Even car racing fans may be surprised to learn that in the 1920s a poem would grace the pages of the race-day program. But then, what better way to get the juices flowing, amid the exhaust, screaming engines and checkered flags, than a few lines of verse?
In case by now you didn’t know it,
the Indy 500 has brought back its poet.
It’s the 100th running of the famed car race. So it seemed a good time to wax historic and poetic at the same time. Indiana University graduate student Adam Henze has been declared the official track poet for this year’s race. Henze will perform his poem “For Those Who Love Fast, Loud Things” this weekend during qualifications for the Memorial Day race. “I just think it’s really, really cool,” Henze told WFIU.
Henze’s poem was selected from some 200 other submissions from wordsmiths and race fans.
But it seems that Henze’s success may be due more to his lyrical talents than his deep knowledge of Indy car racing.
“I don’t know anything about open-wheel racing,” Henze said. “I’m a poet.”
To do some research, Henze asked a friend who is a big racing fan, “why do you obsess over this?” Henze says his friend answered, “‘I don’t know man, people in Indianapolis just love fast, loud things’ and I was like that’s perfect, so you know, that became my title.”
To help get you fired up for the race, here is Henze’s poem in its entirety:
For Those Who Love Fast, Loud Things
This poem is for the track folk who just love the smell of Ethanol.
For the Carb Day cut sleeve sporters, the Snake Pit dancers,
and Coke Lot campers with bald eagle bandanas.
This is an anthem for the hearts that’ve surged at the scope of the Pagoda.
For the hands that know the feeling of slapping the North Vista tunnel ceiling.
For the lips that whisper along with Florence Henderson when she sings,
yes. This poem is for the 500 fans who love fast, loud things.
The hot dog chompers and buttermilk sippers, and
granddads with ledger pads in suede cases and locked zippers.
This is for every kid that’s stood along the stretch—with toes
on top of a cooler and their fingers gripping the fence.
For the open-wheel gear heads, parade wavers, and Legends Day fans.
For the moms smeared with baby sunscreen changing diapers in the stands.
This poem is for the Brickyard pickers, marching band
clappers, the bucket drummers and gasoline alley cats.
This is for the pit crews, the announcers, the flyby pilots in the sky.
For the girl who’d never seen her dad cry until the day Dan Wheldon died.
This poem is for the Andy Griffith neighbors, the binocular
watchers, and the concession yellers hawking cold brews.
This poem is for every shoulder with a Memorial Day tattoo.
This is for the drivers willing to go bumper to bumper, for the flag
flappers, and the earbud-in-clutched palm fist pumpers.
This is your poem Indianapolis, taking the turn with direct injection. Race fans,
thank you for being the sparks that start the engines.
Dedicated to Evan, and all IndyCar fans, 2016
—Adam Henze, Bloomington, IN