SPEEDWAY — Every year since 1949, Crown Point’s Jerry Trump has made the annual pilgrimage to the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
Sunday was no different as the 78-year-old Trump witnessed the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from his seat in the grandstands outside of the beginning of the main straightaway on a warm, partly cloudy day.
“All those memories,” Trump said. “There used to be five of us with tickets in the turn. Now it’s just two of us. Pete Rich from Munster picks me up. I haven’t missed a race, including all the rainouts. I would go back the next day if there was a rainout.
“I went with my dad all the time. His last race was in 1958. We would leave about 5 o’clock in the morning. There were no interstate highways back then. We would take (U.S.) 231 south and go through Lafayette on the way there.”
Trump has seen some of the classic races over the years.
“1960 had to be the best race ever run at the Speedway,” Trump said. “(Jim) Rathmann and (Rodger) Ward battled all day. You didn’t know who was going to win. You couldn’t count how many times they passed each other in the last 24 laps. They wore the tires down to the cords.”
Rathmann would eventually score his first and only Indy 500 victory in the 1960 race.
“1951 was when Murrell Belanger’s car won,” Trump said. “It wasn’t a real exciting race, but Lee Wallard won in Belanger’s car. It was a fast-paced race and only six or seven cars were running at the end.
“Belanger had the shop on the second floor of his farm equipment dealership in Lowell. One year, it was probably in April of 1952, me and my dad went over there. The place was spotless. You had to wipe your feet. Belanger had two cars (for the ’52 race) – the No. 1 and the No. 99. Tony Bettenhausen crashed the ‘99’ in qualifying and Duane Carter drove the No. 1.”
Trump seems to be able to rattle Indy 500 statistics at will, as h quickly recited A.J. Foyt’s 500-winning years (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977).
“Bettenhausen and Jack McGrath were my favorites,” Trump said. “They have been gone for a long time. You had to cheer for Foyt over the years. I saw him as a rookie in 1958 and every year he got better and better.”
After he saw his 65th race, speedway management sent Trump a special recognition letter, which he has framed in his office.
Asked about when he will quit going, Trump said, “Why should I quit now? I’ll stop going when I can’t walk anymore.”