Greetings to a new year GearHeads. We certainly hope you had a set of happy holidays. Now that a New Year is about to be had, what say we get down to the business of the future, which is officially here.
First order of business is the RPM bill. As most of you know, this is the battle in Congress that pits the EPA against the dedicated race car industry. Recently, a 13-9 vote has sent the bill out of the Subcommittee on the Environment. The bill currently resides in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where more debate is taking place.
At some point it will come time for the deal-making on this bill. I for one, hope that all the rest of us who can only afford to drive street cars do not suffer heavy blowback once deals are made that benefit the rich GearHeads who compete in the upper levels of Motorsports.
Now that we are in the future we might as well mention the Switchblade flying car currently being built in a secure location somewhere in Central Oregon. Expect to be seeing the prototype sometime later this spring.
Now we have Jaguar making a big jump into the EV world. They are creating a new racing series: the I-Pace etrophy Series is planned to run in conjunction with the Formula E Series at top tracks around the world, next year. Since that announcement we are hearing that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is the first team to commit to this new series.
How about a little bit of news from Uber, the ones who are poised to unleash a fleet of Tesla autonomous cars upon us. It seems that they were hacked a while back! But they handled it. They took the novel route of buying off the hackers and swearing them to secrecy. They are currently being sued by the Washington Attorneys General. But wait! They are currently being investigated for espionage for hiring former CIA agents to spy on their competition.
Oh, and speaking of Tesla, how about a bit of news from Reuters. It seems that more than 90% of the Tesla Model S and X have defects coming off the production line. Tesla says they have a special place where some of them are sent, called the “yard.” It is a special place where they go to be fixed. However they are saying not to worry, all is good. Perhaps this is just a sign of the times.
But then, we would be remiss if we did not mention the big, gala affair Tesla put on at the Big car show recently. We got to take the first look at their swoopy new 18 wheeler electric truck. And I must say it is a streamlined looking unit. But the old man was holding back the biggest surprise when… out of the back of the truck rolled the Li’l Red Roadster, as I have dubbed it.
“The fastest production car ever made period.” As they have dubbed it. They threw some numbers at us and they are impressive—very impressive! When I hear a quarter mile number that is under 9 flat—they got my ears!
We will leave you with this quote: “The point of this is just to give a hardcore Smackdown to gasoline cars.” Elon Musk
Chuck Fasst GearHeadsWorld.blogspot.com
“There is the right way, the wrong way and the Vollstedt way.”
Rolla Vollstedt, who lived by his own code, died of natural causes October 22nd 2017. He was ninety nine years old.
Several hundred family members and friends gathered at the World of Speed racing museum in Wilsonville, OR in early November to pay their respects and share their memories of a truly unique individual- An icon of auto racing that called the Pacific Northwest his home. Vollstedt was an engineer and innovator that started out in bucket-T roadsters and rose to the pinnacle of motorsports- Indianapolis. He compete at the Brickyard for nearly twenty years beginning in 1964 with a groundbreaking racer he assembled in the basement of his Portland home.
One former crew member told a story about the “monkey see-monkey do” games Vollstedt played with his fellow competitors- fibbing about practice times and installing then removing aerodynamic do-dads just to give their team a psychological edge. Writer Bob Kehoe related an anecdote about Linda Vaughn calling in during a radio interview with Vollstedt. The two (who had known each other for years) played coy for the listeners to the amusement of all. Fellow Portlander and accomplished wheelman Monte Shelton received a ribbing from Vollstedt once at PIR (Portland International Raceway). After no less than three consecutive engine failures in a weekend, Shelton announced he was throwing in the towel. “Humph,” responded Vollstedt, “I guess you’re no racer!”
I didn’t interview Vollstedt until long after he had retired from Indy car. I followed him around his machine shop in Raleigh Hills, notebook in hand, sleeping infant daughter strapped to my back. Vollstedt toiled away, barely making eye contact with me. I think he disapproved of my style but he never uttered a word about it. Twenty years later my daughter Cora (who also writes for Roddin’ and Racin’) met Vollstedt out at PIR. We were among a small group assembled to watch Michael McKinney fire his ’67 Vollstedt Ford. When offered a set of ear plugs, the veteran car owner declined. After feasting on the exquisite song of the four cammer, I believe all present were a little light-headed!
Cora slowly approached Vollstedt’s wheelchair and kneeled beside him, he smiled reassuringly. She told him how honored she was to make his acquaintance and he thanked her. Then he cautiously reached out, lifting her braid off her shoulder, “Oooooo! He exclaimed, “Are there two of these?” “Yes,” she blushed, showing him the other.
To this day, Cora braids her hair on race day. She will forever call them: “Rolla braids”.
I was delighted to share breakfast with Vollstedt at Bill’s Steak House on an occasion or two. Vollstedt would call in his order in advance so that he was served promptly after his arrival- eggs benedict, I believe.
While Vollstedt busily slurped his hollandaise sauce, across the table I lamented about another race night with engine woes. “That Pontiac motor just won’t run,” I related to Corley, “That motor just lies down.”
Without looking up from his plate, Vollstedt interjected: “You don’t have a Pontiac motor.”
“Huh?” I responded. “Excuse me?”
“You don’t have a Pontiac motor,” he repeated putting a forkful of egg in his mouth.
“I don’t?” I said.
“No,” he asserted without looking up. “You have a Pontiac engine, he explained. “Motors have cords.”
Christopher Bell wins the 77th running of the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway
Motorsports is steeped in tradition. Driver lineages, rituals, and yearly challenges are defining landmarks through racing’s past. In racing, prestige comes with age. The Daytona 500? 58 years old, Knoxville Nationals? Also 58. Chili Bowl Nationals? 30 years. Besides Racing’s Greatest Spectacle, the Indianapolis 500- that just checked off 106 years old and 101 runnings last May, the Turkey Night Grand Prix is one of the oldest marquees in motorsports.
For 77 years this race has been a Thanksgiving tradition in the southern tracks of California. The winner list reads like a who’s who of open wheel of racing history. Bill Vukovich, Johnnie Parsons, Tony and Gary Bettenhausen, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Bryan Clauson and Tony Stewart are only some of the familiar names that are engraved into the famous ‘Aggie’ trophy.
Though not the originator of Turkey Night, the late J.C. Agajanian was a big promoter and proponent of the history of the event. Since his passing in 1984, J.C. Agajanian Jr. and family have done their best to keep Turkey Night alive in his father’s honor. “You know I have gone to Turkey Night my entire life,” laughed J.C. Jr., “I started out selling programs… I have only missed a handful in my life. Some of the best drivers in the world have raced here- (tonight) is some of the best talent that we have ever had!”
The inaugural race was held at Gilmore Stadium in 1934 and lived there until 1950. In 1960 Turkey Night was hosted at Agajanian’s famous Ascot Park for the first time. Thirty years later, the 50th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix became the last of more than 5,000 main events held since the track opened. The gates were closed the next day, the track destroyed to make way for a failed development project. The Thanksgiving tradition lived on, bouncing between dirt and pavement tracks alike before landing at Ventura Speedway in 2016.
“We normally get maybe 12- 16 cars for our regular program,” explained a local race fan named Sherry. “This is a big deal for us!”
Shane Golobic from Fremont, CA driving the No. 17w Clauson-Marshall/ Wood car led the field of 52 midgets in practice on Wednesday night before the big show, but reigning Turkey Night champion and Elk Grove, CA native, Kyle Larson, topped out qualifying.
Though Larson has recently reached mainstream recognition for his talents in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series, his roots are in open wheel dirt track racing. “Coming back to dirt is like riding a bike,” says Larson. A daring competitor, he is known for his hair-raising strategy of working the high line around the track. Though he put up a valiant fight, it was Norman, OK native Christopher Bell that took home the trophy at the end of the night.
Though the box score only counts three official lead changes between Larson and Bell, it is not indicative of the battle fought. The two sea- sawed from the very beginning, trading point multiple times within each lap. At one time Larson swept his No. 1 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian- racer around the outside of Bell’s No.21 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian car going down the front straightaway, daring Bell to find a new line. Immediately through turn 1, Bell fired back by impossibly finding grip higher on the groove.
A couple of yellows slowed down the pace and bunched the cars back up. Bell held off Larson on every restart, high low and in between. You could throw a blanket over the two right down to the end of the 98th and final lap. Golobic closed the gap in the last two turns and finished third. Bell crossed the line .193 seconds before Larson.
Bell has had an exceptional 2017 campaign, racing — and winning — in the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck series, and taking home a Golden Digger from the 2017 Chili Bowl Nationals. Turkey Night is just the whip cream on Bell’s already impressive launch into the higher levels of professional racing. At 22 years old, Bell is following the projection of Larson, Jeff Gordon and other open wheel hotshots.
“Did you guys have as much fun as I did?” Bell asked the crowd after getting out of the car. The packed grandstands roared in return. As far as traditions go, this one is well worth pulling up a chair to. It is always a feast of talent.
Hopefully, you noticed the double ‘Business Card Ad” on the business card page these last couple of months, Crocker Blasting Services, Dustless Blasting. A few people asked me “What is Dustless Blasting”? Well let’s talk about what Colin Crocker and his “Dustless Blasting,” process is and what it can do for you and your project.
First of all, he will come to you, yep it’s mobile. Second, it is indeed “dustless.” If you have ever “Sand Blasted” anything, you know there can be a huge dust cloud and a large mess everywhere when the work is done. With “Dustless Blasting” there is little to no clean-up and it’s environmentally friendly. With “Dustless Blasting” less heat is developed reducing the risk of warping the metal, a common problem with ordinary sand blasting. Colin tells me that he can even blast fiberglass without damage to the subsurface.
Once the blasting is done he applies a rust inhibitor to keep the bare metal from flash rusting. My experience shows me that starting with a clean surface on any car restoration is always the best idea. It saves time and therefore money, not to mention hard work sanding rust, paint or body filler off your pride and joy.
Start your next project with a clean slate. Get it blasted by Colin Crocker with Crocker Blasting Services and Dustless Blasting. 971-409-3774, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.CrockerBlasting.com. Be sure and tell him Roddin’ & Racin’ NorthWest sent you.
Once Gary and I had committed to it, we were all in. The West Capital Alumni Association’s All American Vintage Classic has existed for twelve years. The first one was organized by Brenda Anderson, wife of Sacramento short track legend Johnny Anderson. Bonnie Chisholm was a board member back in ’06 and took over the event reins the following year. Chisholm also heads up the vintage segment at the Louie Vermeil Classic at Calistoga each Labor Day and that is how my buddy Gary Barnes and I came to be invited.
Now Barnes and I had never driven our race cars on asphalt before…and that is where the Voytek brothers come in. They were planning to attend the Classic anyway so when they offered to crew for us and lend us their pavement expertise, it was pretty much a no brainer.
We arrived in Roseville (CA) on Thursday at dusk. Many of the participants were already there including a Super Modified that was very familiar to me. One of the last races I attended at the old San Jose Speedway was the Johnny Key Classic in 1976. And here before me, literally moments after pulling through the pit gate, appeared the winning car from that event. Thus began an awesome weekend that at times bordered on the surreal.
Friday began with a race memorabilia swap meet. The number of vendors was small but somehow everyone in my party found something they couldn’t live without.
Naturally, I wanted to race with Gary. Yes, my 1985 Sargent is technically a Super but in reality the car has more in common with his ’80 Stanton Sprint Car than the other Supers on hand. It has torsion bar suspension, no starter and I run it without a wing. The officials wouldn’t have it (a Super is a Super; a Sprint Car is a Sprint Car… I guess). Instead they tossed me in with a mixed group of varied experience. I recognized the #5 car from the pages of Vintage Oval. I even remembered the guy’s name: Dan Green. He was one of Legends of Kearny Bowl up from the Fresno area. Also in our session was the Duke McMillan built #0, recently restored by Mike Sargent and driven by Jim DaRe.
The green light blinked on and we were underway. The #5 was circulating slowly, clinging to the bottom groove. DaRe meanwhile chose the high line and really starting hauling the mail. I was somewhere in the middle. I dove in under the #5 and powered away. Within a few laps I was gaining on him again! The #0 in contrast, flashed by me for a second time! On the checkered flag lap the three of us arrived in turn four together. DaRe on the outside, I commit to the bottom, #5 in the center. The #0 easily crossed the line first; I accelerated past the #5 but got a shot in the right rear for my efforts. When I came back around on my cool off lap, #5 was parked sideways at start/finish. “Uh-oh” I thought, “I’m gonna get blamed for that.” It turned out Green no longer owned the car and the new owner of #5 was letting his wife take a test drive. (A rookie ribbon tied to the back of the cage might have been a good idea).
“You see the painted stipe around the bottom?” the head official asked me. “Yeah, I guess.” I said. “You have to stay to the right of that.” He told me I was fast but I was going to wreck somebody. “You need to move up a groove, work on being smoother, slow down to go faster, etc.” I told him I understood and promised to behave myself. In the final session I kept my nose clean. I ran by myself and worked on driving smoother.
Saturday morning we pushed all the cars over behind the grandstands. There was a hot rod show, other display vehicles and vendor booths- all of it, free to the public. Around noon the alumni association honored their new inductees and we all enjoyed a great barbequed lunch. I estimated the group under the pavilion at 350 but Chisholm revealed later that the head count was actually 380- a complete sellout. Afterward we pushed all the cars back to the pit area and track time commenced.
I feel like I continued to get smoother, driving deeper into the turns and braking less, rolling on the throttle earlier. My lap times were likely coming down but my engine temp was starting to climb. I eventually dropped some fluid on the track and found myself back under scrutiny. For my final session we switched out the radiator cap and closed off the overflow making a contained system. I vowed to pull off if the temp got higher than 240.
I was laying down my best laps of the weekend when rivulets of water began streaming down the face of the dash. Then: “Ka-booof!” The lower radiator hose blew and I became a passenger on my own personal carnival ride. Luckily I stopped without hitting anything, faced up the banking between turns three and four. I checked for oncoming traffic just in time to see #5 (of all possible cars) hit my water, do a quick 360 and kiss the retaining wall! My Vintage Classic ended there.
I was glad to hear that damage to the #5 was minimal. Calling it a “racing deal” is cop out so if I spoiled his and his wife’s weekend, I take responsibility and apologize. Gary meanwhile did awesome. He led the Sprint Car finale for eight laps before finishing second.
Throughout the weekend there was serious buzz about this being the last Vintage Classic to be held at All American Speedway in Roseville. I certainly hope that that is not the case. Thanks again to Bonnie Chisholm and all the people that help make this event one of the greatest vintage racing events I have ever attended.
Combining the nonstop buzz of Las Vegas with the world’s largest automotive tradeshow is a guaranteed good time, and SEMA 2017 didn’t disappoint. All the fun aside, SEMA is serious work, and where we keep on top of what is new and hot in the automotive industry so we can offer our customers the latest technologies and aftermarket components.
We strapped on our walking shoes and checked out all that SEMA had to offer. It is always fun to see what will be unveiled, and the direction the industry is leaning towards. One thing was more apparent than ever—80s-era body styles are the next thing. We saw a number of sweet builds base off from square body trucks, 3rd gen Camaros, and fox body Mustangs.
We hope you enjoy checking out a quick peek into some of the amazing builds that were on display. You can check out our BLOG posts for additional images: http://metalworksclassics.com/#blog
It was in thick and anxious anticipation that I waited for my press credential clearance for the Red Bull Air Races. Their second year being held in a hover over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this was a great opportunity to take a new angle of attack on a sport and facility that I have become comfortable with.
This degree of motorsport is yet another marginal hue according to the United States demographic. Internationally however, the Red Bull Air Race Championship has been flying high for eleven years. Similar in tone to Formula 1, the Air Race Championship frequents exciting and affluent cities all over the world. Before hosting their series finale at Indy, the pilots had already put on a dazzling display in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Russia, Hungary, Portugal, and Germany and did a fly- by off the beaches of San Diego. Indy is far from the most populated event, though with a few more years of traction, and a prayer for good weather, it could be.
Finally, with email confirmation in hand, I ran down to the offices that are kiddy corner to the famed Speedway. Upon entering, I noticed a dramatic shift. All of the credential girls had turned into 50’s-inspired flight attendants. (EXP WHAT IT LOOKED BEFORE) In the spirit of branding domination, Red Bull converted both the credentials office and the media center into lux cocktail lounges. Complete with potted plants, huge translucent murals on the glass walls, and more helpful stewardesses, the place was almost unrecognizable.
This is precisely why I wanted to see this spectacle. Where the Indianapolis 500 is steeped in history and fans, this over-the-top effort to make an impression through details is a different approach to this facility.
Last year, both classes of planes put on a great show. In the title series, referred to as the Master Class, a German pilot by the name of Matthias Dolderer was handed the win and championship with one more event to go. This time around it was mathematically down to a handful of pilots, whomever won the race would take home the prize.
With the sun shining and the wind low, it was considered ‘perfect flying condition’ by most of the pilots. One- by- one they zipped through the puffy nylon pylons. Each run required three trips through the course before loop–da–looping around and starting the circuit again. The name of the game is to complete the task as perfect as possible. Penalties take form as additional time added to the run. These penalties can be for clipping a pylon, not going though the two- pylon gates in a horizontal fashion, flying too low in the course or flying too high in the course, pulling too many g’s on the loop and others.
In short- not just any pilot have the skill to do this. The Red Bull series itself knows the level of competency needed and hand picks the pilots to compete. This is very different from most motorsports where drivers show up with their bag of cash from sponsors and deals with a team. Here, Red Bull assigns the pilots to the stables and hooks sponsorships on their own. Everybody gets a slice of the pie.
A mechanic who was dutifully buffing his plane broke all of this down to me. “Each plane has one man. I am the man for this plane,” he said wearily. “We ship the planes from one country to the next, then assemble them close to port. They fly them to the track.” He said.
“So you have to completely disassemble their plane between races?” I asked. “Yes” he sighed “we pretty much rebuild them from the ground up overnight.” It was no wonder why this gentleman looked exhausted.
Even though the weather was shockingly beautiful for qualifying, a cold, harsh rain set in for race morning. The officials called off the support series, named the Challenger Class, and the qualifying order from the day before stood as results. This made French born Melanie Astles the first woman to win a major event in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track history. “I am glad that I won here at Indy,” she said “but I do my best flying in the rain and in the wind. I was looking forward to going out there today and showing my best, but I am still happy with the result.” She said.
With one eye on the radar, Flight Control opted for a later start time for the Master Class. Unlike other events held at IMS, the Red Bull Air Races continue rain or shine- the heavier deciding factor being wind speed. The blustering breeze made the pylons dance all morning.
While waiting for the weather to clear, the pilots stationed at the front of their hangars to do interviews with media, talk with sponsor guests, and interact with fans. One of the front -runners for the series title, Japanese team Falken pilot Yoshi Muroya even hosted a special guest. 2017 Indy500 Champion and fellow countryman, Takuma Sato was close by all weekend.
Another contender for the race win and series crown was a veteran of the sport, American, Kirby Chambliss. “I have logged over 27,000 hours (of flight),” he said “that’s like taking off and landing four years later.”
After the gaggle of fans continued on, Chambliss rolled his Red Bull-spangled plane to the front of the hangar and grabbed an armful of tall, thin energy drink cans. I watched as he methodically set them up around the open floor area. Glancing up, he felt the need to explain the method to his madness. “This is my test track,” he motioned. “I like the flight simulator fine, but this just helps me picture what I need to do out there better.” Carefully, the two- time World Champion demonstrated the path he would take around the big course outside by using his hand to simulate the plane. After a couple of circuits he explained how the day was going go.
After each pilot takes a qualifying time, the Master Class grid is set. Much like drag racing, two pilots are slotted against each other. The better time moves on to the next round. They go from 14 pilots, to 8, then move on to 4. The last round is a shootout, best time takes all.
The wind and mist carried on throughout the rounds. Late in the previous day, the race officials made it clear that clipping a pylon, whether it was moved by the wind or not, would result in immediate disqualification. A few would be knocked out of the running by this rule enforcement, including Chambliss.
Muroya set the bar high out the gate with a new track record of 1min 03.026 seconds, which no one could touch. It came down to he and the Czechoslovakian, Martin Sonaka in the Red Bull colors. Leading the points going into this final round of battle, not only was the race win, but also the series championship was at stake. The fatal flaw of a missed vertical maneuver added four seconds to Sonaka’s time, and he could not recover. This handed the win and crown to Muroya, making him the first Japanese pilot to win a championship in series history.
Amongst screams and jubilation, Takuma Sato appeared in Victory Circle to congratulate his friend. Only four points granted Muroya the series championship, and mere seconds gave him the opportunity to kiss the bricks at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“We love this sport,” said an Air Race fan by the name Jim. He and his wife had avidly followed the series for years, and had the helmet full of notable signatures to prove it. “We don’t like any other organized sports. If you can’t get killed in the stands, then it is not exciting enough for me. We are from San Diego and saw them on their way out here. This is our first time in Indy!” When asked if he would come back for the already- promised Red Bull Air Race in 2018, he was quick to reply “Absolutely.”
Press deadline for this column is coming up right on the heels of the SEMA show. As most readers know the SEMA show is all about the entire motorsports aftermarket. The other thing we know is all the coolest of the latest hotrods built are debuted there. This writer could not make it there this year however he has been enjoying pics sent back to him by SEMA model, Tracy SG Rider. Friend her on Facebook.
I would just like to say that you truly cannot appreciate the magnificence of all of the creativity that goes into all of these cars and parts that are shown down there unless you have been there. And it is a shame that there are many members of our government that would very much like to see everyone of us being transported around in nameless, faceless, driver-less little boxes in the future. And as Gearheads I would like to think that there are damned few of us that would look forward to existing in that kind of a future. So with that said, let’s get on to the news of the day.
Communist China has made an announcement and now California has come on board with them. They are in favor of banning the sale and use of internal combustion engines in the future. And make no mistake about it, California is no bit player in the overall scheme of things. They are the sixth largest economy out there.
And let us consider one thing concerning this all electric vehicle Utopia that they envision. They all require batteries. And what do we all know about batteries? That’s right Egbert — they always go dead. So what then? We throw the whole car away just like our cordless drills, iPads and cell phones because it is too expensive otherwise. And understand this – that will get expensive! As you are forced to use more and more of your residual income in order to have transportation then what will that do to your discretionary income and your standard of living? Think about it.
There is a lot of talk about mining companies these days. This Brave New World that our Visionaries conceive of should work out quite well for them. This world full of batteries is going to require a long list of rare earth metals such as lithium and Cobalt. There is not enough of that around, so… China might be able to dig up a bunch of it. How much do you think they will charge us?
News from the Tesla front. Seems they are having a few problems with their every man car, so to speak. That would be the model 3. Seems they are having problems with the spot welds on the assembly line. Something to do with the car’s construction of mostly steel as opposed to aluminum. All we know is that they are behind schedule and they need to pick up the pace. Now we are hearing that they have fired something around 400 to 700 employees.
Now a tidbit from the European community it seems that the powers-that-be are attempting to declare mandatory insurance for all competitors in all of motorsports, all the way up to F1. But here is the rub, the insurance companies are not interested in issuing those kinds of policies. We will see what happens.
Motorsports magnate, Bob Lutz has written an article about the future of driving cars. It has proved to be quite controversial. Refer to Automotive News for more.
Now, here’s an update on Uber. This has to do with their flying car project. It is moving right along. They have signed an agreement with NASA to create a new air traffic control system for 2020. Elon Musk of Tesla has weighed in on this and he says—not doable.
And finally, back to Earth we have Google’s Waymo operating totally driver-less in Arizona. They are planning to be hauling around the public in just a few months.
Finally I must announce the loss of renowned, local race car designer, Rolla Vollstedt who passed on at the age of 99. Also my 20 + year old cat, Keeper passed on as she approached 99 in human years. Keeper was a car cat who made appearances in many of my Driveway Repair videos that I have done on YouTube. She is sorely missed. That’s all for now GearHeads.