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Avon’s Jack Woodlock recalls his legendary race bar, Hurry Sundown Saloon

Hurry Sundown Saloon got its name from the cowboy motif that was popular at the time.

“I turned into a cowboy, bought some cowboy boots and cowboy hats,” co-owner and manager Jack Woodlock said of the opening in 1979.

Eventually, the cowboy theme became a bit overpowered by Woodlock’s love for racing. Hurry Sundown was located in the Rockville Plaza Shopping Center, located on Girls School Road and Rockville Road, on the west side of Indianapolis, not too far from Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

Soon Woodlock began showing 16-millimeter films of old Indy 500 races on loan from IMS.

“We would show three or four movies of old race highlights every Thursday night,” said Woodlock, an Avon resident. “That started to bring a lot of the racing crowd in.”

Later, Woodlock said the saloon had one of the very first projection televisions.

“Then we had a 10-foot (satellite) dish out back so we got all the races,” Woodlock said.

As the racing crowd continued to grow, they started to bring helmets and car parts to adorn the walls.

“If someone hit the wall at the Speedway, then they would bring a wing or side pod or whatever,” Woodlock said. “We just found room for them. We even had engines from sprint cars.”

This décor led to Hurry Sundown getting some national television exposure.

“I had a 1983 March side pod off of one of the Penske cars,” Woodlock said. “I put this side pod on the wall and in 1984 got a call from someone in England who said they were putting a car together to run the Michigan 500. They had a 1983 March (chassis) but didn’t have a side pod. March was a hot chassis back in that day.”

So Woodlock donated it to Phil Kruger’s car for the 1984 Michigan 500.

“They said they would bring it back to use on our wall after the race, but he goes sideways coming off the last turn and into the straightaway. He got hit right in the side,” Woodlock said.

Needless to say, he never saw the piece again,

The announcer, Bob Jenkins, pointed out that it came from Woodlock’s bar. Woodlock was well known to announcers as he used to assist the ESPN crew.

In the late 1980s, Hurry Sundown changed its name to Chevy’s and began using a 1950s and ’60s theme. Most of the car parts were returned at that time.

“It was successful but everybody missed the Sundown,” Woodlock said.

He said it was just time for a change. Later, Chevrolet made Woodlock and his partners change the bar name and it became The Hop two years later.

Woodlock would help sponsor sprint cars, including one by Tim Coffeen, who was also a longtime crew member for Newman-Haas.

“I went to Phoenix for an Indy-car race and Tim Coffeen said Mr. (Richard) Hammond wants to see you,” Woodlock said. “I went over to the pit and they had my logo on the rear wing of the car. I said, ‘Mr. Hammond I can’t afford to do that.’ He said, ‘Oh, buy me a beer sometime.’”

Woodlock came to know many drivers over the years.

He remembers Indy car driver Mike Mosley as a frequent visitor. “He was real nondescript, he’d sit over in the corner drinking Heinekens,”  Woodlock said. “He was a great guy.”

Mosley was killed in a highway accident in California in 1984.

Woodlock became good friends with Indycar and NASCAR driver Tim Richmond, who died of complications from AIDS in 1989.

Four-time Indy 500 champion Al Unser Sr. and 1983 Indy 500 winner Tom Sneva were there often he said.

He also got to know his childhood favorite. “I was always a huge Parnelli Jones fan, even though he wasn’t running then,” Woodlock said. “But back when I was a kid he was my favorite. I just liked open wheel racing, whether it was Sprint cars or midgets or Indy cars.”

Jack’s mother, Nancy who died in 2009 at age 95, served as the chef.

“We had great lunches and everyone said they wanted to have lunch with mom-everyone called her mom,” Woodlock said. “She was a sweetheart. I always said I had the best-looking and best-working staff in Indianapolis.”

Woodlock still hears from people who wish he would open another version of Hurry Sundown.

“We always danced there. We had live bands and at Chevy’s it was more recorded music,” Woodlock said.

He sold The Hop in the late 1990s. He also owned The Main Event on the northwest side of Indianapolis by 1987 and ran the food and beverage service at Prestwick County Club and Water’s Edge. Today, Woodlock, 70, is a sales executive for TKO Graphix in Plainfield.

“Chevy’s was successful but the Sundown was just a great place to be. A lot of great people.”

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