By Lindsay Eckert
Tribune lifestyle editor
After 18 interviews, copious note-taking, endless discussions and picture browsing for a story about something bigger than its parts — i.e. Kokomo Speedway — is nearly finished. To be honest, I’d never been to Kokomo Speedway until last year. I grew up watching the Indy 500 and picking a name from a hat, but my racing knowledge ended there. But, when you fall in love with someone who fell in love with Kokomo Speedway — most likely when he was still in the womb as his mom watched his dad race — your knowledge increases, exponentially.
On Sunday, Kokomo Speedway will open its doors after hibernating beneath the snow, cold and rain and the memories that were buried under blankets of white will crop up as the cars file into the parking lot. Handshakes will be exchanged, and a reunion of everyone you haven’t seen for the past seven months will be underway — usually with a beer or three.
During my first exposure of Kokomo Speedway, I loved it. I loved the tradition of everyone nestled in the same seat they settled into decades before. I loved how people knew each other as who they were — not the version they wanted to be seen as.
There’s something unique about a place where people’s lives evolve, but there is a Sunday night window they refuse to close. If they move, they come back for it. If they have work in the morning, they stay up for it. To have a spot of permanence and tradition in an unpredictable world, is what makes Sunday night under a setting sun at Kokomo Speedway so special.
It’s hard to find out how a place like Kokomo Speedway has developed such a “feel.” How it’s become a fixture in the lives who live it each week. I’m not sure you could ever objectively — it’s something different for everyone — find where the “feel” of it came from. Some claim its rich history, others say the famous names who’ve plowed through its dirt oval. But, the one word I heard throughout every interview I conducted for Sunday’s story was: family. Not one interview ended without the mention of family. There were tie-ins to tradition, respect for the sport of racing. But, it was family that made the wheels in people’s minds spin. When I asked questions about memories, the spark was lit and the word family was the basis of the flame that ignited in the stories that were sure to follow.
The process of this story was inspiring because the people made it that way. Hearing what a place meant to them because of the lives they shared it with and seeing how it stuck with them was something that restored my faith in the balance of the planet. The fact that on the outside, they’re there to watch a race. But, on the inside, the true story is they’re there to see the people they’ve seen their whole lives, they’re there to celebrate a tradition their grandpa celebrated. It’s a tradition I loved instantly and grew to appreciate quickly; getting glimpses into why this particular place means so much to so many has made this hands-down one of my favorite stories. Thank you for letting me tell it.
[friday] editor/ Writing a story about stories