Jack Arute's Tales from the Indy 500

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9781582617275: Jack Arute's Tales from the Indy 500

Jack Arute was a fresh-faced 18-year-old just out of high school when he made his first trip to The Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As a graduation present from his father, the two set out for the 1969 Indy 500. When he walked through the gates, it was everything he thought it would be: Gasoline Alley in front of him. The "Yellow Shirts" blaring on their whistles to clear the way for the drivers passing through. He soaked it all in that day and took a hundred pictures. Arute realized that day just how special Indy was and how he wanted to somehow be a part of it. Arute eventually made that dream come true through his job as pit reporter for ABC Sports. From his initial fear of approaching A.J. Foyt in the garage as a cub reporter to waiting out Gil de Ferran's tears after he won the 87th running of the Indy 500, ``Jackie'' has seen it all.

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About the Author:

Jack Arute is ABC Television Network’s top pit reporter and has covered motorsports for ABC since 1984. He has also covered, Winston Cup, Formula One, CART, IROC Grand Prix Motorcycles, and Indy cars as a reporter. Arute, a five-time recipient of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association Award for Television, including AARWBA’s 2002 award for Best Radio and Best Television Presentation, has also been cited for his TV work by the National Motorsports Press Association and received their Broadcaster of the Year award in 1988. In his spare time he competes in sprint car races, as well as serving as president of his family’s NASCAR racetrack, the Stafford Motor Speedway. He is married to Wendy and they live in Suffied, Connecticut.

Jenna Fryer currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. She knew as a teenager she wanted to write about sports and got her chance as a journalism major at West Virginia University, where she covered the Mountaineers football team for the student newspaper. Since graduating in 1996, she has covered a range of sports, from Southeastern Conference football in the deep South to the high speeds of NASCAR. She attended her first Indy 500 in 2003.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

MY FIRST INDY

My first trip to the Indy 500 was a high school graduation present from my father, Jack.

Every year, he and his friends had made the trip from our home in Connecticut to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Even though my passion for Indy—which my father had instilled in me since I was five—was our connection as father and son, he never would bring me to the race. He had convinced me that children under 16 simply weren’t allowed at Indy, so I listened to the race on the radio and dreamed some day of being there.

That moment came in 1969 when I was 18, and my dad finally took me. They called me Jackie back then, and I went with him and his two friends, Ray and Rich Garuti, his partners in modified stock car racing in New England.

We had silver badges that gave us access Gasoline Alley, and I immediately recognized the sights and the sounds. There was Al Unser Sr. and Bobby Unser. Over there was J.C. Agajanian, who politely gave me an autograph.

When we walked in the gate, nothing surprised me, because for nine years, Sid Collins had described the Indianapolis 500 for me. So when I walked in, it was like, "Oh, yeah, Sid described it this way."

I soaked in every minute of this first day, snapping at least 300 pictures with my camera. Lying in bed that night at the Holiday Inn across the street, with all four men sharing a room and two to a bed, my father began to quiz me on past history of the 500.

"Who won the 1959 race?" he asked.

"Roger Ward!"

"Who was his sponsor?"

"Leader Card!"

"Who drove the Blond Exhausts Offy in 1957?"

"Sam Hanks and then the next year it was Jimmy Bryan!"

"Name the only three-time winners of the race?"

"Wilbur Shaw and A.J. Foyt, but Foyt went on to win his fourth and is the all-time win leader!"

That was the kind of background that I got exposed to. I got the tribal rite handed over to me. We spent the next three days at the speedway, the nights at local tracks in the area watching smaller series compete, and I got caught up in the whole drama of what Indy means.

Finally, it was race day, and we trekked to our seats in the paddock penthouse—the same seats we still own to this day. The seats began to fill around us; the tension began to build.

At last it was time to start the race.

I remember watching the crowd fill up and my dad turning to me and saying, "There are more people here than any other sporting event in the world." All of the things that I had heard about, and now I was witnessing it.

When they said, "Gentlemen, start your engines," it was a culmination of all my dreams. And when the field rumbled off, I just let all the drama of it soak in.

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