INDIANAPOLIS – When it comes to capturing the Mairet family’s love for racing, it’s not only in the pictures… it’s in their blood.
“It’s been the family tradition since we were kids,” said Douglas (Doug) Mairet.
Doug, who attended his first Indy 500 in 1974, is on the road to seeing his 49th race.
“You catch that bug, and you want to come back every year,” said Doug.
Just ask his father, David (Dave).
“I’ve been to 70 races. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, it will be 71,” Dave said with a laugh.
For Dave, he was bit by the racing bug as a kid after World War II. That’s when his father, who he described as a “racing fanatic”, took him to his first 500.
“He took me when I was 10 years old,” he said. “That was the start, 1946, right after they opened the track up.”
Despite missing a few races over the years, trips from their Wisconsin home to the Speedway became the road map of what’s now a Mairet Family tradition, one that’s now spanned through multiple decades and four generations, despite the passing of Dave’s father in 1968.
“I never went to a race with my grandfather,” said Steve Hudson-Mairet, Dave’s son and Doug’s brother, “but I know that we’re carrying his memory on through what we do, and that’s what traditions are all about.”
Steve’s race count sits at 41, and while he’s also missed a few races throughout the years, he says he’s still unsure if the “bug” ever bit him.
“On some level, it’s less about the race and more about the family,” Steve said.
In town for the Grand Prix, Steve and Dave made the trek from Wisconsin to Indiana, spending the weekend at Doug’s home in Fishers, where he’s now lived with his own family since the mid-90s. Going through the Mairet Family ‘Race Day’ Photo Album, FOX59 met with them as they reminisced about their 500 traditions throughout the years.
Before Doug moved to Indy, the family recalled West Lafayette as their point of stay during race weekend.
“We’d go to Noble Romans for pizza, hit all the ice cream parlors, and get up about 5 in the morning, get the car,” said Dave. “We usually parked up near the high school, and then we’d tailgate there.”
The familiarity with West Lafayette throughout the years even helped shape Doug’s college years.
“We had come here so often that I became familiar with Purdue University, and the area up in West Lafayette from staying there, that when it came time for me to choose a college, I chose Purdue,” said Doug.
These days, Doug is preparing to host his family under his roof for another 500 weekend, a job he and his wife have proudly done for years.
“She’s a saint for allowing 20 or so people to come descend on her house for Indy 500 weekend,” laughed Doug.
The Mairets say the weekend-long extravaganza is a reunion for their family, mapped out with several traditions, from prepping their race day morning Subway orders and “must have” snacks, to even taking a “family quiz” on the big race.
“We spend the whole day before the race discussing what’s going to go on the next day, rehashing old races, and my grandson, Colin, he makes up a quiz. We all have to take a quiz about the race,” said Dave. “If you win the quiz, you get a little checkered flag with your name embroidered on it.”
“For all the experience I’ve had, I came in last, last year!” he joked.
Throughout the years, the Mairets have also maintained their seats in NW Vista. Every year, the lengthy trek from their parking spot became part of the routine, but over time, they’ve made some adjustments.
“I’ll be 87 next month,” said Dave. “Certain things break down when you get a little older, and one is my legs. Years ago, when I was much, much younger, we would park at the high school, or even beyond, and walk back to the track. It was an easy walk, but now I can’t walk that far anymore.”
“My son, Doug, he gets as close as he can to the track at somebody’s lawn,” Dave added.
As Dave approaches his 71st race, he knows it may be his last one physically in the stands. Battling leg pain, he says it’s been difficult to make the hike as of late, but he’s been preparing himself for this year.
“The cardiologist told me my best friend was the treadmill. So, I work out on the treadmill all the time with this my goal, can I make a mile, can I make a mile and a half,” he said.
“This is one of the most important events for my dad. He does put the work in now to be physically ready to go,” said Steve.
While it’s still unclear if the 107th running will be Dave’s last race physically in attendance, he says he’s taking it day by day while also thinking of other ways to help maintain his family’s old tradition.
“It’s going to be hard, but I’ll still come down. I’ll be here. I don’t know how I’m going to watch the race, they don’t televise it down here!” Dave laughed.
“Dad will always be part of this,” said Steve. “So, dad will always be with us, whether he’s here physically or otherwise.”
“He brought us to this race. He taught us racing,” Doug added. “Hopefully he sticks with us a few more years, and if he can’t go into the stands, we’re thinking about other ways he can experience the race. Maybe we can get him behind the pagoda and other ways to get him to the track.”
“If he can’t get down to the track, we’d love to have him here at the house and hang out with us, and see us off, and welcome us back when we get back from the track,” Doug said.