Spectator

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.

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