IRL: Indy 500: What they're saying ... (2006-05-02)

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT THE 90TH INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 2, 2006 -- What prominent drivers, team owners, celebrities, political officials and other noteworthy individuals are saying about the 90th Indianapolis ...


INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, May 2, 2006 -- What prominent drivers, team owners, celebrities, political officials and other noteworthy individuals are saying about the 90th Indianapolis 500:

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH (43rd President of the United States, in letter dated March 2, 2006): "I send greetings to those gathered for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500. Since it began in 1911, the Indy 500 has become an American tradition and has challenged the world's greatest race car drivers to compete at the highest level of competition. As the best-attended single-day sporting event in the world, the Indy 500 has run every year except during World Wars I and II. This race showcases the talents of drivers from around the world and promotes the important values of sportsmanship, teamwork and leadership. I appreciate the Indianapolis 500 race organizers for your ongoing efforts to promote safety in racing, encourage healthy competition and advance this exciting tradition. I also applaud race participants for your hard work and determination. Your commitment to excellence reflects the spirit of our Nation. Laura and I send our best wishes for a memorable event."

MARIO ANDRETTI (1969 Indianapolis 500 winner, 1965 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year): "The Indy 500 was the defining stage of my career. That race was one of the ultimate goals for me -- even as a child -- and winning it changed my life. Winning that race was the crown jewel of my career. And what other event has been as popular for 90 years? It has such tremendously strong tradition, unequaled by any other racing event in the world."

EVAN BAYH (U.S. Senator, Indiana): "Attending the Indianapolis 500 with my father is one of my early memories, a tradition shared by many Hoosiers. The Hulman-George family has continued and improved this Memorial Day tradition over the last 60 years. Now, with the 90th running of what is truly "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," another milestone is reached. What was true in 1911 is still true today: The most talented racers in the world gather in Indianapolis to compete for racing's most coveted honor. And they do so on a Memorial Day weekend, a time of family gatherings and a time of remembering how military men and women and sacrificed throughout history to keep our country free."

GARY BETTENHAUSEN (Twenty-one-time starter of Indianapolis 500): "The Indianapolis 500: How do you put into words the meaning of the 90th running? It is something that I grew up with. It meant the world to me and my dad. A win at Indianapolis would have meant so much to both of us. It was something that I strived for during my career. The 90th running shows the strength of the race. It continues to become more of a worldwide event. Before, the '500' was a dream for so many because it was out of reach, but now with television people across the world watch this race every year."

GEORGE BIGNOTTI (Chief mechanic of seven Indianapolis 500-winning cars): "To me, the Indianapolis 500 is the greatest thing that ever happened. There's something about it. When the balloons go and the engines start, you get that funny feeling in your stomach. I've seen the Speedway change over the years, but Tony Hulman and now Tony George have both done a wonderful job at keeping the tradition of the Indianapolis 500."

TOM CARNEGIE (Indianapolis Motor Speedway public address announcer since 1946): "Race time approaches. A sparkling field of 33 is ready. Pace laps next. Suddenly, the green flag waves, and the race is on! The skilled drivers charge into the first turn. This, to me, is a dramatic moment, one I've cherished for 60 years. Growing knowledge of drivers and equipment has added to my excitement, and each year the '500' is a major event in my life."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (2001, 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner): "The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a very special place to me as I've been fortunate enough to win there twice. It's a difficult track and provides a unique challenge for the drivers. The Indianapolis 500 is a long race, and you have to be prepared for anything to happen. If you're able to win at the Speedway, it's a true honor because a victory not only highlights your abilities as a driver, but it also means that you've been able to last for 500 miles and beat a field of 32 other world-class drivers. The Indianapolis 500 has been a tradition since 1911 and it brings generations together as they watch a part of American history. It truly is 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.'"

JIM CAVIEZEL (Actor, 2002 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car driver): "It's one of the few places where a family can come together and enjoy cutting-edge excitement and astounding skill, and after 90 years the Indy 500 is an established part of our American sporting heritage."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "It is the single largest sporting event in the U.S.A. I have never had to explain to anybody anywhere in the world what it is. Participating in an American event that is celebrating its 90th race is a great honor. To do so as a past champion is even sweeter."

ROBERT CLARKE (President, Honda Performance Development): "One of the primary reasons Honda originally elected to compete in the IRL is the Indianapolis 500. When someone thinks of open-wheel racing in this country, it's the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing' that comes to mind. No other race in the world has that tradition and 90 years of history behind it. Standing out on the frontstretch in the hour leading up the race start, you can't help but feel the presence of all those who have come before you. It is based on these beliefs that Honda decided to extend and increase its commitment to the IRL both now and in the years to come."

CHRIS ECONOMAKI (Editor emeritus, National Speed Sport News, racing journalist for more than 60 years): "As someone who has followed auto racing since he was a kid in short pants, the Indianapolis 500 was always the ultimate goal. I finally made it to the Speedway when I was 17 years old (in 1938) and have never forgotten the experience. The Indianapolis 500 has done so much for the sport of auto racing in this country. For many years, it was the only race people were aware of, (and) later on it contributed in great part to the acceptance of auto racing in this country. For many years, auto racing was looked down upon as a bunch of hot rodders trying to hurt themselves, guys with an oily rag in their pocket. But the Speedway, in its professional manner, its demeanor and the size of the crowds it drew -- and still draws -- helped erase those views and make auto racing an accepted sport in this country, one today that draws tremendous television audiences. I think that the Indianapolis 500 will never be surpassed in stature or posture by any other motor sporting event not only in this country, but in the world."

A.J. FOYT (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977 Indianapolis 500 winner): "The Indianapolis 500 is the biggest, most prestigious race in the world. Winning that race means more to me by far than any other race I've won. I'm honored to be counted among those drivers who are Indy 500 winners. The Indianapolis 500 is like the Kentucky Derby, a prestigious, world-class event. For all of the foreign influences at Indy, whether it's drivers, team owners, chassis or engines, the '500' is still seen as uniquely American. Like the Derby, the race has a lot of traditions but, at the same time, it's welcomed innovation on all levels. Indianapolis -- there's no other race like it in the world. And it's good to be around something that's older than me."

JAMES GARNER (Actor, 1975, 1977, 1985 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car driver): "The Indy 500 is the best spectator sport in the world. Think of what we would be missing if it didn't exist. We wouldn't have the 90 years of history, fun, excitement and friends that the Indy 500 has given us. I love racing, and I'm so glad to be a part of it."

JANET GUTHRIE (First woman to race in Indianapolis 500, in 1977): "Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, especially in the days of A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti, meant that nothing in my life would ever be the same. It was and is the greatest race in the world, the most heavily attended one-day sporting event of any kind. No other single race comes anywhere close. The Indianapolis 500 is more than a race, more than another rite of spring: It's a red, white and blue institution. The 90th running! Everyone owes it to himself or herself to see this race at least once in a lifetime. If you haven't been there, you simply can't imagine the effect of some 400,000 spectators in one arena. Four years worth of Super Bowl spectators wouldn't equal one Indianapolis Race Day crowd."

FLORENCE HENDERSON (Actor, singer, sings during pre-race ceremonies): "As a Hoosier, the Indy 500 is a source of great pride for me. As a person who travels extensively, I find the Indy 500 is accepted as a part of American culture that everyone would like to experience. Congratulations on its 90th running. This will be my 15th consecutive year, and I expect to be at the race for my 90th year! The Hulman-George family should be very proud."

KIRK HENDRIX (President and CEO, 500 Festival, Inc.): "It's mystical. Awesome in presentation. Overpowering in magnitude. Life-changing for many who attend. And virtually impossible to describe to those who have not attended. The Indianapolis 500 is a vital part of the civic fabric of our city and state, and country. It's a coming-together of families, of friends and of spirited competition staged in a venue and atmosphere like no other. Ninety years means that nearly every single person living today has been touched by the Indianapolis 500. It's more than 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.' It's one of the greatest spectacles in American culture."

WYNONNA JUDD (Singer, has performed during Indy 500 pre-race, sister-in-law of Indy 500 veteran Dario Franchitti): "Being a part of the Indianapolis 500 for the last three years has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I was the grand marshal in 2003 and loved just being a part of the whole package. It's America at its finest! And who doesn't love a parade? I got to ride my Harley around the track one year: What an absolute thrill. The fact that my brother-in-law, Dario Franchitti, is one of the drivers brings extra adrenaline to my soul. One of the most exciting things I've ever heard in my life is, 'Gentlemen, start your engines!' Wow! The Indy 500 is a tradition that will always be a part of my family and my life."

JAY LENO (Host, "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," 1999 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car driver): "For me, it is the historical part that I enjoy. This was the event that first brought European racers over to the United States, and it was the first time they took American racing seriously. It is the Indianapolis 500 that put racing on the map in the United States. It was and still is the biggest race, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the biggest racetrack in the world."

RICHARD G. LUGAR (U.S. Senator, Indiana): "The Indianapolis 500 symbolizes Indiana's many contributions to the development and advancement of automotive and racing technology being made at what began as a 2.5-mile test track for early automobiles and evolved into a state-of-the-art facility that features some of the most sophisticated racing technology in the world, much of it developed by teams headquartered around Central Indiana. Today, people around the world recognize the Indianapolis 500 as a multi-week celebration of time trials and festivity that features the patriotism of Memorial Day weekend and 500 miles of spectacular racing by world-class drivers. Furthermore, the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 reflects the decades of stewardship of the Hulman-George family, along with the loyal dedication of race fans who come to Indianapolis year after year to experience 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.'"

ARIE LUYENDYK (1990, 1997 Indianapolis 500 winner): "I still am a firm believer that the Indy 500 is the race that really counts in America, and obviously the history and the traditions and just the spectacle that goes with the race have made it to what it is and not just this year, but for as many years as I can remember. So, for me, to win that race, really changed my life in that regard, that all of the sudden I was known as an Indy 500 winner, then all of the sudden I became important because of that -- at least in everybody else's eyes. At that race, all of the sudden there's that tag attached to you that you've won the Indy 500, one of the classic races in the world and everybody knows about the race, so it made a big difference for me. It didn't change me, let's put it that way, but it changed everything around me. So there's a tremendous draw for every driver, and a lot of drivers, especially from Europe, have a draw to it, but yet a fear for it because it does have a reputation of really punishing a mistake or an accident. So it has all those elements to it, the excitement, the glory, the allure, but also the danger and the tragedies that go with the event, so as an event it really has every aspect of emotions, as well. It's quite interesting -- it kind of has a life of its own."

RICK MEARS (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991 Indianapolis 500 winner): "It means a great deal to me and the United States. With the history at the Indianapolis 500 and to be able to be a part of the pinnacle of the sport of auto racing and to be able to win it is a whole different level. To establish yourself with that group of racers is fantastic from a driver's point of view. If you can say your name along all those other winners and people who have competed in that race, it is quite an accomplishment. I think every driver tries to place themselves among this group. Being the 90th running points to what a great race it truly is. To stand the test of time over all these years is a testament to what the race has meant over the years. To me, it is the premier race, period. It is American culture. It is truly a part of American culture, and America has become a part of Indy's culture."

JIM NABORS (Actor, singer, sings "Back Home Again in Indiana" during pre-race festivities): "After all these years, the Indianapolis 500 is just a very special part of my life -- a part that I truly treasure. It has become my cherished tradition, and I like to think that the fans would feel that they had not seen the race if they did not hear 'Back Home Again in Indiana' -- and hopefully my rendition of it. The fact that it is in its 90th running this year says volumes about the popularity of the sport and the loyalty and dedication of its fans and the drivers, the teams and everyone at the Speedway who make this wonderful tradition happen year after year. And it is a most fitting tribute to the Hulman-George family, without whom there would be no Indy 500!"

ROGER PENSKE (Owner, Penske Racing, Inc., winner of a record 13 Indianapolis 500s): "We have been fortunate over the years to have success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I have always said that to win a race at the Speedway is the ultimate accomplishment in motorsports. To win the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 would be tremendous for our entire organization."

BART PETERSON (Mayor, City of Indianapolis): "There's no adrenaline rush like the one you get when you hear, 'Gentlemen, start your engines,' at the Indianapolis 500, and that's a great thing for people to think of when they think of Indianapolis. Indy is the only place to be in the month of May, and we have the '500' to thank for that. It makes us a city that stands out from the crowd, and we are so proud of the tradition of racing the Hulman-George family has established here. As any Indianapolis mayor would tell you, we love the race, and we wouldn't trade it for anything."

GEN. COLIN L. POWELL (Former U.S. Secretary of State, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2005 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car driver): "The Indianapolis 500 is one of the greatest sports spectacles in the world. I will never forget the thrill of driving the Pace Car at the 89th running in 2005. On this 90th running, once again, Americans in the stands and on television will see great athletes driving superior products of American car engineering. The Indy 500 is a source of pride for all of us who embrace excellence and character."

BUDDY RICE (2004 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Winning the 2004 Indy 500 was the ultimate racing thrill for me. As a kid, I dreamed just to race cars for a living. Then, you make it up the ladder of divisions and get to the Indy cars. For me, just racing in the Indianapolis 500 was the biggest thing in my racing career. As a rookie, I looked around and saw the crowd, the atmosphere and the tradition of the race. It is unmatched for any racing event in the world. So, then to win the Indy 500 -- man, it is something that I couldn't believe. I look at my Baby Borg-Warner Trophy every day and feel really lucky that I was able to win the race. I'm sure Dan (Wheldon) feels that way now, too. There is a short list of the drivers in the past 90 years who have won the race. I feel very privileged to be one of them."

JOHNNY RUTHERFORD (1974, 1976, 1980 Indianapolis 500 winner): "For me, being able to excel at something that I chose to do for my career is exceptional, especially when it was winning the Indianapolis 500. Winning it three times is something that I could never comprehend when I started racing. It means a lot to everyone who has won, that you can't even describe. Celebrating the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 can be summed up in one word: Americana. It has had the staying power unlike anything else. For the race to come back after both world wars like it did just shows how the American public places such importance on it. It is part of the fabric of the United States and where everyone wants to be on Memorial Day."

AL SPEYER (Executive director, Firestone Racing): "The Indy 500 represents the greatest that auto racing has to offer. For all of us who are involved as manufacturers, it is simply amazing to look back at the technological advances that have occurred since this race first took place in 1911. It's a sporting event like no other -- for Firestone that means an extreme test of tire technology in the only race in the world where tires are constantly pushed to the limits at speeds hovering around 220 mph, lap after lap. For the millions of fans who watch this race year after year, the Indy 500 is the ultimate showcase of technology, determination, skill, teamwork and the most daring drivers in the world. This race has become an historic event. Year after year, we all gather in America's heartland to witness one of our country's greatest sporting events, and everyone at Firestone is proud and honored to continue to be involved."

TONY STEWART (1996 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, five-time Indianapolis 500 starter): "It's impressive. There aren't a lot of facilities that are able to say they're celebrating their 90th anniversary. It's really impressive to see what the Hulman-George family has done at the Speedway and how they've kept the dreams of so many drivers alive of not only wanting to compete at Indy, but winning a race at the Brickyard. I think it's an awesome accomplishment and a huge milestone for them to be able to celebrate their 90th anniversary."

AL UNSER (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987 Indianapolis 500 winner): "The Indianapolis 500 is the big red apple that every driver wants. It is all a driver dreams of, just to be able to qualify and drive in the Indianapolis 500. When you win the biggest race, it means you're on top, and it was the greatest feeling to be on top. When fans sit back and look at what the '500' has become over the years, you see that it is truly the biggest race in the world, and the Speedway has made it even more enjoyable for every fan."

A.J. WATSON (Chief mechanic for four Indianapolis 500 winners, built six cars raced to Indianapolis 500 victory): "The Indy 500 has meant a lot to me for 55 years. It has always been the biggest race of the year and still is. Just to say that the Indy 500 is having the 90th running shows how significant the event has become."

DAN WHELDON (2005 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Everyone knows how much I love the Indianapolis 500. During the month of May, you experience every emotion, and the atmosphere on Race Day is something you never forget. This is a race I have wanted to win since I was a little kid growing up in England. To have realized that dream is something very special. To be celebrating the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 -- it really says something about how great the event is. It's the biggest race in the world, and everyone who is a part of it can tell you how special it is -- everyone from the fans and volunteers to the drivers and crew members. There is so much history at the track, and it's very special to be a part of it."

GLEN WOOD (NASCAR team owner and former '500' team member, Wood Brothers Racing): "We began listening on the radio years and years ago. My dad had an interest in the races there. And then later we watched it on TV, and later yet we were there with Jimmy Clark when he won the race in '65. It was a very prestigious race and still is. That was the biggest racing there was, and it helped to introduce our sport to America. Back in the country where we lived, we didn't have radios when we were kids, but I know we started listening to it back in the '40s. I remember going up there in 1965, and it was so impressive -- the track and all the people. When we walked in there, we had never seen anything like that. And now we're there, too, for the (Allstate 400 at the) Brickyard, so that makes it even more remarkable to us."


Indy 500 tickets on sale: Tickets are on sale for the 2006 Indianapolis 500, the 90th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Fans can order tickets online at, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday, while online orders can be made at any time.

Ticket prices start at just $20.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Mario Andretti , Tony George , A.J. Foyt , Jay Leno , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Team Penske , Wood Brothers Racing