Only seven of the 33 cars finished the race that year, and he recalled that a lack of spare parts cost many of the drivers.
"It was the first one after World War II," the 76-year-old Clidinst recalled. "It was thrilling for me."
The "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" has been creating memories for fans since 1911. In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the first race, The Associated Press spoke with drivers, Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials, journalists and racing observers about their favorite races in Indy 500 history.
The races mentioned most often were: the 1960 race in which Jim Rathmann won a showdown with Rodger Ward; A.J. Foyt's third win in 1967; Al Unser Jr. holding off Scott Goodyear to win the closest race ever in 1992 and Sam Hornish's late pass of Marco Andretti on the final straightaway in 2006.
Clidinst, who has worked at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1964 and still works there as an archivist, also remembers the 1960 race well. Rathmann and Ward passed each other 14 times in the second half of the race.
"They changed leads once or twice a lap," he said. "That was something to watch and see how it was going to end."
Four-time winner Foyt said his first win in 1961, when he battled Eddie Sachs, was his most memorable.
"We raced hard all day long," he said. "I'd be leading; he'd be leading."
Eventually, Foyt pulled it out.
Three-time winner Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan both point to fellow Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi's win in 1989, the first for a foreign driver, as one of the most memorable Indy 500s. Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr. made contact in the final laps, and Unser crashed while Fittipaldi hung on and won under caution.
"As a Brazilian, when Emerson touched wheels with Al Jr., sorry Al, but I'll never forget that moment," Kanaan said. "I was a little kid, and Emerson, I was pulling for him."
Two-time winner Dario Franchitti remembers Danny Sullivan's save in lap 120 and eventual victory in 1985, now known as the "Spin and Win.
Teammate Scott Dixon, who won in 2008, said Hornish's pass of Andretti in the final straightaway in 2006 was the best Indy 500 he's witnessed.
"It was a hell of a comeback on that last lap or two," Dixon said.
This year's race could be special, too. Qualifying produced the closest-matched field by time in Indianapolis 500 history. Just 2.5399 seconds separate fastest qualifier Alex Tagliani and the slowest, Ana Beatriz.