This Li’l Red Roadster Will Roast You

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

The Rolla Way

“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.”

Winner, Winner, Turkey Dinner

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.