A family tradition that began in Canada has inspired another for 52 years and counting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
Every other year, Gladys and Hugh Grant would travel about 3,000 miles from the northern Canadian city of Whitehorse in the Yukon territory to visit family in Linden, Indiana.
In planning their 1965 trip, they were asked if they wanted to do something special. As race fans who enjoyed listening to the Indianapolis 500 on the IMS Radio Network, they suggested attending “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
The six family members who showed up at IMS on May 31, 1965, included their 8-year-old grandson, Mark Eutsler. One trip, and that first-grader was hooked.
He’s been coming to every Indianapolis Motor Speedway race since then, which means the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28 was Eutsler’s 100th consecutive event at the Racing Capital of the World.
That’s 53 Indy 500s, 23 Brickyard 400s, eight Formula One United States Grand Prix races, eight Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP races, four IndyCar Grand Prix races, three Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational events and one Red Bull Air Race.
“If it’s done at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I want to be there,” Eutsler said, “because it’s done so well.”
He celebrated his 59th birthday in May with a familiar 45-minute drive from Linden, located in Montgomery County, to the track for Indy 500 practice. Eutsler looked out from the seventh floor of the Panasonic Pagoda and spoke passionately about a legacy he has immensely enjoyed.
“If they hadn’t done that,” he said of his grandparents, “I wouldn’t be here today. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Eutsler, a married educator and father of two, wasn’t thinking about “The Streak” being in jeopardy before his name was drawn to buy tickets for NASCAR’s inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. But in recent years, he started counting the number of consecutive events attended.
Wife also involved
His wife, Therese, admitted years ago she “married into it.” They celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in October, which means she’s been by his side for more than half of those IMS visits.
“She’s a sacramentally bound fan,” he said. Eutsler has developed a lengthy list of track connections. He has been a 500 Festival volunteer since 1987, IPL 500 Festival Parade co-chair since 1995 and Indy 500 Parade of Bands volunteer since 1999. He served as an IndyCar Ministry Executive Committee member from 2009 to 2016. Since 2012, he’s been a Citizens’ Speedway Committee member, which includes he and his wife being lap prize sponsors. He’s also been an Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Club member since 2012 and is co-founder and chair of the Indiana Racing Memorial Association since 2014.
“I throw nothing away with a Speedway logo. I’ve got letters and ticket renewals sorted by postmark dates. If it comes out of here, I don’t throw it away. That’s just me,” Eutsler added.
He’s taken to heart the words of former longtime Indy 500 radio voice Sid Collins, who said: “People are taking one last look before they release their grasp of Indy. For some, this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, and others will be back.”
Once-in-a-lifetime immediately became a once-a-year endeavor and has since grown to five races this year.
“It is special when we come into these gates, whatever time of year,” Eutsler said.
Formula One legend Jim Clark won that 1965 Indy 500. A.J. Foyt was on the pole. Mario Andretti was named Rookie of the Year.