Have you ever watched the drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway screaming around the track at over 200 miles per hour and wondered what the mothers of those drivers must be
feeling? Surely they must be feeling some sense of terror as they watch their sons. I recently had the opportunity to ask that question to Zionsville resident Beth Boles whose 21-year-old son, Conor Daly, will be competing in his first Indy 500 this month. The response I received from Beth was very surprising.
When I first asked Beth about her greatest concerns regarding her young son’s career choice as a racecar driver, I fully expected to hear about the danger involved. Amazingly, she responded that her greatest concern is the economic and occupational instability that is a part of a young racer’s life. Her son has decided to forgo a college education, as well as a more predictable lifestyle, to pursue his dream of racing at the highest level. As Beth explained, despite the glamour of being a racecar driver, there are many downsides to this career. Despite his ability, a driver is in constant search for sponsorship money to enable him to continue racing. Without that flow of sponsorship money, even the most talented drivers are relegated to inferior equipment and teams.
After getting to know Beth a little better, I began to understand her answer that initially surprised me. It became increasingly evident that Beth is a racer at heart with an admirable, off-the-charts energy level. Her whole life has been spent in racing. (As a side note, Beth is the first woman I have met to casually wear one of the huge racing watches with five or six dials that you see the likes of Roger Penske wearing during his interviews.) Beth’s love of racing began in 1969 when her father, a Noblesville physician, first took Beth to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Beth was immediately stricken with the racing bug. While in college at Purdue, Beth would skip class in May just to sit in the bleachers at the Speedway. In order to fulfill a graduation requirement at Purdue, she produced a video, not surprisingly, of the Speedway. Beth was even a 500 Festival Princess in 1978.
After graduation from Purdue, she got a job with a small local radio station in Noblesville. She immediately talked her boss into letting her roam the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. During this time, she would randomly interview drivers and other personnel, then place the interviews on the air. In 1983, while doing an interview for the radio station, she met a dashing young Irish driver named Derek Daly. She was married to Derek for 13 years and had three boys, Conor, Colin, and Christian.
Amazingly, while married to Derek, Beth began a racing career of her own. In 1989, she and another driver’s wife, Roseina Brabham, started racing jet skis. To clarify, these were not the jet skis of today that you ride by sitting down. These were the incredibly unstable originals that were ridden with th
e driver standing up. Beth moved up from winning the World Championship as a novice jet ski racer to compete in the professional ranks. She raced for nearly five years. Following a serious accident, Beth continued to race and ended her career sixth in the World Finals. Beth told me a story about being at a lake competing one minute and having to dock her jet ski so she could breast feed Conor the next. The helmet that Beth wore while competing said it all, “Be First or Be Last.” Beth still runs jet skis with the boys at Mo
In 1999, Beth met her current husband, Doug Boles. Not surprisingly, Doug also has a passion for racing. He is the former co-owner of the Panther Racing Team and current COO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They have one son, Carter Boles.
Beth will celebrate this Mother’s Day, as she has for as long as she can remember, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To Beth, there is nowhere else she would rather be for Mother’s Day, or any other day for that matter. Beth remembers the days before drivers had extravagant motor homes, when the Speedway had a special day care facility under the stands for the drivers and their wives. However, this Mother’s Day will be extra special as Beth gets to watch Conor attempt to pass his rookie orientation driving test on his way to making the field for the 97th Indianapolis 500.
Clearly, Beth is not oblivious to the dangers of racing. She has experienced the danger first hand. She was in Las Vegas when close friend Dan Weldon was killed. Even her son, Conor, was in an awful crash in Monaco while driving the GP3 series last year. Conor was uninjured, but his accident was so violent that it received millions of hits on YouTube. Although she did not attend the race in which Conor crashed, she was forced to watch her son crash on vide
o. She admits that, upon watching the video, she cried and then decided to fly to Spain to be with her son for his next race.
Beth, because she is a racer at heart and she has a strong faith in God, understands and accepts these dangers in a way that most of us never could. So when you see young Conor Daly driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month at speeds that would terrify most mothers, you will know what his mother’s biggest worry is.
Beth Boles and Megan Kristloff are co-chairing a charity event called “Fashion in the Fast Lane” on May 23 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in the East Chalet at the IMS. The proceeds of the event go to the Indy Family Foundation, an organization to support those in need in the racing family. For more details, go to IndyFamilyFoundation.com.