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Indiana University student named Indy 500’s official poet

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Photo of Adam Henze by James E Moriarty

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana University student who is a poet and a performer has been named the Indianapolis 500’s first official poet since the early 20th century.

Adam Henze of Bloomington beat out more than 200 others who submitted Indy 500-themed poems for the contest co-sponsored by Indiana Humanities.

The competition revives an Indy 500 tradition from the 1920s, when an official poem was included in the race day program.

Henze is an educator and a doctoral candidate at IU. He receives a $1,000 cash prize and two tickets to the 100th running of the race on May 29.

His poem is titled “For Those Who Love Fast, Loud Things.” It will appear in the official race program. Henze also will read his winning poem at the Speedway during qualification weekend.

Below is the winning poem:

For Those Who Love Fast, Loud Things

This poem is for the track folk who just love the smell of Ethanol.

For the Carb Day cut sleeve sporters, the Snake Pit dancers, and Coke Lot campers with bald eagle bandanas.

This is an anthem for the hearts that’ve surged at the scope of the Pagoda.

For the hands that know the feeling of slapping the North Vista tunnel ceiling.

For the lips that whisper along with Florence Henderson when she sings, yes. This poem is for the 500 fans who love fast, loud things.

The hot dog chompers and buttermilk sippers, and granddads with ledger pads in suede cases and locked zippers.

This is for every kid that’s stood along the stretch—with toes on top of a cooler and their fingers gripping the fence.

For the open-wheel gear heads, parade wavers, and Legends Day fans.

For the moms smeared with baby sunscreen changing diapers in the stands.

This poem is for the Brickyard pickers, marching band clappers, the bucket drummers and gasoline alley cats.

This is for the pit crews, the announcers, the flyby pilots in the sky.

For the girl who’d never seen her dad cry until the day Dan Wheldon died.

This poem is for the Andy Griffith neighbors, the binocular watchers, and the concession yellers hawking cold brews.

This poem is for every shoulder with a Memorial Day tattoo.

This is for the drivers willing to go bumper to bumper, for the flag flappers, and the earbud-in-clutched palm fist pumpers.

This is your poem Indianapolis, taking the turn with direct injection. Race fans, thank you for being the sparks that start the engines.