“The “All-Night Race Party” was a special radio program aired on 1070 WIBC/WFNI from 1997 to 2011, NightBeforethe500the night before the Indianapolis 500. Hosted by Mike Serowik, it featured classic replays of previous Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. Older races from the Mutual Radio Network were also aired in some years. It was a popular, albeit somewhat brief tradition of Indianapolis 500 weekend. It provided unique content for WIBC/WFNI on race eve, and it exposed the classic Indy 500 radio broadcasts to a new audience. In addition, it served to bring the classic radio broadcasts “out of the vault” and back to life. It is possible that some of the broadcasts had not been heard in their entirety since the day they originally aired.

At the time, the availability of classic Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts, particularly prior to the 1980s, was scarce. The network, along with WIBC and other radio stations, did have copies, but most were stored away and sometimes in not readily usable formats. Some were said to have been given to the Speedway or the IMS Museum archives from the late Sid Collins’ personal collection. Private collectors were known to have copies of numerous races, recorded off the radio, whether on cassette or reel-to-reel tapes. The quality and completeness of these copies were sometimes a mixed bag. Around 2004, Dave “The King” Wilson briefly headed up an effort called Speedway Audio, which sought to restore the old radio broadcasts and make them available for purchase. Speedway Audio was able to make available the race broadcasts from 1955, 1969, and 1949, as well as the in-house “Fantasy 500”. The effort stalled, however.

Alongside the classic radio broadcasts, during breaks and in between segments, Serowik would come on air, periodically offering commentary, historical context, observations, and other information. At times it was referred to as “the greatest spectacle in racing memories.” Guests throughout the night were common – whether live in-studio or from previously recorded interviews. Regular guests included historian Donald Davidson, former “Voices of the 500” Paul Page, Bob Jenkins, and Mike King, along with many others. Other WIBC/WFNI regular hosts and personalities would also often drop by during the night.

Indy500_120x180Each year, the “Party” program would begin at some point at Saturday evening, the night before the Indianapolis 500. It would usually start around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., depending upon the broadcast schedule, and if there might be a basketball playoff game (e.g., Indiana Pacers) scheduled. The “Party” would run continuously through the night, until 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. After the show concluded, the morning crew of 1070 WIBC/WFNI would take over for their live race day morning coverage.

Each year, either two or three classic races would be replayed during the night. The races were typically from the WIBC archives, but in some cases came from private collections. Serowik, who did all of the restoration work, began planning for the “Party” months in advance. During the summer or fall of the previous year, he would select which races to re-air, and begin the restoration process. The races through 1968 had been archived on 16″ coated aluminum phonograph discs. This required lengthy and painstaking restoration for re-broadcast, using special equipment, at considerable cost. Races from 1969-1980 were on tape reels, which also required extensive remastering. In the earlier years of the “Party”, the races seemed to be a little more edited down, while later years seemed to have more complete versions. Some featured the original WIBC bumpers and jingles, and some even had original commercials.

In some years, the All-Night Race Party was carried over to Brickyard 400 weekend, featuring classic replays of previous Brickyard 400 radio broadcasts.

The story behind the “Party”

In 2014, I had the opportunity to discuss the All-Night Race Party with Mike Serowik. The following e-mail exchange helps tell a little bit of the story behind the “All-Night Race Party”

How did you manage stay up all night?

Did I stay awake throughout the broadcast? Yes, was it easy? No! Between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. was the toughest. On some of the shows, there were long segments of back-to-back racing without interruption. When I’d get “dangerously tired” (meaning almost dozing), I’d put the player on “Play Continuous” mode meaning the player would roll into the next cut without stopping. I’d then take a walk to our 4th floor balcony break area that overlooks the circle. Then I’d walk to the first floor, then through some of the offices. It was definitely a 24-26 hour day.

After staying up all night, did you sleep through the day and miss the real race on Sunday?

When I got home it was really refreshing watching a sunrise and NO traffic! I couldn’t sleep though race day morning, and I was usually awake no later than noon, usually 10 a.m. I would just relish listening to the race. Then I would then record the television broadcast and fall asleep around 8 p.m.

[When editing down the broadcast for re-air] While sometimes the original commercials “bog down” the broadcast, I liked how you kept them in. They offered a bit of nostalgia and actually help date the broadcast. Also, many times the commercials were Indy-themed, and had real drivers doing the narration, etc. I also liked the original WIBC jingles in your versions.

I’m glad you favored the old WIBC jingles. I can still remember trying to do a tight segue between racing and jingle as that was the way WIBC used to run programming during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The idea was to duplicate the memories in more than just the race content. And you are spot on with the airing of the commercials! That was the sound of the day back in 1985 (Delco Electronics), or 1968 (Goodyear Polyglass tires, STP), 1962 (Stark & Wetzel – feel free to whistle), etc. It put us in our minds eye back to that year and the month of May.

In subsequent years after the All-Night Race Party, the night before the 500 programming on WFNI has been different (“500 in 60”, “The History of the 500”, “Heroes of the 500”, etc.). The “magic” is kind of gone. In one sense, it is nice to hear a variety, but it’s much better to hear the full broadcasts.

The prior management had a different policy early on: “Mike, how does 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. sound? Fill it with anything you want!” After the first few years of doing the show you called it right. The full broadcasts especially those with Paul Page telling a story, interwoven with strategy on and off the track. I felt it was the rebroadcast that tells the story, not me.

The “Party” is over (but it was fun while is lasted)

In 2011, WIBC/WFNI produced the ten-part Centennial Celebration documentary series, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first “500”. On the day before the 2011 Indianapolis 500, WFNI chose to replay that entire series in a marathon from 2 p.m. to midnight. Unfortunately that substantially reduced the time available for the “All-Night Race Party”, which did not start until midnight. The 2011 edition, which ran from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m., would end up being the final “Party”.

After the 2011 race, due to changes in management and different approaches at the station, Serowik opted to discontinue the “All-Night Race Party”. He parted ways with 1070 The Fan, as he described, “amicably”. The station replaced the race eve time slot with marathon replays of in-house productions such as “The History of the 500”, “Heroes of the 500” and “500 in 60”. The latter was a new packaging of the historic Indy 500 radio broadcasts, each edited down to a one-hour broadcast window(see HERE to download those).

Closing thoughts

Fantasy500The “All-Night Race Party” was one of the special highlights of the month of May for myself and I am sure many other fans and listeners. It gave people the opportunity to experience some the radio broadcasts for the first time in years, or perhaps for the first time ever. The Indianapolis 500 is an event steeped in tradition, and for many fans (and participants), one of those traditions is listening to the race on the radio. Over the decades, WIBC 1070-AM (now WFNI) established itself as the radio home for the Indianapolis 500. The month of May coverage on the radio was unparalleled. However, in the years before the “Party”, the race eve radio show was certainly not as interesting. A mix of talk – sometimes eclectic – which was sometimes live and sometimes pre-recorded or a rerun of a previous show, was all that aired overnight. Sometimes it was not even focused on the race. About the biggest highlight of the night was the hourly update of how many revelers had been arrested along 16th Street & Georgetown Road.

One thing that should not be understated is how much a monumental task the “Party” was each year. Serowik’s work was a lengthy and painstaking labor of love, but it was also some of the first serious work done to restore these priceless – and in some cases – deteriorating discs and tapes. When we download and listen to the mp3 files of the old race broadcasts, we should all take a moment to thank Mike, as it was his effort that initially brought these ‘lost’ races ‘out of the vault’ and back into our homes. Perhaps the only lamentable aspect of the “Party” during its fifteen-year run, was that most of it aired in the dead of night, when many potential listeners were fast asleep. Apropos to that, many folks have actually said that the night before the 500 is such an exciting and anxious time, that the anticipation makes sleeping nearly impossible. Perhaps more people were able to listen to the “Party” than we thought.

Though it is too bad the “All-Night Race Party” had to come to an end, I think it probably was an inevitability. At the time, there was almost no outlet to hear the classic race radio broadcasts, but today, nearly all of the races are available for purchase/download. The newness and exclusivity is not quite there as much anymore. WFNI has done a fine job in producing their in-house documentary series – the “The History of the 500” and “Heroes of the 500” – and one can understand their desire to showcase their shows on race weekend. In closing, the “All-Night Race Party” was a memorable and commendable part of the month of May from 1997 to 2011.

All-Night Race Party History

(Audio downloads do not include the race broadcast segments)

1997: The first All-Night Race Party aired the night of Saturday May 24, 1997. It included replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1982 and 1994. The race itself was rained out on Sunday, and the start was postponed until Monday. Rain on Monday pushed  the conclusion of the race until Tuesday.

1998: The second All-Night Race Party aired the night of  Saturday May 23, 1998.

1999: The third All-Night Race Party aired night of Saturday May 29, 1999. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1972, 1985, and 1998. For the first time, classic replays of Brickyard 400 race broadcasts were aired the night before the Brickyard 400 in August.

Special features between race segments included: memories from 1972, commercials, wheel tethers new for 1999, Big John Gillis visits the studio, WIBC promo.

2000: The fourth annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of Saturday May 27, 2000. It may have featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1969 and 1983.

2001: The fifth annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of  Saturday May 26, 2001. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1961 and 1990.

2002: The sixth annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of Saturday May 25, 2002. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1960 and 1971.

Special features between race segments included: Donald Davidson discusses the 1960 scaffolding collapse (including Betty and Johnny Rutherford), WIBC morning crew visits (Jeff Pigeon, Steve Simpson, Terri Stacy), Paul Page & Bob Jenkins remember the 1982 finish, Rodger Ward stalling his engine in the 1960 race and the Ward/Rathmann duel, Page & Jenkins discuss the radio network, tires, Jim Hurtubise, 1960 Oldsmobile pace car, interview with James Garner, Page discusses Sid Collins and joining the radio network, Donald Davidson discusses movie stars (and beginning in 1960 the 500 Festival Queen) kissing the winner in victory lane, Page & Jenkins discuss celebrities in the broadcast booth, the concrete blocks with handprints/footprints, Stark & Wetzel Meats commercial; Max Beaver, Mike King, and Bob Lovell visit the studio at midnight; Donald Davidson discusses how Johnny Thompson became a factor in the 1960 Rodger Ward/Jim Rathmann duel, and how Ward’s experience with tire testing allowed him to make it to the finish, Aerosmith Dodge commercial, discussion of Steven Tyler’s 2001 national anthem controversy, Page & Jenkins singing the “Stark & Wetzel” meats theme and “The 500” song, the nickname of Jim Hurtubise (“Herk”), also brief mention of the Hurtubise beer engine and using an extra garage space for a bar, interview with Sam Hornish Jr., interview with Kevin “Rocket” Blanch, interview with Jared Fogel (from Subway).

2003 wibc.com ad

2003: The seventh annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of Saturday May 24, 2003. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1955 and 1994. The program aired from 7 p.m. Saturday evening until 5 a.m. Sunday morning.

The 1955 race was the oldest race that had aired to-date, and is the oldest race from the IMS Radio Network archives that would air. It had been recently restored, and was one of the races that was offered for sale by the aforementioned Speedway Audio effort. Earlier races (1946, 1947, and 1949) would be played on the “All-Night Race Party” in later years, however, those were from the Mutual Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network was founded and first covered the race in 1952.

2004 wibc.com ad

2004: The eight annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of Saturday May 29, 2004. It featured the “Fantasy 500” and Indianapolis 500 race broadcasts replays from 1947 and 1986. The “Fantasy 500” was a production created at WIBC which featured historic clips of previous 500 race radio broadcasts, pitting drivers from numerous era against one another in a fictional race of legends. The conclusion of the 1986 broadcast featured an interview with Jack Arute who covered the race as a pit reporter on ABC-TV. Arute described his experience in victory lane with race winner Bobby Rahal, and more specifically winning car owner Jim Trueman. Trueman, who was stricken with cancer at the time, was terminally ill and frail,  hoisted himself up by puting his hand on Arute’s shoulder. Arute shared that after the interview was concluded, and after the television cameras were turned off, Trueman whispered in his ear “I can go now”. Trueman would die eleven days later.

Earlier in the year, in March 2004, WIBC replayed the 1982 race along with the premier of the “Fantasy 500”.

2005 wibc.com advertisement

2005: The ninth annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of  Saturday May 28, 2005. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1949, 1977, and 1969. The 1949 race was a replay of the original Mutual Radio Network broadcast, featuring coverage at the start, the finish, and periodic updates throughout the race. It was the second year in a row that one of the Mutual Broadcasts from the late 1940s was featured on the All-Night Race Party. The Party ran from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Special features between race segments included: Introduction by Mike Serowik, Duke Nalon and Rex Mays in the 1949 race, Jim Rathmann, audio sources and fidelity, the EZ-Sign, Lou Moore team with Mauri Rose and Bill Holland, the 1977 race, Clay Regazzoni, Lloyd Ruby and Oral Roberts, repaving the track prior to the 1977 race, 200 mph laps, old commercials, Janet Guthrie.

2006: The milestone tenth annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of  Saturday May 27, 2006. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1976, 1984, and 1996. Max Beaver joined as co-host with Mike Serowik during several segments. In addition, former Voice of the 500 Paul Page and wife Sally Larvick were interviewed for a few segments.

Special features between race segments included: The 1984 race, Michael Andretti and the rookies in 1984, the 1984 Pontiac Fiero pace car, Pat Bedard, memories, Emerson Fittipaldi, Paul Page (“Intercourse Racing” gaffe), Bob Lowell, 1976 memories, Janet Guthrie in 1976, Paul Page’s tenure as a pit reporter, 1976 memories, Sally Larvick and Nicole Manske

2007: The 11th annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of  Saturday May 26, 2007. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1962, 1987, and the 2006 finish. This was the final year under the 1070 WIBC-AM format. Mike Serowick hosted with historian Donald Davidson offering commentary.

Special features between race segments included: Mario Andretti, Marco Andretti, and Sam Hornish Jr. discuss the finish of the 2006 race, Stark & Wetzel commercial, the brick surface and paving with asphalt, messages from listeners, Stark & Wetzel baseball commercial, Parnelli Jones breaking the 150 mph barrier in 1962 time trials, Parnelli Jones tire testing, no radios, pit board and chalk boards, hand signals, drivers that went the 500 miles without a pit stop, memorials of older All Night Race Parties, relief drivers, Chris Economacki, Bob Lovell visit the studio, Parnelli Jones having brake failure in the 1962 race, memories from 1962 time trials, Rodger Ward living near the track having difficulty getting to the track on race morning, Ward hiring a helicopter pilot to fly him in race morning, chatter, WIBC song jingle, the 1962 race tape won’t finish – switch to the 1987 race broadcast, John Barthalomew visits the studio, Mario Andretti in the 1987 race, commercials (Budweiser, Chrysler), the Chrysler LeBaron pace car, Bob Jenkins growing up with the Indy 500, caller from Australia, Al Unser Sr./Penske Cummins sponsorship arrangement in 1987 (uppercase logos vs. lower case), Bob Jenkins and Paul Page, Page’s last 500 on the radio (at the time) and switching to television for 1988, Mario Andretti interview about 2006 and 2007.

2008: The 12th annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of  Saturday May 24, 2008. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1998, 1995, and a clip from 2007. This was the first year under the 1070-AM WFNI format after WIBC transitioned over to 93.1 FM.

Special features between race segments included: Introduction, 1988 IMS radio network commercials, Donald Davidson discusses working with Lou Palmer, Bob Lamey’s memories of Lou Palmer, John Andretti, more on Donald discussing Lou Palmer, Paul Page calls in live from 16th Street & Georgetown Road, John Andretti, the 1988 race, Page calls-in again, Jim Crawford, Bob Jenkins & Paul Page discussion, the 1962 race, Jim Crawford and Tony Stewart in 1994, Paul Page calls-in again, Jim Nabors returns after missing the 2007 race, Paul Page discusses Lou Palmer, more on Jim Nabors, the Love Man, Billy Vukovich III, more of Paul Page on Lou Palmer, more about Jim Crawford, 1988 outro and the finish of the 1962 race, “The 500” song, the 1995 race, Penske Team DNQ in 1995, Stan Fox crash, Helio Castroneves, Firestone returning to Indy in 1995, Dave Lewendowski, e-mail messages, Lewendowski, Bob Lamey discusses the Split, listener greetings.

Brickyard 400 weekend featured replays of the 1995 and 2002 Brickyard 400 races.

In January 2008, as a radio “stunt” while news/talk radio WIBC was transitioning over to FM and the 1070-AM frequency was transitioning to the sports radio format (WFNI), numerous Indy replays aired. (1977, 1995, 2004, 2006, 2007, 1969, 1949, 1947, 1955, 1996, Fantasy 500, 1994 Brickyard 400).

2009: The 13th annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of Saturday May 23, 2009. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1968, 1978, and a clip from 2008.

2010: The 14th annual All-Night Race Party aired the night of Saturday May 29, 2010. It featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1992 and 1967, and was scheduled for 10:30 pm to 6:00 a.m. No All-Night Race Party was aired for Brickyard 400 weekend.

2011: The 15th and final year of the All-Night Race Party aired the night of Saturday May 28, 2011. The program featured replays of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcasts from 1946 (Mutual) and 1979. From 2 p.m. to 12 midnight, WFNI aired the ten-part Centennial Celebration series. The All-Night Race Party followed from 12 midnight to 5 a.m.

Special features between race segments included: Tire testing at the Speedway in 1945, sale of the Speedway to Tony Hulman, “Back Home Again In Indiana” with James Melton and other performances in early years, Edsel Ford, STP commercial with Andy Granatelli and Dolly Cole, STP commercial with Richard Petty, cars completing the 500 miles after the winner crosses the finish lines, Jack Maurer Special.