At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the air thrums with the growl of engines. Baseball-capped bystanders can feel the RPMs rev right up their spines. They hold tight to their vibrating cups of beer, and grin in anticipation. It’s almost time.
Larry Kile, resident of Ashford Place Health Campus, is shown to his seat in the Hulman Terrace Suites. From up here, he can still smell the gasoline, still hear the rumble of the cars as they pull up to the line. Tears well in his eyes. “That’s a sound I haven’t heard in a long time,” he says. At 11:00 a.m. sharp, the sound of the supercars rises, reaching a fever-pitch. Gas pedals hit the floor. Drivers are pushed back into their headrests. Their souped-up machines hurl down straightaways and fling themselves around corners. Larry watches it all, soaking it in. The seats are nice, and boast a perfect view of Turn 4. But it’s not where he belongs. Larry’s place is in the Pit, with his people.
Larry, as it turns out, is a lot more than a racing fan. Before he was drafted into the Vietnam War, he was a member of a Pit Crew, and even came close to racing in the Indy 500 himself. But that was a long time ago, and afterwards, Larry lost contact with that racing community. When he returned home, he went on to race Midget Cars. He made a lot of good memories, and a lot of good friends. But his dream of returning to the Indy 500 faded, until he thought it was gone.
But now he’s here, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, heading down from the Hulman Terrace Suites to the garages. He’s wearing his Vietnam Vet hat, and on his way groups of race fans stop to salute him. Some shake his hand and thank him for his service. An Indy car trolleys by. Larry lights up like a lightbulb. His chest swells with a familiar warmth – the feeling of coming home.
In the garages, Larry gets autographs from some of the greats, and chats with Mario Andretti himself. Then it’s to the Pit, his old stomping grounds. While sitting in a piece of shade next to Life Enrichment Director Crystala Evans, members of the Pit Crew approach Larry to chat. After learning that he was once a member of the Pit Crew himself, they ask him if he wants to accompany them to Pit Row to watch the cars take off. Larry says yes.
He’s now so close that he can almost reach over the wall and touch the track. This is hallowed ground. Larry and Crystala sit together, listening to the choir of engines and tires. Larry’s face is split in two by his smile. He can’t imagine a moment more perfect than this. Until it happens.
Larry and Crystala are approached by a member of the Speedway staff, who offers to take them behind the scenes. The two are then guided through a secret world – one which even the most dedicated race fans never see. They are taken to what is known as the Cross-Over; the spot between Turn 1 and Turn 2 where cars zoom by at nearly 225 mph. The two watch as cars stream past, their edges blurred by their speed. Crystala is reminded of something Larry told her earlier. “If you aren’t flying, you aren’t trying.”
Later, in the gift shop, Larry grabs a hat, a shirt, some pins and a lanyard. He keeps asking Crystala to get something for herself, but for her, the memories are more than enough. She’s learned so much about Larry today; about his service to our country, his connection to racing, and his lifetime love of speed. She thinks about how blessed she is to know him, and to help make his dream come true. On the ride home, he asks her to leave the windows down. He wants to hear the engines roar as they drive away.