IMS welder creates beautiful artwork during lunchtime at "The Chapel"

Forrest "Bud" Tucker uses his art to "decompress" during his lunch break at IMS. (WTHR photo)

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WTHR) - People can be complex. Sometimes you might look at someone and think you have them all figured out.

But there is one man at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway who just might fool you.

The Indianapolis 500 has built a reputation on speed and always pushing the envelope. It's not unusual to see sparks flying on the track or inside of it.

"I love what I do. I have been a welder for 40 years, been doing this since I was 18," said Forrest "Bud" Tucker.

For the last 15 years, Tucker has been welding at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He's part of the team that not only conducts routine maintenance at the speedway, but also repairs the SAFER barrier around the track after a crash.

But the welder who takes a theology class from Notre Dame is an artist.

His work is so highly regarded, he was selected to make the very first commemorative bronze brick recognizing the four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500. Last month, he unveiled the first one honoring A.J. Foyt, which he helped set into the famed "Yard of Bricks."

"It was the honor of a lifetime to be asked to do that," he said.

Bud Tucker has spent 15 years at work in the IMS Welding Shop. (WTHR photo)
Tucker checks to make sure new welding equipment is working before it's called into duty on the track. (WTHR photo)
Tucker is part of the team called into repair the SAFER barrier around the track during races and practice. (WTHR photo)
Most of Bud Tucker's days are spent working on metal in the IMS Welding Shop. (WTHR photo)
One of his primary jobs is welding equipment at the track, from the SAFER barrier around IMS to spectator seats. (WTHR photo)
Tucker and Foyt with Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and IMS President Doug Boles at the unveiling of Foyt's commemorative brick. (Photo: IMS/Joe Skibinski)
Four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt holds a bronze replica of one of the original "Culver Block" bricks to honor him at the "Yard of Bricks." (Photo: IMS/Joe Skibinski)
Tucker's brick honoring A.J. Foyt was placed in the famous "Yard of Bricks" at IMS. (Photo: IMS/Joe Skibinski)
Tucker occasionally works on his sculptures during lunch breaks at IMS. (WTHR photo)
Three of Tucker's works, in various stages of completion. (WTHR photo)
Tucker is working on a sculpture in honor of Teresa Webb, a story teller at the Eiteljorg Museum who passed away last year. (WTHR photo)
Webb used music to give lessons on Native American culture to museum visitors. (WTHR photo)
Tucker is creating his sculpture of Webb from a single photograph. (WTHR photo)
Tucker works on his art during lunch breaks in the IMS welding shop. (WTHR photo)
Tucker is continuing his work on a sculpture of a pioneer mountain man. (WTHR photo)
Tucker is finishing up work on this work. (WTHR photo)
A completed work shows a warrior firing an arrow from a horse. (WTHR photo)
(WTHR photo)
Tucker shows three of his works, in varying stages of completion, at the IMS Welding Shop. (WTHR photo)
Tucker said his works draw from pioneer times. (WTHR photo)

It's pretty heady stuff and yet it's what he does over his lunch that is garnering attention.

"One friend of mine calls the weld shop a sanctuary, a chapel. He nicknamed it 'The Chapel'," Tucker said with a smile.

"Something like this is who I am. Bronze sculpting is who I am," he explained.

He said the artwork that occasionally takes over his work bench during his one-hour lunch break at the track is "not an escape." In fact, he said the creations help him decompress.

A year after he married his wife, Dawn, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. They have been married for 41 years now.

"I do laundry, cook meals and take care of my wife. It's a labor of love. She would do it for me if the tables were turned, so," his words just trail off into his work.

So one hour a day, his demanding, fast-paced world slows down.

"Can't be fast paced...there is a time for that. Don't have to be all the time, right?" he said.

No, these creations can take years to sculpt.

"A sculpture can take on a life of its own," Tucker said.

It's a funny thing to say to a sculptor, but Bud Tucker literally does not fit the mold.

"I've been told that. I've been told that," he answered with a smile that emphasized the point. "It's such a shame if a person is working at a job they don't like, doing things they don't enjoy. They hate what they do all day long. How sad is that, right? l love what I do."

And it shows.