Michiana in the stands and the pits at Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Folks from across Michiana made their way to the greatest spectacle in racing at the 96th running of the Indy 500 on Sunday as fans and participants.

Tim Lewis, who runs Tim’s Tours, brought a bus load of people from South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, Elkhart and Osceola to see the great race he’s been going to for 30-years.

“The first time I came down here I was in fourth grade, it was with my Dad and it was the first time that A.J. Foyt won the race,” Lewis explained.  “That has been like the standard ever since for me.”

Lewis explained that the festivities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Indy 500 have changed significantly in the decades he’s been attending the race.

“Oh yeah,” Lewis exclaimed. “25 or 30-years ago it was hardly safe for women and children to be here, there was a lot of raucous activity in the infield.”

The 2012 race is the second year Lewis has brought bus loads on folks from Michiana to the race to let them experience the excitement from the stands.  However, he didn’t know that another Michiana native has had an even closer view of the great race for years.

Todd DeNeve, born and raised in Mishawaka, has been on pit crews at Chip Ganassi Racing for years.

“Race season is pretty busy but we can make it back up there,” DeNeve said about Mishawaka.  “A lot of good memories.”

At the 2011 and 2012 Indy 500 races he served as fueler for driver Scott Dixon.

“I oversee all the guys that set up the pits, truck drivers getting everything here to there,” DeNeve explained.  “On race day I fuel the car, we have to hopefully put in 19-gallons in six seconds or a little bit less.”

The race circuit takes him from place to place, but he explained that the Indy 500 and being back home again in Indiana is always significant.

“I love being a Hoosier, you know, you grew up listening to it (the Indy 500) every May and to be here is surreal, you know, to be actually the guy going over the wall and fueling the car,” DeNeve described.  “Sometimes it doesn’t seem real, I feel pretty lucky to be doing it.”

The fueler from Mishawaka was on Scott Dixon’s team when the driver won the Indy 500 in 2008.

“That’s pretty surreal, it’s an amazing feeling,” DeNeve tried to explain the elation at an Indy 500 victory.  “I can’t really describe, you know, it’s…yeah, it’s pretty surreal.”

Veteran Indy 500 fan Tim Lewis had begun the 2012 race planning on rooting for other drivers, but once he heard the man fueling Scott Dixon’s car was from Mishawaka he knew who he wanted to win.

“No kidding?” Lewis asked when he heard about DeNeve.  “Well then I would have to be a Scott Dixon fan.”

Dixon ended up coming in second behind teammate and race winner Dario Franchitti, Todd DeNeve was among the team celebrating the victory of the Chip Ganassi drivers.

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