INDIANAPOLIS - On Sunday, race fans will head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but one fan will arguably be the biggest fan of all. Russ Van Treese, 90, has attended every race since he was born -- all 87 of them.
His loyalty has not gone unnoticed. The IMS is well aware and sent him a certificate to recognize his 87th race.
“You should’ve seen him that day, he about flipped. I sure did, that was fantastic,” said Donace Van Treese.
Van Treese was 7 months old when his parents took him to his first Indianapolis 500. The first race he actually remembers attending was a few years later.
“1930, I do remember the number 4 car of Billy Arnold. I can remember that and I envisioned myself as a kid being Billy Arnold for a long time you know,” Van Treese said.
He dreamt of being an IndyCar driver, flying across the finish line and taking the checkered flag.
Instead he decided to fly in the Air Force while World War II was underway.
For the next four years, he didn’t miss a thing at the track, because the war red-flagged the race.
“I love to hear engines. I love that. I love automobiles. I love to hear the engines. I love, I love speed,” he said.
Van Treese not only attends race day, he also makes it a point to show up on Pole Day.
This year, three generations of the Van Treese family sat in the stands. His son David has sat beside him for more than 50 Indy 500s.
“I just enjoy spending time with him and as he gets older, it’s more precious to me,” David said.
Over the years, Van Treese has watched history unfold right before his eyes.
He remembers following his favorite driver, two-time winner Bill Vukovich, who died in a 1955 crash while defending his title.
He said he will always remember filming the 1964 crash of David McDonald on the fourth turn.
“Next thing I know, there’s this big explosion and I’m guessing from the explosion, his car was on fire of course, but I’m guessing that’s when Eddie Sachs hit him,” Van Treese said.
Van Treese said that triumph always outweighs the tragedy he’s seen over last 9 decades which is what brings him back year after year.
He said nothing will keep him at home on race day.
“Probably the day they have to carry me out of here on a stretcher. That’ll probably be when I give up,” Van Treese said. “As long as it’s there, and as long as I’m here, I’ll be there.”