‘We have a bond’: Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers club brings together generations of women who love racing

Your Town Friday
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SPEEDWAY, Ind. — We’re wrapping up our Your Town Friday series for the month of May in Speedway with the story of a group of women who find it a compliment to be called “old.” First ever three-time Indy 500 winner Louis Meyer’s wife June was a little annoyed all the racing men got together for dinner in the 1940s in May, so she invited all the ladies for a potluck! Twenty women brought deviled eggs, potato salad, fried chicken and chocolate cake. They also told old war stories and Alice Hanks had one to tell. “My husband was in a power plant at Wright Field, Ohio and I was a civilian secretary in the next office,” said Alice. “I think I was 18!” Sam Hanks is believed to be the only Indy 500 driver to race before World War 2, serve in the war and then return to race again. Alice’s first race was 72 years ago. “I took the train from Dayton over here. We took the train from the station right almost to the main gate.” Sam became an “Oldtimer” and so Alice did, too. “I’m a widow of a race car driver who raced here 13 years. The last year he raced here he won the race. That was 1957.” “There’s something going through our veins that we have a feeling for each other.” And before June passed away, she made the ladies promise to keep it going. Alice loves catching up with the different generations every year. She especially loves to see Carla Carter. “I’ve known this young girl since she was born practically,” said Alice. “My husband drove against her father and that goes back to the 40s and 50s!” Carla’s father raced in the 1951 Indy 500. One day she went to a sprint car race with her dad when she was 18 and bored. “The next day on the way home my father noticed that there was a race car trailer broke down, so he stopped to help him and it was Pancho. I’ve been married to my husband Pancho Carter for almost 45 years!” Pancho’s rookie year was 1974, and that’s when Carla joined the ladies. “They didn’t even have the Pagoda at that point. It was at a tent in the infield!”
Today that potluck is a catered buffet in a chalet behind the Pagoda with about 100 people. The women are wives, drivers, crew members, media members and more. Katie Buttera joined four years ago. “Linda Vaughn, I fondly call her my aunt Linda, she always used to take my mom with her to the luncheon, and my mom had to work that day, so she called and said you’re coming with me this year!” She’s proud to be part of the newest generation. “My grandfather fielded three cars in ’82, ’83 and ’84. My mom worked for Simpson when they had a suite here for ten years in the eighties, so it’s fun for me to get to be with all these ladies who did it before me and hear all the stories.” As the ladies say, “Being Oldtimers is not about being old, it is a distinction of longevity.” And they hope to carry June’s tradition through at least the next 100 years or racing. “It runs all through us,” said Alice.  “We have a bond.”

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