Indy 500 Tailgate
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When team captains Glenn Weiglein and Brett Long walked off the football field for the last time their senior year, they never would have dreamed they would still be teaming up 40-plus years later to host an annual tailgate party at the Indy 500.

Long and his father had three extra tickets for the race in 1980. Weiglein received an invite from Long to attend the race that year. “I didn’t know if I wanted to go to a car race,” Weiglein said. “I talked to my brother and my dad, and we decided we would go. “So, the five of us piled in the car and went over to the race.”

That decision to make the drive from Cincinnati to attend the race kicked off a four-plus decade tradition for the friends.

This year, like the previous 23 years, eight Turpin HS graduates – spread across the U.S. from Ohio to California and points in between – reconvened for their annual weekend of camping out, people-watching, wiffle ball, grilling, eating, all night poker and watching “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing”.

This year was different, though. This year the old gang brought along five of their sons.

“The tailgating started with four of us in the mid-eighties—me, my brother Jay, Brett, and Mike Racer,” said Weiglien. The tailgate party added four more guys over the next decade or so: Tim Racer, Gary Michaels, Mike Roof, and Bob Roof. This core group of eight has been going strong since 2000.

“Sometimes someone’s kid has a graduation or something, and there are only seven of us,” Weiglein said. “We will usually add someone in those years, and it’s so fun to watch their face the first time they see the 500.”

“They will have goosebumps and are shaking their head like; I can’t believe what I’m watching.”

The group’s original tailgate location in the mid-80s was in a parking lot outside of the track between turns three and four called “the tank.” After 15 years at that party spot, a change in camping policy at the speedway forced the group to find another locale.

Looking for a new spot, Weiglein and his crew settled in at the Coca-Cola lot for about 15 years. The Coke lot in those days could best be described as a weekend-long party. “Man, we have seen some things there,” he said.

“We would set our alarms early before the bomb would go off so we could wake up and watch the cars race inside like a demolition derby,” Weiglein said. “Cars would hit and knock each other out of the way because they were trying to get a good seat in the infield.” Unfortunately, another speedway change forced the clan to seek another spot.

For the last eight years, the group’s tailgate and camping home has been close to the old “tank” location.

“There’s this little elementary school right off of 30th Street,” Weiglein said. “We’re the first people there on Saturday mornings so we can get the goalposts on the football field because they help us with our tarps.”

“When we get there, we get set up and have a few beverages and maybe eat a hot dog or burger, and then we play wiffle ball,” Weiglein said.

A significant part of the tailgate over the years has been the fiercely contested wiffle ball game. Traditionally the game has seen the “older” guys take on the “younger” guys. The term “older” is used loosely as they are only two years older. “We literally beat the older guys every time for years,” Weiglein said. “They finally beat us, and we took a break.” This year the game was reinstated with the father squaring off against the sons.

As for the tailgate food, the meal planning and preparation go like clockwork. “My brother gets hamburgers and hot dogs. My buddy brings the grill,” Weiglein said. Everyone else has something they are responsible for, but all are responsible for the weekend libations.

“I’m in charge of spicy brats and spicy chicken wings,” he said. “I literally inject my brats and wings with a Tabasco cayenne and Tabasco scorpion sauce formula.”

“I pre-fry my hot wings in oil so that when we are in the middle of tailgating, you just toss them on the grill,” he said. “They only take maybe ten minutes to crisp up.”

After the wiffle ball game, the guys usually get down to the business of eating the spicy brats and wings. “It takes the guys fifteen minutes to finish the first bite,” Weiglein says proudly. “They start sweating and coughing, and then they are ready for their second bite. “That’s how hot they are.”

With maturity and experience comes wisdom. “There is always a bunch of college students there that forget stuff,” Weiglein said. “They see us old guys and come over and ask for ketchup and things like that.”

That’s when the wily veterans begin their bartering that has been honed to perfection over the years. “We tell them if they bring over a six-pack, we will trade for some stuff they need.”

“We always bring extra to help the young guys out,” Weiglein said with a laugh.

The group usually polishes off the last of the brats and wings as the sun starts to go down. At that point, the old stories, larger than the year before, are retold.

“It is camaraderie, and everyone is in such a good mood,” Weiglien says. “Everyone has a great time. We really make an effort to keep this tailgating tradition alive.”

After the guys survive the night-long poker match they try to catch a few hours of sleep and “shower” before heading off to the track to watch the Indy 500.

“It’s unbelievable that we’ve been able to keep it together,” he said. “Now we’re bringing five of our sons this year to pass the tradition on.”

And for the record, the dads emerged victorious by a score of 9-6 in the wiffle ball game and hold bragging rights for the next 365 days.