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Indiana Man Can't Get Enough of IMS upon Approach of 100 Straight Races Attended

A family tradition that began in Canada has inspired another for 52 years and counting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Every other year, Gladys and Hugh Grant would travel about 3,000 miles from the northern Canadian city of Whitehorse in the Yukon territory to visit family in Linden, Indiana.

In planning their 1965 trip, they were asked if they wanted to do something special. As race fans who enjoyed listening to the Indianapolis 500 on the IMS Radio Network, they suggested attending “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

The six family members who showed up at IMS on May 31, 1965, included their 8-year-old grandson, Mark Eutsler. One trip, and that first-grader was hooked.

He’s been coming to every Indianapolis Motor Speedway race since then, which means the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28 will be Eutsler’s 100th consecutive event at the Racing Capital of the World.

That’s 53 Indy 500s, 23 Brickyard 400s, eight Formula One United States Grand Prix races, eight Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP races, four INDYCAR Grand Prix races, three Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational events and one Red Bull Air Race.

“If it’s done at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I want to be there,” Eutsler said, “because it’s done so well.”

He celebrated his 59th birthday Wednesday with a familiar 45-minute drive from Linden, located in Montgomery County, to the track for Indy 500 practice. Eutsler looked out from the seventh floor of the Panasonic Pagoda and spoke passionately about a legacy he has immensely enjoyed.

“If they hadn’t done that,” he said of his grandparents, “I wouldn’t be here today. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

“It’s a given. This is what we do. When they introduced new races, ‘Yeah, I want to do that, too.’ I was fortunate to be drawn in the lottery for the first Brickyard 400.”

Eutsler, a married educator and father of two, wasn’t thinking about “The Streak” being in jeopardy before his name was drawn to buy tickets for NASCAR’s inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. But in recent years, he started counting the number of consecutive events attended.

His wife, Therese, admitted years ago she “married into it.” They celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in October, which means she’s been by his side for more than half of those IMS visits.

“She’s a sacramentally bound fan,” he said.

Eutsler has developed a lengthy list of track connections. He has been a 500 Festival volunteer since 1987, IPL 500 Festival Parade co-chair since 1995 and Indy 500 Parade of Bands volunteer since 1999. He served as an INDYCAR Ministry Executive Committee member from 2009 to 2016. Since 2012, he’s been a Citizens’ Speedway Committee member, which includes he and his wife being lap prize sponsors. He’s also been an Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Club member since 2012 and is co-founder and chair of the Indiana Racing Memorial Association since 2014.

“I’ve got every Indy 500 program,” Eutsler said. “They’re in binders and sheet protectors. Then I bought ones through the Tony Hulman era. They did a reprint series about 30 years ago. And I’ve got every ticket, too.

“I throw nothing away with a Speedway logo. I’ve got letters and ticket renewals sorted by postmark dates. If it comes out of here, I don’t throw it away. That’s just me.”

He’s taken to heart the words of former longtime Indy 500 radio voice Sid Collins, who said: “People are taking one last look before they release their grasp of Indy. For some, this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, and others will be back.”

Said Eutsler: “That resonated with me. I knew I would be back. Some people will never experience this. I never want to take it for granted.”

Once-in-a-lifetime immediately became a once-a-year endeavor and has since grown to five races this year.

“It is special when we come into these gates, whatever time of year,” Eutsler said.

Formula One legend Jim Clark won that 1965 Indy 500. A.J. Foyt was on the pole. Mario Andretti was named Rookie of the Year.

“We had backstretch reserved parking, which I think is similar to what they’re doing in Turn 3 now,” Eutsler said. “You’d back your car up to the track, have a place for lawn chairs, fried chicken in your trunk. You’re not packed into the stands. It’s what I would call an economy suite.

“A lot of people. We could see the tower, which is where the Pagoda is now. We could see all the way down to Turn 2 and Turn 3. We were track level. And the speed of the cars, you could get a sense because there was just 12 feet between us and the track on the backstretch. It took a few laps for your eyes to adjust so you could actually see the numbers on the cars.”

His education career began as a high school band director, so he and his wife are partial to the Parade of Bands Race Day tradition. His May 28 routine will start at 4 a.m., when he and his wife will wake up at Butler University and have breakfast with the Purdue University band. They will bus to Lafayette Square to form a 100-bus procession that arrives at IMS around 7 a.m. The Parade of Bands begins at 8 a.m. After Purdue’s band performs, everyone will take their seats in the North Vista. When the race ends, they will bus back to Butler, and then everyone heads home.

“It’s a long day, but then Channel 6 rebroadcasts at 7 p.m., right?” he said with a chuckle about the Indy 500 TV telecast in Indianapolis. “So we watch the telecast of where we were that day. You’ve got to get home in time to do that. Get a shower, a pizza, and reintroduce ourselves to the kids after being gone about 48 hours.”

His favorite Indy 500 was Johnny Rutherford’s first of three wins in 1974. The weather was beautiful, and he considered the congenial “Lone Star JR” a great champion.

His favorite Brickyard 400 was the second in 1995, a 16-hour day because of a rain delay as he and his wife worked in an Arts Indiana magazine food booth outside of Turn 1. She bought a DVD of the race so they could watch Dale Earnhardt’s victory and remember the day.

It’s been fun, huh?

“I am having fun,” he said, his active verb tense a reminder that he shows no sign of slowing down. “Don’t put me out yet. (Laughs.)”

Each time he departs after another race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Eutsler has the same parting thought.

“Boy, that was really special,” he said. “I can’t wait for that to happen again.”

Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 28, and for more information on the complete Month or May schedule at IMS.

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