SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 will finally roar through the city Sunday, but before the green flag is waved, one local author is inviting race fans back through the checkered past with 500 facts you may not know about “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Do you know why champions drink milk? Did you know they used to drink water? Or how about the years the green flag didn’t mean go? Author Rick Shaffer can teach you about all that and 497 more facts about the Indy 500 before race day.
“Gentleman, start your engines,” Shaffer said. “The noise and the excitement is just unbelievable. Especially the moments leading up to the start of the race. I can already feel it.”
An Indianapolis native, Shaffer first fell in love with the 500 in 1964 when his father brought him, his mother and brother to his very first race.
“My father didn’t know it, but he created a monster by bringing me and my brother to that race. We were so excited. I don’t know of any feeling I’ve ever had any circumstance like, quite like that when the race starts. It’s just unbelievable,” Shaffer said. “And then suddenly, green flag and BANG! You know, they’re all flashing by. It was quite a spectacle. I wasn’t quite 12 years of age at that time.
“It changed my life.”
He’s been writing about the experience, and learning about many others like it, ever since as both a fan and as a professional with various roles in the racing community as a journalist and more.
“Well I figure I’ve read just about every book on the 500 there is, so when I started out to do 500 on the Indy 500, I wanted to do something a little different, and the first reference to the word 500 is 500 different items, little anecdotes, short stories, tales, facts and figures,” Shaffer said. “I tried to make it an easy read, and I think the format of the different little short stories, you don’t even have to be a fanatical fan like me.”
Shaffer has written two other books about the Indy 500: Autocourse CART Official History: The First 20 Years and Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 and more recently 500 0n (The Indy) 500 tales, facts and figures on “The Greatest Race In The World”.
“This book is different. This book you can hop in everywhere, anywhere you want and find an item that suits your fancy and read about it,” Shaffer said. “I think a lot of people are gonna say, ‘I didn’t know that.’”
But for the first time in 47 years, you can find Shaffer in the stands.
“I’ve been a lifelong fan, but I’ve had a spotty attendance record. I of course started going to races young, but when it became part of my job, I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the race,” Shaffer said. “But I’m happy to say this year I’ll actually be in the stands watching it as a fan, so I’m a little out of practice on that.”
If it’s true what they say, and practice makes perfect, when it comes to 500 facts on the Indy 500, Shaffer is setting the pole.
“I didn’t realize what a neat thing it was to say that you’re an author. It really invigorated me more to write this book, and I hope readers and fans everywhere give it a look. There’s a lot packed in there,” Shaffer said. “I got a pretty good memory for things that aren’t important!”
If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Shaffers most recent book, you can find it through his publisher’s website, Coastal 181.
Shaffer will sell and sign copies this Friday and Saturday, May 28 & 29, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Plainfield Indianapolis Airport from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.