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Cancer battle won't sideline family matriarch

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As a Center Grove area college student circles the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month, she’ll be waving to dozens of family members and friends in the stands.

But one will stand out: the grandmother who loves the race so much.

Lauren Hines, 19, has attended the Indianapolis 500 for the past 10 years, and nearly all of those trips have included her grandmother, Sharon Hines. Sharon Hines, 76, has attended 62 of the past 65 races at the speedway, and most race days were spent surrounded by friends and family.

Sharon Hines is currently battling Stage 4 carcinoid cancer, which affects the gastrointestinal system, and missed last year’s race because she was undergoing chemotherapy. Now she is determined to attend this year’s race, partly because she doesn’t know how many more races she’ll be able to see.

Her cancer battle is part of what prompted her granddaughter to apply to become a festival princess. Each year, 33 Indiana college students with good grades who have a history of community service are selected from more than 300 applicants to attend the race and other activities as princesses.

Lauren Hines, who is the lone granddaughter among Sharon Hines’ nine grandchildren, had imagined circling the track as a princess since she first attended the race a decade ago.

“I’ve been waiting to do it because racing is such a huge part of our family tradition,” she said.

Lauren Hines, who is studying nursing at Anderson University, originally planned to wait until she was older to apply, as freshmen rarely are chosen as festival princesses. But she decided to apply this year to ensure that, if she were selected, her grandmother would see her.

“My dad always wanted one of his granddaughters to try out for a 500 princess. And (Lauren) did. We got one,” Sharon Hines said.

The Hines’ racing history started with Sharon Hines’ father, Meredith E. Osborne, who began working at the speedway’s concessions in 1911 during the first Indianapolis 500.

Osborne started taking his children to the race, but those trips stopped when the speedway was shut down during World War II.

Osborne had two sons and a son-in-law who served in the war. All three told friends that if the speedway opened up again and they wanted to make the trip to see the Indianapolis 500, they could stay at the Osborne house.

The speedway reopened in 1946, and on race weekend a group of soldiers, sailors and airmen, all friends of Osborne’s children, showed up for the race. The family bought tickets for everyone who made the trip, packed a picnic of fried chicken and went to the race.

“Our house was an open house,” Sharon Hines said.

She started going to the race when she was 11, and since then she’s missed only three. Along with last year’s race, she missed one after getting married as she and her husband, Wes, didn’t have much money, and another because she was pregnant.

One of Sharon Hines’ more memorable races was in 1993 when she received pit passes. As Hines walked the pit, she imagined seeing the drivers she’d watched racing while growing up, such as A.J. Foyt, Eddie Sachs and Freddie Agabashian.

“That was probably one of the most emotional. … I was touching it. I was touching the wall,” she said.

The Hines family now buys 27 tickets to the race each year. And the night before the race the family has a cookout where 50 to 60 people eat and make predictions about which driver will win.

This year, Lauren Hines will spend the weeks leading up to race day participating in service projects at hospitals and schools as part of her duties as a festival princess. On race day, she and the other 32 princesses will be driven around the track in Camaro pace cars.

Sharon Hines would prefer to see her granddaughter chauffeured in a Corvette. But she’s still looking forward to seeing Lauren Hines round the race track.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear you guys,” Lauren Hines told her grandmother.

“I suspect you might. We’re going to have a good time,” Sharon Hines said.

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