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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. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  2. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

  3. This outbreak illustrates the absurdity of the extreme positions taken by today's liberalism, specifically individualism and the modern cult of endless personal "freedom." Ebola reminds us that at some point the person's own "freedom" to do this and that comes into contact with the needs of the common good and "freedom" must be curtailed. This is not rocket science, except, today there is nonstop propaganda elevating individual preferences over the common good, so some pundits have a hard time fathoming the obvious necessity of quarantine in some situations....or even NATIONAL BORDERS...propagandists have also amazingly used this as another chance to accuse Western nations of "racism" which is preposterous and offensive. So one the one hand the idolatry of individualism has to stop and on the other hand facts people don't like that intersect with race-- remain facts nonetheless. People who respond to facts over propaganda do better in the long run. We call it Truth. Sometimes it seems hard to find.

  4. It would be hard not to feel the Kramers' anguish. But Catholic Charities, by definition, performed due diligence and held to the statutory standard of care. No good can come from punishing them for doing their duty. Should Indiana wish to change its laws regarding adoption agreements and or putative fathers, the place for that is the legislature and can only apply to future cases. We do not apply new laws to past actions, as the Kramers seem intent on doing, to no helpful end.

  5. I am saddened to hear about the loss of Zeff Weiss. He was an outstanding member of the Indianapolis legal community. My thoughts are with his family.

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