Long-time readers of this site will know I bow to no one in my esteem for Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson. The Talk of Gasoline Alley is one of the high points of my year. Just as seeing robins flying about is an indicator of early spring in Indiana, hearing Donald on the radio is a sign that the Month of May is truly upon us.
Of course, one of the iconic moments of every year of Donald's radio show is that awkward moment where a caller phones in with a question about their grandfather or next door neighbor who supposedly qualified for the 500 back in the day. Often, these claims are false, and Donald is forced to dispense with the caller, crushing their dreams, beliefs, and potentially their family legends in one sympathetic, if slightly curt, dismissal.
Through work the other day, I met a woman who had attended a few Indy 500s, and has had family in the area. We fell to talking about the 500, and she mentioned how her great-uncle had been a driver in the 1950 Indy 500 field. The only problem was, the driver in question not only was not in the field, but neither were they a relief driver or failed qualifier. Unless they raced under a nom de plume, they were not in the field at Indy.
I didn't call her on it, though. First off, I thought perhaps I was wrong, or simply didn't recognize the name. But when I did my research, there was no mistaking it--her great-uncle simply wasn't in 1950's Indy 500 field.
I always wonder with these sort of cases, was the older family member just having some fun with their relatives? Were they telling tall tales, or did the story just get confused in the retelling over the years? Perhaps "I met Bill Holland at the Indy 500" somehow morphed into "I drove with Bill Holland at the 500".
I'll leave the business of (somewhat gently) ruining purported family legacies to Donald, however. I do like to think that when I'm old and gray, I'll tell any extended family members that'll listen that I raced Indianapolis one year. Let's see if I can get away with it.