The Sports Car Club of America is the largest operating racing sanctioning body in the United States. Making up 116 regions and over 67,500 registered racers, the whole schema surmounts to their big event: The Runoffs. Every season the Runoffs is hosted by a different track. This year, they added the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the rotation- Pulling an unprecedented 969 entries from around the country. The entire 1,025-acre facility was filled to the brim with Miatas, Spec Racing Fords, Formula cars, GTs, and others.
For a large majority, this is their first time at the famed raceway, and the significance was not lost. You must qualify in order to participate in this event, and for most, that road is steeped with tough competition. It is an honor simply to start the main race for each class. Over a week of qualifying and pre-races boil each class down to at most 72 cars.
The challenge in covering this event is the magnitude. This whole experience was huge. Not in the way that the Indianapolis 500 is, but in trying to wrangle the all of the details, I found my mind swimming. Instead of a race report or traditional driver feature, I set myself adrift through the pits to discover. In this, I met some very interesting people, came across some strange pit stall decorations, and learned a lot about the world of SCCA racing. Here is a log of my day in the ocean of SCCA.
Arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway greeted by a yellow shirt and the familiar drone of cars on track. One of the last-chance races was already underway.
Keep the party going.
After fighting the stream of cars, motor homes, and people, I located the crew that had adopted me from the week. We set off for high ground to watch their last driver compete in the next race.
Tucked into the breezy shade of the inside grandstands deep in turn 4, the 72 car Gen 3 Spec Racing Ford field is set for green. I have never seen so many cars on track at once.
The race concluded with few issues. Our competitor fought valiantly, improving eighteen positions to finish 46th in the official results. In celebration upon us all reuniting in the pits, one of the crew members yells the mantra/battle cry for the week: “It’s F**KING INDY!”
While perusing the many speedway souvenir shops in search for a gift to give his generous sponsors, my study for the week is a driver by the name of Connor Solis from the San Francisco region. Aspiring to professional levels of competition, Solis came to his first Runoffs with a destination in mind. “Indy, of course, is significant, but my goal this year was the Runoffs no matter where it went.” he said, “I want to race in IMSA or the Pirelli World Challenge someday.” He is not alone in this crowd; SCCA provides a greater platform and feeder system to the major leagues. Finishing 7th among the fifty entries in his class, Solis walked away from the Runoffs with new contacts and an impressive new point added to his racing resume.
I found the unicorn pit.
Drivers Amy Mills and Whitfield Gregg from the New York district explain to me why they participate in the SCCA. “It’s a hobby,” says Gregg. “Racing is just for bragging rights. The SCCA will just give you a trophy; a sponsor might award you tires or something for winning… Some people golf for fun- we do this.” Mills was the only female driver racing a Spec Miata. “I am most proud of being a woman out there in my class and being respected as just another driver,” she said. “Amateur doesn’t mean bad driver, there is some really great competition out there.”
A home away from home for the week, many teams find ways to make their pits comfortable. In walking though the stalls close to the Pagoda I found this one that featured what appeared to be pictures of previous wins and inspirational quotes from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”
I love that rumbling noise of the cars as they glide under the tunnel that connects pit lane to Gasoline Alley.
Time for a quick nap.
Ran into Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles out enjoying the race weekend. “I am always out here,” he grinned as the Prototype race came down for the green.
The view peeking through the sky bridge above the back straightaway over the 15-turn, 2.592-mile road course.
Came across the most elaborate pit set up around. Complete with inflatable furniture, party lights, and a full-sized doughboy pool, this crew from Jupiter, Florida was camping in style. “The pool came in real handy when it was muggy earlier this week,” laughed driver John Kauffman, “as it started to cool down in the evenings, we are trying to find a way to heat it like a hot tub!” Their efforts were apparently unsuccessful.
This Mustang, like most other cars and pits, were tucked in for the night. Ready for the long trek home to every corner of the United States, and awaiting next year’s Runoffs that will be held at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.
The Endless Summer Rod Run hosted by the Pharaohs Street Rodders had another successful year out in Gresham, Oregon. For 18 weeks, every Wednesday from June until the first week in October, over an estimated one thousand Custom Cars, Street Rods, Classic Original Stockers and Trucks filled the show area lot on Main Street, at the East Hills Church in Gresham.
The Pharaohs were happy to announce they raised Eleven Thousand Dollars for the Veterans programs, MIAP Missing in America and the Lines for Life programs plus, $1000 to the youth services at East Hills. An estimated $1100 was raised and donated by Mary Young (an Army Vet.) and her super helper Johni Gordon at their fantastic Hamburger feed at the final show, the first week in October. An estimated 270 Trophies were awarded to the winning show cars and trucks at this year’s Endless Summer Rod Run events.
Breaking at press time we have this announcement from the US House: The Joint Chairmen of the Energy, Commerce and Environment Subcommittees announced the dismantling of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. This plan was on shaky legal ground and placed an excessive burden on the EPA in the area of enforcement. With all of this said we can only hope that this will have a favorable result for the RPM Act as well. We will see how this all shakes out.
Speaking of shaking, this brings to mind a totally different subject. I have been helping Steveo, an OG GearHead buddy of mine with some Sand Racing this summer. We concluded a season of campaigning his wild ride called the “Sand Witch.” This thing definitely had some ground all Shook Up where we raced this summer. This buggy featured a blown and injected big block Chev on alcohol and it proved to be a real handful and one hell of a crowd-pleaser. Being faster than everybody was our mantra. And it most certainly provided a good dose of horsepower for those Gearhead addict’s that crave that sort of thing. If you are interested in viewing some of the antics, the videos can be found over at #OregonSandOutlaws .
On to other news. How many of you have heard about the Tesla Model S 60? As Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida. Tesla, as it turns out, lent all the owners of these cars a hand by remotely boosting their battery to enable them to travel further during the evacuation. Turns out the batteries in these models are exactly the same as the ones in their Deluxe models only they are turned down something like 25%. How enterprising? I dunno Gearheads. What do you think of this?
I am a fan of T Boone Pickens, the natural gas entrepreneur who runs the Pickensplan.com . He had some comments about the Nox emissions that are coming from the coal fired plants that are being used to produce the electricity for all these EVs. They are high! He claims that vehicles powered by natural gas engines would be way cheaper in the long run than the electrical ones. Especially, the heavy-duty rigs will be very expensive. This really is something we all need to think about GearHeads. How many of the masses will actually be able to afford to own these vehicles. There will be plenty more on this subject in the future.
Here is a little something else to chew on, GearHeads. How about the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt who is currently Under Fire for his excessive air travel on private jets. How much CO2 do you think those private jets are emitting as he flies around on his junkets?
Ok Oregonians, I have a little news on our own Senator Jeff Merkley and his visit to the GM battery plant. He was all excited about GM’s recent announcement to transition to all electric vehicles. Turns out this is coming soon! So the senator took this opportunity to introduce his 100 by ’50 Act. He hopes to have Oregon all-electric by 2050. He says that will create millions of jobs. Not quite sure how all that shakes out.
Then we are receiving word from Jalopnik that California Governor Jerry Brown is discussing banning all internal combustion engines in California. Just give these guys some time and enough rope.
We have an announcement from Land Rover who is introducing their “Road Rover” in 2019. Yes it will be all electric for about $100K.
In closing I would like to salute two more OG Gearheads who are no longer with us. First we have the PowerHouse from NASCAR, Robert Yates. Then we have SEMA vice president of Government Affairs, Steve McDonald. He was one of the founders of SEMASAN, the Specialty Automotive Network that does all of the legislative fighting for us.They were good men.
Chuck Fasst, GearHeadsWorld.blogspot.com
September 27th was the last “Beaches Cruise-In” at PIR for 2017, and what a final performance it was. Estimates said there were as many as 2000 cars for this the final for the year. Amazing! This cruise, held every Wednesday evening June through September on the grass at PIR in Portland has blossomed into a massive weekly event. Food and beverage are available for purchase on sight.
The price at the gate is $5.00 per car (two occupants) with the money going to charities. I think I read where over 2 million dollars have be donated so far.
Don’t forget, in 2018, every Wednesday, June through September, gates open at 3pm.
We start our November, All for the Love Story, in a delicious 1948 Chevy Fleetmaster Coupe. This was a limited edition, top of the line, Chevrolet back in 1948. Today she sports for power, a fresh new 350 Chevy replacing the original 110 HP 6 cylinder with a 330 HP V-8, w/ 700 R-4 Auto Tranny and a 9” Ford rear-end plus a Mustang #2 front-end keeps her straight on the byway. She sports Flow-master Headers and Mufflers, plus power windows, steering and brakes. Add on cruise-control, tilt-steering, key-less entry. Plus, A/C, and a super sound system with a full set of VDO gauges and an all leather grey interior. Every inch of this Chevy Coupe has been beautified from the frenched in headlights to the shaved and filled door handles, to the smooth as silk trunk lid, complete with “Spiderman”custom pinstriping and graphics that really finish this ride off in style. The American super chromed racing wheels are a great compliment to the silver and pearl white exterior finish on Gary and Barbara Knutson’s, from Gresham, Oregon’s dream car that has truly come to life. Barbara is a Gresham High girl and Gary did his school-time at good old Jefferson High back in the seventies. Together they both were employed at Western Box/Meats for over thirty years. You’re ’48 Chevy has been winning awards all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We, at R&R NW publication are honored to share your ride and “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet Fleetmaster Coupe”.
Next up we found Truman and Carla McNatt from Oregon City, Oregon with their 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air 2 DR Hardtop. This is one truly gorgeous and pretty much all stock ride. Truman got a little wild a few years back and added a brand-new Vortex 350 power plant to his stock color Gypsy Red and Shoreline Beige Bel Air, but everything else is pretty much the way it came off the assembly line sixty-two years ago. It has all original interior complete with a set of heavy clear plastic seat covers protecting the colorful fabric below. She also is wearing 15” stock style rubber and wheels. Truman did make a comment that he also has a set of fully chromed fancy wheels and tires for special car shows, like the Portland Roadster Show. Mr. and Mrs. McNatt have been together for thirty-six years and have three wonderful sons that all attended Oregon City High. Truman worked in sheet metal fabrication for 38 years and is now enjoying his retirement with his number one girl friend Carla and his number two girlfriend, that Gypsy Red and Shoreline Beige Bel Air. Your ’55 Chevy has got to be a fantastic ride to “See the U.S.A.” in! We at R&R NW Publication thank you for keeping this classic dream machine all stock and original looking. She’s a winner whenever you show her.
Last, but not least, we found the Donald & Jeri Martin family from Gresham Oregon, who purchased their 1959 Chevy Impala Sport Coupe from Carr Chevrolet back in October of 1959. The amazing thing is they still own it today, 58 years later. She’s about as stock as one can be. She still sports the 283 CI V8 for power with a power glide automatic tranny and a stock ’59 rear end. She has a list of optional equipment and accessories: wheel disc hub-caps, oil filter, EZI Glass w/washers, airflow heater, w/w tires, manual radio, rear antenna, LH Dummy Antenna. The price on the optional items was $476.25. The total cost of the ‘59 Aqua Blue Chevy Impala was $2877.00 after they discounted the cost of the optional Items.
The Family history includes the passing of father Don Martin at age 56 and Mom Jeri Martin who is still going strong and will be celebrating her 99th Birthday next February. She is enjoying her retirement and still goes to cruise ins’ with son Dennis and his wife Karen in the 1959 Chevrolet Aqua Blue Impala. Dennis attended Franklin High back in the sixties and he was an active member in a rock ‘n’ roll band back in high school. The ’59 Impala was used as a band car back then carrying equipment to their gigs. The 58-year-old Chevy Impala still wears the original Aqua Blue paint job with style and Dennis and Karen have done a great job taking care of Mom’s almost like brand new Chevrolet Impala so she can “See the U.S.A. in her Chevrolet”. A special thank you goes out to the whole Martin Family for your input in making this a salute to both your Father Don and your Mother Jeri for having the insight to preserve and pass on their fantastic Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe. She’s a winner in all circles.
All three of these wonderful automobiles are a tribute to the special people at General Motors Chevrolet Division for having the original concept and insight to ask the American Public over sixty years ago to, “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet”. In addition, all three of these cars were regular attendees at the Endless Summer Cruise Inn, in Gresham Oregon sponsored by the Pharaohs Street Rodders which raised funds for our Veterans MIAP Missing in America and the Lines for Life Programs.
In late August Cutsforth held their annual cruise-in covering a few shady blocks around Canby Wait Park. As always, the turnout was great and the weather couldn’t have been better. Put this one on your to-do list for next year.
Back on August 6th the small little hamlet of Gladstone, Oregon became a supersize community hosting the 5th annual Community Festival Car Show in downtown Gladstone. Several thousand families and guests witnessed the biggest and best car show ever in the area. From super street rods to custom pick-ups and fancy stock cars out of yesteryear, were on display. A record of over 200 registered vehicles, turned the little city into a rainbow of colorful rides in every, size, shape, and model. Over 85 sponsored trophies were awarded to these special dream machines including, a couple of bikes, some with engines and some with pedals. Every entry at this charitable fund-raising event, was a winner in the eyes of the car enthusiast. Half of the funds raised, twenty-five hundred dollars, was dedicated to the Gladstone Center for Children and Families. An additional 2,500 was earmarked for the Gladstone, Oak Grove Rotary to support their local community efforts. The KDCCP, Kiwanis Doernbecher Children’s Cancer Program were represented with a booth, raising funds selling raffle tickets on a brand new Ford Mustang, with 100% of the proceeds dedicated to Doernbecher and OHSU. Several hundred dollars was raised in a few hours.
14 local dedicated sponsors took part in this year’s activities.
Affordable Classics, Latus Motors, Hamilton Appliance, Stanley’s Corner, Colton Auto Body, Pioneer Auto Wholesale, Gladstone Mitsubishi, Auto Town, Lot 99, Mike Patterson Plumbing, Battery Factory, Ross Upholstery, Track Auto, Auto Shop NW, and Kim Sieckman.
Volunteers to run the show and award the trophies were from the Associated Fords of the Fifties Club, Affordable Classics Inc. and Kim Sieckman.
A special thank you goes out to all the local sponsors and the fantastic job well done, by all the volunteers. This was one of the nicest car shows ever, as witnessed by all the beautiful families that came out and enjoyed the day together. A special note of recognition to the local Gladstone Police and Fire Departments for their courteous handling of the large crowd on hand and the friendship and good will extended by all at the 2017 Gladstone Festival Car Show.
We at R&R NW Publication would also like to thank Juan and Judy Ruiz, from Affordable Classics Inc. for their assistants in putting this story copy together for the car show.
Gearheads, we have been devoting quite a few columns to emerging technology. That is because there is a lot going on in the automotive world and we need to remain aware of it – all of it. We have been focusing on autonomous vehicles (AVs) and electric vehicles (EVs). But there is plenty going on out there. Consider this engine… from what we know it is sort of half diesel and half gasoline, incorporating the best of both worlds – more power, more mileage. We won’t get into the stoichiometruc ratios here. For now, we will say that it is altered considerably inside the combustion chambers of this engine.
Now, we know that Volvo has announced that they are electrifying their entire lineup. They have run into a slight hitch however with their AVs Down Under. It seems like the kangaroos are driving their algorithm bonkers. It just can’t seem to figure them out when they are out on the roads. Oh well, all in due time.
Henrik Fisker is introducing their 2019 Fisker Emotion. It has a 400 mile range and can be recharged in 9 minutes. This rig includes a lot of bells and whistles. Next we have the Infiniti Prototype 9 EVwhich was introduced at Pebble Beach.
Aston Martin is shooting for 100% hybrids. They intend to manufacture their own batteries and Motors as well. In other news we are hearing that Renault – Nissan is partnering with China. Mercedes-Benz has cancelled their next Gen 5 class convertible. Audi has cancelled their next-gen A5 and A8 but are coming out with an “E” A8.
At press time we are hearing word about a new Electric GT Racing Series featuring a version of the P100D, Tesla Model S all in carbon fibre. It looks like they have tons of horsepower and tons of downforce. If this comes to fruition, it will be global. They are currently seeking investors. They are saying this, “We know the future of motorsports is electric.”
There is plenty more Gearheads but we have to end this at some point for this month. How about we leave you with this news from Autoline Daily — Corvette has closed their assembly line for 3 months. This could be for a number of reasons as most of us are aware of the rumors floating around about the Next-Gen Vette. But we will close with this, the latest numbers show that auto sales are down pretty much across the board worldwide. And that includes the sales of luxury cars to the wealthy.
As a journalist that has spent time around a lot of different forms of racing, I thoroughly enjoyed my maiden voyage into the realm of drag racing. I would best describe the tone of the NHRA Drag Race Nationals as amusingly eccentric.
The car/sponsor regalia is as loud as the cars themselves. The drivers openly make quips at each other during grid interviews and the announcers were at an impossibly high energy level all day long. No one takes themselves too seriously.
That is not to the disservice to the drivers or crews who are focused and working really hard, or to the fans that are passionate about this form of the sport. I mean to describe the feeling in the air. This event was fun. All of the fans – and there were a lot of them – had smiles on their faces and truly enjoyed every minute.
The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals held in Indianapolis are the biggest six days in the drag racing world. “This is our Super Bowl. This is our Daytona or Indy 500,” said a fan that drove from three states over for the weekend. “I come every year! We can tell you everything that y’all need to know.” In a thick southern drawl he did his best to explain the ins and outs of the event and series to me. Here is what we learned:
» The Mello Yello NHRA series includes a couple breeds of cars; Top Fuel, that are shaped long and skinny, and Funny Cars, that are shorter and are meant to resemble street cars. Both are considered the elite of the drag racing pyramid.
» Top Fuel cars and Funny Cars produce an estimated 10,000 horsepower each — which is more than ten current NASCAR Cup cars combined.
» Success is measured in absolute speed and how quick drivers can complete a ¼ of a mile. Both variations comfortably break 300 mph.
» Top Fuel and Funny Cars burn nitro methane, at roughly 11 gallons per second and produce G forces similar to a space shuttle launch. Bright flames shoot out the sides of the car. It’s visually spectacular.
» Lastly, and most importantly, always always always bring earplugs. The mere sound of the engines produce decibels so loud that they can only be measured on the Richter scale. That’s right, each run that these dragsters make are roughly equivalent to an earthquake. To further illustrate this point, my new drag racing friend told me to watch closely during the next drive by. About 100 yards from the racing surface, the unobstructed sound waves rattled his full beer cup about four inches across the metal table. I can see why people are hooked on this stuff.
“You know how you know the real fans?” he drawled. (I shook my head) “The Nitro eyes.” Evidently, it is a common practice for the more committed enthusiasts to rush up to the pit entrances when the teams fire the cars up. They then stare deep down the fiery throats of the beasts, the breath from the engine ripping the caps off their heads. A bluey haze burps and engulfs the fans, burning the air they are breathing. As the engine is cut and the roar dies, everybody coughs until their brains retract from the edge of asphyxiation. I tried it once. It was not my favorite aspect of the sport. The true diehards go from tent to tent performing this ritual until their cheeks are blistered, facial hair scorched and matted, and their eyes are a (Mello) yellow color.
The races themselves are run in short bursts, two cars at a time. The Nationals determine who is in the chase for the championship; so all teams aim to make a strong impression. After five rounds of qualifying, the eighteen Top Fuel competitors were matched up for the ‘elimination’ rounds. Each round narrowed the field; eight cars, four cars, two cars. The final showdown was between Steve Torrence in the CAPCO Contractors car in the left lane and Kebin Kinsley in the Road Rage Fuel Booster racer on the right. Off the line, Kinsley lost his grip and Torrence was crowned the weekend champion for the Top Fuel guys. “We have had a lot of success at Indy but have never been able to close the deal” said Torrence after. “It was one of the proudest days in my career.”
On the Funny Car side of things, fourteen competitors followed the same format. The last round of two starred J.R. Todd in the DHL car on the left and Ron Capps in the NAPA Auto Parts car on the right. They battled off the line and down the strip. Todd prevailed by .0297 seconds over Capps, equating to roughly 14 feet of victory. “I knew we were going to go out there and throw down,” said Todd. “I could not believe that win light came on.”
I went home from the event with my head in a daze and my ears ringing, trying to wrap my head around what I had just experienced. How could the family of motorsports have such variation from one discipline of racing to another? In debriefing my roommates (who are utterly unfamiliar with the racing world) of this event, they asked what the cars were like. The true description from the track announcers rang clear in my brain. “Well,” I said, “These cars are fire breathing monsters.”
There was a time when STP stickers were affixed to virtually every race car at my local speedway. The little red ovals were placed at the highest point on the vehicle- the uppermost corner of the airfoil. Almost every car had one so you couldn’t help but notice. As an eleven-year-old fan, I didn’t understand the concept of a contingency program but STP marketing genius Andy Granatelli did.
No, Granatelli didn’t own the company nor did he invent the product or design the logo. He was hired by the Studebaker Automobile Corporation to market their “Scientifically Treated Petroleum” and that’s precisely what he did. He refined their trademark logo and promptly had a gazillion stickers made. Then he embarked on a nationwide campaign to distribute those stickers and soon they were everywhere. It was estimated in 1968 that Granatelli gave away two million stickers a month. Twenty-four million stickers a year is a ton of exposure. The STP logo became arguably the most recognizable graphic in America through the 1960’s.
After Granatelli put Richard Petty under contract, he himself was able to fade from the limelight. Though STP has been sold numerous times since Studebaker failed in 1966, Petty remains under contract to this day. The original polymer product is no longer a top seller yet the STP logo is of such value that it is still used to market a variety of automotive products including battery chargers and octane booster.
Granatelli was famous for marching down pit lane in a jacket emblazoned with corporate logos but he may have borrowed that idea from Dean Moon. Moon was a contemporary of Granatelli’s that had also emerged from the automotive aftermarket. He designed his first fuel block while he was still in high school. Spun aluminum oil tanks, foot shaped gas pedals and finally flat disc wheel covers followed. Putting eyeballs in the double o’s was a no brainer but the “Moon Eyes” logo really took off when Moon had a cartoonist from Disney revamp it. He may have owned a logo covered blazer first but his time on earth was short compared to Andy’s. The company was sold to Japanese businessmen and remains relevant to hot rodders throughout the world. I displayed the Moon Eyes on my first performance car, a ’64 Austin Cooper- coincidently Moon’s first car was an Austin as well.
Cigar chomping Clay Smith was an engine tuner from Southern California. His contribution to racers was custom ground camshafts but his woodpecker logo had more duration. It was supposed to be a caricature of Smith himself though most would agree that it more closely resembles Walter Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker. Both characters appeared in the early 1940’s simultaneously and were allowed to coexist because the automotive aftermarket and the animation world are completely unrelated. Sadly, Smith was killed in a racetrack accident when he was only thirty-nine years old. The camshaft business lived on however, largely due to their iconic trademark. The menacing woodpecker has always represented racing to me. Miniature decals of it were highly sought after when I was a kid and I have worn embroidered patches of his likeness on every fire suit I’ve ever owned.
Though Gabriel’s hijacker rabbit didn’t appear until 1967, he deserves to be in the same conversation as the Moon Eyes and Clay Smith Cams Woodpecker. Like the Chrysler Super Bee or Plymouth Duster from roughly the same period, he possesses that mod, 70’s aesthetic. To a racer my daughter’s age named Ariel Biggs, the hijacker rabbit represent racing. She has a fond memory of her father wearing a windbreaker with this logo embroidered on it. Whether they were working on their quarter midget, heading to the track or celebrating at a pizza parlor afterwards, the hijacker rabbit was always part of her racing experience.
My final choice is purely subjective. It was not an image from my personal racing past. In fact, I don’t know that I ever saw this sticker on any one’s race car. AC spark plugs have been around as long as cars themselves. They’ve always been more of a passenger car brand than a performance brand. Unlike STP, the AC logo has changed over the years yet no variation of it has been particularly memorable… but the “Fire-Ring” variation is spectacular! It is six colors for one thing and a very complicated die cut for another. Those features combined make it the most expensive sticker to produce in this offering. And the cost explains why comparatively few of the AC Fire-Ring stickers are still around today.