Local Man's Side Gig: Pit Supervisor at the Indy 500

By Scott Sarvay
By John W. Davis

May 30, 2011 Updated May 30, 2011 at 4:48 PM EST

INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - More than a quarter million fans packed the Speedway and watched Dan Wheldon win the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500.

There was one fan from Fort Wayne who was closer to the action than your typical fan.

At his 9 to 5, J.R. Dickey is a salesman at Nowak Supply in Fort Wayne.

However, for the past 37 years, Dickey has had a side gig at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

His uncle was the person who introduced him to the Speedway when he was about ten years old.

When Dickey was old enough to work, his uncle told him to apply.

His first job, taking tickets in the penthouse suites.

"Back then, the supervisor could pick a handful of yellow shirts. When there was an accident on track, we were allowed, we went out and actually helped pick up debris," said Indy 500 Pit Supervisor J.R. Dickey.

But soon, Dickey became a volunteer firefighter in Ossian.

That's when another opportunity came his way at the Speedway.

"One of the fireman, that was on safety two, he said "J.R., you're a fireman aren't ya" I said sure. His name was Max, and he said why don't you come on the other side of here, on the Fire Department side. So I've been doing it ever since," said Dickey.

Dickey eventually moved up to Pit Supervisor.

He's in charge of making sure all the firefighters are in position in case something goes wrong on pit row.

"The first question is oh, can you get me in the pits where the action is at... the answer is no," laughed Dickey.

"We're not allowed to do that," explained Dickey.

On race day, Dickey arrives at the track around 4:30 a.m. to beat the traffic.

He does not leave until pit road is cleared, usually 12 to 14 hours later.

"A lot of long hours. If we have raid days, we're out there drying the track. "We're out there drying the pits and getting them ready for the cars," said Dickey.

Meanwhile, after 37 years, Dickey said working at the Indy 500 has not gotten old.

"It just stands the hair up, on the back of your neck and it's very exciting," concluded Dickey.




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