I'm counting down the days until the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
I'm not a race fan in the fanatic sense. I've only been to the Indy 500 a handful of times. My memories center around listening to the race on the radio in the backyard while filling out the leading laps grid from the Indianapolis Star.
I do love Indianapolis, tradition, and most of all a theme! Each day I will share a memory or tidbit of history.
Twenty-one days ago - but, who's counting (besides me?) - I told the story of sort-of meeting Paul Newman in 1983 when he was in town for the Indianapolis 500.
That was the year that he and Carl Haas joined forces and and teamed up to create Newman/Haas Racing. The two had met as competitors in the Can-Am series.
Newman/Haas Racing was very successful in the IndyCar Series - winning 105 CART races and eight drivers' championships.
Did you ever wonder how Paul Newman caught the racing bug?
He played a race car driver in the 1969 movie Winning, and trained at a high-performance driving school taught by drivers Bob Sharp and Lake Underwood. Much of the race footage was from the 1968 Indy 500.
[Spoiler Alert] Newman plays race car driver Frank Capua, who meets (gasp!) divorcee Elora (played by his real-life wife, Joanne Woodward). They marry after a whirlwind romance. Elora's teenage son, Charley (played by Richard Thomas), helps Frank tune his cars for the races. Frank is so dedicated to his racing career that he neglects his wife, who then has an affair with Frank's main rival on the race track, Luther Erding (Robert Wagner).
Frank finds them in bed together (double gasp!) and storms out. The couple separates, but Frank still sees Charley regularly. Frank's bitterness fuels his passion and he becomes a much more aggressive driver. Frank races in the Indianapolis 500, with Elora and Charley watching. Frank drives the race of his life and wins. Women throw themselves at him at a victory party, but he is uninterested. Luther tracks down Frank, and apologizes for the affair. Frank does the only natural thing, and punches Luther.
Frank visits Elora and tells her he wants to start over, but she is unsure. The film ends with the two looking uncertainly at each other.
While the Winning wasn't a hit - Quentin Tarantino, said, "I’d rather saw my fingers off than sit through that again," it made a life-long racing fan of Newman.