If you continue to read my short stories you will find that I grew up a race fan. From trips to the Indy speedway for time trials to the weekends at our local track, my family loved to sit in the grandstands and watch cars go fast.

So we were extremely happy when Indy Racing brought the Grand Prix to Cleveland in 1982. 

More than a decade later, we had become mainstays in the grandstands and with the Shima Buick Group as we helped transport cars for them during race weekend.

As the 1994 race closed in, I was the only family member without a ticket. Luckily my brother won a couple extra tickets from a Marlboro radio contest and he offered them to me. So I grabbed my buddy Stu to join the family for the race.

Several of us jumped into Mike’s minivan that morning to head to Burke Lakefront Airport, where they ran the race. Stu and I were to pick up our tickets at the Marlboro tent off the 9th Street exit. When we asked the cop for directions to the tent, he told us that all the tickets were gone and they had collapsed the tent already. Uh oh!

Mike had a Paddock Pass for his vehicle, so that’s where we headed next. At this point, we didn’t need personal tickets. We parked just outside of where they brought the cars for pre-race inspection. We got to chat with drivers and crew as they sat behind Mike’s van waiting in line to have their car inspected.

But the problem still remained. Stu and I were stuck in the Paddock Area because we didn’t have a grandstand pass. Of course, my father comes to the rescue.

He headed off to George Shima Buick over in the tent village where all the big sponsors set up hospitality areas. He returned 15 minutes later with good news. He had procured two Service and Guest passes.It helps to have connections.

These Service passes got us EVERYWHERE! We could walk around the grandstand area, the paddock area and private areas. The Guest pass allowed us access to the tent village where we drank and ate for free all day. There was even a moment when Stu and I were cutting across a huge line for something and into a restricted area. A security officer even challenged us, until we showed him our passes.

It was a weird start to an extremely fun filled day. I remember getting sunburn. I don’t remember who won the race itself that year. And I got to drive one of the Buicks back to Painesville after the race. 

Thanks for running out of tickets early, Marlboro.