AL UNSER JR.’S CHECKERED PAST; A ROBIN MILLER RETROSPECTIVE

A CHECKERED PAST – AL UNSER JR.

We’ve all heard of the hold that alcohol and drugs had taken on Al Unser, Jr.’s life – to the detriment of his career and family. It was inevitable that at some point he would publicly face these personal demons. That time has come. Unser sat down with Jade Gurss, a writer of exceptional skill and sensitivity, to unwrap his life in and out of the limelight. “Al Unser, Jr. – A Checkered Past” will go on sale Oct. 1.

His splendid racing career, made possible by a rare blend of genetic talent and intensity, thrust him into the top echelon of motorsports, where he lived and excelled for several decades. It was away from the racetrack where his downward spiral began to strip away the foundations of his life – his marriage, his financials, his image, his inner core. It’s commonly thought that “rock bottom” is the springboard to recovery. Unser found it.

Al talked. Jade listened and recorded. The result is this remarkable story of demon-battling, an unblinking-assessment of a life in shambles and plotting a way out of the pit. This a must-read for all friends and fans of Al Unser, Jr.; and for any that may be facing a similar abyss, it’s a ray of hope. – Bill King, Editor

 

ROBIN MILLER – A RETROSPECTIVE

About as many bytes have been scurrying around cyberspace the past few weeks about Robin Miller as his prolific brain spilled onto keyboard in the average couple of months. The public learned of his terminal condition about a month before his passing in late August via a farewell column on Racer.com. In typical Miller fashion, there were no regrets. He’d lived his life the way he wanted to and had written what he thought about what he heard and observed. He was as deep inside motorsports, particularly IndyCar racing, as anyone; but he was NOT an “insider”. Nobody owned Robin Miller.

He was deeply, visibly moved by the outpouring of admiration and respect during the Indy/NASCAR combo weekend at the Speedway which had been his hunting ground for more than four decades. He could not have scripted a more meaningful send-off.  – Bill King, Editor

 

 

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TEAM USA SCHOLARSHIP SHOOTOUT HOSTED BY POLECAT TRAINING CENTER

Six talented young American drivers will assemble this week at the new Polecat Training Center facility in Lynchburg, Tenn., as part of a continuing process to select two Team USA Scholarship winners for 2021. Following two days of assessments, which will include driving on the technical 2.1-mile road course aboard the Polecat Racing Academy’s well proven 2.0-liter formula cars, as well as a fitness evaluation with industry expert Jim Leo, president of Indianapolis, Ind.-based PitFit Training, a pair of winners will contest the 50th Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England, on October 30/31, and the following weekend’s equally prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone, held in honor of the founding father of Formula Ford.

The finalists have been chosen from a group of 12 candidates, each of whom was invited to submit a variety of assignments to be evaluated by a 20-strong panel of auto racing insiders representing virtually every aspect of the sport.

The six finalists are:
•    Jason Alder, 18, from Cooksville, Md. – competing in the F4 United States Championship powered by Honda
•    Andre Castro, 22, from New York, N.Y. – partial season in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship
•    Nicholas d’Orlando, 18, from Hartsdale, N.Y. – leads the FRP F1600 Championship Series
•    Max Esterson, 18, from New York, N.Y. – second in the BRSCC Avon Tires British Formula Ford Championship
•    Ayrton Houk, 18, from McCordsville, Ind. – leads the Mel Kenyon Midget Series and races in SCCA FF/F1600
•    Bryson Morris, 16, from Mt. Juliet, Tenn. – leads the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series

Matt Christensen, 16, from Orlando, Fla., Arias Deukmedjian, 16, from Merritt Island, Fla., Ax Kametches, 20, from Atlanta, Ga., Jonathan Lee, 20, from Miami, Fla., Colin Queen, 16, from Coto de Caza, Calif., and Thomas Schrage, 16, from Bethel, Ohio, also were part of the original selection process.

“We at Polecat Training Center are so excited that the Team USA Scholarship chose PTC Driving Academy to host this prestigious talent search,” said Polecat Racing Academy Owner Keith Watts. “I am honored to contribute back to young aspiring racing drivers through this program, and track owner Paul Arnold is delighted to help further these young racers’ careers.”

The final decision will be made by a panel of judges which will include former Team USA Scholarship winners Josef Newgarden, Andy Lally and Aaron Jeansonne, as well as Kelly Jones, proprietor of RaceCraft1 Simulator Training, Honda/Acura Public Relations representative Dan Layton, author and RACER Marketing and Media editor Steve Nickless, and Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw.

“I can’t wait to meet this year’s candidates and I am honored to play a small role in the 2021 scholarship program,” said Lally. “Jeremy has worked so hard for so many years to search for and assemble the best young driving talent the United States has to offer and then give them a stage to show off their talents and potential. It is such a fun alumni to be a part of and this year’s crop of drivers are chomping at the bit to fulfill a lifelong dream of a career in auto racing.”

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JIM PACE TO BE HONORED; NEWEY ON VERSTAPPEN; PENSKE ON JENKINS

JIM PACE TO BE HONORED AT CHATTANOOGA

The late Jim Pace will be honored Oct. 16 in pre-race ceremonies for the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival’s Pace Grand Prix at the Bend to be run on a two-mile street circuit he designed inside a bend in the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. Pace was event chair and chief operating officer for the inaugural Festival in 2019. He passed away Nov. 13, 2021, the victim of COVID-19. Pace was a member of the RRDC class of 2014.

 

ADRIAN NEWEY ON MAX VERSTAPPEN

Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer and RRDC member, analyses the titanic battle for the 2021 F1 world championship between team driver Max Verstappen and 7-time and defending titlist Lewis Hamilton:

“He has the same steely grit as any world champion, the stuff they need to dig in and keep going in the face of adversity,” Newey said of young Verstappen. “He can put the past behind him and look forward to the next race. His driving ability is obviously superb, and he’s matured into a great racer. He’s really not made any mistakes this year. The races where he hasn’t scored heavily – Baku, Silverstone and Hungary – have been no fault of his, but he’s kept his head and bounced back from all of those.

“I don’t think the pressure of the situation will affect him. He’s very easy to chat to and has a wide range of interests, which I think is very important for an F1 driver. If your only interest is F1, that can almost make it too important when the pressure comes on. Max has a very good balance in that respect.”

There are possibly 13 races remaining on the 2021 F1 schedule.

 

ROGER PENSKE ON THE PASSING OF BOB JENKINS

“To an entire generation, the sound of Bob’s voice simply meant it was time to go racing. That legendary voice became the soundtrack for the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We will miss Bob’s kindness, his professionalism and his unique ability to bring us all closer to the track with his stories and insights.”

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CASTRONEVES, BROCK, ROUSH, McCLUGGAGE SET FOR MSHFA

Four RRDC members are among the nine motorsports luminaries comprising the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America induction class for 2022: Helio Castroneves, Peter Brock, Jack Roush and the late Denise McCluggage (left to right, below)

Castroneves, the latest member of the 4-WIN Club at Indy, is the open-wheel category inductee. Brock, designer of the Cobra Daytona Coupe and champion team owner, is the sports car category honoree. Roush, an RRDC member from his championship road racing days, is the stock car inductee, while the McCluggage was selected in the media category.

Induction ceremonies for the 2022 class will be held in Daytona Beach next March 7 and 8.

 

ROGER PENSKE ON THE PASSING OF BOB JENKINS THIS WEEK

“To an entire generation, the sound of Bob’s voice simply meant it was time to go racing. That legendary voice became the soundtrack for the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We will miss Bob’s kindness, his professionalism and his unique ability to bring us all closer to the track with his stories and insights.”

 

 

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MEMBER NEWS: LIME ROCK LUNCH; SHARBRAL PRUETT; MENDEZ FOUNDATION

The Annual Lime Rock Members’ Lunch is set for Sept. 5th during the running of the Historic Festival 39. Here are the details:

WHAT:

RRDC Members’ Lunch

WHERE:

Lime Rock Park, Conn.

At the Historic Festival 39

In the Lime Rock chalet – on the infield hill above the paddock

WHEN:

Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021 – Noon

During the Sunday in the Park Concours d’Elegance

COST:

$40 per person – payable at the door, cash or check – GUESTS ARE WELCOME!

RSVP:  

Please RSVP to jstropus@earthlink.net by Wednesday, Aug. 25, letting us know if you will attend and, if yes, please provide the names of your guests.

PASSES:

TBD. We will advise if one-day passes will be available to RRDC members. When sending in your RSVP, please let us know if you’ll need passes.

 

Join us at what has become our annual luncheon at the Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park. Thanks to Skip Barber and everyone at Lime Rock Park for their help and support to make this happen.

 

MEDICAL UPDATE: A SETBACK FOR SHARBRAL PRUETT

Marshall Pruett’s wife Sharbral has been fighting breast cancer since 2018. The disease has been beaten back twice; but Molly Binks (who manages Sharbral’s Go Fund Me page) reports that there’s been another recurrence. Binks says a new Go Fund Me page will be launched from racer.com – the current page to be closed soon.

 

WHAT’S UP THIS SUMMER AT THE MENDEZ FOUNDATION

Got this from Charles Mendez on Too Good, the foundation’s comprehensive family of substance use and violence prevention curricula designed to mitigate the risk factors associated with risky behavior and build protection within the child:

“Summer is a wonderful time of year to introduce children to healthy foods. It’s a great time to take a bread from the daily routine and stop to enjoy the world outside of school, try new things, set new goals and expand our daily habits. Introducing new healthy foods to young ones before school starts can make the transition back to school an easier one, as healthy habits are kicked off before the school year starts. Instilling healthy habits early on will not only support children’s mental and physical states but will also empower them to nourish themselves and be better prepared for life’s goals and challenges. Read our latest blog post to discover ways to encourage choosing a healthy, nutrient dense diet.”

Too Good develops a framework of Social Emotional skills through the development of goal-setting, decision-making, and effective communication skills in addition to peer pressure refusal, pro-social bonding, conflict resolution, and media literacy. Too Good builds the basis for a safe, supportive, and respectful learning environment.

 

 

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RRDC WELCOMES THE 16 NEW MEMBERS OF ITS CLASS OF 2020

The RRDC Class of 2020 included eight regular members, four associate members and four honorary members. Here are the new REGULAR MEMBERS:

ERIC BACHELART – Indianapolis, Ind. Is the 1982 Belgian Formula Ford 1600 Junior Champion; 1984 Benelux Formula Ford 1600 Champion and placed second in both the European and Belgian Formula Ford 1600 Championships; won a French Formula 3 Championship race at Croix-en-Ternois and finished third in the championship behind Jean Alesi and Eric Bernard; finished second in the 1988 Belgian ProCar Championship for Peugeot; competed in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship in 1989 before switching to North America; won the 1991 Firestone Indy Lights Championship; was the second-placed rookie in the 1992 PPG IndyCar World Series; competed in the Rolex 24 At Daytona (Chrysler GTS-R) and the Le Mans 24 Hours (Ferrari 333 SP) in 1996; established his own team, Conquest Racing, in 1997 and has continued to succeed in a variety of race series.

 

WAYNE BAKER – San Diego, Calif. Started racing career with local Porsche Club of America in a highly modified 914/4 Porsche. Eventually joined SCCA and became regional champ in D Production. In 1980 raced a Porsche 914/4 2.0-liter in IMSA. At Sears Point, was the first to win an overall race in a 4-cylinder Porsche 914. In 1982 his sponsor bought the Bob Garretson 935 which was converted into a 934 single-turbo. This car would make history in 1983 with a 1st overall and 1st in GTO at the 12 Hours of Sebring with co-drivers Jim Mullen and Kees Nierop – the first time in IMSA history that a smaller displacement car became an overall winner. Won the IMSA GTO Championship that year. Since 1998 has raced in Vintage and Historic races, driving an RSK, Porsche 910 and 904. Won the Tour Auto in France and races at tracks in Magny Cours, Monza and Nurburgring. Organized a 2.0- liter Porsche Challenge with HSR-West and mentored new drivers and introduced them to the sport. Is currently racing a Porsche 1967 911S in SVRA and HSR vintage races.

 

JON BEEKHUIS – Meadow Vista, Calif. Is the 1972-73 Western United States Quarter Midget Champion; 1978 Jim Russell Racing School World Scholarship winner; fourth in 1980 Esso (British) Formula Ford 1600 Championship; competed in the 1981 British Formula 3 Championship with Argo before returning to the U.S. and gaining experience in a variety of cars including Super Vee, IMSA GTO and GTP and the IMSA RS program with the Ford Motor Co.; 1986 Russell Pro Series Champion; fourth in 1987 SPI Formula Atlantic Championship; 1988 HFC American Racing Series (Indy Lights) Champion (beating Tommy Byrne into second place); made 14 INDYCAR starts between 1989 and 1992; later built a successful second career as a TV pit reporter/analyst, working extensively with ESPN and, more recently, NBCSN.

 

ROSS BENTLEY – Federal Way, Wash. USRRC Champion GT-3 1998; Won SRPII Class 24-Hours of Daytona 2002; raced in ALMS for PPG/BMW; raced in CART Championship Series 1990-95; author of more than two dozen instructional books on racing; highly sought-after Driving Coach; contributor to the RRDC’s Safe is Fast program.

 

 

 

CONNOR DE PHILIPPI – Charlotte, N.C. Began karting at age 5, and by age 14 had won 21 National championships, becoming the only driver ever to win four SKUSA SuperNats titles. That same year, 2007, was invited to the prestigious Granja Viana 500-mile kart race in Brazil alongside Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Massa and Tony Kanaan. Moved to cars in 2008, winning the following year’s Skip Barber Racing National Championship, and graduated directly into the Pro Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000) Championship in 2010 as part of the Mazda Road to Indy. Also earned a Team USA Scholarship, becoming the youngest-ever – and only the second American – winner of the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford event at Silverstone. After placing second and third in the championship in two years of Pro Mazda, started sports car racing and was accepted as a Porsche Junior driver – only the second American to do so after Patrick Long. Continued to flourish during two years as an Audi factory driver, winning the ADAC Masters GT Championship and the VLN Nurburgring Speed Trophy in 2016 and adding victories at the Nurburgring 24 Hours and Petit Le Mans (IMSA) in 2017. Has been a BMW factory driver since 2018, with a Rolex 24 At Daytona victory and a pole position for the Sebring 12 Hours with BMW Team RLL in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

 

ERNIE FRANCIS JR. – Southwest Ranches, Fla. Made his Trans-Am full-time debut in 2014 at age 16. Won six of 10 races and the TA3 American Muscle class championship and began a streak of six-consecutive championships, repeating TA3AM in 2015 (8 wins); and TA4 in 2016 (9). Moved to the lead TA category in 2017, winning the first of three straight titles. Won 10 races in 2017, five in 2018, and four in 2019. Also won the SCCA GT-1 National Championship in 2019. In 2020 he won his fourth straight TA title, his seventh championship in seven years. He’s also competed in limited NASCAR events, placing second at New Jersey in a K&N Pro Series East race in 2018.

 

MIKE PINNEY – Phoenix, Ariz. Has an extensive racing background in both sports cars and midgets. Won the SCCA Rookie of the year in first Runoffs attempt in 1976, then won two Runoffs Championships in the years that followed, including 42 National wins. When funds ran out, crewed on RRDC member Joe Huffaker’s team and participated in six of their championships. Has maintained a lifetime interest in motorsports and now works for Penske Automotive in Phoenix.

 

 

DAVID L. TENNEY – Greenwich, Conn. Has competed in karts, sports cars, and outboard racing boats. Raced karts 1975-81; Sports Renault in ‘80s, numerous poles and wins; 1988 Central Division Sports Renault Champion and 1988 and ’89 Chicago Region Driver of the Year; 1989 Runoffs Champion in SR; 1991 and ‘92 Runoffs Champion in Shelby Can Am and SCCA Shelby Can Am Pro Series Champion in ‘91; raced in IMSA’s World Sports Racer Pro Series in ‘90s, two wins; raced WKA and Stars of Karting 1999-2007; In 2008-19 actively involved in Pro Outboard racing; US Title Series National Champion 125cc Hydro Championship four times between 2015-19; Kilo world record for 125cc Runabout; retired in 2020 from racing boats; owns and sponsors team in 125cc and 175cc hydro classes; board member US Title Series, that promotes and manages Pro Outboard racing.

 

NEW ASSOCIATE MEMBERS

SIMON KIRKBY – South Egremont, Mass. Has worked 20 years at Skip Barber Racing School starting as Instructor, followed by 12 years as EVP Director of the Skip Barber Racing Series; started and managed Formula BMW USA; past manager and mentor to many drivers including Santino Ferrucci; director of The Lime Rock Drivers Club. Previous racing includes: two-time runner-up in the British FF 2000 Championship; factory driver for Alfa Romeo and Chrysler in the BTCC. Is currently racing in Historics and PCA.

 

 

TONY PARELLA – Southlake, Tex. Started racing on dirt tracks in the northeast. Later began racing in vintage cars driving a Corvette. Is now President and CEO of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Assoc. (SVRA) and is the majority owner of the Trans Am Race Company. After purchasing SVRA, acquired the Historic Sportscar Racing-West and consolidated it into SVRA.

 

 

LES PHILLIPS – San Luis Obispo, Calif. Started racing FF with Cal Club in 1986. Switched to FC in 1987 and continued to race FC and F2000 until retirement in 2018. Claimed dozens of SCCA Regional and National wins along with FC track records at Riverside, Laguna Seca, Buttonwillow and Auto Club Speedway. Continues to ride motorcycles on track days. In 1987 a small group of racers met in a garage at Riverside and realized that with the track’s imminent closure there would only be one other local track to race. A group was formed to build what turned out to be Buttonwillow Raceway with Cal Club being the majority owner. The track was finally completed in December of 1995. Has served as entity President and CEO since the beginning, with plans to open a second track.

CASS WHITEHEAD – Wilsonville, Ala. Has been road racing for more than 30 years. Was named SCCA Rookie National Driver of the Year. Moved into pro racing in early 1990s. Made living driving race cars and teaching others the art of racing. Won the 1991 IMSA International Sedan Manufacturers Championship and was runner up in the drivers championship driving a Nissan. Was a factory-supported driver for Nissan in the IMSA Supercar Series driving a 300ZX Turbo. Has driven for factory-supported teams from Nissan, Porsche, Ferrari, Oldsmobile and Ford. Was responsible for Porsche winning a GT Championship in the Rolex Grand Am series driving a Porsche GT3RS. Has also raced many Prototype cars over the years including WSC in IMSA, and Sports Racing Prototypes in Grand Am highlighted by a third-place finish at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Has driven many GT cars including BMW M3 GT, Porsche GT3RS and the Ferrari 360GT in ALMS. Is currently the Chief Instructor for the Porsche Track Experience – USA, and has been a lead instructor with Panoz Racing School, Saab Viggen Driving School, Audi Driving Experience, Skip Barber Racing School. Has held licenses with FIA- Grade B, Grand Am, IMSA GTP, SCCA Pro Racing, SCCA National & Regional. Is also available for private coaching.

 

NEW HONORARY MEMBERS

LISA BOGGS – Nashville, Tenn. Is considered one of the most influential women in racing as the Bridgestone Americas Director of Motorsports; is responsible for all things Firestone Racing, from marketing and communications to budgets and logistics; in ‘90s worked for Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago on Marlboro account; left agency in ‘97 to work with Team Penske as a consultant to Philip Morris; from 2006-13 was VP of Matter-Edelman Sports and Entertainment, managing IndyCar and NASCAR accounts; took over from Al Speyer at Firestone in 2013; attends most IndyCar races and is longtime supporter, with Firestone brand, of RRDC’s Long Beach Legends Dinner.

 

 

JOHN CLAGETT – Miami, Fla. Was with SCCA Trans Am from 1984 (publicity director) through 2005 (became executive director in 2000); Champ Car 2006-2007 (VP of venue development); formed Trans Am Race Company and served as president from 2011 to present; formerly youngest (at 23) Sports Information Director of Division I school in the country (Colorado State).

 

 

 

TERRY “PIGGY” MALONE – Sandpoint, Idaho Teen-age Hot Rodder (1955-59) in Southern California in a ‘34 Ford Victoria (5-window) with ‘48 Mercury Flathead; in 1959-1963, Flight engineer with the US Air Force – also raced a ’58 MGA Twin Cam in Club events in the Panama Canal Zone; in 1963-1967, Flight Test Mechanic flying new DC-8 and DC-9 aircraft at McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, CA; In 1967-1975, mechanic for Dan Gurney and Bobby Unser at Dan Gurney’s All American Racers; In 1975-1979, mechanic for Mario Andretti at F1 Team Lotus; In 1980-1984, a continuing association with Team Lotus for six months each year and the other six in the Antarctic program as the Airport Site Manager at McMurdo Station Antarctica for the National Science Foundation; In 1984-2011, because of relationship with Mario and a 40-year friendship with Paul Newman, was able to help out at several IndyCar events a year.

 

 

CAL WELLS III – Charlotte, N.C. Former owner of Toyota factory-sponsored Precision Preparation Inc., stadium and desert off-road truck race team; 11 MTEG manufacturer and 10 MTEG driver championships plus numerous Baja 500 and Baja 1000 victories; former Toyota Atlantic Championship and NASCAR team owner; former executive at Michael Waltrip Racing; former Indycar team co-owner of Arciero-Wells Racing; 2020 Offroad Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee.

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SAFEisFAST – AVOIDING CRASHES

If you watched this past Sunday’s British Grand Prix, I think you’ll find our latest video most interesting. The title “How to Stay out of Crashes”

In the video, five Champion Drivers from top racing series around the world explain the key to racing wheel-to-wheel without crashing: “Know who you’re racing against.”

As IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward comments in the video, “It takes two to tango.”

Enjoy,

Bobby Rahal

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GOODWOOD FESTIVAL OF SPEED A ROARING SUCCESS

The 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed came off without a hitch in the face of discouraging odds given the state of the worldwide pandemic. Tour host Steve Austin of Portland’s Great Vacations called it “a brilliant, exciting, magnificent event that in most people’s books could never have happened.”

Festival of Speed organizer and RRDC member Charles Gordon-Lennox (front page image), better known as the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, was determined that the 2021 event would be staged no matter the odds against it and plowed ahead with typical thoroughness in planning and ultimately executing another flawless Festival.

The financial risk was considerable, but our friend pulled it off as the dozens of YouTube videos will attest – just plug 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed into your browser. It’s a great way to spend several hours with the top names in motorsports worldwide and the fabulous machinery the Duke of Richmond assembles each year.

 

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ANOTHER TEAM PENSKE MILESTONE; GANASSI SELLS CUP TEAM; HOBBS ON NEW PODCAST, ED HUGUS REMEMBRANCE

ANOTHER MILESTONE FOR TEAM PENSKE

Josef Newgarden’s first-place finish in the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio Sunday came on the 50th anniversary weekend of Team Penske’s first IndyCar victory – Mark Donohue on July 3, 1971, at Pocono. Newgarden, who had suffered recently from stumbles while leading, fended off a late-race charge by Marcus Ericsson for the historic win. It was also Team Penske’s first victory in the 2021 , their longest draught since a winless season in 1979. 

Penske holds the commemorative trophy from that first of his team’s 220 IndyCar victories, spread among 18 drivers from Donohue to Newgarden.

 

CHIP GANASSI SELLS HIS NASCAR TEAM

Chip Ganassi has sold his NASCAR team with its two charters plus his N.C. Concord-based facility to Justin Marks, owner of Trackhouse Racing. Ganassi will continue to compete in the Cup Series for the remainder of the 2021 season with drivers Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain. Ganassi has been a Cup owner for 20 years, since his 2001 purchase of 80 percent of Team Sabco from Felix Sabates.

Ganassi celebrates the 2010 Daytona 500 victory with his driver Jamie McMurray. [Associated Press image by John Roaux]

According to Ganassi, the team wasn’t for sale. Marks who drove an Xfinity Series car for Ganassi (2016-18) simply made him an unsolicited offer that was, upon thorough examination, too good to pass up.

Also on the NASCAR front, Brad Keslowski is considering a move from Team Penske to Roush-Fenway Racing where an ownership position may be in the offing.

 

HOBBS TO FEATURE ON TRACTION REACTION PODCAST

Milwaukee motorsports writer/broadcaster Steve Zautke is taking his 15-year sports radio program national with the introduction of Traction Reaction Podcast. Milwaukee resident David Hobbs will continue his longtime stint as Zaulke’s Formula 1 analysist for the new enterprise. According to Zautke, “Hobbs analysis is always a favorite with his nationwide fan base.”

“As this exciting new format evolves, we’re seeing that the flexibility of providing timely reports and entertainment certainly is an improvement from having a locked-in time slot,” Zautke said.

Click here to listen to the first episode, or search ‘Traction Reaction’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or one’s preferred podcast platform.

On Facebook, go to “Traction Reaction Podcast,” on Twitter it’s at @TractionReactn, and on Instagram it’s at traction_podcast.

Click here to watch the Traction Reaction Podcast YouTube channel.

 

ED HUGUS REMEMBRANCE

Pete Vack has penned a fascinating remembrance of Ed Hugus on Veloce Today’s web site. The first installment of a two-parter is currently online. One of the charter members of the Steel Cities Region of the SCCA, Hugus was a central figure in early East Coast sports car racing with fellow Pittsburgh area drivers like Ed Lowther, Don Yenko, Bob Nagel and Donna Mae Mims. A longtime member of the RRDC, Hugus passed away in 2006, a day before his 83rd birthday.

Ed Hugus scored the first race victory at VIR’s Inaugural event in August 1957. [VIR Archives]

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LONESTAR J.R. DRAWS A CROWD FOR AN AUTOGRAPH SESSION

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford probably signed more autographs than any of the luminaries at the Speedway for the 105th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. J.R. helped create the Official Souvenir Program cover for the race’s 2021 edition, hand-drawing the cars of four-time champions A.J. Foyt Jr., Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Johnny Rutherford and IMS graphic designer Amiah Mims unveil the 2021 Official Indy 500 program cover. [Indycar image]

Rutherford, a passionate artist, used a pencil method to draw the cars of the race’s winningest drivers – who all share an anniversary in 2021. Rutherford drew the No. 1 Bowes Seal Fast Trevis/Offy roadster that fellow-Texan Foyt drove to his first Indy 500 victory 60 years ago, in 1961; the No. 1 Johnny Lightning P.J. Colt/Ford Special in which Big Al earned his second Indy win 50 years ago, in 1971 and Mears’ iconic red-and-white No. 3 Marlboro Penske/Chevrolet Indy A in which he won his fourth Indy 500 in 1991 – 30 years ago.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this project and to do this program cover,” said Rutherford, 83, who scored his 500 victories in 1974, 1976 and 1980. “I just hope the fans like it and everybody enjoys the fact that it was me, a three-time winner here, that drew that. Add this to what I’ve accomplished at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in my career, and it’s special.”

The 2021 program cover is a collaboration between Rutherford and IMS graphic designer Amiah Mims. After Rutherford provided drawings of the cars, Mims reimagined the 1980 INDYCAR champion’s artwork in a digital format and integrated it onto a digitally created background that highlights the cars Rutherford drew, as well as the iconic Yard of Bricks.

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CASTRONOVES JOINS THE 4-TIME WINNERS CLUB AT INDY

Helio Castroneves raised the Indianapolis 500 post-race festivities to a joyous new level in celebrating his historic fourth victory in the 105th running of the Memorial Day classic. After a couple of cooldown laps, “Spiderman” parked his No. 06 Sirius/XM Honda just past the yard of bricks and launched his now-traditional climbing of the fence, to the total delight of a packed front-straight grandstand. He was joined by several of his crew plus co-team owner Mike Shank.

Helio Castroneves celebrates with crew after winning the Indianapolis 500. [AP Image/Darron Cummings]

Castroneves starts a new tradition by running  back down the track. [AP Image/Darron Cummings)]

The ebullient Brazilian then appeared to start running a Polish victory lap back down the front straight to thunderous approval from fans. There was much embracing – Conor Daly, teammate Jack Harvey, Will Power, Mike Shank and crew, a kiss on the top of the head from Mario Andretti. It took a good 15 minutes to herd Helio to the lift that took him and his racecar to the victory platform. It then took another 15 minutes to get him into the racecar for the presentation of the wreath, bottle of milk and the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy, soon to carry his fourth facial sculpture.

“I knew I had to fight, put the elbows out,” Castroneves told NBC on the podium. “Man, I only did two races this year and I won two (the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Indy). You think I still got it? It’s not the end of it. It’s the beginning. The old guys are still kicking the young guy’s butts.” – a reference to 43-year-old Tom Brady’s seventh Super Bowl victory in January and Phil Mickelson’s triumph in the PGA Championship a few weeks ago at age 50.

It was a most satisfying day for Roger Penske. The 135,000 fans allowed into the Speedway on race day was the largest crowd to attend an event of any kind in more than a year. And they were treated to one of the most competitive 500s in recent memory, if not ever.

As if in anticipation of Castroneves’ somewhat unexpected result, all three of the previous 4-time victors were in attendance: A.J. Foyt, Jr., Al Unser, Sr. and Rick Mears.

 

 

 

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BOBBY UNSER 1934-2021

Bobby Unser died Sunday of natural causes at his home in Albuquerque, N.M., his wife Lisa reported. He was 87. RRDC President Bobby Rahal commented on Unser’s passing:

“We at the RRDC are saddened by the death of a national hero and icon, and one of our longtime members. Bobby Unser was a champion race-car driver, a beloved and charismatic curmudgeon and, above all, one of the rarest of breeds in the racing world. He’s done if all. He was a three-time Indy 500 winner, two-time USAC national champion, an IROC champion, and won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb 13 times, 10 of them overall. He will be missed.”

 

Bobby Rahal hosts “An Evening with Bobby Unser” at the 2015 RRDC Dinner at Long Beach. [click here]

Robin Miller penned this tribute to the man he affectionally called “Uncle Bobby” for Racer.com:

He conquered Pikes Peak before the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and had an inordinate grasp of how to make a race car faster when most of his competition wasn’t paying attention to those details. Then he took that track record into television for 20 years and launched another successful career. He never met a microphone he didn’t like, and nobody gave opinions on any subject with less filtering and more conviction.

But Bobby Unser, who passed away Sunday at the age of 87, should be remembered as one of the fastest, bravest and most skilled racers to ever sit in an Indy car.

“When I showed up to the track, for any race, the first person I always looked to see if he was there was Bobby Unser,” said two-time Indy 500 winner Gordon Johncock.

“Sure there was Foyt and Mario, Rutherford and his brother Al. But I wanted to know if Bobby was there. He was the one driver that I knew I had to beat each and every week. He was my main competition, he was the fastest, hardest-racing and most aggressive driver I competed against. When we lined up I looked around and wanted to know where he was starting, which was usually up front. Bobby knew how to win and fought every lap of every race to be in first place. If you beat Bobby, you accomplished something.”

“Nobody ran harder than Bobby,” says Bill Vukovich, who raced against Unser from 1968-1981. “And it was lap after lap, he always wanted to be in front.”

Growing up in Albuquerque, N.M., he was the third oldest of four brothers and racing was preordained, since his uncles pretty much owned the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. He quit high school after his sophomore year and won a stock car title at age 15 before scoring the first of his record 13 Pikes Peak victories in 1956 when he was 22.

Early on at Pikes Peak.

Unser studied that mountain a lot harder than he had algebra or science and it paid off because the run up treacherous 19-mile course was on dirt with no runoff – just a deadly plunge down the 14,100-foot mountain.

“It taught us both a bunch about car control,” recalled brother Al Unser, another king of the hill in Colorado before becoming a four-time Indy winner.

As good as Unser was in the Rocky Mountains and as much potential as he’d shown in midgets and sprints on the west coast, the man who exuded confidence had none in the early 1960s when it came to moving up the ladder.

“I never considered Indianapolis because I didn’t think I was good enough,” he admitted back in 2008. “But Rufus (Parnell Jones) told me I was going and he got me a ride and I always be indebted to him.”

Unser was nearly 30 when he qualified as a rookie in 1963 and had missed four prime years of racing when he joined the Air Force from 1952-55. His first two Indy 500s didn’t make it past the second lap, and he was in his fifth season before finally earning his first IndyCar victory.

But everything changed in 1968 when he got hooked up with crew chief Jud Phillips and the Leader Card team. He led 127 laps and beat the heavily-favored turbine car and went on to edge Mario Andretti for the USAC championship.

“That put me on the map, and winning Indianapolis changed my life,” he said back in 2000.

The next big break was being hired by Dan Gurney. They were a formidable pair with their chassis knowledge and non-stop ideas for improving/tinkering, and with John Miller’s Offy engines they led a lot of laps and won a lot of pole positions. In 1972, Unser broke the IMS track record by 17 mph in Gurney’s Eagle and had seven poles and four wins in 10 races, but didn’t win the championship because of too many DNFs.

Gurney, who finished second at Indy twice, finally made it to Victory Lane in 1975 with Unser and they stayed together until 1979.

That’s when Roger Penske came calling and it was perfect timing – the ground effect era and the man who loved testing and experimenting.

“People said it would never last, that Roger and I wouldn’t be able to get along, but nothing could have been further from the truth,” said Unser in 1988. “He trusted me and gave me all the tools I needed, and I think the PC-7 was one of the best Indy cars ever.”

Unser led 50 laps in ’79 in the PC-6 and was leading with 20 laps to go when he had gearbox trouble and had to pit, eventually finishing fifth. In 1980, he qualified third and was leading at the halfway point before his turbocharger failed.

The Big 3rd… celebrated, put on hold and finally awarded.

In 1981, the PC-7 he helped design was in a class of its own as Unser led 89 laps and lapped everyone except runner-up Andretti, who protested afterwards that his longtime friend and rival had illegally passed 11 cars exciting the pits. USAC agreed and Mario was declared the winner the next morning, which set off a protest that ended with Unser being reinstated in October.

“I didn’t do anything wrong and I certainly didn’t need to cheat because we had everyone covered all day,” was Unser’s defense the whole time.

At 47, he was the oldest winner at that time, and was testing a car for Pat Patrick at Phoenix in the winter of 1982 when he abruptly retired.

During his career he amassed 35 IndyCar wins, 52 poles and a pair of national championships while leading 3,933 laps. He was on the front row at Indy nine times and elected into the Motorsport and IMS Hall of Fames.

After retiring, ABC hired Unser to provide commentary for the Indy 500 along with Paul Page and Sam Posey and it was one of the most entertaining booths in racing history, as Unser spent a third of the race correcting his partners. He also worked for NBC and ESPN.

Paul Page, flanked by Unser (left) and Sam Posey made up the most entertaining Indy 500 broadcast team ever.

“You never knew what Bobby was going to say, and that made it exciting,” said Page.

Unser battled a multitude of health problems in his last decade but it didn’t stop him from going to the Chili Bowl every winter or the Hall of Fame dinner at Indy or PRI show. At the end he couldn’t walk but he certainly could talk, and that’s how we’ll remember him – preaching, giving advice, arguing and telling stories, because he always drew a crowd.

Unser is survived by his wife, Lisa; sons Bobby Jr. and Robby; and daughters Cindy and Jeri. [Robin Miller, racer.com, 5/3/2021]

 

 

SAFEisFAST:  BOBBY UNSER ON WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A CHAMPION

For SAFEisFAST, Unser named desire the key ingredient to winning championships with concentration providing the consistency. [Click here for video]

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VIC ELFORD NEEDS OUR HELP; ALLAN MOFFAT AND DOC BUNDY UPDATES

VIC ELFORD NEEDS OUR HELP

 

RRDC members Marshall Pruett and Brian Redman are asking for our help:

Our longtime member Vic Elford is in need of support “from the legions of friends and fans who’ve marveled at his exceptional talent and grace for more than half a century.

“With the return of an aggressive form of prostate cancer, and the added complication of a broken leg suffered in a recent fall, the 85-year-old Englishman has been unable to travel and earn a living as a featured guest at automotive and vintage racing events.”

His friends and fans are joining in to help Vic through this difficult time by way of this fundraising page.

Said Redman, “Vic’s many successes and accomplishments are well known, but what stood out for me was his desire to race the new and unproved Porsche 917 at Le Mans in 1969. Why? “Because it was 20 mph faster on the four-mile Mulsanne straight than anything else! Vic and Richard Attwood were leading with only three hours to go when the gearbox casing cracked.  

“In 1970 with the new long-tail 917, Vic set a new qualifying record at an average of just over 150 mph and the fastest lap in the race at an average of 149.90. So, not just ‘Quick Vic,’ but ‘Brave Vic,’ whose bravery is demonstrated once more while combating the dreaded cancer.” 

RRDC member David Hobbs added: “Vic Elford, one of the top drivers of his generation, is very ill with cancer. Vic is an all-time great, winning the Monte Carlo Rally and Daytona 24 Hours in a space of two weeks. It would be great if you could help!”

Here’s Pruett’s racer.com story.

Bobby Rahal (l) presents Vic Elford with the RRDC Phil Hill award for 2015AL

 

 

ALLAN MOFFATT’S CONTINUING BATTLE WITH ALZHEIMER’S

Allan Moffatt, one of Australia’s great touring car champions, has been undergoing special medical treatment in Melbourne since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019. His personal and business interests are being managed by friends and fellow Bathurst legends Fred Gibson and Larry Perkins.

Moffatt’s record includes four overall plus one class victory at Bathurst, the gold standard of touring car races. He was Australian Touring Car Champion four times and Australian Endurance Champion three times, scoring 32 victories in the two series. In addition, Moffat was Australian Sports Car Champion, Tasman Touring Series Champion and Nissan-Mobile 500 Series Champion. In the World Touring Car Series, he won Monza overall in 1987 in his team’s Holden. He was Sandown Endurance Series champion seven times.

In 1975, Moffatt co-drove to victory at Sebring with Hans Stuck, Brian Redman and Sam Posey. He also scored class wins at the Daytona 24 (1982) and the Spa 24 (1987). He dabbled in the Trans-Am Series scoring an overall victory at Bryar in the third-ever series event in an under 2-liter Lotus Cortina.

The native Canadian received Australian citizenship in 2004 after living some 50 years down under. Although eligible since 1970, Moffatt admittedly never quite got around to completing the application.

All of his fellow RRDC members wish Allan the very best in his continuing battle with this terrible disease.

 

DOC BUNDY UPDATE

Well, this past month or so have been a very interesting challenge! Mainly because our first race of 2021 (the Mitty) at Road Atlanta (home race for me). Is fast approaching. I have struggled with an under preforming heart for sometime now, so way farther behind my conditioning than I would like to be. I have had both of my Virus Shots which set me back a week with each one?? I had quite a reaction to each shot, first was 5 days and it took me through a mini version of the Virus which left me weak and unable to push my conditioning. The second Shot set me back over 8 days, with similar lack of results.

In the meantime I pushed the doctors to get my heart back to working correctly. In the meantime I took injections for my knee, to offset the pain from bone on bone in right knee! I have one injection left to go on Wednesday of this week. Yes, it feels much better. I can walk with little to no pain now. The doctors have been changed my heart medicine and though I am taking more drugs (sic) I am feeling better and heart appears to be pumping better now. I definitely feel as good as I have since all this began a year ago!!! LOL I can’t run a marathon yet, but I feel stronger than I have for a very long time. I am convinced this Virus is a long-term problem and will take much longer than I ever imagined to rid my body of it completely, if ever??? I am looking for test day for the Mitty, that will be when I have to make the decision, whether I am ready to race now or what longer for my body to get stronger?? I want to race so bad and hopeful my body will be ready??

Thanks for all your kind support, I am amazed this has taken so long to recover. This spirit inside is ready to race, just have to see if the body will be ready this week?? Look forward to seeing my racing family again and climbing back into Baby Blue and see if we can resume our dance together!! LOL See U at the races! – Doc

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KAS KASTNER PASSES; DAN GURNEY TO BE HONORED

Robert W. “Kas” Kastner, a giant in American motorsports, passed away Saturday at age 92. Kastner came up through the ranks from mechanic all the way to head of NPTI, Nissan’s dominant IMSA GTP program in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. An organizational wizard, Kastner headed up both racing teams and manufacturer programs, winning championships at all levels.

Marshall Pruett posted a splendid remembrance of Kastner on Racer.com with thoughts of friends and colleagues.

[Marshall Pruett image]

 

DAN GURNEY TO BE HONORED AT DARLINGTON

Big Machine Racing will honor Dan Gurney during the Xfinity Cup event May 8 at Darlington Raceway during NASCAR’s official Throwback Weekend. The team will field Jade Buford’s No. 48 Chevrolet in All American Racing’s 1970 Trans-Am series livery.

Jade Bufford and the Big Machine Racing Chevrolet in AAR livery.

Team owner Scott Borchetta made the announcement on April 13th this week on what would have been Gurney’s 90th birthday: “Dan Gurney has always been one of my heroes. I had the great fortune to spend time with him in his later years and experience his charm, wit and genius. It is our great pleasure to return Dan’s iconic Trans-Am livery to the racetrack with AAR and Hot Wheels – all with the blessing and support of Evi, Justin and the Gurney family. Win, lose or draw, we will be spraying champaign after the race in Dan’s honor” – a tradition started by Gurney at Le Mans in 1967 to celebrate his victory with A.J. Foyt.

Dan Gurney starts a tradition by spraying his champagne on the podium following the 24 Hours of Le Mans at Circuit de la Sarthe on June 11, 1967. [Rainer Schlegelmilch image]

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KRISTENSEN’S BOOK NOW AVAILABLE IN U.S.; HURLEY HAYWOOD ON 50 YEARS OF RACING; BRIAN TILL MEDICAL UPDATE;

LE MANS: TOM KRISTENSEN, by Tom Kirstensen with Dan Philipsen, is now available in the U.S. with foreword by Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.

Between 1997 and 2014, Tom Kristensen won the world’s toughest automobile race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, a record nine times and finished on the podium on five more occasions. Every time his car made it to the finish, in fact, he was in the top three. It is no wonder that this great sports car driver is known as “Mr. Le Mans” to motorsports fans around the world.

Now retired from racing, Kristensen shares in this book his deepest personal reflections and insights from inside and outside the cockpit. He looks back on more than 30 years spent striving for perfection in racing and tells of the battles and setbacks that sometimes seemed impossible to overcome, including a terrible accident in 2007. Check out Scrap my car website to find the places they are located for you to take your old vehicle and exchange it for money quickly.

Voted “Sports Book of the Year” when originally published in Kristensen’s native Denmark, this thoughtful memoir is now available in English – 432 pages with 125 photos.

Climbing the racing ladder, from Scandinavian Karting Champion into Formula 3 single-seaters, including championship titles in Germany (1991) and Japan (1993), then living in Japan and racing all classes including touring cars and Formula Nippon (F3000), leading to Formula 1 testing roles with Tyrrell, Williams and Michelin; his great years with Audi in DTM are also reflected on.

Winning as an underdog on his first visit to Le Mans, in 1997, driving an elderly Joest-run privateer Porsche in which he impressed all onlookers with a night-time charge to vanquish Porsche’s factory-entered favorites. His years at BMW and winning the Sebring 12 Hours on his debut before his second Le Mans victory in 2000 on his maiden drive for Audi in the R8, a car that was to become all-conquering.

Kristensen won the next five editions of Le Mans, four times with Audi – including private teams Goh (Japan) and Champion (USA) – and once with Bentley (in 2003), his last victory in this sequence taking him past Jacky Ickx’s previous record at the Circuit de la Sarthe. His eighth win came in the all-time classic contest at Le Mans, in 2008, a rollercoaster of a race in which his aging diesel-powered Audi R10 was never expected to beat the favored works Peugeots.One more victory with the Audi R18 e-tron in 2013 sealed his reputation as a true legend of Le Mans.

His story includes exploits at other race tracks all over the world, none more prolific than the airport course in Sebring, Fla., home of America’s long-established classic 12-hour endurance race that Kristensen won six times. Personal reflections together with contributions from notable observers – including Nils Finderup (early years), English journalists Charles Bradley (trying years) and Gary Watkins (golden years) – complete a truly rounded portrait of the man and his achievements.

Evro Publishing books are distributed in North America by Quarto Publishing Group USA. Books can be ordered from Quarto by email: sales@quarto.com; phone number: 800-328-0590; or website: www.quartoknows.com. Please use the relevant ISBN number when ordering – 978-87-972603-0-2. LE MANS: TOM KRISTENSEN is also available in the U.S. from specialist and online booksellers.

For more information about this book, or to request an interview, please contact Judy Stropus at jvstropus@gmail.com.

 

HURLEY HAYWOOD ON 50 YEARS OF RACING

Brumos Collections’ latest video installment of “Inside the 59” features the team’s primo driver, Hurley Haywood, 50 years after his 1971 IMSA GT title teamed with Brumos founder Peter Gregg. Haywood chats about his storied racing career, what it takes to be a successful racer and the evolution of the cars and safety. His pride in the Brumos Collection is evident, as much of the rolling stock has been in his capable hands on the race track.

Haywood secured five overall victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, three at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and two at the 12 Hours of Sebring. In 2005 he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame. His achievements include the 1988 Trans-Am title, three Norelco Cup championships, two IMSA GT Championships and 23 wins, a SuperCar title, and 18 IndyCar starts. 

 

 

BRIAN TILL URGES, “GET A COMPLETE ANNUAL PHYSICAL, GUYS!”

I wanted to reach out to all of you who have been so gracious in your outpouring of thoughts, prayers and contributions over these last two years. Your thoughtfulness, empathy and generosity has been hard to imagine at times. There are close friends, dear friends, casual friends and friends whom I’ve never really even met…and all have cared for me like we’ve known each other forever. The world is indeed a pretty special place filled with some pretty special people.

Before I end this page for good though, I wanted to give one final update and pass along a message that I think far too many of us…especially men…ignore. And that’s about seeing your doctor.

First, I’m fine. My tonsil cancer that started this journey almost two years ago is seemingly gone. My quarterly check-ups have all gotten A+ grades and I hope and pray that they’ll continue to do so. I’ll keep doing that for the next year, then every 6 months for a few years and then once a year for the rest of my life. That’s the good news.

The other news, while not pleasant, is that I had another health scare recently. And this is the one that I’m going to preach about pretty loudly!!! So get ready!!! ;-)

On November 19, 2020 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. On December 9, 2020 I had surgery to remove my prostate. I’m fine. Early diagnosis, early treatment and I’m expected to make a full recovery and be good to go. I waited to send this out because I wanted everyone to see that the above is true. Proof? I called the Rolex 24, including one 7-hour shift. I called an IMSA Prototype Challenge Race the weekend before that. I spent 7.5 hours on pit road during the Sebring 12Hr a couple of weeks ago and I just came back from a stewarding role with SCCA Pro FR/F4 at Rd. Atlanta. I’ve also done my SRO GT4 Race Director job at Sonoma a few weeks ago. And no one knew! See…told ya so!!! I’m all good and back at it 100% with nothing holding me back. Down for a week or so, careful for a few more and then back at it at work and in the gym.

But here is why I’m telling you something that is very private. It’s because if you’re a man, you too have a good chance of having something similar at some point in your life if you live long enough. Some doctors say, “there are two types of men…those that will die with it and those that will die from it.” But there’s no reason to die from it!!!

Men…GET TO YOUR DOCTOR FOR YOUR YEARLY PHYSICAL AND GET TESTED!!! Know your PSA score and know if it moves. It’s not necessarily what the number is, it is what it does year to year. If your score stays steady 3, 4, 5 years in a row and then jumps a couple of decimal points, that is a red flag! Consult your doctor. Ask questions. No one likes “the exam”, but damnit, do it! Get checked and save your life.

Prostate cancer is something that you’ll never feel. You’ll not know it’s there if you sit idly by and never get a physical. There are NO symptoms to speak of. It is virtually silent and invisible until its often times too late. Early detection is the key to good outcomes.

As I said…I’m fine and headed back to a perfectly normal life. I work, workout and live just like I did before. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THE TREATMENT! Be afraid of sitting passively by with your head in the sand. Take action over inaction and be proactive with your health.

Too many of you have given me blessings and hope beyond belief…now it’s my turn to do something for you.

MEN…GET’r DONE!!! Get your yearly physicals!!!

Oh yeah…get vaccinated too please! ;-)

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NEW BOOKS: WILLIAM JEANES’ ROAD TO PICKLETOWN; STAINLESS STEEL CARROT EBOOK

WILLIAM JEANES’ THE ROAD TO PICKLETOWN

The Road to Pickletown – A Southerner Confronts Cowbells, Clowns, Cuba, Christmas, and Mississippi; written by longtime automotive and auto racing journalist William Jeanes, is not what one would expect to come from the pen of a car guy.

Yet, here it is – a selection of the many columns he’s written over the years, including for the Northside Sun, a “prosperous and principled” weekly newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi. Jeanes was born in Mississippi, grew up there in the ‘50s and ’60s, then left for the Navy and later for Manhattan. He returned to Mississippi in 2001 to reside in Pass Christian and eventually Ridgeland with his wife Susan.

“Pickletown” showcases the Jeanes wit and humor that characterized his writing for automotive magazines such as Car and Driver and in mainstream publications such as Playboy, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and The Saturday Evening Post. Several of these national columns are included, but the newspaper columns that tell of Mississippi and comment on national issues form the backbone of “Pickletown.” Some of both do talk about cars.

Who else but the co-creator of Bolus & Snopes, a 1970s auto racing team that some believed to be fictional, could earn such stature in the auto racing world as well as among the masses? Jeanes has done it with “Pickletown.”

Despite its lunatic publicity, B&S actually existed. Furthermore. it won a number of Sports Car Club of America races and two regional championships. Never mind that it claimed to own a blimp and to have a sorrel mule named Dick Johnson as its mascot.

Beginning with a foreword by political satirist and journalist P. J. O’Rourke and ending with Jeanes’ acknowledgments to friends and pillars of journalism, the book recounts the often humorous home life and school experiences of a youngster growing up in the South amid racial tensions, strange local lore, fried SPAM and Mom’s collard greens, meatloaf and “beet pickles.” He also takes the reader through some adult adventures.

“[William] does this with deft use of those ever-cheerful Bobbsey Twins of style, brevity and wit,” wrote O’Rourke. “He seems able to listen to you as he writes….You the reader are there with him in his prose.…’Pickletown’ delivers every pleasure of good conversation.”

“Being a newspaper or magazine writer in Mississippi is like being the possum in a petting zoo – people know you’re there but don’t want much to do with you,” Jeanes said in his introduction. “Some of the columns draw on my experiences as an advertising executive, an editor, a diesel mechanic, a bartender, an amateur actor, a veteran of the Cannonball coast-to-coast race, and a traveler who has seen all seven continents and more than one hundred countries.” 

By the final chapter, the reader will have learned how Pickletown, Mississippi, earned its name, and why an automotive journalist’s heart, soul and down-home reminiscences are rooted deeply in the Magnolia State.

The Road to Pickletown is available now on Amazon Kindle and for pre-ordering as a trade paperback. Paperback production will begin as of March 24, 2021. Pre-order from Amazon.combarnesandnoble.com and bookbaby.com/bookshop.

 

THE STAINLESS STEEL CARROT SOON TO BE AN eBOOK

The definitive tale of Peter Brock’s BRE team and its star driver, John Morton, is chronicled in The Stainless Steel Carrot. It’s a chronicle written by motorsports journalist Sylvia Wilkinson over the course of two years while she was embedded with the team throughout the 1971-1972 seasons. It tells the story of how Brock, Morton, and the rest of the crew poured their entire lives into making sure they secured victory, fending off capable rivals and risking it all for a chance at greatness. 

The book was originally published in 1973, with an expanded version released in 2012. Both versions are hard to come by, with used examples routinely fetching up to $300 through online marketplaces, according to Carrara Media. 

Now, for the first time, the media company is releasing The Stainless Steel Carrot as an eBook. That means enthusiasts craving a fantastically detailed story on one of America’s great race teams won’t have to shell out a massive amount of cash to experience it. 

“John Morton and the BRE team played a pivotal role in putting Datsun—and Japanese cars in general—on the map for car enthusiasts in America,” automotive historian and journalist Ben Hsu said in a statement. “The fact that their story will now be available to a younger generation ensures that this important story lives on forever.”

The book is available for pre-order now on CarraraBooks.com or wherever eBooks are sold. It will be released on April 5, 2021. Mark your calendars.

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ST. JAMES 2021 AMELIA ISLAND HONOREE; STAINLESS STEEL IN eBOOK; BOB VARSHA MEDICAL UPDATE

LYN ST. JAMES IS 2021 AMELIA ISLAND CONCOURS HONOREE

For the first time in 26 years, The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will celebrate a female honoree, the inspiring Lyn St. James, at the 26th Annual meeting, May 20-23, 2021. 

An accomplished race driver, St. James has used her celebrity to help advance the careers of dozens of female racers as a mentor, coach, motivational speaker and influencer. She is a tireless promoter of women’s involvement in all sports.

 

 

THE STAINLESS STEEL CARROT SOON TO BE AN eBOOK

The definitive tale of Peter Brock’s BRE team and its star driver, John Morton, is chronicled in The Stainless Steel Carrot. It’s a saga written by motorsports journalist Sylvia Wilkinson over the course of two years while she was embedded with the team throughout the 1971-1972 seasons. It tells the story of how Brock, Morton, and the rest of the crew poured their entire lives into making sure they secured victory, fending off capable rivals and risking it all for a chance at greatness. 

The book was originally published in 1973, with an expanded version released in 2012. Both versions are hard to come by, with used examples routinely fetching up to $300 through online marketplaces, according to Carrara Media. 

Now, for the first time, the media company is releasing The Stainless Steel Carrot as an eBook. That means enthusiasts craving a fantastically detailed story on one of America’s great race teams won’t have to shell out a massive amount of cash to experience it. 

“John Morton and the BRE team played a pivotal role in putting Datsun—and Japanese cars in general—on the map for car enthusiasts in America,” automotive historian and journalist Ben Hsu said in a statement. “The fact that their story will now be available to a younger generation ensures that this important story lives on forever.”

The book is available for pre-order now on CarraraBooks.com or wherever eBooks are sold. It will be released on April 5, 2021. Mark your calendars.

 

BOB VARSHA MEDICAL UPDATE

I realize that I’m galactically tardy in posting an update in this space, and I apologize for that. The reasons are simple: my cancer is in remission, I feel good, and I’ve been busy trying to resume my broadcasting career. I’m also hoping to strike out in a new direction, doing voiceover work and commercial narration projects. I currently have a couple of jobs booked: I’ll rejoin the Barrett-Jackson auction broadcasts substituting for my friend Mike Joy from Scottsdale on A&E networks History and fyi, March 24-27, featuring a lineup of cars that is just incredible. Check it out at barrett-jackson.com. Then in April I’ll be back in the Fox Sports studios in Charlotte to host the debut five-event season of the all-new Extreme E electric off-road championship, featuring teams from Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti United, plus entries from world champions Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button. The driver lineups are packed with stars such as WRC champions Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb, Button will drive his own car, and each team will feature a male-female driver combination racing 550-horsepower electric off-road beasts in climate-endangered locations to raise awareness and propose environmental solutions. Can you tell I’m excited? I cannot express adequately how much the contributions made by people like you have meant to my family and myself while I have been without an income for a year and a half. I have a way to go yet, but you have made my journey immeasurably easier, and I am grateful. – Bob

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STROPUS ON MARCH 3RD PODCAST; BUNDY MEDICAL UPDATE

JUDY STROPUS TO BE ON “RACE TALK WITH TRISH”

Our recently selected Motorsports Hall of Fame of America honoree Judy Stropus will be featured on “RaceTalk With Trish” on the Racing History Project Podcast Channel Wednesday, March 3rd at 6pm Pacific, 9pm Eastern.

Call-in number – 425-436-6385

Access code – 5762616# (enter when prompted)

Or join with video online from your computer or cell phone

https://join.freeconferencecall.com/racinghistoryproject

Listen to previous interviews on the Racing History Project Podcast Channel  http://www.racinghistoryproject.com/racetalk.htm

 

DOC BUNDY MEDICAL UPDATE BY DOC

Hi Folks! Yeah, I am doing so much better now! Ever since the events down in Austin, Tx in November, I must thank the doctors at St. David’s for finally fixing the problems with my heart! I have been steadily getting a lot of my strength back and though I am still not working out to the level I did, it is moving forward.

In the last month I have had eye surgery to remove cataracts and have new lenses installed in my eyes! All went well and I now have 20/20 vision without glasses…….Yea!! It feels great, just pray it stays for the rest of my life?? LOL What has been holding me back is my right knee! Years ago I had a motorcycle accident and broke my right leg and tore the ligaments (ACL) in that knee. Many years later (while at Holbert Racing) during the racket ball era, I tore cartilage in that same knee and the doctor removed it. He warned I would have an arthritic knee but, I had no clue what that might mean. So recently I went to an Orthopedic doctor to have it checked out. The pain can be fairly high at times and restricts my ability to walk or excise properly. I know know what arthritic means now. I have bone on bone in that knee. I have seen the x-rays and it’s rather ugly and I understand why I am so bowed legged now! LOL

So, next for me (hopefully the off season in 2021) I will have paid off all my medical bills to have knew replacement surgery on my right leg. My target time will be November of this year, so, I have time to be ready for the 2022 season???

As an aside, I have finally gotten an appointment to receive the Virus vaccination, March 17th!! I am cautiously looking for ward to that! So, maybe next year you will see a much better Doc Bundy?? Hahaaa!

Miss U all and look forward to seeing you at the races this year. Thanks for all your kind support; your contributions have made it possible to repair my body and get back to what I once was!!! Thanks so very much!

Love Ya’ll,
Doc

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PETER GREGG FOUNDATION ANNOUNCED BY SON SIMON GREGG

Simon Gregg has announced the formation of the Peter Gregg Foundation and Peter Gregg Gallery, paying tribute to his legendary father. The Foundation will foster the careers of aspiring engineers by providing mentorship plus roles with current contending race teams.

“The Foundation will have an annual contest that will award five scholarships to deserving young people who have an interest in working on high-performance sports cars,” Simon Gregg announced. “We’re looking to find our future mechanics and engineers.

“We have a nice long list of professionals, everything from drivers to team owners to mechanics and pit crewmen, who will act as mentors for the scholarship winners.”

Simon Gregg, current Trans-Am Series driver, pays tribute to his father by launching the Peter Gregg Foundation. [Trans-Am image]

The Foundation, headquartered in Jacksonville, will open the scholarship contest on March 1. The winners, announced in late spring, will work with their mentors in for three months in Jacksonville to get a Porsche race ready. That car will be auctioned off with scholarship winners going to private teams or race shops to further their careers. Participating organizations will be announced at the beginning of the contest.

Simon Gregg also announced the opening of the Peter Gregg Gallery to be officially launched at the end of February in a combined in-person and virtual ceremony. The Gallery features several of the elder Gregg’s cars, restored by his son, including a pair of street Porsches and a Lola Can-Am car.

Peter Gregg won the Trans Am title in 1973 and ‘74, winning three races and placing second three times in a Porsche Carrera. He won his final two Trans Am races at Road America and Laguna Seca in a Porsche 935 in ‘79, giving him 22 victories in 54 starts. Gregg also won six career IMSA championships and was a six-time winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona – an event he won overall four times.

 

 

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RRDC PRESIDENT BOBBY RAHAL LAUNCHING 30TH SEASON AS TEAM OWNER

[From the NTT INDYCAR SERIES weekly newsletter]

RRDC President Bobby Rahal’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) racing team will celebrate its milestone 30th anniversary with the start of the 2021 season. The team, which began competing in 1992, will field two cars each in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and GTLM-class of the International Motor Sports Association’s (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year.

The team’s two-car NTT INDYCAR SERIES lineup of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato will open their season April 18 at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, where they are also the defending pole and race winners.

Takuma Sato (Left) and Graham Rahal will drive the two RLL Indycar entries in 2021. (INDYCAR image]

In the first year of competition in 1992, Bobby Rahal brought then-named Rahal Hogan Racing its first victory in Round 2 in Phoenix and went on to win another three times in Detroit, New Hampshire and Nazareth to secure Rahal’s third INDYCAR SERIES title and the team’s first. Since then, highlights include wins in the 2004 and 2020 Indianapolis 500 races, with Buddy Rice and Takuma Sato, respectively, and 500-mile wins by Jimmy Vasser (2002) and Graham Rahal (2015) at Auto Club Speedway, among others. BMW Team RLL brought the team GT titles in 2010 and 2011, as well as back-to-back wins in the 2019 and 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring wins in 2011 and 2012 and Petit Le Mans in 2017, among others.

The team name changed from Rahal Hogan Racing in 1996 to Team Rahal when late night television icon David Letterman, who met Rahal after his 1986 Indy 500 win, became a partner. His name was added in 2004, and the team became known as Rahal Letterman Racing. Since 2011, the team has competed as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with the addition of businessman Mike Lanigan as a co-owner.

Bobby Rahal (Left) with RLL partners David Letterman and Mike Lanigan. [INDYCAR image]

Between programs in the CART / INDYCAR SERIES, Toyota Atlantic, SCCA, American Le Mans Series, IMSA, GRC and FIA Formula E, the team has earned 54 victories, 65 poles, 215 podium finishes and three series championships (1992, 2010, 2011).

To celebrate the anniversary, RLL has created a commemorative logo that will be present on team equipment and merchandise. The team will hold celebratory events throughout the season and will highlight key moments of their history on its social media channels.

Also in 2021, the team will build a 115,000 square-foot facility on 13 acres southeast of the downtown Indianapolis area in Zionsville and will consolidate its existing INDYCAR SERIES operations in Brownsburg, as well as its IMSA operations in Hilliard, Ohio. The new building will feature office and event space as well as automotive R&D and light manufacturing operations to support the dynamic functions of RLL’s racing teams. The new headquarters is expected to be fully operational by early 2022.

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GUTHRIE AND STROPUS TO BE INDUCTED INTO MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME OF AMERICA

Janet Guthrie and Judy Stropus were announced as members of the 2021 class to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America this September at the Festival of Speed in Pontiac, Mich. The virtual announcement was  held Saturday at Daytona International Speedway before the start of the Rolex 24. Stropus, representing the new class, was in attendance to answer media questions. Here are excerpts from the press release announcing the MSHFA’s Class of 2021:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 30, 2021) — The Class of 2021 includes one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, Davey Allison (Stock Cars), three-time land speed record holder John Cobb (Historic), three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon Jr. (Drag Racing), Indy and NASCAR trailblazer Janet Guthrie (Open Wheel), 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky “Kentucky Kid” Hayden (Motorcycles), legendary Indy correspondent Robin Miller (Media), seven consecutive APBA Gold Cup winner Fran Muncey (Powerboats), multi-time USAC and NASCAR champion Ray Nichels (Historic) and world class timer/scorer Judy Stropus (Sports Cars).

“The Class of 2021 is history-making in so many respects,” said MSHFA President George Levy. “Janet Guthrie, Fran Muncey and Judy Stropus comprise the first ever class with three female inductees. Fran joins inaugural class inductee Bill Muncey as the only husband and wife inductees. And Davey Allison, Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison join Bobby Unser, Al Unser and Al Unser Jr. as the only families with three individually inducted members.”

The MSHFA Class of 2021 was unveiled in an on-line press conference at DIS featuring Levy, new-class representative Stropus, 2005 inductee Hurley Haywood and Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile.

Including the 2020 and 2021 classes, 269 “Heroes of Horsepower” are in the MSHFA. The induction of Guthrie, Muncey and Stropus increases to 10 the number of women enshrined in the Hall. 

[Here are the MSHFA bios for Guthrie and Stropus]

Janet Guthrie (Open Wheel) — The first woman to compete in the Indy 500 and Daytona 500, she paved the way for other women at the top levels of the sport, including Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick. She was also the first woman to earn Top 10 starting positions and finishes in both the IndyCar and NASCAR Cup Series. She was the first woman to lead a Cup race (Ontario, 1977), and is tied with Patrick for highest Cup finish (6th). Guthrie’s driving suit and helmet are in the Smithsonian Institution. [Britannica image]

 

Judy Stropus (Sports Cars) — Best known for her savant-like ability to score and time even 24-hour races singlehandedly, without a break before the dawn of computerized timing, Stropus was sought out by top teams such as Penske, Bud Moore Racing, BMW, Al Holbert and Brumos Racing. Perhaps the ultimate recognition of her talent was that sanctioning bodies would come to her to correct glitches in their own scoring. A sports car racer herself, she won the 2008 AARWBA Jim Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations. In 2015, the Road Racing Drivers Club bestowed on Stropus its coveted Bob Akin Award. [© Bob Harmeyer image]

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ROB DYSON TO CHAIR INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MUSEUM PLUS MEMBER CAR COLLECTIONS, THE ESSENTIAL TOLY AND 60-YEAR SCCA MEMBERS

ROB DYSON TO CHAIR INDIA, NAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MUSEUM

Rob Dyson has been named chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, having served on the Museum board for 10 years. He succeeds Tony George who had been board chair for 35 years. George will remain involved as Chairman Emeritus. [motorsport.com front page image]

Dyson’s personal Indy car collection includes historically-significant items such as the 1961 Kimberly Cooper Climax — the first rear-engine car to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 — along with a 1913 Isotta Fraschini Tipo IM, and the 1978 Budweiser McLaren M24B driven by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford.

 

RRDC MEMBERS ARE AVID CAR COLLECTORS

In these COVID winter days, we’ve unearthed a few links to car collections by RRDC members for your off-season enjoyment.

One of the best-known car collections in the world is housed in the Petersen Automotive Museum curated by Bruce Meyer who recently gave a virtual tour of his personal collection.

Bruce Canepa’s impressive automotive operation includes a dealership, a museum housing his eclectic ensemble of rolling stock, a mammoth soup-to-nuts custom and restoration shop, plus a racecar maintenance shop. You could build a complete car in-house at Canepa’s facility.

Roger Penske’s collection includes many of the significant cars from his lifetime as a racer and a team owner.

The Revs Institute in Naples, Fla., houses the Miles Collier Collection of significant sports cars

 

A PLEASANT DAY ON PLANET TOLY

A few weeks back, Grace Houghton spent a day with the exuberantly eccentric Anatoly Arutunoff in and around his home in Tulsa. She describes the experience in the Jan 23rd edition of Hagerty. Houghton captures the essence of a fellow who, admittedly, hasn’t worked a day in his life but who has pretty much made the most of all this spare time.

 

SIXTY-YEAR SCCA MEMBERSHIP MILESTONES

Four RRDC members are celebrating their 60th year of membership in the SCCA: Bobby Brown, Randy Canfield, Bob Tullius and Eddie Wachs.

                 

 

 

 

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HOWIE LIEBENGOOD, A U.S. CAPITOL POLICE VETERAN, DIES SATURDAY

Howie Liebengood, Jr., a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police, died Saturday in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrectionist attack on the Capitol building. He was off duty Saturday.

Officer Liebengood was a member of the 2018 RRDC membership class. He raced extensively prior to joining the USCP in 2005, winning the 2000 Motorola Cup ST championship. RACER.com filed a reminiscence with extensive quotes from Leibengood’s former co-driver Andy Lally.

Barry Pollack, an attorney for the Liebengood family, told CBS News that Liebengood died by suicide after having been on-duty at the Capitol on Wednesday.

“His death is a tragedy that has deprived all of us a dedicated public servant,” Pollack said in a statement. “His family has suffered a devastating loss and asks that they be given space to grieve in private.”

Howie Liebengood helping kids at the U.S. Capitol in 2018. [Tom Williams/Getty Images]

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SAD LOSSES AT THE END OF 2020 – OSCAR, JPJ, ALDO

OSCAR KOVOLESKI 1932-2020

On Dec 28, we lost one of the great characters in motor racing – Oscar Kovoleski. An RRDC member for 50 years, Oscar had been in an assisted living facility in Scranton, PA, for a couple of years. He was 88.

“Oscar Koveleski was a treasure,” said RRDC President Bobby Rahal. “His outspokenness and passionate demeanor in trying to convince you of the importance of his latest project were the essence of his personality. Never quitting, always promoting, in such a charismatic way that one just couldn’t say no. 

“As a race-car driver he was one of the best in an era where competing against the likes of Mark Donohue, Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme was a challenge he was happy and willing to take to help promote his Auto World business and the KidRacer brand he created.”

RRDC member John Dinkel, who knew Oscar as well as anyone, wrote a humorous and compelling story about our friend: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/therell-never-another-oscar-john-dinkel/.

Like so many of us, RRDC Treasurer John Fergus has warm memories of Oscar: “Oscar was a hoot. I met him in my first year racing in 1980 at Pocono. We won and he gave me one of his Polish Race Driver Association cards, as I suspect he did with almost everyone. I still have it. Though he did some serious racing back in the day, he was much more interested in his Auto World catalog business for years and then, his Kid Racer project. He would send articles and Kid Racer brochures every year with his RRDC renewal check. He was passionate about it. A fun, good guy. Here is a link for an article I found which has some really fun Oscar facts: Just A Car Guy: Oscar Koveleski

Marshal Speigel’s interview with Kovoleski for Slotblog in 2013 was classic Oscar, a good ten minutes of telling Polish jokes and imparting a lot of information without answering one of Speigel’s questions, actually the only one he asked, repeatedly: Weird interview with Oscar Koveleski of Auto World – Slot Car History – Slotblog

So many people have “Oscar stories”. Your editor recalls an early 1970s A Sports Racing Runoffs medal presentation at Road Atlanta when Oscar finished second to Jerry Hansen but totally dominated the podium interviews, cracking wise and telling jokes: “These two Polish guys were hunting. It was getting dark and they were lost. First guy says, ‘I read somewhere if you’re lost in the woods, fire three shots in the air and if anybody’s near, they’ll come find you.” Second guy says, ‘OK’ and fires off three shots. Ten minutes. No help. So he fires three more shots, but no help comes. After a half dozen tries, the second guy says, ‘This don’t seem to be working; and, anyway, I’m running out of arrows.’”

Oscar never seemed to run out of arrows.

 

 

JOHN PAUL, JR. SLIPS AWAY

John Paul, Jr., lost his long battle with Huntington’s Disease, Dec. 27. He was 60. His life is chronicled in Sylvia Wilkinson’s recent biography, “50/50”. Huntington’s is genetic and claimed his grandmother, mother, aunt and sister. 

RRDC President Bobby Rahal said, “His spirits were always high and so many of his friends surrounded him with love and support right up to the end.

“John was an outstanding race-car driver whose talent and attitude always shone above the cloud of his father’s dark past. He will always be remembered as an enthusiastic, fun and strong competitor whether he was racing at the Indy 500 or at an SCCA National race. His goal was always to do his best, and that’s what he did.”

Here’s a link to the RACER story: https://racer.com/2020/12/30/sports-car-and-indycar-racer-john-paul-jr-dies-at-60/

 

 

ALDO ANDRETTI 1940-2020

Aldo Andretti, twin brother of Mario and father of the late John Andretti, passed away Dec. 28, a victim of COVID-19. Aldo was 80. Mario told Robin Miller: “He’s my brother and I love him, and he had so many things happen to him that he had to overcome, and never once said, ‘Why me?’ He was always so supportive of me, always so positive. He always made the best of what he had. I never heard him say, ‘That could have been me.’” When asked about their early careers, Mario always said that Aldo was the better driver. And he would know.

 

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RRDC AT THE RUNOFFS + MEMBER NEWS

STRONG SHOWING FOR RRDC MEMBERS AT THE SCCA RUNOFFS

Despite a truncated 2020 SCCA National racing program, a herd of Club Racers answered the call for the National Championship Runoffs at Road America, Oct. 5-11 – 577 in all.

Andrew Aquilante

Andrew Aquilante led a Phoenix Racing assault on the podium scoring a hard fought victory from pole in GT-2. He took a second pole in Touring 1 and battled eventual winner Mark Bodin for 10 laps before parking his Mustang. Marshall Mast took another of Joe Aquilate’s Phoenix Mustangs to victory from pole in Touring 3; while John Heinricy put his Phoenix Toyota B6 on pole in Touring 4, finishing a close third. [Joe Aquilante’s picture is on the front page.]

RRDC was well-represented in GT Lite with 2010 Mark Donohue Award recipient and defending champion Peter Shadowen clawing his way from a third-row starting position in his Honda CRX to second on the opening lap and then reeling in a bad-fast Chris Bovis whom he caught mid-race, Bovis’ rocket CRX suffering electrical gremlins. Shadowen won by more than a minute from Joe Huffaker’s MGB. The Sunoco Hard-Charger Award went to Taz Harvey who rumbled up through the field from 13th to fifth in his Miata.

Tony Ave

Multiple TransAm Champion Tony Ave scored a solid victory in GT-1, running down pole-sitter Ernie Francis, Jr., on the sixth lap and cruising to a 16-sec win in his Mustang. Ave DNF’d in GT-3 after starting his Nissan 240SX from the second row.

In the Production classes, Craig Chima (FProd) and Steve Sardis (HProd) scored victories, each from a third starting position. It was Chima’s third title; Sardis’, fifth, second in HProd. Rob Hines scored third-place podium finishes in Touring 3 and Spec Miata.

A pair of ex-Mark Donohue Award winners Calvin Stewart (2015) and Michael Varacins (2009) were runners-up in Formula 500 and Formula Continental, respectively. Stewart was on pole.

The late-Michael Brockman’s son Spencer Brockman scored an impressive Formula Atlantic victory in his Swift 014a/Mazda.

Two-time FProd National Champion and 2017 Donohue winner Eric Prill had a rare mechanical DNF in his usually reliable Mazda Miata.

 

ADRIAN NEWEY AND BOBBY RAHAL RETROSPECTIVE

Motor Sport Magazine this past month, reprinted a 2012 Gordon Kirby article about Adrian Newey and his close relationship with RRDC president, Bobby Rahal, both professionally and personally. It’s a fascinating read and a reminder of how closely their careers have been intertwined. Read it here. The two remain great friends.

Rahal and Newey, 1984 [Motor Sport Magazine image]

 

NEW RELEASE: FRED WACKER, GENTLEMAN RACER

Fred Wacker’s new biography by his grandson covers a special time in racing history. Fred played several important roles in the early years of sports car racing competition in post-WWII America. Fred competed in a range of events as a driver. He started out in an MG, moved up to a Cadillac-powered Allard, and drove internationally for both Briggs Cunningham and the French racing team in the Grand Prix format. Additionally, he helped to found the Chicago region of the Sports Car Club of America, serving as National President of the SCCA in 1952 and 1953.

Here’s a page from FRED WACKER, GENTLEMAN RACER

Whether driving for his own team or others, or helping to organize the sport, Fred played an important role in this golden era of racing. This is his story. Full color, hardcover, retail $49.95 (plus shipping & handling, WI sales tax where applicable)

Exclusively available from:

 

ALLEN BERG’S SON AN UP-AND-COMER

Ignite Media image – Al M. Arena

 

One promising young driver from the Allen Berg Racing Schools program is Allen’s 14-year-old son Alex who races and represents Mazda Motorsports USA in the NASA Spec MX-5 Series. He started racing just five months after receiving a go kart for Christmas. Racing runs in his veins, his father Allen’s career having included a year in Formula One (1986). With a Canadian father and a mother, Erika Jimenez, being a lawyer from Mexico, his worldly culture is expansive, and in fact Alex speaks three languages.

Alex recently was interviewed on Mark Greene’s podcast “Cars Yeah”. Click on the red button an give a listen.

 

DOC BUNDY MEDICAL UPDATE

Braselton, GA, Jan. 4.  I am sorry it has taken me so long to bring ya’ll up-to-date on what has been happening. You all know of my first outing this year was home at Road Atlanta turned out successful. Well, based on that I went out to COTA (Austin, Tx) for my final race on our schedule. Unfortunately it went completely the opposite!! I was unable to do more than three laps, was super weak without any stamina at all? I thought it was my AFIB causing it but turned out it was my heart, Joe & Chuck took me to the EMT’S at the track as I could barely get out of the car. They ran EKG on me and immediately told the the crew I needed to go to the hospital immediately. Lucky for me, they took me to St David’s Hospital which has an amazing heart center. They did several tests and immediately started doing procedures on me, first being a Heart Version! Kinda like a tamer version of shock paddles but pads in this case. It brought my heart back into rhythm but only lasted about 45 minutes. So, the next couple days they tried different drugs but again, nothing seemed to keep me in rhythm. The doctor (Dr. Burkhart) said he knew exactly what was wrong and could fix me. It seemed to be the lower left side of my heart; and after some rescheduling, he did what was called a VT, an ablation to correct the heart muscle there.

When I came to, I immediately felt so much better, the next day they put a pacemaker/ difibrillator in my upper chest to monitor and protect my heart if it went out of rhythm again. I was released and flew back to Atlanta & home. I have seen my heart doctor here and all seems to be working like it should. I have more energy and have been doing lite exercises and lots of walking. I think I will be ready next Spring when we will race again. I had to take a month to allow surgery to heal and my left side has strength again. I am sooooo encouraged and feel that all will be fine again.

I want to thank all of you that has been keeping tabs on me and what I have gone through and have continued to send to my Go Fund Me. It has been a God Send helping with all the second hospital expenses. Thank You all so very much. Hope to see everyone at the Mitty new year!!! Let’s just pray this Pandemic gets under control this New Year! God Bless You all!!

Doc Bundy

 

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MEMBER NEWS: JOHN FERGUS TO SCCA HoF; BERDIE MARTIN PASSES; SAM POSEY PAINTINGS ON EXHIBIT; SPECIAL OFFER ON JOHN PAUL JR. BIOGRAPHY AND LATEST HEALTH REPORT

JOHN FERGUS SELECTED FOR THE SCCA HALL OF FAME

RRDC VP and Treasurer John Fergus is one of five comprising the 2021 Class of the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame. John’s official induction will occur during a virtual ceremony Jan. 23, 2021 – the opening day of the 2021 SCCA Virtual Convention. An in-person induction ceremony is being planned for the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here is Fergus’ HoF citation:

“John Fergus is nearly synonymous with SCCA Road Racing’s Sports 2000 class. The Ohio Valley Region member actually began his SCCA career as an autocrosser, winning Solo National Championships in 1977, 1978 and 1979 before turning his attention to road racing. With seven wins at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, all in Sports 2000, he trails only nine others in the history of the Club. In addition to his Sports 2000 Runoffs Championships, he also won three Pro Sports 2000 Championships. Elsewhere, Fergus also scored 13 wins in IMSA GTU competition, winning the championship in 1991. While a successful driver, Fergus was also active in his home region, establishing worker awards, worker parties and training seminars and strengthening the Region during the 1990s when it also hosted the Runoffs annually. Fergus’ respect stretches beyond the SCCA, as evidenced by his role as Vice President and Treasurer of the Road Race Drivers Club (RRDC).”

BERDIE MARTIN – 1929-2020

The SCCA reports that Burdette “Berdie” H. Martin Jr. passed away Saturday, Dec. 5. A member of the SCCA’s Hall of Fame and the Road Racing Drivers Club, Berdie began hot rod racing in 1946 and went on to compete in dirt oval midget and hydroplane races. He became a member of SCCA’s Chicago Region in 1950, then entered his first SCCA regional race in 1954 driving a MGTC at Wilmot Hills after serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Korea.

Berdie competed in road racing for nine years, including the first race at Road America in 1955 and the first Chicago Region June Sprints in 1956. His last road race was the Sept 9, 1962 RA 500 in a Lola MK1 at Road America. But he then grew active as an official with SCCA and, in 1965, became the organization’s Chief Steward. Later, he was elected head of Chicago Region and earned SCCA’s highest honor, the Woolf Barnato Award, presented to a member who has made an outstanding long-term contribution to the Club.

In the early 1970s, Berdie served as Chief Steward for Trans Am, Can-Am, Super Vee and North American F1 races. By 1974, he was assistant director of SCCA Road Racing, and later headed that department. Berdie served SCCA as Director of Pro Racing during a period of great expansion, and managed to remain highly active in amateur hockey circles.

Berdie became a board member of the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS) during the ‘70s, which governs U.S. racing as part of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). By 1983, Berdie had been appointed head of ACCUS and later served as Vice President of the FIA. He chaired several FIA Commissions and was a regular steward at F1, sportscar and rally events. Berdie retired in 2004 from his position with ACCUS and returned to his motorsports roots in the Chicago area.

Berdie once recalled his first motorsports memory developing in the late 1930s during a visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Indy 500 practice with his father. Nobody could have predicted that little boy would become a giant in the industry and a mentor to generations of race stewards. He will be missed, but his impact never forgotten.

SAM POSEY’S ART NOW ON EXHIBIT

Nineteen of my paintings are on display at Ober Gallery in Kent, CT. They can also be viewed here on the gallery website: https://www.obergallery.com/sam-posey I enjoyed painting them and I hope you’ll enjoy looking at them. All the best, Sam.

JOHN PAUL JR. COULD USE SOME CHEERING UP

Jeff Kline writes, “Many of our RRDC members know that John Paul Jr. has been fighting Huntington’s Disease. This fight has lasted for most of the last 20 years. Huntington’s is an inherited, progressively debilitating, neurological disease, for which there is no cure. JP’s mother and sister both passed from this disease in their early 50s. John has been in a research study at UCLA and has been able to delay some of the effects. However, lack of mobility and the ability to talk and swallow are some of the later stage symptoms. His participation in this study will help countless others with this disease.

“Here is how our RRDC membership can get involved. JP is in the fight of his life. He could use some positive karma and messages. His spirit can be raised by a simple email. Just take a few minutes to email John and just connect with him. It would be so helpful for him. Many of you know JP personally but, even if you never met him, you know of him and he may have been an inspiration. Just a simple email is best, as he is not able to speak on the phone.

“You can email him via Darlene Gray at JPaulJr@earthlink.net. She will make sure JP hears each and every one of our emails.”

LIMITED SPECIAL OFFER ON SIGNED JOHN PAUL JR. BIOGRAPHIES

Author Sylvia Wilkinson says, “I have about 10 of the John Paul Jr. books, “50/50”, special signed editions left for $100 + $8.40 shipping. Also have some of the plain author signed editions for $40 + $8.40 shipping. The books can be purchased with Paypal with my email sywilk@sbcglobal.net (say sending money to a friend to eliminate the service charge) or a check to my address: 514 Arena St., El Segundo, CA 90245-3016. Be sure to include your shipping address for Priority Mail. All of the book money goes to John Paul Jr. – we are going to give him money for Christmas this year to do with as he pleases. Cheers, Sylvia

BOB LAZIER REMEMBERED

Our friend and fellow RRDC-member Bob Lazier was remembered in the Dec. 21 digital edition of USA Todayhttps://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2020/12/21/2020-review-covid-19-killed-sports-figures/3824733001/

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RACING SAFETY SEMINAR PLUS BILL WUESTHOFF’S NEW BOOK

“RACING GOES SAFER” WEBINAR SET FOR MONDAY, NOV. 30

The “Racing Goes Safer” motorsport safety foundation, EPARTRADE and Racer Magazine are teaming up to present a safety webinar during the Online Race Industry Week, November 30 – December 4.

A Crash Course in the History of IndyCar Racing Safety” is the title of the webinar to be presented on Monday, Nov. 30th, at 8:00 AM Pacific, 11:00 AM Eastern.

Race professionals looking to step up their expertise in driver safety won’t want to miss this webinar featuring top race safety experts Dr. Steve Olvey, Dr. Terry Trammell and Yves Morizot (left to right below).

Dr. Steve Olvey, M.D., authored the book, “Rapid Response,” a compelling look at his time working in IndyCar as a doctor, and the frustrations he had to overcome while trying to make motorsport safer. The book was later turned into a film. Dr. Olvey is an associate professor of clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He graduated from Indiana University Medical School in 1969, and soon became the Assistant Medical Director of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Three years later, he developed the first U.S. traveling motorsports medical team for the United States Auto Club (USAC). When Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) separated from USAC, he became CART’s Director of Medical Affairs until 2003, when the original series became Champ Car. In 1982, Dr. Terry Trammell joined Olvey at CART and they have worked closely together ever since. Additionally, Olvey developed the medical program for the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, as Chief Medical Officer for four years. Dr. Olvey has also been the first recipient of the “Racing Goes Safer” Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Terry Trammell, M.D., serves as a safety consultant to IndyCar and is a longtime member of the IndyCar Safety Team. Dr. Trammell has been active in providing trackside medical care since 1973, including serving as orthopedic consultant to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and director of medical services for CART. He is a founding member of the International Council of Motorsport Sciences and a founding fellow of the FIA Institute for Motorsport Safety. Dr. Trammell is a sought-after lecturer on spinal injuries and conditions, and has authored numerous articles published in professional journals.

Yves Morizot founded Stand 21 in 1970, and has continuously delivered technical innovations and safety improvements in the company’s driver safety products to make them exceptionally efficient and comfortable. With 150 employees worldwide, Stand 21 products are hand crafted within Stand 21’s own factories, exceeding the most rigorous safety and medical standards required by the FIA, SFI and the Snell foundation. Stand 21 offers its products to race car drivers through its exclusive network, delivering Stand 21 products in over 50 countries and supplies safety equipment to top racing teams in very different series around the world. Its quality has allowed it to be official supplier for Porsche Motorsport racewear for almost 15 years of continued collaboration.

“This is certainly an all-star cast when it comes to discussing driver safety!” exclaimed Francisque Savinien, founder of EPARTRADE, the digital sourcing platform for the worldwide racing industry. “The value of the perspective to be gained on driver safety from this webinar cannot be overstated.”

“I have worked with both Steve and Terry over the years on improving driver safety. They are friends, and there is no one more dedicated to safety than they are.” said Stand 21 President Yves Morizot.

“These two men are such great heroes of the sport, and have such great stories to tell about their work over the years.” adds Stand 21 Safety Foundation Director Don Taylor.

The Stand 21 Safety Foundation’s Racing Goes Safer seminars began ten years ago, and continue to be dedicated to providing all racers with useful information from internationally known motorsports safety experts. For more info go to RacingGoesSafer.org

Online Race Industry Week, Monday – Friday, Nov. 30 – Dec. 4, is a business-to-business event for members of the worldwide racing industry. Hundreds of companies will be showing off their new racing product lines for 2021 on EPARTRADE, while RACER and EPARTRADE provide 55 hours of technical and business webinars.

One Zoom link provides access to the entire week of webinars. GO to the link below to register and get the Zoom log-in. No charge to attend.
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_TdoGM04ZRxq6Ze3MPeInbQ

Racing industry leaders who have committed to participate in state-of-the-industry webinars during Online Race Industry Week include Chip Ganassi, Bryan Herta, Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Doug Boles, Daytona International Speedway’s Chip Wile, SCCA’s Michael Cobb, USAC’s Kevin Miller, Formula D’s Jim Liaw, SRO Motorsports America’s Greg Gill, SVRA’s Tony Parella, Virginia International Raceway’s Connie Nyholm, IMSA’s John Doonan, SCORE’s Jim Ryan, and many more!

 

 

BILL WUESTHOFF’S NEW BOOK: SMOOTH AND FAST, NUFF SAID!

Bill Wuesthoff was among America’s best sports car racers beginning in the mid-1950s and culminating in 1964 after winning the United States Road Racing Championship, USRRC Under 2-liter title. Throughout his ten years competing, Bill kept a low profile as could be expected from someone who enjoyed the battle but shunned the spotlight.   

Robert Birmingham’s personal relationship with Bill Wuesthoff dates back to 1959 and as much as anyone today, recalls Bill’s “smooth and fast” competitions from Sebring and Pensacola, Florida, Watkins Glen and Bridgehampton in the east, to Riverside, Laguna Seca, California and Continental Divide in Colorado out west and countless road-racing venues in between. Internationally, he competed at Mosport, Canada, at Nürburgring in Germany, and in Nassau for the popular yearend Speed Week series.

Bill enjoyed success co-driving with his long-time close personal friend Augie Pabst who penned the book’s foreword, and also with Harry Heuer, Chuck Dietrich, Jim Jeffords, Fred Gamble, Bruce Jennings, Frank Rand, and Joe Buzzetta, all nationally ranked competitors of that era. Team car owners included Heuer’s Meister Bräuser Scarab team, Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team, Ollie Schmidt, Carl Haas, Camarodi USA and Eddie Weschler.

A brief history of Bill’s relationship with automobiles began at a very early age, stemming from his father who was an early Milwaukee Region SCCA member. Post-racing activities centered on automobiles, his professional business, and sons’ Karl and Lee’s ten years of highly competitive off-road racing.

Book features many never-before-published photographs, together with numerous documents and other race-related mementos, total over 150, along with Bill’s 10-year race history. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the recovery of long-forgotten sports car events, tracks and of course, competitors of the 1950s and 1960s. Smooth and Fast, Nuff Said! Will be a wonderful addition to any early motorsports collection.

Ordering information: full color, hardcover, retail $49.95 (plus shipping & handling, WI sales tax where applicable). Order from the publisher: www.henschelHAUSbooks.com or call (608) 576-9747 (credit cards and PayPal accepted) or from the author Bob Birmingham. Email: spiderbob@wi.rr.com or call (262) 238-8773.

 

DESI WILSON HAS HER SAY

Desiré Wilson is featured in a recent article in the British publication MotorSport about the difficulty women have had over the years breaking into the upper echelons of motorsport. Their most consistent success has been in the rally world, but F1 has presented formidable challenges. The article is focused on European competition, although Wilson does mention her U.S. experience. It’s an insightful read.

 

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FRIENDS REMEMBER JIM PACE AND GENE FELTON

JIM PACE (1961-2020) remembered by his friend and business partner Byron DeFoor

On July 25, 2020, I stood on the front straight at Road America in Wisconsin and witnessed the most terrifying crash that I had seen in many years. Jim Pace flipped over driving a historic Shadow Can-Am race car, and thousands of people watching were relieved to see him walk away unhurt. Many race-car drivers have had these types of crashes. It is hard to imagine that, after living the perilous life of a race-car driver with all its dangers, a healthy man like Jim could be taken away by a virus called COVID-19.

I awoke last night at 3 a.m. from a dream, hearing Jim’s patient voice in my headset, “Relax, take a deep breath, wiggle your toes, wiggle your fingers, check your mirrors. Get your bearings on where the field is.” Thinking about those reassuring words, I felt special on those late nights, but I learned later in life, when talking to other racers, that Jim was just as calm and nurturing to all of them as well.

Byron DeFoor (right) with his friend and business partner Jim Pace.

While we traveled around the country, recruiting people to attend the inaugural Chattanooga Motorcar Festival, we visited many racing garages, car collectors and their museums. Everyone we met was immediately drawn to Jim’s kindness and Southern charm. One minute he would be under the car talking to the mechanics trying to solve a problem, the next minute he could be in the mayor’s office in a room full of city commissioners convincing them to allow us to do racing in the middle of their city. Everyone felt immediately comfortable with Jim’s kind and genuine personality. They trusted him, just as we always did.

Jim was so proud of his upbringing in Mississippi. He loved to tell stories of his family and his childhood years. In the summers, Jim worked for his grandfather who was a brick mason. Jim learned many things from him. When we were working on a project in recent years Jim was attempting to nurture someone that we were working with. I had already given up on the guy, but Jim continued to try to make the situation work. Finally one day, Jim walked into my office and informed me that our friend was no longer working with us. I asked him what had happened and Jim said he finally had told the fellow what he had heard his grandfather say many times, “Here’s your check, pack up your tools and go home.” Those of you who knew him well know that this did not happen very often with Jim. He just wasn’t that type of guy. 

I loved the story of Jim’s 1994 trip to France to race at Le Mans. When their car, No. 19, rolled to a stop, Jim checked his watch. It was 3 a.m. straight up. He was four miles from the pits and light years away from his hometown in Mississippi. The gearbox had failed on the Mulsanne Straight. Jim got out of the car and leaned up against a guardrail. He watched Porsches, Ferraris and McLarens blowing by over 200 mph. Discouraged, he felt pretty down for a moment. Then he looked at his car and saw his name, Jim Pace, on the window. At that moment, he decided things were not so bad.

Pace holds the 1996 Daytona 24 trophy between his victorious teammates Wayne Taylor (left) and Scott Sharp.

This year’s racing season ends soon. COVID-19 has cancelled many automobile events around the world. I know I am wondering what it will be like next year without Jim. The normal scene would be Jim in his little office packed with computers that contain all the data for his racing clients. Racers would be lined up to meet with him for their sessions. I can hear Jim’s nurturing and patient voice talking to them, “You are getting on the brakes too early, you accelerated too late, don’t pinch the car off, you are losing too much time, etc.”

We all feel that we wish we had more time, more instruction, more of life’s racing adventures with him. Without Jim, we are all going to feel light years away from Mississippi. 

Farewell, my friend. We all hope to see you on the other side. 

With love and respect,

Byron 

[Jim Pace was felled by COVID-19 on Nov. 13 at age 59. He was President and COO of the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival and a member of the RRDC since 2014.]

 

GENE FELTON (1936-2020) remembered by his friend Jonathan Ingram (racintoday.com)

You have to hand it to Gene Felton. He rarely, if ever, lost his cool while winning more production-based races in IMSA than any of his peers, a considerable lot including Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood and Al Holbert.

Felton, who had 45 career victories in IMSA, died on Friday (Nov. 6) at age 84 after a long bout with emphysema. He was one of the drivers who helped establish IMSA as America’s leading professional road racing series, scoring an over-all victory at Daytona in his first season in 1972 on board a Camaro he built in Atlanta, near his home in Marietta. He returned to win the first IMSA-sanctioned Paul Revere 250 at Daytona the following year. 

A winner of four straight Kelly American Challenge Series championships, Felton’s IMSA career spanned 21 seasons, ending in 1992. At that time, he had won more production-based victories than any other driver.

Felton won a GT-class pole at Le Mans in 1982 on board a Hagan-entered Camaro and the following year won an over-all victory at the Miami Grand Prix in the Camaro. That same 1983 season, he was also victorious in the SCCA Trans-Am Series at the Palm Beach International Raceway driving a Pontiac for Gordie Oftedahl. The following year, he shared the GTO-class winning Camaro at the Rolex 24 at Daytona with two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Terry Labonte and car owner Billy Hagan.

Felton was a five-time starter in NASCAR’s Grand American Series races, finishing second at Road Atlanta to Tiny Lund in 1971. He competed three times at Daytona in NASCAR’s Permatex 200 for Modified entries at Daytona, finishing third in 1976. That same year, Felton drove in his only NASCAR Cup series 500-mile race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for Junie Donleavy and was running at the finish in 16th place. 

Felton’s first professional victory, to take one example of his equilibrium, was a stunning tour-de-Daytona in the rain behind the wheel of a Camaro powered by a 427-cubic-inch Chevy V8. He won what could be regarded as one of the most significant races in IMSA history in 1972 by driving on street tires in the wet to beat a slew of Porsches and Corvettes.

Yet, Felton found himself having to walk into Victory Lane to inform those anointing the wrong man that he had just won the 250-mile season finale. “I was polite and didn’t make a big deal about it,” recalled Felton. “I told them that I believed I had won the race.”  Felton was vindicated by IMSA’s official scorers, but word of his victory did not arrive from the scoring stand in Turn 1 soon enough to take his extraordinary No. 96 Camaro into Victory Lane.

Felton’s remarkable Camaro. [Mark Windecker image]

That first win eventually led to a total of 45 production-based victories in a career that coincided with the “original era” of IMSA under John Bishop. Felton was one of the early and much needed heroes when Bishop created the GT category of IMSA in by a set of rules that allowed GTO (over 2.5-liter engines) and GTU (under 2.5-liters) to race each other competitively.

Having established his credentials, Felton came back in 1973 to the next big sprint at Daytona, the Paul Revere 250, the first IMSA race held on the night before NASCAR’s Firecracker 400. This time, he went straight from a record pole speed to Victory Lane in a ceremony featuring good old No. 96 and his three sons as well as a fashionably decked-out blonde who went by the name of Miss Camel GT.

One of Felton’s rewards the next day was less celebratory. An Associate Press wire service story was headlined, “Greasy Cosmetic Salesman Wins Paul Revere.” But as usual, the man with so much balance behind the wheel took it in stride. “It took more than that to embarrass me at that time,” said Felton. “Just give me the $3,000 winner’s purse and I’ll be fine.

If not very gracious, the headline was accurate. Felton, who owned a cosmetics supply company, sold beauty products by day and worked on his race car by night and on weekends. Since he was the only employee on his team, his hands tended to be grease-stained, especially when he was setting up his car at the race track before driving it.

Felton’s story was as real as it gets, which captured the attention of more than just headline writers who may have thought motor racing belonged to the lower orders. Hall of fame Atlanta sportswriter Furman Bisher set the record straight on the difference between a driver who brought game by building his own cars and those who bought speed and then proceeded to go fast.

Pit stop during 1976 Fall NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Junie Donlavy’s Ford. Felton finished 16th.

“The romanticist of racing literature did their best to make Peter Revson an heir of a cosmetics baron, much as he denied it,” wrote Bisher. “Closest he ever got to cosmetics was when he kissed. And of course, there’s a wide gap between being an heir and working at it. Gene Felton goes to the office regularly …” 

Road racing drivers, particularly in IMSA, are often connected to certain manufacturers or cars. For Felton, it was all about General Motors and usually a Camaro. There was a slew of versions that Felton drove and thereby brought to bad-ass status. But it was the good old No. 96 Camaro that put Felton into the limelight in a way that captured the attention of other racers, including the brass in charge at General Motors’ back door racing program, where performance parts were handed over to drivers and teams who knew what to do with them.

The current crop of production-based machinery that showed up at Daytona’s World Center of Speed for this year’s Rolex 24 are fine machines featuring spotless, computer-driven preparation made possible by a cast of thousands back at the shop/factory and a “back door” that hands out millions. In Felton’s earliest days, the only help he got was from an engine builder after scavenging all the parts. Then, to his good fortune, he met a country-bred, high priest of chassis dynamics and the rest became history.

Felton’s NASCAR “Modified”.

While trying to locate a path to becoming a full-time professional, Felton raced in everything from SCCA events to short track ovals on dirt and asphalt, plus NASCAR road races in the Grand American Series. He owned and sometimes wrecked several Camaros along the way. When it came to good old No. 96, the story worked the other way. The car originated in the R&R Salvage yard and after five seasons was sold to another competitor. (The car’s resume also included several Permatex 200 races for NASCAR Modified cars at Daytona, where it was “modified” by removing the front fenders.)

This breakthrough Camaro was race-prepped in a space rented at Peachtree DeKalb Airport, a commuter airport on the northern edge of Atlanta. Several other racers wererenting space there at the time, including the much-accomplished Pete Hamilton, a former Daytona 500 winner, and future V-6 Buick engine guru Jim Ruggles.

Another guy at Peachtree DeKalb was a veteran driver of 178 NASCAR Grand National races (now known as the Cup series). When Felton met him, E.J. Trivette was competing in NASCAR’s Grand American series that featured pony cars on road circuits. Trivette had seen first-hand how Felton could hang with the good ol’ drivers of the Grand American, finishing second to Tiny Lund at Road Atlanta on board one of his earlier Camaros. With an eye on starting a chassis business for circle track and road racers, Trivette began helping Felton put together what became his Camel GT race-winning Camaro. 

“I was learning how to do this from scratch,” said Felton, who used brochures on race set-ups that could be bought from Chevrolet along with performance parts. Trivette, due to his NASCAR experience, taught Felton how to install the high-performance parts produced by Ford’s “back door” operation at Holman-Moody, the quintessential and famed factory NASCAR team. “Technical things, like how to do the springs, a lot of information like that I learned when E.J. got involved. It was all from Holman-Moody and NASCAR.”

Felton scored 46 class victories in IMSA sports car racing in 173 career starts. [IMS Archive image from Getty Images]

While the car itself could not be altered according to IMSA rules, substitution of performance racing parts was standard. So, on the opposite end of Felton’s 427 Chevy V8 was a nine-inch Ford rear end and solid axle, salvaged from a junkyard station wagon.

Before moving along further into the legend of this Camaro, it’s important to note where this car shined was in the shorter events at Daytona in the earliest days of IMSA in 1972 and 1973. These were the fledging years when Bishop was trying to demonstrate there was a market for professional GT racing in the U.S. by attracting fields of cars that featured such entries as the Lotus Europa, Porsche’s 911 S and Carrera, big block Corvettes and Camaros.

Under this format, there were regular sprints on the infield and oval circuit at Daytona, which was owned by Bishop’s partner Bill France, a firm believer in road racing. The Daytona sprints were arguably far more hair-raising than an event that lasted 24 hours. After all, when it came to endurance races at Daytona the IMSA GT cars initially played “field fillers” in the World Championship of Makes events, which were sanctioned by the FIA and featured prototypes.

The stand-alone IMSA sprint races of 1971 and 1972 became an integral part of the acid test for whether Bishop could attract enough GT cars and drivers to actually declare himself to be in charge of professional racing series. It was before Sebring found its way onto the IMSA schedule in 1973. That’s why the season finale in November of 1972 and a 61-car field made such a big impression. John Rodasta, who covered the race for The New York Times, declared IMSA had turned a corner. “For most people, there was little chance John Bishop would be able to put together a viable racing series,” he wrote in his story, noting that the 61-car turnout proved those naysayers wrong.  

After racing at Mid-Ohio and Talladega earlier in 1972, Felton showed up in north Florida for the November finale with what turned out to be a Porsche slayer as well as a Corvette killer. The driver had something to do with it, too. When he asked Trivette’s advice on how to get through Turn 3 at the end of Daytona’s long back straight, the veteran NASCAR wheelman replied, “Put your left foot over your right foot and keep the accelerator mashed to the floor.” Needless to say, this was long before the sports cars began using the bus-stop chicane originally installed at Daytona’s daunting Turn 3 for motorcycles.

Once the Presidential 250 was under way, Felton caught a break when rain began to fall on lap 34, midway in the 66-lap event. After bolting on recapped street tires on street rims, Felton proceeded to run down the leaders in the rain before catching another break. Leader Dave Heinz’s Corvette and the Porsche of another contender, Hurley Haywood (co-driving with Peter Gregg), came together with four laps to go, dropping those two cars one lap off the pace. IMSA officials at the flag stand thought Tony DeLorenzo’s Corvette took the lead, when in fact he was almost a half a lap behind the belatedly declared winner Felton.

At the Paul Revere 250 the following summer, Felton didn’t need a break, although qualifying did not get off to a good start. With perfectionist Trivette running late on his qualifying set-up, Felton missed the beginning of time trials, then complained afterward to his de facto crew chief. “This car just ain’t right,” he said. “Well,” Trivette replied, “you’re on the pole.” Felton and No. 96 beat Bobby Allison’s Grand American record of 108.066 mph from the previous year with an average speed of 115.158 mph. He won the race, which included several entries of Porsche’s new 911 Carrera RS, going away. Compared to the GTU-class Porsches, the infield and road circuit admittedly best suited the V8-powered American muscle cars under IMSA’s rules. Riding on rear tires that looked like a couple of barrels turned sideways, Felton beat all of them, too.

But even with a winner’s purse of $3,000, Felton had to be selective about which races he entered due to the expense of travel, tires, fuel and entry fees. He competed on board the No. 96 Camaro in four more IMSA Camel GT races in 1973, then five events in 1974, when the budget shortfall could not be overcome by Felton and his teamwork with Trivette, who worked for a modest hourly wage. As a race winner, Felton could get deals on tires, race fuel and performance parts. He no longer had to buy his tires from Gene White’s Firestone store in Atlanta, then re-sell them to service stations after races. But the tires and fuel plus the cosmetics supply business and race purses could not underwrite the increasing cost of speed.

 In 1974, the Porsche teams selected by Jo Hoppen, the factory’s American racing director, were able to purchase the factory-built Porsche Carrera RSR cars, which were no longer being used in the International Race of Champions. With rear wings, the RSRs moved up to the GTO class, winning eight of ten races. BMW soon jumped into the fray with its CSL. John Greenwood, with the help of GM, built his eponymous, Bob Riley-designed Corvettes. The Dekon Monza customer cars soon began arriving as well in the newly created All-American GT category driven by Holbert, among others, after he temporarily ditched Porsche. “They got faster and I got slower,” said Felton.

A couple of Earnhardt restorations in Felton’s Roswell shop.

Determined to continue, Felton began racing in the RS series for compact cars on shaved street radial tires. He then came into his own in IMSA’s Kelly American Series, where he won four straight championships, including nine straight from the pole aboard a Chevy Nova in 1980. In all, he won 25 Kelly American races. Felton eventually completed his Daytona resume by winning the 24-hour in the GTO class with Billy Hagan and two-time NASCAR Cup champion Terry Labonte. After winning the class pole at Le Mans in 1982, Felton handed over the Camaro of Hagan to the car owner in first place after his last stint, only to watch from the pits as the victory slipped away. The following year, he scored his third overall Camel GT victory at Miami’s GTO race aboard a Hagan Camaro.

Despite a neck broken in a brutal crash at California’s high-speed Riverside in 1984 during practice for a Trans-Am race, Felton raced for eight more seasons in IMSA. He finished his career in the money after advancing to the vintage ranks. Working out of a garage behind his house in Marietta, he won regularly in cars that were then sold at a handsome price. He also received invitations to bring cars of NASCAR fame that he had acquired to Goodwood in England for the annual ceremonial hill climb, a sort of royal venue of speed, giving an indication of the level of esteem Gene Felton Restorations was held.

Looking back at IMSA in the 1970s, guys like Gregg, Haywood and Holbert carried the show. But given the fact Felton surpassed them all in terms of victories in production cars that totaled 45, you’d have to give a nod to the man from Marietta as one of the original founding stars of IMSA.

[Gene Felton lost his long battle with emphysema Nov. 6. He was 84 and had been a member of the RRDC since 1982.]

 

 

 

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TEAM USA SCHOLARSHIP AT BRANDS HATCH FOR 49TH FORMULA FORD FESTIVAL

TEAM USA SCHOLARSHIP AT BRANDS HATCH FOR 49TH FORMULA FORD FESTIVAL

BRANDS HATCH, DAY 1: Podium for Lee, Fourth and Fastest Race Lap for Aron

Bryce Aron (left) and Jackson Lee at Brands Hatch

WEST KINGSDOWN, England, Oct. 24 – Team USA Scholarship drivers Jackson Lee (below) and Bryce Aron were faced with some changeable conditions on the opening day of the 49th Formula Ford Festival & World Cup at Brands Hatch, but both came through with flying colors. Lee, 18, from Avon, Ind., finished a solid third in his Heat race, while Aron had to be content with fourth in what turned out to be by far the most competitive of the three 15-lap contests which will set the starting order for tomorrow’s pair of Semi Final rounds.

Qualifying in the morning was held in dry conditions. Aron was out first for Heat One, during which he posted the third quickest time behind last year’s Walter Hayes Trophy winner Jordan Dempsey (KMR Spectrum) and veteran Formula Ford ace Chris Middlehurst (Van Diemen LA10).

But the fickle English fall weather lived up its billing as a heavy rain shower left the 1.2079-mile Indy circuit soaking wet by the time the Heat races rolled around.

Dempsey, Middlehurst, Aron and Rory Smith (Medina JL18) were involved in a thrilling battle during the early stages before Smith, moving up impressively from fourth on the grid, edged away to take the victory over Dempsey and Middlehurst, with Aron taking fourth after posting the fastest lap.

Aaron and his trusty mount.

“Great first day of racing here for the Formula Ford Festival,” said Aron. “ The day started off dry in qualifying and ended in some torrential rain for the heat races. I managed to finish fourth in my race after some great battles with very experienced drivers in Jordan Dempsey, Chris Middlehurst and Rory Smith. I also managed to grab the fastest lap in the tricky conditions which made the result a bit sweeter as well. Overall a very good day and we will be looking for more tomorrow.”

Lee lined up fourth on the grid for his Heat race behind Low Dempsey Racing teammate and reigning Formula Festival champion Jonathan Browne, FF veteran (and former FRP F1600 Championship Series winner) Matt Cowley (Van Diemen JL15) and Horatio Fitz-Simon (KMR Spectrum). As expected, Browne romped to a clear victory over Cowley, and while Lee lost some ground on the opening lap, he quickly made his way back, overtaking Fitz-Simon on Lap Five with a strong move around the outside under braking for the notorious Paddock Hill Bend and remaining in third place for the duration.

Lee on his way to a podium finish.

“Another great day at Brands Hatch,” concluded Lee. “I was able to put all of the past week’s testing to good use. Thanks to the hard work of Low Dempsey Racing, I was very comfortable and I was able to put myself in a good position for tomorrow’s Semi Final.

“My lack of rain experience showed on the start where I got too much wheel spin and dropped back to P6. The conditions continued to get worse, but I put my head down and worked my way onto the podium. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s races! I’ve had the most fun and learned a lot this entire experience and I’m excited for the rest of the races.”

Fellow American Max Esterson also finished third in his Heat race aboard another Low Dempsey Racing Ray. The top 14 finishers from each Semi Final race progress through to the 20-lap Grand Final on Sunday afternoon.

 

BRANDS HATCH, DAY 2: Top-Five for Aron, Top-10 for Lee in Dramatic Formula Ford Festival

WEST KINGSDOWN, England, Oct. 25 – This weekend’s 49th annual BRSCC Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch truly lived up to expectations as a trio of young Americans played their part in providing some exceptional racing action in extremely tricky conditions.

Team USA Scholarship ready to roll for 49th Formula Ford Festival Grand Finale.

Bryce Aron, from Winnetka, Ill., looked set for at least a podium finish in his Team USA Scholarship/Low Dempsey Ray. The 17-year-old ran strongly in third place until being elbowed down to fifth following a late-race Safety Car interruption. Teammate Jackson Lee, 18, from Avon, Ind., finished 10th after starting the Grand Final from the 15th grid position.

Fellow American Max Esterson also took full advantage of having competed in a couple of Champion of Brands Formula Ford 1600 races earlier in the month, running extremely well in another Low Dempsey Ray to cross the line in sixth.

Englishman Rory Smith scored a hard-earned victory in the Grand Final aboard B-M Racing’s Medina JL18, narrowly edging the Low Dempsey Racing Ray of last year’s winner Jonathan Browne.

A memorable day began with Lee and Aron lining up fifth and sixth on the grid for the first of two Semi Final races. On an extremely wet track, Aron immediately moved up two positions and began to close in on Jordan Dempsey, last year’s Walter Hayes Trophy winner. On lap 11, Aron made a clean pass on Dempsey to finish third behind Browne and 2019 Avon Tires National Formula Ford 1600 champion Ross Martin.

Aron well positioned on opening lap.

A little farther back, Esterson, after starting fourth, finished a creditable sixth, two positions ahead of Lee who continued his steep learning curve to comfortably earn a direct qualifying position for the all-important Grand Final.

The second Semi Final was won by recently crowned National champion Neil Maclennan, who would line up alongside Irishman Browne on the front row of the grid for the 20-lap Grand Final. Martin and Smith shared row two, with Aron leading the American contingent in fifth.

The weather had brightened significantly in time for the climax to the weekend, although the track remained mainly wet – and promising to make life extremely tricky for anyone who strayed off the slowly drying racing line.

Browne took off into lead, chased by Smith and Maclennan as the trio soon put a little breathing space between themselves and their pursuers. Aron took a couple of laps to dispense with fast-starting Englishman Jack Wolfenden, but once into fourth place began to close quickly on the leaders. Aron even posted the fastest lap of all at one stage as the track slowly continued to dry.

Damp track, maximum adrenaline. Aron leads Lee.

By lap 11, Aron was right with the three leaders, having dragged Martin along for good measure to ensure a thrilling five-car scrap for the lead.

A mistake on lap 14 saw Maclennan exit stage left into the gravel trap at Paddock Hill Bend. By then Smith had made a slight break, leaving Browne to fend off Aron and Martin, with the rest of the pack having been dropped far behind. But all that changed when the Safety Car was deployed to permit the removal of Maclennan’s KMR Spectrum from its precarious position.

The race was restarted with only three laps remaining. Unsurprisingly, the action only intensified from there. Aron, unfortunately, fell victim to a dive-bomb pass at Clearways by Martin, who edged the American wide and cost him valuable momentum. By the time Aron was back up to speed, he had slipped to sixth behind Martin and a pair of experienced Englishmen, Matt Cowley and Chris Middlehurst, although he regained one of those positions a lap later when Martin had a spin of his own.

“Bummed I got shoved off by Ross Martin, which cost me the podium, but all is fair in hard racing,” said Aron. “Overall it was an absolutely amazing experience running against the best in some very tricky conditions. I learned a lot about race craft and mixed conditions throughout the week and am excited to get back at it next week for the Walter Hayes Trophy.”

Esterson crossed the line hot on Aron’s heels in sixth, with Lee making up a couple of positions in the frantic final stages to claim 10th at the checkered flag.

“This past week has been an experience like none other,” said Lee. “I have been a part of big races before, but nothing like the Formula Ford Festival. The atmosphere of the event rivaled some of the biggest races in the world.

About that learning curve, Jackson?

“The amount I was able to learn this week was immeasurable. Racing against the toughest Formula Ford drivers in the world has already changed me as a driver. I am much more calculated when setting up passes and I have gotten more rain racing experience this week alone than in my entire racing career.

“I wish that we had another day or two of racing here at Brands Hatch. Now that I’ve made these strides as a driver, I feel I would be able to really challenge the leaders. I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned next week at Silverstone.”

So a successful weekend for the Low Dempsey team saw all four cars finish among the top 10. But there will be no time to relax as on-track preparations for next weekend’s Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone begin on Wednesday.

“I’m so proud of how these young men acquitted themselves in very challenging conditions,” said Team USA Scholarship founder Jeremy Shaw. “This has been a difficult year in so many ways, but I am extremely grateful for our cadre of supporters who make this program possible. Thank you all very much.”

 [Action images by Gary Hawkins].

 

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TEAM USA SCHOLARSHIP AT BRRC NATIONAL FF CHAMPIONSHIP

TEAM USA SCHOLARSHIP GETS FEET WET AT SILVERSTONE

SILVERSTONE, ENGLAND, Oct. 10 – After two weeks of mandatory COVID-19 quarantine, Team USA Scholarship drivers Bryce Aron and Jackson Lee gained some valuable experience today in both wet and dry conditions during the final two rounds of the BRSCC Avon Tyres National Formula Ford 1600 Championship on the Silverstone International circuit.

Bryce Aron prepares to tackle Silverstone.

Aron, now 17, from Winnetka, Ill., claimed a best finish of fifth in Race Two following a race-long battle with last year’s Formula Ford Festival winner – and Low Dempsey Racing teammate – Jonathan Browne and three-time Walter Hayes Trophy winner Joey Foster, while Lee, 18, from Avon, Ind., worked his way from 18th on the initial grid to 12th, posting the seventh fastest lap of the race in the afternoon encounter.

“Wet and wild, that’s what sums up today,” said Aron, who has spent the entire summer in the UK. “Jackson and I got to sample some pretty tricky conditions. A wet race one and a damp race two proved to be a challenge especially due to our limited running on Friday.”

After just two brief test sessions on Friday, one of which was curtailed early due to an on-track incident, Lee, in particular, faced a dauntingly steep learning curve during this morning’s dry qualifying session. Under the circumstances, 18th place among an intensely competitive field of 29 cars – with the top 16 covered by just 1.1 seconds – represented a respectable effort. Aron, who had qualified on pole position for the previous National event at Brands Hatch, took sixth on the grid, with his vastly more experienced teammate Browne back in 15th.

The clouds opened in time for the opening race, which provided another new challenge for Lee – his first-ever wet-weather race. Aron had to be content with ninth, with Lee taking 17th at the checkered flag.

Jackson Lee leaves Silverstone paddock.

“It was a great opportunity to learn the different techniques used in rain racing and to learn how to adapt to the constantly changing conditions,” said Lee. “I’m very happy with how the race went. As the race progressed, I continued to find more speed and confidence. By the end of the race, I was able to battle for positions and turn lap times close to what the lead cars were doing.”

Indeed, Lee’s best lap was within a tenth of the pace set by Aron.

The track was dry in time for the second race of the day, whereupon both Team USA drivers settled into some intense battles. Aron immediately made up four positions from ninth on the grid but was unable to find a way past teammate Browne. At one stage both Low Dempsey Rays were overtaken by Foster before repassing the veteran again in the closing stages.

Lee also made up ground, rising to 11th before making a slight mistake on the final lap to slip behind veteran David MacArthur.

“Today I got my first taste of what racing in the UK is like,” said Lee. “I knew the competition was going to be very tough; but now that I have first-hand experience, I truly understand how competitive this type of racing is. I understand why the Team USA Scholarship chooses to send their drivers to race in the UK because racing against this tough competition will definitely improve me as a driver. This racing experience is unmatched by any series I’ve been a part of and I’m sure I will make big strides in my short time racing here.”

“Along with a top-five, I also got to enjoy a great battle with some very experienced drivers in Jonathan Browne and Joey Foster,” added Aron. “There’s still much to learn but a solid first weekend with the Team USA Scholarship. Lots of fun to say the least; especially in a large field this close which proved once again to be a great experience. I can’t thank Doug Mockett, AERO Paints, Cooper Tires, SAFEisFAST.com, Jeremy Shaw, and everyone involved with the Team USA Scholarship enough for making this experience happen.”

Aron at speed.

Low Dempsey Racing will now undertake final preparations in advance of the next race event for the two Team USA Scholarship drivers, the 49th running of the famed Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch on October 24/25.

[Images by Jakob Ebrey Photography]

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TEAM USA SCHOLARSHIP KICKS OFF 30TH YEAR

THREE TEAM USA SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS FOR 30TH YEAR

The Team USA Scholarship reaches an important milestone in 2020, celebrating 30 years since Jimmy Vasser was confirmed as the inaugural scholarship recipient in 1990. Despite the global pandemic, three young American racers nonetheless have been chosen to compete in England later this Fall – Bryce Aron, Jackson Lee and Simon Sikes.

2020 Team USA Scholarship winners (l-r): Bryce Aron, Jackson Lee and Simon Sikes.

“This has been a challenging year for everyone,” said Team USA Scholarship founder and noted auto racing writer/broadcaster Jeremy Shaw (front page image), “which is why I am even more grateful than usual to all of the wonderful supporters who make this program possible. The selection process this year has been especially complicated. There has been no way to hold our usual interview process during an NTT INDYCAR SERIES weekend, nor continue the excellent and enlightening shootout hosted for the past few years by the Lucas Oil School of Racing. But with the help and encouragement of so many people, we are delighted to confirm Bryce, Jackson and Simon as worthy recipients. I am confident they will learn a great deal from the experience and follow capably in the footsteps of so many talented American racers over the past 30 years.”

Aron, 16, from Winnetka, Ill., and Lee, 18, from Avon, Ind., will continue the recent tradition of carrying the scholarship’s patriotic red, white and blue livery for Low Dempsey Racing in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, England, on October 24/25, and the following weekend’s Walter Hayes Trophy event at Silverstone. They will also contest the final round of the 2020 Avon National Formula Ford 1600 Championship at the Silverstone International circuit on October 10.

Photos courtesy of Matt McComish

About Team USA Scholarship:
The program has been providing opportunities for talented American race car drivers at an early stage in their careers since 1990. Supporters include AERO ™ Sustainable Paint Technology, Doug Mockett & Company, the Road Racing Drivers Club and SAFEisFAST.com, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, Chip Ganassi Racing, The Stellrecht Company, Robertson Racing, PitFit Training, RaceCraft1, Sparco USA, Bell Racing Helmets, Speedstar Management, Styled Aesthetic and Manifest Group.

Previous scholarship winners include Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Jerry Nadeau, Buddy Rice, Andy Lally, Phil Giebler, A.J. Allmendinger, J.R. Hildebrand, Dane Cameron, Josef Newgarden, Conor Daly, Connor De Phillippi, Spencer Pigot, Trent Hindman, Tristan Nunez and Oliver Askew.

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SAFEisFAST NEWS: TATIANA CALDERóN NEW ASK A PRO PLUS LATEST VIDEO

TATIANA CALDERóN IS LATEST SiF ASK A PRO

Tatiana Calderón, Test and Reserve driver for Alfa RoNEWmeo F1 team and driver for Richard Mille Racing Team, is the latest driving instructor for SAFEisFAST.com
 
Calderón was part of the first all-female LMP2 driver lineup to compete in Le Mans this year with Richard Mille Racing Team, finishing 13th overall. 

Her journey follows a successful career karting in Columbia and North America, where she became the first woman to be a champion of a national American karting series in 2008.
 
After strong seasons in Euro F3 and Formula Renault 2.0 she moved up to the F1 support bill to compete in GP3 series in 2016 and then subsequently Formula 2 in 2019. For the 2020 season she is competing in Super Formula alongside European Le Mans Series. 
 
Calderón tested an F1 car for the first time in 2017, going on to be named as the official test and reserve driver for Alfa Romeo for the 2018, 2019, and 2020 F1 seasons. 
 
Send your questions to Tatiana here

 

 

NEW VIDEO: HOW TO UP YOUR MENTAL GAME 

It’s interesting that so many drivers spend serious time in the gym working on physical training but spend very little time on mental training
 


Yet those very same drivers will also tell you that racing is more of a mental sport than a physical one.

So how do you go about improving your focus and concentration and gain that mental edge?

In our latest video, renowned Driver Coach Ross Bentley and SpeedSecrets guru, along with Indy-500 winners Juan Montoya, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Simon Pagenaud, explain just how to Up Your Mental Game.

Bobby Rahal

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MEMBER NEWS – TILL, BUNDY, VARSHA MEDICAL UPDATES; WEINBERGER PASSES

Brian Till and his sons

BRIAN TILL Oct. 11 – “Hard to believe it’s been a year. One year ago, I experienced my last radiation treatment at the Taussig Cancer Center at the Cleveland Clinic (I pray!). The folks there gave me a diagnosis, a plan, hope and ultimately my life back. And while I know that I will always carry the scars, the experience and potentially the reoccurrence risk with me, I learned to love and live life one day at a time. I learned how precious every single day, every single minute is. And I think I also learned a little more about friends, love and life. There is so much in this life to be thankful for, to celebrate and to adore. I will strive to repay all who gave so much to me with my smile, my attitude and my gratitude. To those I do not know personally and to even those that I do, I will never be able to repay you for your support. But I’ve learned that that is the point. Repayment is not part of the deal. And I am humbled by the outpouring of love that I’ve received.
“My journey through this disease may not be over and it may sound strange to say that I’m thankful for the lessons that I have learned on this path. But I truly am thankful. And I know that I am a better person for the trials put before me and the love that you all poured out that saw me through.
“Thank you…from a very full heart…”

 

DOC BUNDY Oct. 10 – Greetings! I will post something from Doc very soon, but just wanted everyone to know that he had his first race today at the HSR at Road Atlanta and WON. I’m going to brag on a friend, but I think he’s due. To come back from open heart surgery AND Covid is nothing short of a miracle. I can tell you that your support helped in every way. Paul Rego and the race team stood behind Doc through thick and I’d say thin, but it was all pretty thick in my opinion. I’ll get Doc’s thoughts on here soon, but just wanted ya’ll to know some good news. Janet Upchurch

 

 

BOB VARSHA Sep. 16 – “Yesterday was a milestone: the last of 28 radiation treatments,” reports Varsha. “Truthfully, they weren’t much of a burden: quick, painless, and administered by a cheerful staff. They hit the tumor from the outside of the prostate. Still to come are the placement of radioactive “seeds” that will hopefully help kill the cancer cells from inside the organ. There will also likely be more chemotherapy, but easier than the earlier, misprescribed one that demolished my fitness. There’s still a long road ahead, but thankfully I can get back to the track and work a bit to earn some income; thanks to all the Ferrari Challenge folks for their support at CoTA a couple of weeks ago. Next up: the SCCA Runoffs at Road America the second weekend of October. Old partner David Hobbs has a new knee, so maybe we can limp around to Siebken’s together! Cancer patients refer to ‘the journey’; thanks to everyone for the help as we go along.”

 

 

JOHN WEINBERGER – 1932-2020

John F. Weinberger, Naperville, Illinois and Austin, Texas, passed away September 12, 2020 at his home in Austin at the age of 88. John was born in Illinois April 18, 1932 in the backseat of a Chevy, which set the stage for his lifelong passion for cars. John was the consummate car guy.

Cars would also chart the course of his career, as he progressed from his humble beginnings as an apprentice garage mechanic to becoming the founder and CEO of one of the largest privately held companies in the Chicago area and one of the Top 150 dealership groups in the nation. John and his younger brother Herm established Continental Motors in 1962 to specialize in the sales and service of imported cars, first as an authorized Triumph dealer, then Jaguar, MG and Toyota plus later franchises for Honda, Datsun/Nissan and Ferrari.

As a young man, John enjoyed motorsports and earned numerous podium finishes during the 1960’s in SCCA Club Racing. He continued racing vintage cars to age 84 and was voted into the RRDC in 2007.

John at the Monterey Hisorics, [Motorsport.com imagee]

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to The Footprints Foundation, c/o Continental AutoSports, 420 E. Ogden Ave., Hinsdale, IL 60521. The foundation funds high school graduates to further their education in vintage automotive preservation and restoration and technical training along with supporting a variety of charities in both Illinois, Texas, as well as internationally.

Services were held at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on Sept. 21 followed by a private burial in Hinsdale, IL.  A celebration of John’s life will be held at a later date.

 

 

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RLL’S TAKUMA SATO SCORES HIS SECOND INDY 500 VICTORY

Sunday, August 23, was an historic day in motorsports – the 104th Indianapolis 500 was run without spectators. New IMS owner Roger Penske had to dig deep to pull this off with no gate. The television and sponsorship revenue were the only real income. But then, that’s Roger. Even though he’s all about the fan experience, no corners were cut. It was another memorable event with several other RRDC members featuring.

Who are those masked men? They’re RLL owners and main shoe (l-r) Michael Lannigan, Takuma Sato, David Letterman and Bobby Rahal. [IndyCar image]

Chip Ganassi’s great champion Scott Dixon dominated for most of the race, giving way to RLL’s Takuma Sato down the stretch. The inevitable battle to the finish ended when Spencer Pigot crashed heavily with five laps to go, Sato holding the lead. That began the controversy over whether or not to red flag the race or finish under caution – a conversation that may go on for years.

All that aside, Sato’s visage goes on the Borg Warner Trophy for the second time in three years with 2008 winner and five-time IndyCar champion Dixon scoring his third runner-up. RLL’s Graham Rahal was a solid third.

For full coverage, check out the NTT IndyCar site; plus our President Bobby Rahal was featured on Marshall Pruett’s podcast Wednesday on Racer.com.

 

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ROSS BENTLEY’S SPEED SECRETS; MORTON’S BOOK; MEDICAL UPDATES; YOUNG REDMAN

SiF – ROSS BENTLEY’S SPEED SECRETS – PART 3

We conclude our very well-received Ross Bentley “Speed Secrets” series with some obvious tips that often elude us all.

BEING COMFORTABLE WITH FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE
If the car feels really comfortable to drive, it’s probably not fast

DRIVE THE CAR, NOT THE TRACK
Chasing that perfect line may not always be the fastest way to get your car around the track, sometimes you have to listen to what the car tells you.

BE FAST IN THE FAST CORNERS
The secret is getting everything done early, that’s where you can really make time. 

Watch the full film here

Bobby Rahal
SAFEisFAST.com

 

INSIDE JOHN MORTON’S “INSIDE SHELBY AMERICAN”

Several people including myself have made the mistake of assuming that John Morton’s wife Sylvia Wilkinson ghost wrote “Inside Shelby American”. WRONG! That Wilkinson is the author of a number of acclaimed volumes including “The Stainless Steel Carrot” and “Dirt Tracks to Glory” helped get the shoe on the wrong foot. According to Sylvia, John wrote the whole thing the old-fashioned way – on numerous legal pads with a pencil. Her only contribution was typing it up.

“It’s really a compliment to me that my hacking is confused with that of a true writer,” Morton said. About the only thing separating Morton from being a “true writer” is learning to compose on a keyboard.

“Inside Shelby American” is a must read. Morton is a master story teller with many RRDC members sprinkled throughout the narrative. John says you can still get the soft cover from him at johnmortonracing.net 20 bucks plus $8.40 priority shipping. If you want a hard cover, try Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Bill King, Ed.

 

MEDICAL UPDATES – VARSHA, BUNDY, LEGGE

Bob Varsha – “We’ve come a long way since my last update. Hormone suppression shrunk my tumor a bit, as hoped. Just finished my second week of radiation, I’m feeling good and happy to say that I’ll be in the booth for the Ferrari Challenge weekend in Austin the 29th-30th, and then the IGTC 8-hour at Indy in October. First live race calls (and paychecks) in more than a year! As always, thanks so much for all the support.”

Doc Bundy – “Of the two appointments I had on Monday, I only actually had one…. my ablation doctor however didn’t call so I spoke with my regular doctor. I gave her all of my concerns about blood pressure, and after listening to my heart and lungs etc, she said “you’re doing good, you’re coming alone well, don’t worry.” That made me really feel great, but my cough is coming back which I totally don’t understand, so I want to get that checked out. I’m a little short of breath when bending over, and I’m just not used to that, my doctor says I just need to find more patience. I’m still having problems with my big toe but hopefully that will settle down soon. Overall I feel like I’m sssllooowwlyy recovering, and while I wanted to go to Watkins and that was my goal, because of all the New York state restrictions, I’m not sure that myself or the team will be able to make that race. I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends and racing family, I miss everyone dearly and can’t wait to get back to the track.”

Katherine Legge is continuing treatment at a French rehabilitation center with the goal of rejoining her Richard Mille Racing teammates Tatiana Calderon and Sophia Floersch for next month’s rescheduled 24 Hours of Le Mans. Legge underwent successful surgery at a Toulon hospital to repair breaks in her lower left leg sustained in a testing crash at Circuit Paul Ricard. She also suffered a broken bone in her right wrist.

 

FROM BRIAN REDMAN’S SORDID PAST…

 

 

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KATHERINE LEGGE INJURED; VARSHA AND BUNDY MEDICAL UPDATES; ELECTRAMOTIVE BOOK

KATHERINE LEGGE INJURED IN TESTING CRASH

Katherine Legge was injured Wednesday in a high-speed testing crash in the Signes corner at Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, France, breaking her lower left leg and damaging her right wrist. Legge was driving an LMP2 ORECA 07-Gibson which she shared with Richard Mille Racing co-drivers Tatiana Calderón and Sophia Flöersch in the European Le Mans Series. The personal injury lawyers from Law Office of Matthew S. Norris can help in case of an injury case. There are so many experts in the field of injury and accident attorneys, hence, you can learn More about the author here.

Legge is reported to have remained conscious the whole time she was being extracted from the car. She was treated at the circuit medical center before being transported by helicopter to a hospital in Toulon. Her leg was surgically repaired Thursday, and she was up and about Friday. Medical bills for such injury cases can be hefty and Vukelja & dePaula personal injury attorneys are the best people who can help with such legal procedures.

Legge expressed gratitude at the medical care she’s received and at the outpouring of good wishes from compatriots and fans. Finishing out the 2020 racing season will hinge on her recovery, but the Indianapolis 500 may be out.

In case of unfortunate events that lead to injury, there are Personal Injury Lawyers from Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett P.A. in Tampa that can provide with legal aid and fight for justice.

 

BOB VARSHA AND DOC BUNDY MEDICAL UPDATES

Bob Varsha has encouraging news: “After the issue with the diagnosis we seem to be on a good path. I’m on hormone-suppression drugs in preparation for a radiation program that should last about six weeks. The doctors are optimistic, and so am I, especially after an MRI last week showed that the drugs are shrinking the tumor, as hoped. Meanwhile, I feel good, and hope to start working again once the radiation is over. Hell, if Notorious RBG can do this as elegantly as she does at her age, I sure can at mine!

“Last month I wrote that all the rough chemotherapy I went through apparently had no effect on the small-cell cancer the pathologists at Duke said I had. Immediate surgery was recommended, including removal of my prostate, bladder, and other organs. At the same time a cancer doc here in Atlanta suggested the failure of the chemo could mean only one of two things: either the nasty small-cell cancer was drug-resistant, which it was not known to be, or it was simply not there at all. So we sent my biopsy tissue to two additional labs, including highly-regarded Johns Hopkins. The verdict was unanimous: no small-cell cancer present after all. The chemo, with all the nasty side effects, including a coronavirus infection, was for nothing.

“I cannot stress it enough: get second and even third opinions when it comes to potentially life-altering medical decisions.” When it comes to emergencies, there are c2c based in scarborough offers cpr training experts that can help people learn to be prepared for emergencies.

Doc Bundy today: “I had an electrocardiogram done today and went in without my defibrillator which I haven’t worn for 5 days. Well, I’m not dead yet but I’m sure my doctor wouldn’t be happy about me not wearing it. My dog really appreciates me not wearing it because he doesn’t get hit in the head with it any more.

“I want to get another COVID antibody test to make certain that I’m negative. Food however still doesn’t taste the same but I don’t know if that’s the left over COVID or the drugs I take.

“On the fitness front, for those interested, I’m walking a mile and a half a day. And I’m motivated to get back in the race car before the end of the year.

“I really, really, really appreciate everyone who has contributed to my medical fund. The bills are starting to roll in now and you have NO IDEA how much of a relief these donations have brought me.”

 

DEVELOPING A CHAMPION – THE ELECTRAMOTIVE NISSAN GTP STORY

Chris Willes, an Electramotive engineer in the 1980s, has chronicled the history of the team that Don Devendorf assembled over 15 years to campaign Nissans from SCCA B Sedan to IMSA GTP. Here’s Willes’ description of the book:

“I was a young engineer hired right out of college in 1986 by Electramotive. I experienced the innovation, creativity, and passion the team used to successfully transform this car into a multi-time champion. 

“Going back to the drawings and files I saved from that time, and collaborating with many of the people who worked at Electramotive, I have chronicled the challenges we faced and the solutions we used to go from a mangled heap of metal to champagne-soaked celebrations in one of the most incredible periods of time in motorsports.” 

This book contains:

  • The beginning of Electramotive’s racing history in 1975 with the Datsun B210 and 280ZX race cars.
  • The design and development of one of the first Electronic Engine Control Processors.
  • The full description of the 1/7th-scale moving ground plane wind tunnel.
  • The design and build of the Nissan 300ZX V-6 race engine.
  • All the IMSA race storylines from 1985 to 1989.
  • Professional photos and never seen before in-shop photos compliment this 12-chapter, 400+ page, 9″ x 12″ coffee-table style book.

Click here to order.

 

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SiF – Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets, Part 2; plus Remembering Rod Campbell

Fellow Racers,

The response to Part One of Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets has been fantastic – check out the comments on our YouTube Channel.

Now we present Part Two.

In this video, Ross explains the advanced skills that separate the very best from the rest. He also covers visualization and learning to manage your change of speed. It’s good stuff.

Hope to see you at the track – soon.

Bobby Rahal
SAFEisFAST.com

 

ON-TRACK TRIBUTES TO ROD CAMPBELL THIS WEEKEND

Rod Campbell, a giant in the motorsport PR and Marketing industry, passed away March 30 at age 88. His son-in-law Townsend Bill has alerted us that Rod’s memory will be honored this weekend by teams in four major races around the world:

Rod Campbell [Pete Lyons image]

The initiative was started by Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal for Racing Point F1 Team owned by Lawrence Stroll. Special decals honoring Campbell will be carried by the following teams/drivers at this weekend’s races:

Formula 1: Racing Point and drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll (Austrian GP on Sky Sports and ESPN plus TSN in Canada)

NASCAR: Roush Racing and drivers Ryan Newman #6 and Chris Buescher #17 (Brickyard 400 from Indianapolis on NBC)

IndyCar: Andretti Autosport and driver Colton Herta #88 (Indy GP from Indianapolis on NBC)

IMSA: AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus and drivers Townsend Bell #12 and Jack Hawksworth #14 (Weathertech 240 at Daytona on NBCSN)

“This is racing’s biggest weekend of the year; and it seemed fitting that we should celebrate Rod’s life and contribution to motorsports in grand style,” said Bell. “I know he would be proud. As you can imagine, it didn’t take much to get teams to opt in and participate. He has such a lasting impact… on so many.”

Pete and Lorna Lyons said that never publicized himself. “It was al about presenting and promoting the sport he loved. Like the multitude of racers, teams, sponsors, media and fans that he helped and guided over many decades, we feel privileged to have been his friend.”

Doug Stokes added: “Rod Campbell was a true hero of the sport, always championing others and bringing a wonderfully inclusive style to the party. His contributions were many, but his lasting value if in the way that he treated people and in the way that he helped guide their work. He’s missed greatly, but his warm personal style and his gentle mentoring will always be a part of his remarkable legacy.”

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MEMBER NEWS: SiF SPEED SECRETS, GANASSI’S 30TH, BINKS RETIRES, PTD BACK IN AUGUST, IMAGE OF THE WEEK

ROSS BENTLEY REVEALS HIS SPEED SECRETS FOR SAFEisFAST – PART 1

What sort of secret tips do Driving Coaches really whisper into drivers’ ears to help them go faster?

To find out we turned to Ross Bentley, one of the most sought-after Driving Coaches in North America. Ross has coached many of today’s top drivers and has authored a host of books and videos on how to go fast.

We brought Ross to the race track and grilled him for hours to see if we could find those final tenths.

I think our multi-part series will open your eyes as to what it takes to really go fast.  

 

CHIP GANASSI LAUNCHES 30th ANNIVERSARY CAMPAIGN

Chip Ganassi Racing, celebrating its 30th Anniversary this season, kicked off the truncated NTT IndyCar Series with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway. Ganassi’s five-time series champion Scott Dixon scored his 47th career victory, third behind A.J. Foyt (67) and Mario Andretti (52).

Ganassi is currently fielding five cars across the NASCAR Cup Series and the IndyCar Series. CGR, which began in 1990, is recognized as one of the most successful teams in the motorsports industry with 19 championships and more than 220 victories, including four Indianapolis 500s, a Daytona 500, a Brickyard 400, eight Rolex 24 At Daytonas, the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Scott Dixon takes the checkered flag to win the delayed IndyCar season opener at Texas Motor Speedway. The race marked the successful competition introduction of the new aeroscreen enclosed cockpit. [AP Image]

 

DAN BINKS RETIRES FROM PRATT & MILLER

After 38 years, Dan Binks is retiring from racing to devote his time to the automotive performance and restoration shop he runs, plus support Camp Anokijig which he attended as a youth in Wisconsin near Road America.

Binks has been one of the most successful crew chiefs in road racing for nearly four decades, first having guided numerous championship efforts in the 1980s and ‘90s with Tommy Kendall in Mazdas and Roush Racing Fords. Dan and Tommy cut a swath through IMSA GTU, SCCA Trans-Am and IMSA GTP.

In 2002, Binks joined Pratt & Miller in a relationship that lasted until last week when he rolled his tool box out shop door, check On the site toolbox.com there is a wide range of various tool boxes for Tacoma, which are produced by major specialized companies – Intertool, Stanley, Makita, Yato, Bosch and others.. In lock-step with team principal Gary Pratt and program manager Doug Fehan, Binks made stellar contributions in the garage and the racing pits that were integral in the rise of Corvette as the most successful American team in international road racing.

Dan Binks waves from LeMans podium 2009. [Kevin Wood/LAT Image]

 

PERFORMANCE TRACK REOPENING AUGUST 13

As North America continues to reopen following a several month shutdown, Performance Track Day is back in business, beginning with a one-day program at Sebring International Raceway, August 13. Factory Acura Team Penske drivers Dane Cameron and Ricky Taylor will join PTD founders Darren Law and Johnny O’Connell as instructors at the unique on-track experience.

 

IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Associated Press Image

 

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NEW DAYTONA COBRA COUPE BOOK/FILM + LATEST FROM SAFEisFAST

SHELBY COBRA DAYTONA COUPE RETROSPECTIVE

With the launch of Rinsey Mills’ new book Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe–The autobiography of CSX2300, UK publisher Porter Press has released a filmed retrospective of the iconic car – America’s first International GT champion. The car’s justifiably proud designer Peter Brock says, “It’s still pretty cool looking after 55 years!” Brock, who narrates the film, thanks the Ellerbrocks, the car’s present owners in Germany.

 

SAFEisFAST – THE RACECRAFT SERIES

Speed may get you the pole, but what wins races is Racecraft – that ability to keep your cool and make the right moves – despite a snarling pack of competitors breathing down your neck.

In the seventh and final edition of our Race Ready series we explore how to master Racecraft, assembling an all-star panel of champion drivers to explain just how they do it.

Join Lando Norris, Jean Eric-Vergne, Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe, Mike Rockenfeller and more as they guide you through topics such as Racing in the Rain, Corner One: Risk versus Reward, Late Braking, and Defending versus Blocking.

Watch the series here.

Bobby Rahal
SAFEisFAST.com

 

 

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DOC BUNDY’S GoFundMe; SiF FINDING EXTRA 10ths; MARIO REDUX

GoFundMe FOR DOC BUNDY RECOVERING FROM OPEN HEART SURGERY

Doc Bundy is recovering from open heart surgery from Covid-19 complications. Doc had stents installed a number of years ago, so he was/is in a tough situation. The May 15 surgery was successful, and he is home having been booted out of the ICU because of pandemic-induced bed-space issues. The day of the surgery, Doc’s longtime friend Janet Upchurch launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for his extensive medical bills before and after surgery. He is currently unable to work and must hire professional help during recovery, although Janet says that Doc is determined to be as self-sufficient as he is able. Be sure to check out Mark Vaughn’s story in Autoweek and Marshall Pruett’s post at RACER.com.

 

SiF – FINDING THOSE EXTRA TENTHS

A couple of tenths can be the difference between starting on the pole or starting in the middle of the pack.

But where do you find those tenths?

Alexander Albon the Red Bull Racing RB16 during Winter Testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya [Mark Thompson photo/Getty Images)

In this sixth installment of our Race Ready series a group of top drivers and engineers from IndyCar, IMSA, WEC, and Formula 1 cover everything from hitting apexes, maximizing kerbs, and using changes in track surfaces to your advantage tin order to find those final tenths. 

Watch the series here

Bobby Rahal
SAFEisFAST.com

 

 

MARIO ANDRETTI AT LONG BEACH BANQUET – REPLAY

Mario Andretti was the honoree at the RRDC’s Long Beach festivities in April 2014. He kicked off his sit-down with Bobby Rahal by showing off his checkered flag socks: “You like the socks? They’re for sale.” It started funny and stayed funny, punctuated by some poignant moments, as Mario reminisced about one of the most brilliant careers in motor racing history. His twin brother Aldo joined him toward the end of the evening. Rahal asked, “Okay, who was the fastest.” Mario nodded and pointed at Aldo. Check it out.

 

 

 

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