Call It "A Race Fan's Dream."
Devoted early-arriving fans for last year's Indianapolis 500 were treated to an unbelievable opportunity on the day before the race with what was described as "The World's Largest Autograph Session." Over a four-hour period between noon-4 p.m., somewhere in the region of 100 very unique individuals sat – in shifts – behind tables and signed autographs for fans, every one of those individuals being able to make the most exclusive of claims, "I drove in the Indianapolis 500."
Earlier in the day, another cherished "first" had taken place in the form of a long-planned photograph which would record the largest gathering of Indianapolis 500 drivers EVER. Out of a total of 268 who were living at the time – plus the five new rookies who would be making their "500" debuts the following day – there were 161 individuals lined up in that shot, all of whom shared a common bond only they could fully appreciate.
Because of the overwhelming response, not only from grateful fans, but also from the drivers, many of whom had not been in attendance in many years, the autograph session is being offered again this coming May. It will take place in the Plaza area behind the Pagoda from noon-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 26 during “Legends Day Honoring Roger Penske.”
In rapid response to the letter informing the drivers that the session was indeed going to be held once again, 12-time Indianapolis 500 veteran Johnny Parsons was the first to notify track officials, "Yes, I will be there." An enthusiastic note from Bill Simpson was right behind JP's, with Herm Johnson, Spike Gehlhausen, Jeff Andretti and Willy T. Ribbs in hot pursuit.
Others who were quick to add their names to the steadily growing list include such colorful past performers as Bill Vukovich II, Bob Harkey, Tom Bigelow, Derek Daly, Mel Kenyon, Steve Chassey, Bill Puterbaugh, Bill Whittington, Denny Zimmerman, Jerry Sneva, Didier Theys, Greg Leffler, Sam Schmidt, Phil Krueger, Jack Miller, Lee Kunzman, Stephan Gregoire, Johnny Unser, Max Papis, Cory Witherill and John Hollansworth Jr.
Many more are anticipated during the coming weeks.