World War II veterans treated to special day at Speedway

World War II veterans (left to right) Charlie Maurer, Herb Neal and Jesse Dailey watched practice at IMS Wednesday.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WTHR) – The Indianapolis 500 was cancelled in 1942 and the Speedway closed for the next four years during World War II. Three men in their 90s who served the United States during the war enjoyed a special day at the track Wednesday to honor their service.

The veterans crossed the yard of bricks on four wheels, but at only a couple miles an hour, being pushed in wheelchairs.

"I remember when they were breaking 100 miles an hour," said Indianapolis native Herb Neal. "That was a big deal. I can't remember the guy's name that was the first one. See what they're doing now? They've come a long way."

Neal has come a long way, too. He’s 93 years old. He was in the Army in the European theatre of World War II from 1943-46.

"You just had to be in the service to understand it. I was fortunate to be able to come back," he said.

Neal was joined by 92-year-old Charlie Maurer and 90-year-old Jesse Dailey. They watched Indy 500 practice from the start/finish line and later in a main straightaway suite.

"I never dreamed they could go that fast," said Jesse.

"It's so fast it's like a ping pong game going back and forth and back and forth," said Charlie. "It's an exciting place."

The vets are guests of Kingdom Racing and the Miles of Smiles program.

"We bring them out and we just love on them and give them the most fun as we can give them at the racetrack," said Kingdom Racing Outreach Director Tim Carrie. "In today's scenario, it's more of an honor, to be able to honor them and their service to our country."

Kingdom Racing partners with Dryer & Reinbold Racing for the Indianapolis 500. The veterans met the team’s two drivers, Sage Karam and JR Hildebrand, as they left their garages to begin practice Wednesday.

Charlie was on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II.

"We were on our way to Midway Island with our carrier when the Japanese surrendered. I really don't feel that we were heroes in any way. I went in when I was 17 and it was the most exciting period of my life. I wouldn't trade that time in the Navy for anything."

Jesse Dailey served in the Army in Germany.

"I kind of enjoyed it really, being there in another country, not too much danger," Dailey said.

The Speedway reopened after these men helped win the war more than 70 years ago, the reason for a trip to victory circle today.
Jesse, Herb and Charlie all live at Woodland Terrace Retirement Community in New Palestine.

Miles of Smiles will honor four groups this May with a special day at the track. They typically choose people or families who have dealt with recent tragedy or hardship.

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