–From Indiana to Wyoming to Pacific Palisades
My parents were teachers in Mission, South Dakota, and school was out before Memorial Day.
Then it was making sandwiches, filling the water jug, loading up five kids in a station wagon and driving across half of South Dakota and half of Wyoming on Memorial Day weekend to the middle of the mountains to visit Aunt Shirley at Elk Mountain, south of Medicine Bow.
The Indy 500 was on the radio (it was one of the few radio stations accessible) and the race usually took us to the border of South Dakota and Wyoming.
We listened as the race announcers described who was leading, who was making a pit stop and the accidents, and all the while, the roar of the car engines was in the background. Listening to the race around the 2.5-mile track and 200 laps was part of our annual pilgrimage to a ranch hidden in the mountains that was finally accessed via dirt roads.
Fast forward to the Pacific Palisades Fourth of July Will Rogers 5/10K Race. Almost every year in recent history, Palisades resident Steve Conforti ensures that the event has a race car to lead runners on the racecourse. And for many of those years, it has been driven by Pacific Palisades resident and professional race-car driver Townsend Bell, who has competed numerous times in the Indy 500.
Circling the News received a May 24 email from Will Rogers Race director Brian Shea, who wrote to thank CTN for starting publicity for the upcoming 5/10K, which for the first time will have a high school trophy.
“I am writing this at 5 a.m. in Indianapolis to watch the INDY 500 with family & kids as the guest of Steve Conforti (whose wife’s family owns the Brickyard) and Townsend Bell, a NBC sportscaster and past Race Car driver.
“This event, the 131 INDY 500, is a huge event for the City of Indianapolis and the Sports world at large with 300,000 to 500,000 fans at/on a very large footprint/area/racetrack from celebrities to national TV/Press coverage and last but not least a police escort to the Event on Race Day. All I can say is unbelievable and awesome!” Shea said.
Bell provided the color commentary for NBC’s Indy Car coverage on Sunday. An accident with 20 laps left provided some unexpected drama. The track went to red, while debris was cleared. The lead switched several times as speeds went as high as 230 mph. Every car engine in the race was either a Chevrolet or a Honda.
It wasn’t until the last lap that Simon Pagenaud, a French driver, won the race by two-tenths of a second over Alexander Rossi, the 2016 winner, and third-place finisher Takuma Sato, the 2017 winner.
This was Pagenaud’s first Indy 500 win. As a teen he worked in his parents’ supermarket. Now 35, he races on the IndyCar Series with Team Penske.
The race started with 33 entries and the attendance at the event was estimated at 250,000 people.