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Hebenstreit: Here's to Another 100 Years

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IBA-hebenstreitIt is May, this is Indy; how can I fail to comment on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. One hundred years—that is a very long time. This year is the Centennial running of the Indy 500. It has been a fascinating run since the first race on May 30, 1911. William Howard Taft was serving as the President, World War I was still 3 years away, and the automobile was a new and strange contraption. William A. Pickens was serving as the 36th president of the Indianapolis Bar Association. I wonder if he had the opportunity to write a column every other week.

In 1911, Carl Fisher and his group decided to use their raceway in northwestern Indianapolis to host a record breaking event. Although Fisher is frequently described as both an eccentric as well as a visionary, I suspect he had no idea what a tradition he was starting. That inaugural race was not without controversy, and for 100 years there has been a dispute about who really won that race. Just as motor racing was brand new, so was the method of scoring and counting laps. Author Charles Leerhsen has just published a new book detailing the problems with that first running of the Indy 500. Until his death, Ralph Mulford claimed that he and his Lozier car had beaten Ray Harroun and his Marmon Wasp to be the first winner of the Indianapolis 500. Mulford claimed to have been a lap ahead of Harroun due to a pass he performed during a crash scenario. Apparently, knowing the scoring devices were flawed, Fisher decreed that all the records of the race be destroyed before they could be reviewed by the AAA who sanctioned the race. Sounds like a classic case of spoliation of the evidence!

As I am writing this column, it is a rainy Sunday, the second day the track has been open this year. Like many soggy race days, the weathermen are looking for that “window of opportunity” to allow cars to get out on the Brickyard to practice and especially for the rookies to get much needed time on the track. In this age of domed stadiums, the weather is still a major factor. Let’s hope that on Sunday, May 29th, the sun will be shining as Jim Nabors sings “Back Home Again in Indiana” and as AJ Foyt leads the group of 33 drivers to the green flag.

It seems that there has been a greater buzz about the Race this year. I hope that is a good sign for the Hulman George family and the racing community. With the revitalization of Main Street in Speedway as well as the arrival of Dallara to the area, the neighborhood around the World’s Most Famous Oval is looking up. Whoever thought up the idea of a Hot Wheels event at the World’s Greatest Race Course should be either commended or shot. Every guy who ever played with a Hot Wheels racer as a child is curious to see exactly how that event will turn out. Just a new twist to the real show—the Centennial running of the Indy 500.

For how many years did we hear Tom Carnegie announce the ecstasy that one of the daredevil drivers had just earned “a new track record” or the agony of defeat hearing that “Mario is slowing down…” How many race mornings have you awakened to hear that the Coke lot is almost full and that 16th street is at a standstill? What about all of those Styrofoam cooler toting race fans making their way to the old Snakepit. Ah, the old days.

Although we enjoyed those crazy days in the infield, I, for one, appreciate the substantial effort and expense the Hulman George family has devoted to elevating our Race into a first class international event. The 80 or so acres in the shadow of downtown are immaculately maintained. The economic impact to our City of that one day is almost twice that expected by hosting the Super Bowl. And let’s not forget that they don’t ask for City money to maintain the course. Since 1945 when Tony Holman purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it has been a constantly improving venue. Our city owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the family for making our city the Motor Sports Capital of the World. I hope it continues for another 100 years.•

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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