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Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A Great Day at the Track

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

I had a blast in Indianapolis over the weekend. It was an amazing thrill to serve as Grand Marshal of the Indianapolis 500 parade. I was in the pace car for a lap before the race, going around the track at 120 MPH. Wow, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, with 300,000 fans screaming, in anticipation of a great race.

It was such an honor since past Grand Marshals included Peyton Manning, Lance Armstrong, Morgan Freeman and so many others. It was so exciting, I couldn't believe it.

My family came with me to Indianapolis, and my five grandchildren were having the time of their lives. My wife Lorraine, my daughters Terri and Sherri, my son-in-laws Thomas and Chris ... my friends, it was just so, so special.

I got to meet the 33 drivers in the race and I had a greater appreciation for what they did. It was a thrill to see the likes of Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon and company and enjoyed the moments when they were honored at the parade.

Indianapolis fans have such a passion and love for their sports. They enjoy auto racing and obviously the Hoosier state has great hoop fans. I can't wait for the Final Four to be back there in 2010!

I cannot thank Kirk Hendrix, the president of the Indianapolis 500 Festival, and Jeff White of the committee enough for making me feel so special. My family and I had such a phenomenal time there.

There were celebrities galore. I got to meet the reigning Miss America, Katie Stam; actor Josh Duhamel from the show Las Vegas and All My Children; actor Mario Lopez, who hosts the show Extra; Kate Flannery and Melora Hardin from The Office; Mary-Lynn Rajskub from 24; Dr. Lisa Masterson from The Doctors; Indiana Pacers players Roy Hibbert, Jeff Foster and Stephen Graham; Adam Vinatieri of the Colts; Olympic gymnasts Bridget Sloan and Samantha Peszek; and Dancing with the Stars professionals Mark Ballas (fresh off his win with Shawn Johnson) and Derek Hough.

I was like a kid in a candy store. I wanted their autographs, baby!

I had a great dinner at St. Elmo's, where I ran into Bill Polian. I loved talking with him; he has done an incredible job over the years. Florence Henderson and Jim Nabors were in town too, with Nabors singing Back In Indiana Again before the race.

It was also great to catch up with Brent Musberger, who was in town to host the ABC coverage of the race.

What a weekend! Taking pictures with the drivers, having it all soak in with 300,000 fans watching a major sporting event. It is something I will never forget.