There was a TV show in the 60’s or maybe it was the 70’s, called All in the Family. That phrase applies to other circumstances… like the old car hobby. My family has been at least interested in cars for my whole life. My Dad was a car guy when he was younger. He had a number of, what are considered today as, “Blue Chip” cars, only he owned them back when they were just old used cars, oh and they were cheap to buy too. I also have a couple brothers who have owned many cool cars over the years and like me they wish they still had them.
My brother Randy owned a 66 Chevy Nova, which he “resto-moded” back before that was a thing. A 65 Malibu SS with a 4 speed, a 67 Chevelle, a couple 57 Chevys, cars trucks etc. and likely more than I can recall now. He became a damn good mechanic when he grew up and has bought repaired and ultimately sold on, quite a few other great cars like his totally redone 64 Impala SS Convertible, his 72 ½ ton 4 X 4 pickup, which was a total restoration and it turned out absolutely beautiful.
We have worked on car together, in fact we started out working on my 66 Biscayne together. I ultimately finished that one and he started on his latest, a 1965 Corvair. He jumped into that one after we moved the Biscayne to my shop and the Corvair has been in the dreaded “Limbo” for a time now.
A few years back he got roped into cleaning up a friend’s moth balled 70 (I think) Corvette. It had been sitting for a long while and needed a bunch of mechanical attention. But he got it back on the road and it was a great looking car.
The Corvair is really pretty nice and is said to have been owned by Jack Ramsey, of Portland Blazers. The car had its fair share of bumps and bruises, like they all do but not a lot of bad. It ran and drove well and looked pretty got from 20 feet.
At last look it is getting near a good coat of primer and then the block sanding fun can begin so, it’s pretty close. I’m hoping that this little article will spur him into action to get back to it. It could be a fun summertime driver… aren’t they all?
Watching last weekend’s broadcast of the U.S. Grand Prix (Formula One race) from Austin TX; I had a difficult time figuring out who was driving which car. Not because each team fields two virtually identical entries, but because the car numbers have become less prominent than they were in year’s past. I picked out the numbers on the winning Mercedes mostly because its flanks aren’t cluttered with corporate logos (unlike the Ferraris) but the third place Red Bull? Forget it!
In the modern age of transponders and computerized scoring, the legibility of car numbers isn’t as critical as it once was. I certainly hope they aren’t considering eliminating them altogether. Growing up, a numeral emblazoned on the side of most any vehicle is what made it immediately identifiable as “a racer”.
NASCAR Cup racing is a series in which the car numbers still play an important role. I think because the Fords, Chevrolets and Toyotas are all the same shape and color schemes change frequently, car numbers are critical for identification purposes. You can easily follow a particular team’s progress throughout the race if you can pick out the number. Take for example the Petty Enterprises forty three. If you’re a Petty fan, that number carries a ton of history for you. You’re rooting for Bubba Wallace today but you’re also honoring the owner, Richard Petty’s legacy. It’s hard to imagine a Cup race without a forty three in the field. Richard chose that number because his father Lee was still in competition when Richard started and he ran forty two. When Richard’s son Kyle turned pro, he logically ran forty four. No one can tell me these numbers aren’t meaningful to thousands of Petty fans.
Consider the Childress three… I doubt that any car number in American racing history conjures up deeper emotions. Even though Dale Earnhardt is gone, I think it gives fans comfort to see a number three out there circulating.
Sometimes car numbers have emotional attachments from the get go. Accomplished northwestern driver Monte Shelton chose fifty seven because that was the year his son Neil was born.
Sometimes numbers are earned. I can’t think of any driver more deserving of number one than San Franciscan Nick Rescino. During his career the short track legend won six season championships, some on pavement and some on dirt. Interestingly, he reportedly sold his right to that number one season to a fellow competitor. Joey Santos exchanged his three for Rescino’s one. The cost was $100.00 and a new tire!
And sometimes the choice of car number is sort of an evolution. “We don’t really have a car number,” said the late Merle Brennan looking to his wife to help with an explanation. Like Shelton, Brennan was a successful club racer that held his own when he ventured into a national event. He ran seventeen on his Genie Chevrolet when he raced in the Can Am in the late sixties. Built his own sports racer from a wrecked formula car and numbered it fourteen. When the Can Am was revived in 1977, he procured a McLaren M8F and raced it as nineteen. For whatever reason, Brennan clearly preferred a number in the teens.
My choice of number was an evolution as well. I numbered the first car I raced thirteen because though I wasn’t superstitious, I knew I was in for the biggest challenge of my life. Along came a professional mechanic offering help but only if I would change my number. “With all the things that can go wrong,” he explained, “you don’t need that working against you!” I wasn’t attached to the number and needed his help so I switched to four. The number four had no significance to me- it was simply the lowest number that was available. A few years later I wanted to update with a newer, lighter car and sold the four. The new owner assumed the number was part of the deal and balked when I suggested he change it. Not wanting the transaction to fall apart in the eleventh hour, I conceded and selected six instead. Again, the number had no significance to me other than I liked the single digit and it was available. My new number six was an awesome car and with it I won my first feature. I raced that car pretty successfully for a few seasons, sold it and eventually bought it back. It was always number six for me and after I sold it the second time, it won in the next owner’s hands. It was a great car!
As I mentioned, I’m not superstitious but I do believe in luck. My fortunes changed with the purchase of my original six car so every car I raced going forward was also numbered six.
We woke up the morning of Monday, November 4, 2019, to find that the whole kit and caboodle has been sold. No seriously, for an IndyCar fan, it felt like it. A year and a day since the passing of Mari Hulman George, the only daughter of the late Tony Hulman, it was announced that IndyCar, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions will be turned over than none other than Roger ‘The Capitan’ Penske come January 1, 2020.
“I think once the momentum continues to swell here, I think it’s going to raise all boats, so hopefully, we’ll have that opportunity to continue to be involved and work right alongside Roger and his group and all of the teams and fans and media that come here to enjoy it” — Tony George, son of Mari Hulman George and Chairman of Hulman & Company.
This is a huge deal. Like has-only-happened-4-times- in-100-years kind of big. When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909, four local businessmen became the founding fathers of The Racing Capital of the World. Arthur Newby, James Allison, Carl Fisher, and Frank Wheeler oversaw the construction and effectively owned the track until WWII Flying Ace Eddie Rickenbacker and associates bought it in 1927 for $750,000. Rickenbacker ushered in a new era of safety innovations and was the face of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through the Great Depression and World War II. In 1945, supplies were short due to the war efforts and the track had fallen into a state of disrepair. Terre Haute, IN native and Anthony ‘Tony’ Hulman bought the track at the suggestion of three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Wilbur Shaw. Shaw was named President and the Hulman family has proudly owned the track and the subsidiary racing series and Production Company for decades. Enter Roger Penske.
“We’re very excited to be in a place where our process took us to a point where we as a family all agreed we needed to have a conversation with Roger Penske. I approached him at the final race of the season, not wanting to distract from the task at hand, which was bringing home another championship… I just simply said, I’d like to meet with him and talk about stewardship” — Tony George.
Roger Penske is no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or IndyCar. You could easily say that he has been an integral part of both for the better part of his life. Once a racer himself, Roger became fascinated with motorsports early on. The Penske Racing team debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1966 and he entered his first car at Indy in 1969. The rest is history. Fielding cars with iconic drivers and chassis, Penske Racing racked up a record-breaking 14 Indy500 wins alone- including this year’s Champion, Simon Pagenaud. Just looking at 2019, Roger and Team Penske had a big season. Induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Fifth IndyCar Championship title and IMSA Prototype Challenge Championship- all of which are significant on their own yet somehow only ended up being footnotes to one of the largest purchases in American Motorsports history.
“I think to everyone that’s here today and around the world listening to this iconic event, I really have to wind back to 1951 when my dad brought me here when I was 14 years old, and I guess at that point the bug of motor racing got in my blood I’d have to say… So today I hope my dad’s looking down at me and looking at this group and saying, Son, you did a good job.” – Roger Penske
This is fantastic news- and news that affects the entire industry as a whole. If anyone cares about IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, it is Roger Penske. Someone who is not afraid to pour dollars, manpower, and experience into a project, Roger himself is already talking about big plans. Night racing, more series, and upgraded safety and technology will take a venue that is already legendary and make it better. Bigger business and more partners can help bring in another engine manufacturer or international races into the series. Make no mistake, by no means, will the traditions we know and love be cast away or forgotten, but encouraged on a larger stage.
“Look, we’ve got to break some glass on some of these things, don’t we. We’ve got to try some of this. I’m prepared to take a risk. No risk, no reward in many cases.” — Roger Penske
It’s hard to say what ideas will be implemented first or on what scale. Suffice to say, that 2019 is already shaping up to be an incredibly interesting racing season. Thank you, Hulman George family for the decades of service and let’s welcome our new Capitan, Roger Penske.
Well GearHeads, looks like we have entered into the offseason. Indoor car shows will be coming up around the corner. The NWDRA Swapmeet is coming Jan. 26. This writer recently attended the PDX Practice Tree. Everybody was way chill. It seems like this group gots it together. Their next event is coming up December 7.
Hey, we gots more news on the electrical car front. Dyson invested over $3 billion on their EV that looks like their vacuum cleaner. Then they threw in the towel. So that is one car that will not suck.
Now, did you guys hear this about Uber? they are out there on the highway testing their automated vehicles. It seems that one of their AVs struck and killed a ped who was j walking with their bicycle. It seems that their AI was not designed to recognize a ped who was far from a crosswalk! Really? One would think that their pinheads woulda thunk that one out a little further?
There was a driver behind the wheel of the AV. But they were streaming “ The Voice” on their cell phone. Hooboy! Oh and both Uber and Lyft have admitted that their cars are making traffic worse!
Now, how about a little bit about flying cars? We are talking Urban air mobility VTOLs. Looks like Porsche and Boeing have teamed up to build one. So we are talking about vertical takeoff and landing.
It seems that Harley has halted production and delivery of their “Livewire” EV bike. Wonder what’s going on there?
So, in the last column we talked about the UAW GM strike. It ended up going on for a long time, 40 days. It definitely crimped GM’s style. Production of the C8 Corvette has definitely been slowed. They had not even finished filling orders for the C7! So we have been talking about these C8s a little bit, in this column. We have another little tidbit to throw at you, down below.
Alrighty then, now let’s talk about racing and horsepower … stuff like that. Here is a wild one: Roger Penske steps up and buys IMS Racing with his Penske Entertainment Group. This means they will be running the Indianapolis Motor Speedway along with the IndyCar racing series!
Hey MOPAR guys! It looks like Dodge is offering you a sweet discount on their new performance rides. they are offering ten bucks per horsepower discount. That means you can save almost $8 grand on their baddest boy!
So let’s finish off this little diatribe with a tidbit from Motor Trend. They managed to get a C8 Corvette onto the dyno. You know, the ones that are rated at 495 horsepower? Well, there’s cranked out 660 horsepower at the crank!
I have been to many races in my lifetime, but very few as just a spectator sitting in the grandstands. I have always been involved at a race, such as part of a pit crew, taking photographs, or gathering info to write a story.
The first 10 years of my life I was raised in Santa Clara, Calif. My family has always gone to circle track races. On Friday nights we would go to the Alviso Speedway, a ¼ mile dirt track. Then on Saturday night, we would go to San Jose speedway, ⅓ mile high banked paved oval. My uncle was part of a pit crew for one of the hardtops that raced at both tracks. This was back in the late ’50s through the early ’60s.
So I guess you could say that racing was in my blood. Back then I was a spectator, sat in the bleachers with my family and cheered for our favorite drivers. Even back then I would go into the pits with the family after all the racing was over for the night. I got to look at the cars up close and personal and even got to sit in a few.
In ‘62 the family moved to the City of Rogue River in southern Oregon. My love of racing never died, but at that time it was put on hold. From then until my high school days I would take a week or so in the summer and go back to San Jose to see my uncle and go to the races at San Jose Speedway.
It was then my hands-on involvement started. Throughout the week my uncle would take me with him to the shop where we worked on a couple of hardtop race cars. As a little guy, my job was not much. Wash parts, thread on bolts by hand, holding things in place. Then we would go to the races. My uncle would be in the pits and I would be back in the stand with the family as a “spectator”.
Back in Oregon I worked pumping gas at a local service station that sponsored a stock car that raced at the Posse Grounds Race Track, a ¼ mile dirt track in Medford. I am back getting my hands dirty and loving every minute. The team would race in Roseburg and Medford. I was in the pits not in the stands.
As time marches on I grew up, got married and raised a family. In time I moved to Albany Ore. Now selling auto parts, I met Brian Drager, now one of my very good friends. He is a driver and a race car builder. I helped at his shop and in the pits as I could. It was a great time in my life.
Then came a change. I had developed a love for photography. I was not in the stands, I was in the infield of the tracks. I took photos all over the west coast for Racing Wheels Newspaper, Open Wheels Magazine, and now Roddin’ and Racin’ NW Newspaper. I got to be in the infield, in the pits, and even in the flagman’s stand to take photos. Most recently I was able to travel to Indy.
I still enjoy watching the races from the stands. About five years ago I was asked to come along to the races at Willamette Speedway by some close friends that knew very little about short track racing. They kept asking when was “the big one”? You know the multicar pileup that always seems to happen in Nascar. Later that evening 3 cars spun out and I told them that was the big one! As I sat in the stand I enjoyed answering the questions from the rookies.
A couple of weeks ago I went back to Willamette Speedway with another one of my friends, Steve Veltman. My, how things have changed. It is a beautiful racing facility. I also found out that a couple of friends of mine worked there. The flagman Jeff Morrison has been a friend for many years. He does a great job of keeping the races going on the track. Another friend is Joel Imamura, the announcer. I understand this was his first year announcing. He did a great job keeping everyone up to date as what was going on at the track. While I was at the race I decided to write a story about it. I was without my camera so I took photos with my phone, not great, but, better than nothing.
I have been very fortunate in my racing life. Helping build cars, being on pit crews, photographing and writing. The last race for the season I was a spectator and I loved it.
Word arrived by telegram to our home, and Ma burst into the living room shaking the letter and screamed, “EB IS COMING HOME! HE WILL BE HERE FOR CHRISTMAS!!”
I was drawing in the workbook I carried with me everywhere I went, and my little sister Stella was playing with her doll. Outside the wind gusted, and we could feel the icy wind reach to us through the walls. Pa was at work down at the rail yards. He was a mechanic and helped keep the locomotives running on time. My older brother Ebenezer had enlisted shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. He was an all star athlete in high school and the president of a car club; he was one of those guys that others wanted to be like. Eb was five years older than me.
When he left to serve, he told me to take the reins and take care of Ma, Pa, and Stella. Gape mouthed, I looked at him; this was a whole new world for me. Eb dropped his head, shook it slowly from side to side with a hint of that grin that melted all of the girls in school. “Come on, Zeke, you make it sound like I’ll never come home.”
Again, the whole world shifted for me. The thought of Ebenezer never coming home grounded me. I nervously laughed and nodded. “Yeah, I know. Just me being a clown, you know?”
We both paused. In my mind, I saw the photos of the carnage at Pearl Harbor.
Smoke. Fire. Lives lost.
Eb broke the silence. “Okay, so while I am away…“ and he left me instructions on maintenance for the furnace that he tended to because Pa had a bad back and stooping in the crawl space was hard on him. He reminded me of Ma’s medication and to keep watch on Stella and to be stern on her studies and piano practice. But he also asked me to start his roadster up every week so the engine would not go south while he was away. In those four long years, I took on the tasks of being more than a son in our household.
Monday December 24th
My bedroom was on the ground floor of our Queen Anne styled home; my folks and Stella each had their rooms upstairs. Eb’s room was just down from mine. As I had done since my brother had left, I slept lightly; listening to the furnace to make sure it was still performing its duties, listening for sounds that would indicate a prowler or something amiss.
When there was a light tap on my window, I sat straight up and looked at the window, cocking my head to the side when it happened again. I leapt out of my bed and grabbed my Louisville slugger. Fear ran its icy finger down my spine as I crossed the room to open the curtains and see what, or who, was the source of the tapping noise.
It was snowing, and standing there in his dress uniform was my brother Eb. He saw me getting ready to shout but moved his finger over his lips in a hush gesture. I nodded, and he motioned for me to get dressed and be quiet. I grabbed a sweater, my dungarees and wool socks, boots, jacket, hat, and gloves. Quietly, I opened my door, then made my way across the dark living room before going outside.
Eb had placed his duffle bag on the front porch and was waiting near the garage. “You’ve grown, little brother!” he whispered. I nodded, and he quietly chuckled.
“Why are we not waking the folks?” I asked in a whisper.
Ebenezer motioned at our home. “Welp, I had every intention of doing just that, but then I saw the dark living room and no Christmas tree. What’s going on? Ma has always had a tree.”
“We haven’t had a tree since you’ve been gone, Ebenezer. Ma and Pa just scuttled the idea, and Stella and I made do.”
My reply hit my brother hard. He nodded, then pressed a gloved hand to his eyes. He pursed his lips, sniffed, and I had to look away.
“Well, let’s change that,” he said.
With that, as quietly as we could, we pushed his roadster out of the garage and onto the street. Carefully, we placed the chains on the back tires, loaded up an ax and some twine, and then we were off.
It was around 2 AM as we made our way toward the outskirts of town. The roadster’s mill cackled softly and resonated off the buildings as we drove. There were wreaths and lights hanging from the lamp posts. We came up to a stop sign, and I leapt out and raced to a lamp post that was at the intersection. Quickly, I removed the wreath and attached it to the roadster’s grille. Eb laughed, and we were on our way again.
Snow began to fall creating a wonderland, and the tire chains had a rhythmic bell-like ringing. As if on cue, Eb began to sing Jingle Bells. I joined in, and it was all I could have wished for. Eb loudly sang “Oh what fun it is to ride in a hopped up 32 Ford!”
We were about four miles out of town when Eb pulled off. We got out and eyed a few trees before we found one that was just right. We cut it down, strapped it to the back of the ’32, and headed back home. “Brother, that wreath looks mighty keen on my car.” Eb said. I just beamed.
About a quarter mile from home, Eb killed the engine, and the little Ford rolled softly to a stop in front of our home. We carefully removed the tree from the roadster and carried it inside. Eb steadied the evergreen, and I swiftly ran back to the garage and found the tree stand and some decorations. The clock was showing 5 a.m. when we felt our work was done. I sat down on the sofa looking at the beautiful sight. I had forgotten how wonderful a Christmas tree was in our home. Eb stepped back and began to sing.
“Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright.”
His voice boomed and filled the house. Upstairs, I heard footsteps, rustling, and doors banged open.
Ma raced down the stairs followed by Pa. Stella was soon close behind. Ma turned to Pa, his hand on her back. She clasped her hands together in glee. Stella squeezed between our parents and rushed Ebenezer. He lifted her up and hugged her. My folks slowly made their way to Eb, and we all hugged each other. Again, as a family.
That was Christmas 1945.
To this day, it resonates as one of the greatest Christmases, and I share it every year to my grandchildren.
As a bonus, their Great Uncle Eb takes them for a ride in that great old ’32 Ford .
-Written by Mark “Spooky” Karol-Chik 11/9/2019
Inspired by the incredible art work done by Tom Fritz visit his work at https://www.fritzart.com
The name Don Garlits is synonymous with drag racing. As I was growing up, ABC TV’s Wild World of Sports was the show to watch to get a glimpse of the man who would become the legend. Mr. Garlits has hand-built 34 cars that have taken him to 144 national event wins. He started his racing career in 1950 and scored his first victory in 1955.
Located in Ocala, Florida The Garlits Racing Museums in are a two-part complex; his Drag Racing Museum and his Antique Cars Museum. The facility is open every day of the year, excepting Thanksgiving and Christmas. Opened in 1976, it chronicles the history of the sport of drag racing. The museums currently boast that they have close to 300 cars on display in the two buildings. When I visited a few years ago, they had 90-some racing cars in the main Drag Racing building, and there were another 50 vehicles in the separate Antique Car building. You would expect to see manufacture representations such as Chrysler, Dodge, Chevrolet, Ford, Cadillac and Mercury. I was pleased to also find Hudson, Studebaker, DeSoto, Metz, Brush and even Moon marques in the Antique Car building.
I first entered the Drag Racing Museum. You are greeted by a perched display of Bill Golden’s Dodge. Better known as Maverick’s Little Red Wagon, this vehicle has been honored as the most famous race vehicle by Hot Rod Magazine and Peterson’s History of Drag Racing. Bill Maverick is credited with the moniker; “King of the Wheelstanders”.
I built the model. How many of our readers built the model too?
There are so many more cars to tell you about. I did not know which way to turn to take them all in. Multiple renditions of “Big Daddy’s” cars are on display. However you will not find Swamp Rat XXX here. You will need to visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History to see that one.
The original Swamp Rat I, built in Don Garlits’ Tampa, Florida home garage ran from 1956 to 1961. Don set his first world record with this car; 176.40 MPH / 8.79 ET on November 10, 1957.
Compare those numbers to today’s elapsed times and you will shake your head too.
Just for the record, Big Daddy took Swamp Rat 34 out of the museum and in 2002 entered the car in the NHRA Nationals and scored his career best of 318.54 MPH with a 4.76 second E.T.
Restored after its spectacular April 1965 crash, the Wynnsjammer Swamp Rat VI set the NHRA Winternationals record at 206.42 at Pomona, CA in February of 1965.
Ed Roth’s Yellow Fang has a neat display at the museum. Roth has been chided by many as more of a show-and-not-go kinda guy.
The Yellow Fang was actually built and conceived by George Schreiber, who started thinking about building a ‘streamliner’ in 1963. Schreiber mocked up a model of the car with coat hangers and welding rod. He showed it to Roth (whom he was working with at the time) and Roth said “make it a little longer here” and the design took off. The idea of ‘Yellow Fang’ came from the Soupy Sales TV show that featured White Fang and Black Tooth. The car was heavy but did run a 7.83 at 207mph. It just didn’t run super well like all the Swamp Rats did. Garlits first looked at the Yellow Fang car when it was offered for sale at the closing of Jimmy Brucker’s Cars of The Stars Museum. Outbid by Domino’s Pizza owner Tom Monaghan (who had a brief interest in cars) the car went to North Carolina’s The Rear Window, where Garlits finally acquired the car. Yellow Fang is on display in its late-1960’s incarnation.
Connie Kalitta’s Bounty Hunter, Shirley Muldowney’s 1980 Attebury, a rear-engined Plymouth .
Don Prudhomme’s Snake I
Prudhomme’s 1971 Wedge Dragster and Wynn’s Winder Top Fueler 1969 are on display at the museum.
Other vehicles accredited to Chris Karamesines, Pete Robinson compete for floor space, along with another great display of Tom (The Mongoose) McEwen’s 1982 Corvette.
Barbara Hamilton’s 1937 Willys Coupe. Barbara was the first woman licensed by the NHRA to drive a supercharged car. She campaigned this vehicle from 1964 to 1971. She built, wrenched, owned and drove this very car.
The first all-fiberglass funnycar, Bruce Larson’s 1966 Chevelle first appeared in Atco, NJ in 1965.
But my absolute favorite surprise at the museum was when I got to lay eyes on Ohio George Montgomery’s Ford. His 1934 Coupe was found by the museum in a small garage in Lafayette, Indiana in 1994. Purchased from George in 1963, the car sat unmolested for 41 years. After ten years of negotiations it is finally on display in Ocala, Florida for the delight of drag racing fans. The museum had only to paint the hood and fenders their “Pastoral” Blue Lacquer.
TV Tommy Ivo’s dual engine dragster was on display.
Another wonderful Salute to Veterans Car & Motorcycle Show was held on August 10th. Even with the threat of rain (which didn’t materialize) the event was very successful. We had almost 400 vehicles including a huge assortment of beautiful cars, motorcycles, military vehicles and city/county vehicles. Three amazing helicopters landed to the delight of the attendees…a Huey, a Loach and a Black Hawk! There was Optimus Prime and his partner the ‘Veteran’ Truck. Star Wars & Super Heroes roamed around, and Miss Oregon greeted attendees and helped with trophy presentations. The Tribute to Veterans Ceremony was a highlight of the event, our silent auction/raffle were a huge success, and the Corral Creek Blue Grass and Got Your Six Rock & Roll Bands were terrific!
Thank you to all of our wonderful sponsors, our volunteers, our vendors and our participants who made it all possible. Because of your generosity, you time and your donations we were able to raise almost $30,000 this year. (this brings the total raised in these eight Show fundraisers to just under a quarter million dollars…all for the veterans, as we are able to get so many budget items donated. We will be using our proceeds this year to purchase a passenger van for the newly opened Veterans Village, a transitional tiny house village for 15 veterans in Clackamas. There is no mass transit nearby so this will allow residents to get to services and resources.
The 9th Salute to Veterans Car & Motorcycle Show will be held on August 15, 2020…same place…same time, so mark your calendars!
“Honey, you have a bit of butter dripping down your chin,” said Robin Miller as he handed me a napkin. I am not normally this messy, but then again, I am not normally eating a piping hot ear of fresh corn doused in melted butter and parmesan. This is a day of ‘I don’t normally.
I don’t normally make it a habit of eat -ing something that takes three hands and a bushel of napkins. I also don’t normally let people call me ‘honey’- but Robin Miller gets away with that, from him it’s a term of endearment. Above all, I don’t normally hang out with a bunch of IndyCar drivers outside of work. Today was a special occasion.
“Welcome to the 11th annual Robin Miller and Tony Kanaan Day at the Indiana State Fair!” yelled Robin triumphantly. The quasi-famous writer turned NBC Sports Pit reporter looks forward to this every year. A staple in the IndyCar paddock, Miller arranges for a group of drivers, their significant others and varying IndyCar workers to spend an evening together at the historic Indiana State Fairgrounds munching on Midwestern delicacies and learning about the racing history of the property we were on.
This year’s driver lineup included Tony Kanaan (of course) and his wife Lauren, Conor Daly, James Hinchcliffe and his new bride Becky, and IndyCar rookie Marcus Ericsson and his girlfriend Alex. Both Marcus and Alex were from Sweden and had yet to experience the true red white and blue fair before. They were the guests of honor.
Once our party arrived at the correct Pork Tenderloin tent, of which there are many, we set off.
“We come every year,” explained Lauren Kanaan “we bring our kids on their own night, this is more just fun amongst friends. The Indiana Dairy Association booth is always the first stop to get grilled cheeses… Tony can even eat it in one bite!” Walking up to the circular-shaped black and white cow painted building, I could see that everyone else at the fair that night had the same idea. After slowly shuffling to the front of the line, Robin tossed a couple of bills to the teenager inside and said, “Give me however many grill cheeses that is.” Walking away with a comically teetering Dr. Seuss- like stack of grilled cheese sandwiches, he handed them out to anyone that might want one in our group. I was determined to try everything.
It was a similar routine going with fried Oreos, fried cookie dough, fried cake batter, fried mozzarella sticks, fried cinnamon donuts, fried funnel cakes, and – Robin’s favorite—fried apple turnovers. Ever the adventurist, Marcus tried everything as well. “Actually, the fried Oreos are pretty good!” he chewed, wiping away a smear of powdered sugar.
Aimed at the colorful midway, we slowly progressed towards the games. Strangely enough in the crowd, fans occasionally stopped us to take a picture but more often stared and whispered in recognition. Everyone was most excited to see Tony, for his career in IndyCar has been the longest and he was the only one with his face on the BorgWarner trophy.
“Let’s see how athletic you are!” yelled Robin as he steered Marcus to the nearest basketball shooting game. “Have you ever held a basketball or thrown a football- and not the soccer kind of football but the football kind of football?” Marcus shook his head with a nervous grin starting to form. What did he sign himself up for?
“Here honey, we have this group here and everyone is going to take a turn. We will just keep shooting until we win some.” A couple hundred dollars and lots of attempts later, we as a group toted numerous 4 ft. tall stuffed animals with bulging eyes. Though James, Conor and Tony each won their own, Lauren Kanaan was far and away the best at the carnival games, walking away with a prize under each arm and a massive stuffed elephant perched on her shoulders.
“The fairgrounds are around the big horse track here-,” pointed Robin “That dirt track was where they always held the Hoosier Hundred. The likes of AJ (Foyt) and Mario (Andretti), Parnelli (Jones) and Jim (Hurtubise), all those guys that raced Indy in the 50s, 60s, 70s, they all raced here as well. They raced open wheel Champ cars- what they now call Silver Crown. If you could win the Hoosier Hundred, you’d for sure have a ride for Indy. It was a different time.” Robin sighed and passed around more napkins. Sadly, the Hoosier Hundred had its last year at the fairgrounds this past May and the facility was set to be paved over. Robin telling these stories was his way of preserving what was left of the history.
The sun set as we listened to stories from Robin. Kanaan appeared to have fallen asleep with his head rested on a giant stuffed animal. Marcus and Alex spoke to each other in Swedish and we all were starting to sweat out the sugary sweetness from what we had eaten earlier in the night.
We parted ways and I waddled back to my car, filled with stories and fried dough and tired from laughing. I cannot wait to come back next year.
My brother and I attended our first auto race together—It was the Monterey Grand Prix in 1966. We were fortunate enough to go with my best friend and his family, six of us in total. I think my friend’s father had a lot of guts to haul a carload of pre-teen boys all the way down there for the day. And he did it couple more times after that!
In 1971 my brother and I struck out on our own. We piled my 75cc Kawasaki mini bike into the trunk of our parent’s car and spent the day buzzing around the perimeter of Laguna Seca. In retrospect, I have to say that it was one of the best days “Scotty” and I ever spent together. Through the eighties and into the nineties I continued to attend road races and occasionally Scotty would partake but that was with a large ensemble of people. Finally in 1994, we attended our first (and only) Winston Cup race together. Somehow I had come up with a couple free tickets and just he and I spent the day together- this time in Sonoma. By the mid-nineties he had moved his family away from the Bay Area and we just stopped seeing each other. As the years ticked by, we grew distant.
Scotty’s health declined in recent years. He moved into assisted living in 2016 and hospice care a couple months ago. On the Friday before this year’s Grand Prix of Portland, he passed away. I spent Saturday in mourning with three of my four sisters but planned to attend the race on Sunday. My daughter Cora would be there on behalf of NBC and my eldest sister Vickie (whom had never been to see the IndyCars before) commit to joining us as well.
On Sunday morning I awoke with Scotty heavily on my mind. At first I tried to push the memories aside but ultimately I decided to embrace them. I have a closet full of racing shirts but instead chose one of Scotty’s to wear as a tribute. I thought about him while I prepared my food for the day- he would have loved that process. Once I arrived at PIR, I contacted Cora and we set up a rendezvous. When we met, we shared a lengthy hug (I hadn’t seen her since Indy) then sat down for a nice visit. Unfortunately, she barely knew my brother and that is on me.
Based on the starting grid, the outcome of this year’s Grand Prix was difficult to predict. Nineteen year old rookie Colton Herta snatched the pole from Aussie Will Power at the conclusion of qualifying. The second row contained five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and Englishman Jack Harvey driving the most under-financed entry in the field. Dixon’s rookie teammate Felix Rosenqvist posted fifth quickest time and non-championship contender Ryan Hunter-Ryan was slotted sixth.
On the initial green, fifteenth starting Graham Rahal pulled a bonehead move on the inside and ruined the day for both Arrow Schmidt Peterson entries as well as Andretti driver Zach Veach. Rahal’s gaffe even damaged his teammate Takuma Sato’s mount, depriving the defending Portland champion of any chance at an encore performance. After twelve laps under full course yellow, the race was restarted and Hunter-Reay pulled a remarkably similar move to Rahal’s. Attempting to block his teammate Alexander Rossi’s inside pass, he arrived in turn one too hot, spun sideways and slammed into the pink and black entry of Harvey. Hunter-Reay was able to continue (at an uncompetitive pace) but Harvey’s day was finished before it started.
On the third try, the race began without incident. Young Herta set the pace with Dixon getting around Power followed by Rossi and Rosenqvist.
At thirty five laps it appeared that Herta had used up his tires and was holding up the procession. Two laps later Dixon made a pass for the lead and Herta immediately began to pedal backward. When he pit on lap forty, the order was Dixon, Power, Rossi, Rosenqvist and point leader Josef Newgarden up from the thirteenth starting berth.
Around lap forty two, the rest of the front runners began green flag pit stops for fresh rubber and fuel. After cycling through, the running order was virtually unchanged except for Rossi and Rosenqvist swapping positions.
Then on the fiftieth circuit, leader Dixon lost power and came coasting down pit lane. Critical time was lost when his crew was forced to rescue him, push him to his designated stop, remove the engine cowl and replace the battery. For all intents and purposes this ended the New Zealander’s bid for a sixth title.
At half the distance, Will Power had inherited the lead with Rosenqvist second, Rossi third, Newgarden fourth and Herta back on pace in fifth.
The running order didn’t change until Herta had a go at Newgarden and secured the spot on lap sixty seven. Second in points Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti got together while dicing for sixth but both were able to continue. Andretti received the worst of this altercation as up to this point he had run just outside the top five all day.
Little changed on the course until rookie Santino Ferrucci (running eleventh) coasted out of the last turn and stalled on the pit lane exactly as Dixon had. This brought out the yellow with eight laps remaining and set up a dramatic single file dash to the finish.
Much to Power’s credit, he got an excellent restart and raced unchallenged to the checkered flag. The popular Swede, Rosenqvist tied his best finish to date by placing second. Third in point standings and on the track Rossi, did little to gain ground in his title bid as Newgarden crossed the line fifth, just arrears of Herta. The championship will be decided September 22nd at Laguna Seca.
After the races I sought out my sister and brother-in-law. They had difficultly following the action but enjoyed themselves nonetheless. My sister said she was mostly there to see and support my daughter who joined us after wrapping up her responsibilities in Victory Circle. There were hugs and smiles all around. We escaped from the racetrack and huddled in a booth at a nearby coffee shop. Over a good meal we reminisced and laughed- it was the highlight of my day.
In my family auto racing has always been a family affair and if Scotty were still with us, he would have been right in the middle of it. Rest in peace, brother.