Santa Rosa Beach man has attended every Indy 500 race for the last three decades

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 01:12 PM.

He no longer stays at that small hotel, but now is at the J.W. Marriot where most of the drivers stay — and he takes a limo to the track.

With limited visibility of the cars and track, his seats that first year weren't the greatest, he admits, but it was a start. And afterward, he had a full-blown case of Indy fever.

"If you have ever watched the race on TV, and then see it in person, you realize that TV does not do it justice as to how fast these cars go or how huge the track is. It's so huge that you can't see the whole track," he said.

Fillingim was so fascinated that he enrolled in racing school and drove the same type of race cars at tracks all over the East Coast in the junior series in the early 1980s.

Since Fillingim has raced cars, he has an understanding of what is going on inside the car.

"I know all the controls and dials, and if one of the cars passes and I notice something going on, I can sense what is going to happen if the driver does not correct it. Racing involves a lot more than putting your foot down on the pedal. It's setting up the car and working the controls. I know how hard it is," he said.

Fillingim renewed his tickets every year at Indianapolis, and as a standing ticket holder, seat upgrades can be requested. After that first year, Fillingim requested an upgrade every year for the next six years, moving around the track until he found the exact spot he wanted to be. He still has those seats at turn No. 1. He also took his parents with him every year for the next 17 years until they were getting on in age and just couldn't do it any longer.

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