Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, May 24, 2015, 1:04 p.m.
I attended the Indianapolis 500 for five consecutive years, 1988-92, before I wrote about 20 consecutive Coca-Cola 600s. Perhaps as a result, I was always struck by the differing visions of Memorial Day.
Indy is the playing of “Taps,” the Purdue University Marching Band, and “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
Charlotte is the annual Invasion of the Trioval.
Indy is restrained. Charlotte is flamboyant.
Once, many years ago, soldiers were depicting some military engagement at Charlotte. Helicopters were landing. Bright blue smoke was swirling in the air. A plywood hut was exploding, and soldiers were crawling across the trioval grass and firing machine guns, thankfully loaded with blanks, in the direction of the grandstands.
In the press box, Kenny Bruce, then working for the Kingsport, Tennessee, paper, I believe, turned around and said, “Those boys better be glad this isn’t Bristol. They’d have a fight on their hands.”
My favorite Charlotte moment, though, was in the fall. Ernie Irvan, whose injuries from several serious accidents had forced him reluctantly to retire, delivered a speech similar to the Lou Gehrig “I consider myself the luckiest man on earth” speech, and few in the house had dry eyes.
The P.A. announcer, the late Bill Connell, fixed that. Ernie had barely finished when Connell’s voice boomed, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Miss Chiquita Banana to deliver the four most famous words in motorsports.”
Miss Banana, who wore a huge basket of bananas on her head, drew immediate comparisons to Carmen Miranda. (Kids, consult Wikipedia.) If it had been Miranda, who, unfortunately, died in 1955, she would have said, “Jeetelmeen, stahrt jour aynjuns!”
It sort of wrecked the moment.
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