SPEEDWAY — Foyt, Unser, Mears, Castroneves. These are the drivers who have made the most appearances in Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
While these men each share the record for winning the most (four) Indianapolis 500 Mile races, the record for most appearances in Victory Lane likely belongs to a man by a different name: Mackenzie.
“Our dad was the most photographed person in victory lane,” daughter Liz Freiherr said. “A lot of different drivers went over the years, but he was a constant for 30 years.”
Jack Mackenzie was the official caretaker of the Borg-Warner trophy from 1953 until 1983. Mackenzie was responsible for transporting the trophy around central Indiana every year during the month of May. His starting pay started at just $75 for the entire month. But the Butler University student didn't take the job for the money, instead he saw the role as a unique opportunity to immerse himself in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
But before that spectacle, another spectacle played out in Mackenzie's first year on the job when the Borg-Warner trophy went missing while in his custody.
Mackenzie kept the trophy in his room at a fraternity house, but upon returning home from a date, Mackenzie found the trophy was gone.
“Couldn’t find it, and looked all over the house and finally found it down in the basement with a bunch of fellas around it,” Mackenzie told WRTV’s Howard Caldwell in 1983. “They were drinking something out of it, they wouldn’t tell me what it was, but I think we know being a bunch of college students.”
Mackenzie remained coy about the details of that evening with Caldwell, but he was more forthcoming with his own family.
“He did not tell that story for years because he thought he would get in trouble with Borg-Warner,” said son Bob Mackenzie. “He said he had to take it in the shower with him to clean it all out.”
The fraternity fiasco is one of many stories Mackenzie’s children have about the most famous trophy in motorsports. But to them, the Borg was just another member of their family.
“To us, the trophy was just no big deal,” Freiherr said. “It just sat in our living room.”
Unless there was severe weather.
“One time, there were tornado warnings, and he [Mackenzie] said to my mom, ‘Ginny, get the kids, I'm getting the trophy and my camera equipment,” Freiherr said. “The trophy always had priority.”
But the Mackenzie kids were a priority for their father. He ensured they had memories and photos that would last a lifetime. In fact, Freiherr might be the only person to be able to say they’ve been inside the Borg-Warner, and she’s got a photo to prove it.
“As far as I know, I'm the only girl who's ever been photographed inside the Borg-Warner trophy,” Freiherr said. “A lot of people didn't realize that the top of the trophy actually comes off.”
The Mackenzie children spent more time with the Borg-Warner trophy than most, which made the month of May all the more special. Especially when entering the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“He had an old army blanket that he covered up the trophy with and he'd flip that over and say, ‘hey, look what I got in the back,’ and we'd get in a little quicker that way,” Mackenzie said.
Mackenzie was quick to meet driver Bill Vukovich in a scorching-hot Victory Lane on May 30 1953.
“The trophy had sat out in the sun all day and got extremely hot,” Mackenzie told Howard Caldwell. “I was soaking wet clear down to my underwear.”
The Borg-Warner was a hot commodity again in 1966 when Graham Hill drove his Lola T90 into Victory Lane. “I almost dropped the trophy on Graham Hill’s head,” Mackenzie said.
The near mishap was the result of the Lola’s exhaust pipes being located at the rear of the car. “Somehow the bottom of the base ended up on top of the pipes,” Bob Mackenzie said.
But the most meaningful memories were those for the record books.
“Putting the trophy on AJ Foyt’s car four times, that meant a lot to him,” Bob Mackenzie said.
While Jack Mackenzie died in 2008, the meaningful memories continue to live on today for his family.
“My kids would see him on TV and [say] ‘There's Grandpa Jack,'” Freiherr said. “It’s just fun now to look back and see him in all the race pictures and see the flashbacks of him in Victory Lane. It means a lot to us.”