ticketing for the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World. In addition to Disney, my team was responsible for ticketing for several other inaugural events. This included the Brickyard 400, Formula One, Moto GP, and a Seniors Golf Tournament at the Brickyard Crossing.
I have fond memories of each of the above, but the Indianapolis 500 was the most rewarding! Race Days were always long. Staff arrived well before the opening gun, and we were open until after the start of the race. Delayed race starts and multiple race days were particularly stressful. It was such a letdown to work the entire year only to have weather dictate when the race would be run. Through the years, we survived the Formula One and NASCAR tire issues, rain, wind, freezing temperatures, and stifling heat.
It was a privilege to meet people from around the world, with diverse backgrounds. Even though I would see most of them only once or twice a year, they became “Speedway Family” as children grew, married, and introduced their children to IMS. I met my closest friends through racing, and we were scattered from Massachusetts to California. We traveled to many races around the country and always added a side trip to enjoy the local culture. While our days of going to those races are over, the friendships remain strong.
Joining the Museum
When my time ended at IMS in May 2015, I was asked to join the IMS Museum staff on a part-time basis. My second first day on the job was in January of 2016, and I’m still enjoying learning about the not-for-profit world. I have several assignments. Most significant are assisting as a fundraiser and working on special projects, such as the Distinguished Speaker Series, Fuel Up Fridays, and the Hall of Fame/Indy 500 Winners Autograph session, among others. It’s been fun to renew my friendships and make new ones with many past and present drivers. All have been so gracious to carve out time from their busy schedules to assist the Museum.
The IMS Museum exhibits are a walk down memory lane for me. They remind me about my first encounters with some of the icons of our sport. I don’t have a favorite race car, just the wonderful memories of my days at corporate and now at the IMS Museum. It’s such fun to reminisce about my career and to think about how my racing heroes became my friends.
At the time I’m writing this, we’re working from home because of the pandemic. I miss being in the office, walking through the Museum, and enjoying our current exhibit From the Vault presented by Bank of America. Yes, I do remember Larry Bisceglia, his van, and his early arrival to be first in line. I’ll admit to that one. But much of the exhibit truly represents IMS long before I arrived on the scene.
I look forward to the Museum reopening so we can welcome our members, friends, and fans. Please ask for me when you stop by as I would enjoy saying hello!