March 7th & 8th, the Oregon State Fairgrounds will play host to “The Best of the Best”, with the 14th Annual Salem Roadster Show. 100+ of the best classics; hot rods, street rods and customs will be on display, and as it has been for the previous 13 years, they will be showing for the first time in Salem.
Owners/Promoters Bob Symons and Greg Roach attend cars shows from British Columbia to Reno each year, personally inviting the best of the best to attend, and everyone leaves with an outstanding Salem Roadster Show “Show Award Winner” embroidered jacket. The unique non-judged format of this show, allows the entrants to share their great vehicles with the general public, without the stress of dealing with the formalities of having the car judged. And as you have probably seen throughout the car show world, the Salem Roadster Show jackets (along with honor of the personal invite) are a sought after prize, and beat the heck out of a dust collecting trophy.
With record breaking attendance (up over 30% in 2019), the Salem Roadster Show has proven that it’s one not to miss each year. With a great vendor mix, and great music by Russ Strohmeyer, there’s always a lot to see and do. But that didn’t stop Bob and Greg from looking for other ways to attract more guests, and even higher end builds.
An exciting new feature at this year’s show will be the presentation of the first “Pacific Northwest Emerald Award.” Five of the special invite vehicles will vie for an amazing trophy crafted by Scott Adams of Amazing Creations. The trophy which stands better than 2 feet tall features an amazing eagle sculpture sitting on a crafted wooden pedestal and base. There will be two of the awards, one going home with the lucky car owner (along with a large cash prize), and the other will be a perpetual award with the winners name added each year, that will be displayed at the various award sponsors place of business. Scott of Amazing Creations, a craftsman specializing in custom RV remodeling, couldn’t resist the opportunity to be on board and wanted to build something very special and memorable for this award. This year’s Emerald Award Sponsors include Precision Auto Body & Paint, Weston KIA/Buick/GMC, The Insurance Garage, PDX CarCulture.Com, Better Car Shows (Medford Rod & Custom Show), Amazing Creations, and Roddin’ & Racin’ Magazine.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, Bob and Greg are adding a whole new element to the Salem Roadster Show with the Salem Unique Street and Car Culture Show, taking place in the Columbia Hall right next to the Jackman Long Building. Your $13.00 admission fee, gets you into both great shows! So start out your 2020 car show season with something for every car lover, and the entire family at the Salem Roadster Show, “the Best of the Best.” For more information visit www.salem-roadstershow.com
Salem Roadster Show Owners/Promoters Bob Symons and Greg Roach were looking for a way to reach out to other segments of the car culture, and what it would take to bring them to an indoor car show. Something that would attract segments of the hobby that build and love their modern muscle cars, tuners, mini and full size trucks, racers, rat rods, and anything else that motor heads were passionate about.
So they reached out to Lonnie Thompson from Carolina Kustoms, and David Jothen, Owner/Publisher of PDXCarCulture.Com and PRS Hall of Famer. Lonnie who along with the Carolina Kustoms team has become nationally known for their truck builds, including the amazing 2018 SEMA Best Truck Winning 40 Ford pickup known as 40 Shades, brings a unique prospective to the hobby and show, that is far more in touch with the younger crowd than most. The first people Lonnie reached out to were the folks from Stereo King, who along with Carolina Kustoms will be the presenting Sponsors of the inaugural Salem Unique Street & Car Culture Show. David immediately began the marketing campaign and reached out to a variety of car groups both formal and informal. Throwing out the challenge for them to select the “Best of the Best” of what they bring to the hobby. “It can be a street car, but it has to be something worth paying money to see. Not just something with a wheel swap and a model of the car on the air cleaner”, Jothen shared. So far the response has been amazing, with even some of the old hot rodders inquiring about participating with some unique builds that they have, or are working on.
The goal behind the show is to reach some folks who may not normally come to an indoor car show. There is a pretty solid group that attend each show annually, but how do you reach those who either are on the fence, or don’t bother, because they aren’t interested in the type of cars that are normally shown? You do that by giving them what they want to see, cars that they can relate too. Cars that are modified versions of what they are currently driving, or would like to. So what you will see at this show is some really cool street modified versions of modern muscle cars like Camaro’s, Mustang’s, and Mopars. You will see what the younger crowd is doing with some amazing import cars, referred to as Tuners. The modifications and horsepower that they are putting on the street is mind blowing, along with use of LED lighting and audio. You will see a variety of trucks like you’ve never seen before. From slammed minis and full size trucks, to one’s that you could almost walk under. And don’t forget the Rat Rod’s and traditional hot rods.
Somebody else’s rust, matte finish and spare parts, made into someone else’s imaginative build. And anything else that’s a part of this great hobby called cars that we all love.
Like the Salem Roadster Show, this will be a non-judged event, but the participants will have the option to choose between a button up work shirt, or jacket with the Unique Street & Car Culture Show logo on the back.
This show will offer something for everyone, and hopefully will become a can’t miss show like its partner the Salem Roadster Show. For more information, you can email HYPERLINK
“mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As most of you are aware, there are “general admission” car clubs. Marque specific car clubs, model specific car clubs, there might even be color specific car clubs that I’m not aware of. One of the members of the car club, of which I am a member, Trick ‘n Racy Cars, also happens to be a member of one of the Model specific clubs that are out there.
Ford introduced a kind of “Ute,” an Australian term, for a pickup/car way back in the thirties if I’m not mistaken. Those “Utes” were built in Australia and weren’t routinely exported to the US. In 1957, Ford introduced an American version and called it a “Ranchero.” It was built on a car chassis using passenger car components for the body but with a single seat (bench seat) passenger compartment and a pickup like bed/box. The quarters were like the car quarters and in fact just like the station wagon quarters.
These Rancheros were produced from 1957 through 1959 and in 1960 downsized it to be included in the newly introduced “Falcon” line. And through out the entire run, the Ranchero got “passed around” to be built on several different chassis sizes all the way up through 1979.
All of these Rancheros are unique and stylish, in my opinion. In particular, I like the 1957 Ranchero and though many don’t share my affinity for the 1966, Falcon based Ranchero, I like that one too.
A group of Ranchero lovers started the Ranchero Club, dedicated to any Ford based commercial vehicle from 1952 to the present. Specifically supporting 1952-1961 Couriers, including Canadian Meteor Sedan Deliveries up to 1961, 1957 – 1979 Rancheros, including Canadian Meteor Rancheros, Australian Utilities from 1946- present and Argentine Rancheros, 1961 – 1965 and Courier Sedan Deliveries, including Australian Falcon Sedan Deliveries and Pinto Panel Deliveries, that’s a lot!
2019 was the year for the 26th Annual Northwest Ranchero Round Up, which was held at and sponsored by Hillyer’s Mid-City Ford in Woodburn, Oregon. The Round-up was a three day event and it included, a road trip to the Burger Hut 50’s Café, in Hubbard Oregon, a trip to and a tour of SMS Auto Fabrics, in Canby Oregon, (503-263-3535) a purveyor of … all things auto upholstery related dating from the 1940’s through the 2000’s. Of course, a show, a short trip to the World of Speed Museum, in Wilsonville Oregon, and their annual meeting and banquet, where the next year’s annual Round-Up is scheduled or at least the location is designated. Fun was had by all. Bellingham Washington will be the location for the 2020 Round-Up.
She sat up in bed and looked around. Outside, a slight gust of wind kissed the side of her home and waltzed down the valley. Jo Ann shook her head. She knew she’d heard her name. It had been nothing more than a whisper. It was probably her imagination, but then, there is was again, “Joni.”
Jo Ann rose, donned her robe and walked to her window. It was a cold Valentines Day morning. The showed it was 3am; frost glistened on the roof of the garage and on the lawn down below. Through the window of the garage there was a light which at first, was a concern to her but then, very faintly, she heard… music?
I Love, I Love, I Love my calendar girl
Yeah, sweet calendar girl.
I Love, I Love, I love my calendar girl
Each and every day of the year.
January, you start the year of fine
February, You’re my little valentine
She hurried down the stairs, across the foyer, and into the garage. Her daily driver Tahoe was bathed in the glow of headlights from the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air parked in the rear of the garage. From the original radio, Neil Sedaka sang away.
Yeah, yeah, my hearts in a whirl
She looked at the Bel Air and remembered their first date. Romance isn’t forced, but like some beautiful creation, it is grown. Hot summer days as a newly married couple, they would chase the moon to the coast, then wander back inland and watch as the sun rose above the Cascades. She smiled as she remembered her oldest son as a toddler standing up in the front seat.
“Joni… It’s been a while my love.”
She cocked her head and sitting in the driver’s seat, she saw Con as a young man, smiling at her. Jo Ann hurried to the passenger side, opened the door and sat down. As she closed the door, she caught a glimpse of her own reflection in the side mirror and, to her amazement, she was young again! The song on the radio changed and Buddy Holly began to sing “Everyday.”
Suddenly, the outside world was bright and sunny. Con and she were chasing a back road through the Washington countryside. He nodded toward her and she scooted close to him. He put his arm around her, and she held his hand with hers. And so, it went as they rode along. No words; just being close and in the moment. Con smiled at her and pulled the ’57 to the side of the road.
“Joni, as beautiful as this Chevrolet is and has been to me, you’re still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had in my life.” Happy Valentines Day, my love.” Con smiled at her, leaned in to get closer and was gone.
Jo Ann was alone in the Bel Air. On the radio, Johnny Ace sang…
Forever may darling our love will be true
Always and forever, I’ll love only you
Just promise me darling, your love in return
May this fire in my soul dear, forever burn
I love you too, Con. Happy Valentines Day.” She whispered. She switched of the radio, turned out the lights and exited the bright red ’57. Closing the door gently, she allowed her fingers to run gently across the side panel, her hand coming to rest on the rear fin for a moment. She closed her eyes and sighed before walking to the door of the garage. She turned off the lights in the garage and hoped for a ride again next year.
—Dedicated to Connie and Jo Ann Toedtli
I’ve always referred to it as: “My hot rod motor”… To call it “junk” or a “junkyard anything” would be inaccurate. From the beginning, it was built with decent parts… it just wasn’t “race stuff.”
The iron block may be the first V-8 I ever owned. Something my volunteer builder procured when he was assembling the engine for my first Modified around ’94. Or it could be from the complete engine I bought off the bulletin board at Knecht’s in Cottage Grove, OR. “Hear it run on the dyno!” the index card proclaimed. It was built as a backup by some IMCA racer’s dad. I guess they didn’t need it. I’m quite certain the rotating assembly came from that IMCA motor. The iron “202” cylinder heads were a sponsorship from Roger’s Automotive in Auburn, CA. The Vertex mag was purchased directly from the manufacturer when I worked for Competition Specialties.
I managed to land an engine sponsor my second year in a Sprint Car and the hot rod motor was relegated to a spare. I’m happy to say that my race engine (built by Rick Guest aka R&G Machine that advertises in this paper) never missed a beat so the spare sat idle for the next five years or so. It wasn’t until my buddy stuck it in my Super did it breath life again. I ran the car a couple times in Banks, OR (there were non-engine related issues) and again it was mothballed.
In 2007 my neighbor and fellow Sunset competitor Tommy Moreno was making a run at Rookie of the Year with a talented Stock Car graduate piloting his Sprint Car. Pat Canfield had won a Feature about mid-season and was well ahead in rookie points when the team barfed their only engine with two races remaining on the schedule. I volunteered the use of my hot rod motor and Moreno and Canfield didn’t hesitate. They extracted the engine from my Super and plugged it into their Sprinter. The following weekend at Sunset, Canfield peddled to third or fourth in the Main Event and within a week or two had a similar finish over at Madras. The team was able to clinch top rookie honors and wound up with a top five in the overall point standings as well. Afterwards Moreno cleaned, wrapped and returned the engine to me. It sat on the end of my workbench for another eight years.
In 2015 Bernie and Jimmy Voytek prepped my Super for competition with West Coast Vintage Racers and reinstalled my hot rod motor. Unfortunately the club had moved away from dirt track racing by the time I was ready to participate. The Voyteks convinced me to give asphalt racing a try so I towed the Super to Roseville, CA for the West Capital Alumni Assn. races on Halloween of ’17. We had a blast that weekend but battled overheating problems each time I took to the oval. Bernie suggested I might have a cracked cylinder head and sure enough that turned out to be the case.
I ended up buying another vintage race car for the full on racing engine that came with it. Bernie located another set of iron cylinder heads, similar to what I had, and installed them on my hot rod motor. I brought the engine home and slid it under my workbench. This time it wouldn’t sit idle for long…
The 2019 edition of the Wingless Sprint Series was winding down when I received a call from a friend whom I know from the NW Old Time racers group. A biker friend of hers, “Rhino” was crew chief on a Sprint Car and they had blown their only engine with two events remaining. Turns out I know Rhino and his brother-in-law Lance Hallmark. I explained to Hallmark exactly what I had and told him he was welcome to use it. One of the races remaining was the HPP Wingless National – A two day show at Cottage Grove with an inflated purse. It was imperative that the team participate in that as well as the season finale at Willamette, if they hoped to maintain their ranking in the points. Hallmark picked up the engine the night after we spoke. He plugged it into his Sprint Car the next evening and Friday night called me from the racetrack in a panic. He had adjusted the valves and the engine would not fire. He had already missed warmups, qualifying and his heat race- all that remained was the Feature. In frustration, Rhino had already thrown in the towel and taken a seat in the grandstands. Fortunately I was able to get ahold of Bernie and put him in direct contact with Hallmark. With the valves reset to Voytek’s specs, the hot rod motor sputtered to life and Hallmark joined the starting field in the 22nd and final starting position. In short order, Hallmark familiarized himself with the limitations of his new power plant and began to move forward. By the conclusion of the race he had broken into the top ten.
I decided to attend on Saturday night when the big money was being offered. Hallmark had continued to make adjustments in gearing and engine cooling throughout the day, to improve the marriage between his car and my engine. He gave us a thrill before dusk by winning one of the three preliminary heats. Based on that win and Friday night’s finish, he was slotted seventh for the fifty lap Feature. Race sponsor Mark Herz grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag but within four cantos, Hallmark seized the point. He had clearly adjusted his driving to maximize his car’s potential- limiting his slides through the turns to maintain forward momentum. Before long he had opened up an insurmountable lead and no one was closing. Then disaster, a back-marker got upside down in turn two bringing out the red flag. We figured our Cinderella Story had ended as only a couple of lapped cars separated Hallmark from some hotdogs up from California that had threaded their way through the field. But when racing resumed, Hallmark again began to pull away and it was easy to see why. He wasn’t scrubbing off speed in the corners or breaking the tires loose on the straightaways. By contrast the second and third place entries were at opposite lock coming off the turns and fishtailing on the straights. When the checkered flag fell, Hallmark was again leading by a large margin.
Modest in victory, Hallmark called my engine a “Torque Monster” and revealed had he’d never turned more than 5,900 rpm! He and his crew invited me to join them on the front straightaway but I declined. Hallmark deserves all the credit for his win. Bernie Voytek just smiled like the Cheshire Cat. He estimates that my engine has a lowly 11 ½ to 1 compression ratio and makes between 400 and 420 horsepower! If more people had known our secret, I’m sure the celebration in the pits would have been larger.
Race engine builder Brian Crockett was attempting to assist Hallmark when he discovered that the motor had a hydraulic lifter cam. After he congratulated Hallmark he remarked: “You guys just set race engine technology back thirty years!”
But then again, it isn’t a race engine… it’s a hot rod motor.
When was the last time that a ‘racing’ movie was nominated for an Academy Award? Let me help you out, it was 1966. Grand Prix was a huge Formula 1 themed cinematic epic. Filled with (a pretty cheesy) romance, groundbreaking filming techniques, and eye-popping racing sequences, the academy recognized it with a nomination and subsequent award in the following categories: Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Effects.
It’s been 54 years. A handful of motorsports movies have come out. Driven certainly was not going to be winning any awards. We got closer with Rush back in 2013 with a couple of Golden Globe nominations, but let’s be honest, that wasn’t stacking up against the chops of other big blockbusters that year.
Starring Matt Damon as iconic builder Carol Shelby and Christian Bale as a prickly racer Ken Block, this is an incredible true story of speed, revenge, and good ol’ American angst. It is funny, emotional, and above all- passionate. Sitting and watching it on the big screen- as everyone should- you find yourself tensing up and rolling with the curves of Le Mans. Similar to Grand Prix, this tale is beautifully filmed- though director, James Mangold had the aid of 21st-century special effects.
As far as accuracy, some notes might be elevated for the Hollywood glamour. Did Caroll Shelby take Henry Ford ii aka ‘the duce’ for a joy ride in one of the prototypes, rendering the heir to the Ford fortune into a blubbering, crying mess? Maybe not. Did Block and Shelby have a first fight in the front lawn of Block’s Southern California home? Does anyone know? Most importantly, did Caroll Shelby not use car doors? No seriously, the entire movie he hoists himself of the driver’s seat of the vintage Cobras that are sprinkled throughout the movie. He doesn’t once use a door to handle time.
Without ruining it for those who have not watched yet, some best scenes include Block’s in-car commentary, Matt Damon’s description of driving Le Mans when Ford representative comes to visit and the final scene with the wrench.
In light of Ford Vs Ferrari’s recent nominations, local theatres will likely put it back on the big screen- it is wholeheartedly worth the price of admission to see it in full larger-than-life form. The academy awards are Sunday, February 9th on 5p on ABC We might just see it bring home some hardware.
Okay gals and GearHeads, are you relaxing during the slow part of the season? Well there has been no let up in the news of the automotive world, such as the C8 Corvette. So let’s call this the year of the C8 and without further adieu, dive into the inner workings of the C8 as promised last column.
Tadge Juechter, Chief Engineer over at Chevrolet had a recent convo with the guys over at Autoline. Here is a few key takeaway points he shared; this goes back to about 2005 when they were working on the C6 ZO6 Corvette. The weight of the supercharger resulted in 52% front weight, when they started musing about what a mid-engine car would be like. They began their studies which ultimately resulted in a 60/40 weight split rear to front.
They had to start with a clean sheet of paper to design this new car from the ground up, starting with the transaxle. They went out and bought a Ferrari and tore it all down to look at everything. They had to design a suspension system that would result in neutral steering along with comfort as well as performance handling.
They had to make some compromises such as the center of gravity (CG) which is higher than the earlier Vettes. This came from replacing the transverse leaf springs with coilovers. All of this along with the transaxle resulted in a heavier car. They had to go with an automatic transmission because they just could not find anything else out in the world that would do the job for a manual gearbox. But they did provide this unique dual pedal neutral which will allow the car to coast when you push in the pedal.
Moving into the cabin, they faced a number of challenges. They designed extra tilt extensions so a 7-foot guy could get in there. They built in roomy storage compartments front and rear along with custom luggage.
And we will now introduce the word of the day: squircles … Yes, Elmer you heard that right. This has to do with the design of the squared steering wheel. It gives the 7-foot guy the legroom along with the ability for the short guy to view the heads up display (HUD) over the steering wheel.
They had a number of acoustics challenges to overcome. With the engine in the rear, there was a lot of noise emanating from all of those belts and pulleys up front. Of course, all GearHeads want to hear the roar of that power plant back there. This resulted in innovative approaches to sound architecture, starting with a back window twice as thick incorporated into a reinforced structure that would act as a sound barrier. What is even cooler is that the rear window can be lowered independently to provide that flow through ventilation.
Next came some really innovative design work incorporating air ducting to maximize the acoustics of the intake and exhaust notes. Then of course, everybody knows that GearHeads like to rock out in their rides. Placement of the Bose speakers presented quite the challenge. They managed to come up with the loudest system yet. So pick your poison drivers and riders.
Construction of the entire car resulted in many different composite materials in and out. Then not to forget European sales and of course, the Aussies. But no problem, they simply had to tool mirror image parts to create the right hand drive.
Now let’s take a look at some of the funky stuff. There is the GPS hydraulics. Wherever you encounter such things as steep driveways where you might scrape your front splitter, you can program your hydraulic suspension to raise up the front of the car for clearance at the touch of a button. Your GPS will remember 1000 different locations.
Then it appears that the Chevy engineers took a page out of the Tesla build book by developing their over-the-air software updates. A 24-hour hotline is monitored by the engineers. When any car develops a unique problem they will receive the readout and develop a fix within a 24-hour window.
So there you go guyz and galz. A few key takeaways from the borning of the C8 Corvette. As this world-beating sports car continues to win Car of the Year awards, their debut on the racetrack is approaching. We will see it at the 24 hours of LeMans. I am quite sure there will be a crowd.
As 2019 came to a close, we recognize the passing of more Motorsports pioneers such as, Junior Johnson, Bill Simpson and Bruce Crower. We are all marching to the same place.
There is a ton of new news coming down from the electrical vehicle (EV) front. But we wanted to give an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle front and center this time around. Oh, and is an electrficationable future in line for the C8? I’m afraid so.
I would like to leave you with a few tidbits from the legislative front. The RPM bill has been reintroduced for 2020. If you want to help us all out, you can go on back over to the SEMA site And send word to your congressmen. They have another template there , that you can easily fill out and send. Also this marks 5 years since the United States Motorsports Association (USMA) was formed to help with these issues.
Then we have US Representative Debbie Dingell who is introducing the Electrify Forward Act, designed to use billions of tax dollars to move electrification forward in the Auto industry. Just thought I would dangle that in front of y’all.
Chuck Fasst #GearHeadsWorld
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.