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Classic racecars elicit memories


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Herman Johnson swears he’s grown forgetful in his old age.

But the 90-year-old remembers that ear-splitting day more than 60 years ago, when he and other Cummins Engine Co. employees sat together in the stands, pulling for Jimmy Jackson and his Cummins-built racecar at the 1950 Indianapolis 500.

Johnson saw the car again Saturday at the Columbus Speedway/25th Street Raceway Old Timers’ Reunion, an annual display of classic cars that drew hundreds of race enthusiasts to the Community Building at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds.

“I wanted to see it again,” said Johnson, who wore on his shirt the same Cummins button that gained him a reserved seat in the stands. “It brings back some memories just looking at it.”

Classic racecars. Memorabilia. Race-themed magazines and books. Even a concession stand with pretzels and pie. It was all there during an event that has become a tradition in Columbus.

Jerry Castor, one of the event founders, milled about to talk racing next to cars that included the Bullet/Toyota that Kyle Larson drove to victory in the 72nd annual Turkey Night Grand Prix.

Among the most popular cars at the event were the Cummins car, that started 32nd, and another car that started 33rd in the 1950 Indianapolis 500.

Jackson, who drove the the Cummins car, called the Green Hornet, climbed to 16th before a shaft broke in the car’s supercharger and knocked Jackson out of the race.

Johnny McDowell, who was in the other car, finished in 18th place.

A third car that occupied the same back starting row of that big race so long ago was supposed to be at Saturday’s event, too, Castor said. But he said the owner of that car lives in Manchester, N.H., and couldn’t make it to Columbus because of snow in that part of the country.

But the cars that did make it drew plenty of attention on their own.

Larry Cummins, 72, and his sister, Carol Legan, 76, both of Columbus, were there to see the Green Hornet, which their dad, Don Cummins, helped design as the chief engineer.

The siblings, who attended the 1950 Indy 500 as children, said they are proud of their father’s link to the race car. But both said they have few memories of what happened in the race.

John Beeker, 74, of Hope, said he has been a race fan since he was young and loves to attend the annual car show to reminisce. He said he remembers watching the 1950 Indy race on television, years before he went to work for Cummins.

Bud Dinn, 64, of Columbus, said seeing the old cars brings back memories of his uncle Jim Harris, who used to serve as the flag man for races at an old track in Columbus.

“I especially like the roadsters,” Dinner said. “They’re beautiful cars.”

Larry Christy, 68, who usually comes to the annual event by himself, attended this year with his grandson, Justin Zollman, 21.

Zollman, a modern-day racing fan, said he loves seeing the old car styles to compare them to how they look today.

“I’m glad I came,” he said.

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