GREENFIELD — Lined up in the hot May sun outside of a gift shop at the most popular track in the world, Dave Willard began to scheme.

Standing with his older brothers, Don and Dwight, a question surfaced that seemed nearly unfathomable.

“If he (Dwight) can name all the winners of the (Indianapolis) 500, will you give me a free T-shirt,” Dave asked the man working at the souvenir shop approximately 16 years ago.

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After reassuring the siblings that it was downright impossible, the worker picked four random years of the race, which began in 1911.

Dwight named all four winners.

“He knows them all,” Dave said.

But then what would one expect from someone who has seen 59 consecutive Indy 500s?

On Sunday for the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, Dwight will get up before 3 a.m. — part of his yearly routine — and journey to the track for his 60th-straight race. He has attended every single running since 1957.

And like in most cases, Dwight, 73, was introduced to the race by family — specifically his father Jess. The two went together for the first time when Dwight was just 13 years old. Although not the biggest sports fan, Dwight, who graduated from Greenfield High School, took a liking to fast cars furiously racing round and round in circles.

“It was the speed,” he said.

A Family Routine

Five years later in 1962, Don, who will see his 55th consecutive Indy 500 on Sunday, joined the family fun. Then came Dave, who is on his 53rd race, two years later.

A family routine was born.

Because of this passion, the Willard brothers have become creatures of habit. Each morning, the trio meets with around a dozen retired men, like themselves, for coffee at the local McDonald’s between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.

And recently, those talks have been centered around the biggest Sunday of their year — the Indy 500.

Dwight worked at Chrysler for 36 years as a machine operator before settling down for good while Don (Knightstown) and Dave (Greenfield-Central) are both retired teachers with 42 and 39 years of experience, respectively. The Willard brothers do everything full throttle — or for a very long time.

After rolling out of bed and across U.S. 40 to the track Sunday morning, the brothers and their families will venture to the same parking lot for breakfast before scattering to their seats. A hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs and biscuits and gravy holds them over until it’s time to enter the track.

Dwight will be with Don in Turn 4 at the race Sunday, the same spot they’ve sat for the past 25 years, while Dave is planning for his usual Turn 3 seats.

“There’s a lot of us that keep coming back,” Dwight said, who has two daughters. “After, we go back and have a picnic and talk about the race.”

Then after eventually making it back to Greenfield later that night, the brothers will try and catch the replay on television.

“We try to stay awake for it,” Dave joked.

And then the anticipation begins to build for next season.

Then and now

Although thousands of fans consistently visit the track each year, few have had the opportunity to see the Indy 500 evolve like Dwight.

In his first year at the track, the race was called the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes. Sam Hanks, who won that year, was the first driver to take home a purse of more than $100,000, according to

It wasn’t until 1981 that the “International Sweepstakes” name was dropped and just called the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

All the fine details, even the popular flyover, have been altered and finely tuned. And Dwight has seen it all. However, his favorite flyover included seeing a B-2 Spirit, also known as the stealth bomber, for the first time, although, surprisingly, he could not remember the exact year.

“That was a good memory for us,” he said.

This year’s winner — which Dwight could really care less about — should take home more than $2 million. The race also is sold out for the first time in recent years and will be televised live.

“I like them all anymore,” Dwight said, admitting it’s become hard to keep up with every team and driver over six decades of racing.

Juan Pablo Montoya is the defending champion while James Hinchcliffe, after an injury last season during qualifications, took the pole for this year’s race.

Magical Memories

Thousands of memories accumulate during 60 years at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but for Dwight, a few years stick out above the rest.

He remembers the 1960 Indy 500 well and said it was one of the best, in terms of racing, as Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward dueled it out to the finish. The race also featured a then-record 29 lead changes, which stood firm until 2012.

He also remembers the 1985 race, when Danny Sullivan did a complete 360 and kept driving, only to eventually take first.

The 76th running of the Indy 500 in 1992 was thrilling, too, in Dwight’s mind as winner Al Unser Jr. edged second-place Scott Goodyear at the finish line. It still stands as the closest finish (.043 seconds) in the race’s history.

And although the cars have developed through the years as well, Dwight always will find himself taking a liking to what was familiar in the beginning.

“They are pretty awesome now,” he said. “But I was always a roadster fan.”

But how long his impressive streak will continue, only Dwight and his health can guess. One thing is certain, though. He’ll be back again next year.

And so will his brothers — even if a free T-shirt isn’t in the picture.

“We just keep it going,” Dwight said.

From the Past

The Indy 500 Winners List

Year;Driver;Start;Chassis/Engine;Avg. MPH

2015;Juan Pablo Montoya;15;Dallara/Chevrolet;161.341

2014;Ryan Hunter-Reay;19;Dallara/Honda;186.563

2013;Tony Kanaan;12;Dallara/Chevrolet;187.433

2012;Dario Franchitti;16;Dallara/Honda;167.734

2011;Dan Wheldon;6;Dallara/Honda;170.265

2010;Dario Franchitti;3;Dallara/Honda;161.623

2009;Helio Castroneves;1;Dallara/Honda;150.318

2008;Scott Dixon;1;Dallara/Honda;143.567

2007;Dario Franchitti;3;Dallara/Honda;151.774

2006;Sam Hornish;Jr.;1;Dallara/Honda;157.085

2005;Dan Wheldon;16;Dallara/Honda;157.603

2004;Buddy Rice;1;G;Force/Honda;138.518

2003;Gil de Ferran;10;G;Force/Toyota;156.291

2002;Helio Castroneves;13;Dallara/Chevrolet;166.499

2001;Helio Castroneves;11;Dallara/Oldsmobile;141.574

2000;Juan Pablo;Montoya;2;Dallara/Oldsmobile;167.607

1999;Kenny Brack;8;Dallara/Aurora;153.176

1998;Eddie Cheever;Jr.;17;Dallara/Aurora;145.155

1997;Arie Luyendyk;1;G;Force/Aurora;145.827

1996;Buddy Lazier;5;Reynard/Ford;147.956

1995;Jacques Villeneuve;5;Reynard/Ford;153.616

1994;Al Unser Jr.;1;Penske/Mercedes;160.872

1993;Emerson Fittipaldi;9;Penske/Chevrolet;157.207

1992;Al Unser Jr.;12;Galmer/Chevrolet;134.477

1991;Rick Mears;1;Penske/Chevrolet;176.457

1990;Arie Luyendyk;3;Lola/Chevrolet;185.981

1989;Emerson Fittipaldi;3;Penske/Chevrolet;167.581

1988;Rick Mears;1;Penske/Chevrolet;144.809

1987;Al Unser;20;March/Cosworth;162.175

1986;Bobby Rahal;4;March/Cosworth;170.722

1985;Danny Sullivan;8;March/Cosworth;152.982

1984;Rick Mears;3;March/Cosworth;163.612

1983;Tom Sneva;4;March/Cosworth;162.117

1982;Gordon Johncock;5;Wildcat/Cosworth;162.029

1981;Bobby Unser;1;Penske/Cosworth;139.084

1980;Johnny Rutherford;1;Chaparral/Cosworth;142.862

1979;Rick Mears;1;Penske/Cosworth;158.899

1978;Al Unser;5;Lola/Cosworth;161.363

1977;A.J. Foyt;Jr.;4;Coyote/Foyt;161.331

1976;Johnny Rutherford;1;McLaren/Offy;148.725

1975;Bobby Unser;3;Eagle/Offy;149.213

1974;Johnny Rutherford;25;McLaren/Offy;158.589

1973;Gordon Johncock;11;Eagle/Offy;159.036

1972;Mark Donohue;3;McLaren/Offy;162.962

1971;Al Unser;5;Colt/Ford;157.735

1970;Al Unser;1;Colt/Ford;155.749

1969;Mario Andretti;2;Hawk/Ford;156.867

1968;Bobby Unser;1;Eagle/Offy;152.882

1967;A.J. Foyt;4;Coyote/Ford;151.207

1966;Graham Hill;15;Lola/Ford;144.317

1965;Jim Clark;2;Lotus/Ford;150.686

1964;A.J. Foyt;Jr.;5;Watson/Offy;147.35

1963;Parnelli Jones;1;Watson/Offy;143.137

1962;Rodger Ward;2;Watson/Offy;140.293

1961;A.J. Foyt;7;Trevis/Offy;139.13

1960;Jim Rathman;2;Watson/Offy;138.767

1959;Rodger Ward;6;Watson/Offy;135.857

1958;Jimmy Bryan;7;Salih/Offy;133.791

1957;Sam Hanks;13;Salih/Offy;135.601

1956;Pat Flaherty;1;Watson/Offy;128.49

1955;Bob Sweikert;14;KK500C/Offy;128.213

1954;Bill Vukovich;19;KK500A/Offy;130.84

1953;Bill Vukovich;1;KK500A/Offy;128.74

1952;Troy Ruttman;7;Kuzma/Offy;128.922

1951;Lee Wallard;2;Kurtis/Offy;126.244

1950;Johnnie Parsons;5;Kurtis/Offy;124.002

1949;Bill Holland;4;Deidt/Offy;121.327

1948;Mauri Rose;3;Deidt/Offy;119.814

1947;Mauri Rose;3;Deidt/Offy;116.338

1946;George Robson;15;Adams/Sparks;114.82

1945;Not Held;(WWII)

1944;Not Held;(WWII)

1943;Not Held;(WWII)

1942;Not Held;(WWII)

1941;Floyd Davis/Mauri;Rose;17;Wetteroth/Offy;115.117

1940;Wilbur Shaw;2;Maserati/Maserati;114.277

1939;Wilbur Shaw;3;Maserati/Maserati;115.035

1938;Floyd Roberts;1;Wetteroth/Miller;117.2

1937;Wilbur Shaw;2;Shaw/Offy;113.58

1936;Louis Meyer;28;Stevens/Miller;109.069

1935;Kelly Petillo;22;Wetteroth/Offy;106.24

1934;Bill Cummings;10;Miller/Miller;104.863

1933;Louis Meyer;6;Miller/Miller;104.162

1932;Fred Frame;27;Wetteroth/Miller;104.144

1931;Louis Schneider;13;Stevens/Miller;96.629

1930;Billy Arnold;1;Summers/Miller;100.448

1929;Ray Keech;6;Miller/Miller;97.585

1928;Louis Meyer;13;Miller/Miller;99.482

1927;George Souders;22;Duesenberg/Duesenberg;97.545

1926;Frank Lockhart;20;Miller/Miller;95.904

1925;Peter DePaolo;2;Duesenberg/Duesenberg;101.127

1924;Joe Boyer/L.L.;Corum;21;Duesenberg/Duesenberg;98.234

1923;Tommy Milton;1;Miller/Miller;90.954

1922;Jimmy Murphy;1;Duesenberg/Miller;94.484

1921;Tommy Milton;20;Frontenac/Frontenac;89.621

1920;Gaston Chevrolet;6;Frontenac/Frontenac;88.618

1919;Howdy Wilcox;2;Peugeot/Peugeot;88.05



1916;Dario Resta;4;Peugeot/Peugeot;84.001

1915;Ralph DePalma;2;Mercedes/Mercedes;89.84

1914;Rene Thomas;15;Delage/Delage;82.474

1913;Jules Goux;7;Peugeot/Peugeot;75.933

1912;Joe Dawson;7;National/National;78.719

1911;Ray Harroun;28;Marmon/Marmon;74.602

Author photo
Kris Mills is a sports reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 317-477-3230 or