IMS’ ‘Whistle Man’ keeps IndyCars and fans flowing through May

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – IndyCar’s biggest party, Carb Day, gives fans a way to have fun, and staff looking for creative ways to keep everyone safe.

Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) is where fans watch IndyCar drivers at their final practice, meet the drivers, and of course, celebrate.

“Oh, it’s definitely a party,” race fan Josh Mason said. “We’re up there having a great time enjoying some adult beverages.”

To make it go off, IMS relies on those in yellow, some giving blasts of encouragement. But not all sounds are the same thanks to one worker.

“A lot of people call me the whistle man,” Richard Loniewski said. For 26 years, Loniewski has worn IMS yellow as part of the safety patrol.

What makes him stand out, can be found by what hangs around his neck. Loniewski owns more than 100 different whistles. A variety of tools he said is needed to handle the traffic.

“They fill up with saliva quite a bit,” Loniewski said. “You have to keep switching until one drains out.”

Each year, he keeps coming back. Not because of the amount of whistles, but way he’s found out how to use them.

“Sharp blasts usually gets the attention of the people,” Loniewski said.

He may produce more than a hundred sounds, but each one serves a purpose.

“They all mean the same thing. Get out of the way,” Loniewski said.

The sound may get to your head. But the whistle man says it beat the alternative.

“Get away from home,” Loniewski said.

Although Carb Day crowds aren’t always better.

“But then I get away from home and have to listen to these people down here,” Loniewski said. “I don’t know what’s worse, my wife, or the people.”

In all, 2,000 people make up IMS safety patrol. They are paid positions. During May, they’ll work nearly 9,000 shifts.

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