Speedway, IN – There’s no mistaking the longstanding connections between the Indiana town of Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although the community of 12,000 on the west side of Indy operates independently of the city, its elementary schools are named after the four original investors who built the track, and the high school’s teams compete as the Sparkplugs.
Those deep ties are making it possible for the Speedway High School Class of 2020 to hold its graduation ceremony Saturday (May 30) at the IMS. And with more than 250,000 permanent seats for friends and family of the 125 graduates, there’s plenty of room for social distancing.
A familiar fixture at the high school — a 1957 Kurtis Kraft 500G owned by the IMS Museum and loaned to the school for display in its lobby — will be parked at the Yard of Bricks where students will receive their diplomas.
Former Indy 500 chief mechanic Rick Duman, a 1975 Speedway High School grad who grew up on Georgetown Road across from the track’s 4th turn, was asked to get the car prepped and ready for its new moment of glory. He owns Turn 4 Restorations in nearby Brownsburg.
“It became a tradition for graduates to pose by the car for pictures after the ceremony at the school,” Duman said. “I got an email from J.P. Claybourn [assistant principal] after the speedway approved having graduation there, asking if there was a way we could have the car at the track. After the Class of 2020 lost out on so much, we definitely wanted to make it happen.”
As the son of 1960s Indy driver Ronnie Duman, Rick is well acquainted with the car and its history.
“It raced in at least four Indy 500s and finished in the top 10 for two of those,” he said. “Ninth in 1958 and eighth in 1959 with driver Eddie Johnson, who completed all 200 laps both times — quite an accomplishment back in the day. Bill Cheesbourg drove it in 1957 and Dempsey Wilson in 1960, but mechanical problems took it out of those races.”
According to the school, the plan for Saturday is to have graduates and their families gather at the high school in their vehicles and form a procession through town to the track. Each graduate would then drive on the track and stop at the Yard of Bricks to receive his or her diploma standing by the Kurtis Kraft.
IMS President Doug Boles said that having a graduation at the track will be a first. The school’s small size — and ongoing support of the track — made the unique arrangement possible.
“Having commencement there means people will be crossing the start/finish line for their personal victory,” he said.
The Speedway Class of 2020, Boles added, will be able to say that “they were the only winners at the IMS this May.”