Indy 500 fanatics whose streaks had been snapped


After the discontentment set in, the inventive juices began flowing. Ornery. Cunning. Sneaky. Sly concepts.

“Loopy issues. I used to be excited about renting a scorching air balloon, a scissor elevate. I even Googled how a lot it value to shop for an Indiana state trooper uniform,” stated Joe Malia. “Clearly that one was once a funny story.”

However Malia’s craving to have the option to observe the Indy 500 in particular person — person who might be held with out fanatics because of COVID-19 issues — was once no funny story.

And so, he began plotting. And the plotting paid off.

On Sunday, as tens of millions watch the race on NBC from their recliners, Malia might be sitting atop a platform just about 40 ft prime simply previous the fence across the monitor.

He’s going to be in a tree overlooking the backstretch. He’s going to get to sniff, pay attention and really feel the roar of the engines.

It’ll be virtually as just right because the previous 39 races he is been to. Now not somewhat. However beautiful darn shut.

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With an excellent view of the again stretch, Joe Malia, of Chicago, stands in a makeshift treehouse outdoor the monitor at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. Malia, who has attended 39 Indianapolis 500 races, says he could not now not be on the race for yr 40. “I paid them for this,” he stated of the house owner’s belongings and tree. “They constructed this for me. It is truly the one spot it’s worthwhile to do that. It took some investigating.” Malia says he’s rooting for Ed Wood worker Racing motive force Ed Wood worker, the “place of origin boy.” (Picture: Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar)

That mild bulb second

Malia is from Peotone, Illinois, the south suburbs of Chicago. He went to his first race at 17 in 1981.

“I went there for the birthday celebration,” he stated. “A few years later I spotted there was once a lovely cool race occurring. I fell in love.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, Malia admits, one of the first things he thought of was the Indy 500.

“I was thinking, ‘Geez, I hope it doesn’t do nothing to the race,'” said Malia. “It is my favorite day of the year, no doubt, about like thousands of other people.”

He started telling friends and family that he would be going to the race. They knew Malia and his outlandish, quirky ways. They never for one minute doubted he would be there.

After the hot air balloon and other antics didn’t pan out, Malia e-mailed Dale Coyne Racing. He would be glad to volunteer for the month of May for the team, no charge, he told them. That was a no-go, though Malia was impressed the team responded almost immediately to his request.

And then came that light bulb moment. As he was watching qualifications, there was an onboard camera, and he kept seeing this tree. It was right there hovering over the track on the backstretch. Malia had to find that tree.

He went to Google and mapped IMS. There was a video that let him walk the track virtually. It was OK, but not inclusive enough for Malia to determine exactly where the tree was located.

On Monday, he got in his car and drove to the Speedway, took the grounds bus tour and went down on the track.

“I could see the tree from the track,” said Malia, “and if I could see the tree from the track then I could certainly see the track from the tree.”

Now, it was time to find out who owned that tree.

‘I know I’m going to find a way’

The knock on the door was answered, but the man who owned the house didn’t speak English. Malia tried to tell him what he wanted.

He would pay the homeowner to build a platform in his backyard tree. At first, Malia wasn’t sure it was going to happen. Then the man’s daughter came out and helped translate.

To Malia’s glee, the answer was yes. The homeowner took Malia to see the tree, which is so close to the track that there is a 10-foot tall barbed wire fence right by it to separate the yard from the Speedway.

Malia gave the homeowner $100 to start building the platform. And like some sort of IndyCar omen, the man just happened to have wood lying by his garage.

“I gave him money right there and said, ‘Listen, if it works it works. If it doesn’t, keep the money and have a good day.'” Malia said.

He then offered another $100 to the man when the platform was finished. When Malia got the pictures this week, he liked it so much, he gave the homeowner $200 more.

Malia is used to sitting in the Turn 1 penthouse for the race, what he calls the best seat in the house. This year, he may just have found the best seat in the house again.

He came to test the platform Friday. Malia was thrilled with it.

When he told his wife, Carol, his plan to find a way to see the Indy 500 in person, she told him: “You think you’re the only guy that’s going to try to figure out a way?”

“No,” he told her. “There are a lot of people that are going to try, but I know that I’m going to find a way.”

And he did.

Follow IndyStar sports reporter Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow. Achieve her by means of e mail:


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