History of Larry's Gang
The history of “larry’s gang” dates back to 1946, the first race after the speedway was closed for wwii and with the hulman family as owners.
Larry’s first trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was for qualifying in 1946. His father took him to see what all of the fanfare was about with the newly re-opened race track. Larry remembers being awed by the sound and the speed of the cars…..and the fastest qualifying time that year was 123 mph. But what he remembers best are the old wooden grandstands and the weeds. Larry has seen the Speedway go from those humble beginnings to the great racing venue it is today. His first race was the following year and he and his father would try to go as often as possible. When they couldn't make it to the race, they would listen to the radio broadcast of the Indy 500 on the Mutual Broadcasting System from their backyard in Fort Wayne, IN. His love and interest in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" grew and as an undergrad at Ball State University attended the race in 1956 and has been every year since........
During his college years, he would travel to Indianapolis with his fraternity brothers and park their car "in line" the night before the 500. Larry tells stories of being parked in line along Pendleton Pike all the way on the east side of Indianapolis and slowly moving their way across town once the gates opened at 6:00AM, getting inside the track just in time to see the start of the race.
After college, Larry was married and started going to the race with family members that lived on the north side of Indianapolis. Along with their neighbors (which included "Dick the Bruiser") they would get up early in the morning and make their way to the track for both qualifying and race weekends. During this time, he started taking his young sons along to practice and qualifying weekends and soon going to the track became a family affair.
In the late sixties/early seventies trips with his children were primarily to qualifying weekends. Of course, this was back in the day when the first weekend of qualifying had crowds larger than the current day race.....if you can believe it. The family would often drive from their home in Yorktown, IN in the middle of the night and sleep in their car parked in the neighborhood streets of Speedway until the track opened. Eventually they began spending the entire weekend camping in the "Coke Lot". Their first race as a family was in 1975. It was an exciting race that was shortened by a thunderstorm which left everyone absolutely soaking wet for the ride home.
For the next few years, Larry and his boys would spend as much time at the track as they could. The highlight of those years was sleeping sitting against the fence along Georgetown Street close to the first turn gate all night so they could be the first in line and run to get a spot in the front row of the "Snakepit" 1978. It was a close call, but they made it through the crush of the crowd and ended up right up against the fence and got to see all of the action up close......and not all of the action was on the track.
The eighties saw a shift from how the family attended the race. The weekend actually became even more of a family affair as the clan would travel to Indianapolis early Saturday morning to attend the "500 Festival Parade" and once the parade ended, would hop back in the truck and head north to Ft. Wayne, IN to spend the evening with Larry's parents. After a very short night of sleep, they would get on a bus at 5:00AM and make the trip back down I-69 arriving in plenty of time to take in the pre-race festivities from their Northwest Vista seats.
As the years went by, the kids grew up and moved away, either finding other ways of attending the race or nor attending at all. The bus trip remained the primary way Larry attended the race for a number of years.......Always with a different combination of family and friends. Finally, in the early 2000's the interest in the bus trip had diminished to the point that "Larry's Gang" were pretty much the only paying customers and the trip was disbanded............
And that is when "Larry's Gang started to take it's present day form. After having tickets provided as a part of the bus trip for more than 20 years, Larry had to start getting tickets for the group on his own, only a few in the beginning, but soon more and more as the next generation became interested in the race. The "Gang" also had to find a way to get to and from the race. The first few years entailed getting up early in the morning, driving to Indianapolis and taking the "Go Indy" buses from downtown to the track. In 2008 the bus service was discontinued, so it was back to the neighborhood streets of Speedway. Instead of taking the bus, the "Gang" would park in the streets just off of 30th Street and walk into the Speedway to sit in their 3rd Turn seats.
That year was the start of a few "Gang" traditions.....On the way back to our cars parked on the street that year, "Official"? T-shirts were being sold for $5. Everyone bought a shirt and these became the first official t-shirts of the "Gang" to be worn the following year. After making it back to the car waiting for traffic to thin out, the awning was set-up, the grill was fired-up, the sausage was cooked and the first "Post Race Tail-Gate Party" sponsored and supplied by Chef Martin's Old World Sausage was held.....right in the streets of Speedway , IN.
After a few years of living in the streets, the "Gang" decided to upgrade and move to the "Coke Lot"???? It was very exciting to be in Indy the Saturday night before the race and not have to make the early morning drive. It was a new experience and the "inexperience" was painful that first year as the cooler full of race day beer and subs were stolen right out of the campsite. The camping soon became Friday and Saturday nights and the group continued to grow as the new generation was introducing their friends to the race.
Finally, as the "Gang" continued to grow and the "Coke Lot" became more crowded and sketchy, it was time to find a more quiet place to camp for the weekend. In 2015, the "Gang" relocated to Lot 2 and has been there ever since. After the relocation, more and more friends and family members have started camping for the weekend, attending the race, and enjoying a great family experience. in 2016, for the 100th Indy 500, "Larry's Gang" reached 23 campers. Now folks start arriving Thursday morning and the "Gang" spends the whole weekend camping, cooking, hanging-out, and just having a good time.
Through the years, Larry's Indy 500 experience has come full circle. It started as a passion and love for auto racing, a way to have fun and spend time with his family. Now some 70 years later, it's all about the same things.