Sunday, June 29, 2014

Indy Item of the Day: Old Trading Cards

Here are Dale Coyne and Chip Ganassi from the 1985 A&S Racing Collectables set. (Yes, that's how these folks spelled it.)

Who would've guessed that midway through the season that Coyne's team would have more wins than the mighty Ganassi outfit?

Chip could probably use an Old Milwaukee or three right about now. Looks like he's talking to Scott Brayton, but I can't be sure.

I have no idea where Coyne is in this photo.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Indy 500 Item of the Day: Special Sections

As a former newspaperman (nearly 20 years, most as a sports editor), it pains me to see this vital component of the American fabric continue to dwindle in importance.

Today’s newspapers are smaller – both in size and amount of news – as publishers push content toward digital platforms. Good old newsprint is slowly vanishing.

I was probably about 7 years old when I read my first newspaper: The Indianapolis News, the Circle City’s afternoon paper.

Not surprisingly, I started with the comics, but soon gravitated toward the sports section. Often to my father’s chagrin, who would be fruitlessly searching for the section after dinner.

It was safely upstairs as I pored over the latest on the Pacers, Racers (old WHA team), Indians and so forth.

Of course, one of the dominant beats in The News was the Indianapolis 500.

Which brings us to its annual special section on the race.

Once the race was permanently moved to the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, this section came out on the Friday before the race.

In addition to features, the race lineup (with headshots and qualifying speeds), the scorecard (when was the last time you saw one of those in the Star?) and recaps from the month, the highlight for me was Wayne Fuson’s Form Chart.

Fuson was the sports editor of The News. He wrote about a three-sentence summary of each driver’s chances, complete with odds, in a lively, staccato style that borrowed heavily from horse-racing parlance.

Here’s an example from the 1981 section pictured above. This is for Bobby Unser, Fuson’s favorite at 2-1:

Jockey would like nothing more than to match brother Al’s three victories. Bobby is starting in the front row for the ninth time. He’s gone the distance only three times in 18 previous races. Don’t let the field go to the post without a sizeable wager.

A great, fun read. And only 253 characters – a bit longer than a Tweet.

The Indianapolis News ceased publication on Oct. 1, 1999, the victim of a long, relentless trend of reading habits shifting away from afternoon newspapers. Mr. Fuson had passed away almost three years earlier to the day at 71.

These sections pop up on eBay from time to time, so I’ve been able to grab a few. Each time I’m lucky enough to nab one, I always read the Form Chart first.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Indy 500 Memorabilia: Salt Walther Media Guides

This set of Salt Walther media guides from 1975, ’76 and ’78 caught my eye a few weeks ago. The one from 1975 is signed by Salt.

Anyone who even remotely knows anything about the Indianapolis 500 knows who Salt Walther is and his horrific accident at the start of the 1973 race.  The 1976 guide has three photos from the crash.

Certainly his No. 77 Dayton-Walther blue McLarens were well-known throughout the ‘70s. The team itself started fielding cars in 1955 with Elmer George (Tony’s father) at the wheel. He failed to qualify.

After being away from Indianapolis for a decade, Salt attempted a comeback  in 1990. Despite running an older-model car, he squeezed into the field late on the final day of qualifying only to be bumped out just before the final gun. (Remember when qualifying for the 500 had actual drama like that?)

He tried again the following year and again fell just short on the final day.

That was his final appearance at Indianapolis. Walther died Dec. 27, 2012.