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IMS Writers’ Roundtable, Volume 16: Favorite ‘500’ Pre-Race Moment

Today’s question: What’s your favorite moment during pre-race festivities for the Indianapolis 500, and why?

Curt Cavin: I particularly enjoy the early hours of race morning, when the Speedway awakens and the energy builds. I’ve worked 33 of these races, and somehow even the coffee and donuts taste better than on any other May day. My morning routine involves breakfast with old friends and thanking those in the paddock who have made my month’s work enjoyable. There always seems to be a crispness to the air as I walk through Gasoline Alley and along pit road, and I’ve often wished there was more time to soak it all in. If forced to choose a specific moment, I’ll go with the crescendo of “Back Home Again in Indiana.” It’s that one line -- “When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash, then I long for my Indiana home” – that always gets me.

Zach Horrall: My favorite Indy 500 pre-race moment is the period of time from when Jim Cornelison starts singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” to the moment the green flag waves. Cornelison’s booming voice is the ultimate build-up during pre-race, and the feeling I get when he hits that last note is incredible. It lasts through the command to start engines and the pace laps. It’s a moment of pure bliss; a sense of accomplishment that we finally got here, excitement that the race is mere moments away, the calm before the storm, and a unique sense of knowing that the next few hours are going to be history in the making.

Paul Kelly: Well, unlike Curt and Zach, I’m not a native Hoosier. So, while I have come to love “Back Home Again in Indiana” and what it stands for, my favorite Indianapolis 500 pre-race moment is when a solitary military bugler stands on Victory Podium or in the flag stand and plays “Taps” to honor America’s fallen warriors on Memorial Day weekend. It’s so moving to hear the palpable buzz from the largest throng for any sporting event on Earth suddenly go silent, with nothing but the achingly beautiful, poignant notes of that tribute floating around the Speedway. My three kids sometimes have told me they’ve rarely seen me cry. Well, if they stood next to me as I listened to “Taps” on Race Day each year, they’d understand that I was only a very firm bite of my lower lip from my eyes becoming leaky faucets. Hearing “Taps” moves me that deeply.

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