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People In The Auto World You Have Met

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  • People In The Auto World You Have Met

    I thought it might be interesting to share the experience of meeting people in the auto world, whether it be in racing, designing, constructing etc.

    At a time when I was really involved with racing I would carry a picture of the silver carbon fiber bodied Cobra I built and competed in. This became my "scrapbook " for autographs.
    Unfortunately, I didn't always have it, and missed some great ones.

    Most notable would have been Mr. #3 himself, Dale Earnhardt. Was with ARCA at Daytona one week before the Daytona 500. NASCAR was doing the qualifying that day, and later on in the afternoon I found myself alone with Dale in the infield away from everybody.. Respecting his privacy, I gave him a smile and a nod, which he returned. He didn't seem to mind that I took his picture though.
    Seven days later, it was his last race.

    So, let me start. Looking forward to reading other stories associated with the industry and sport we are all interested in.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	autographs.jpg Views:	0 Size:	2.34 MB ID:	148025
    Phil Hill. Had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Phil a couple of times while I was still involved with the Ferrari Club of America. He was still passionate about Ferrar's since he was driving one in 1961 when he became the only natural American to win a F1 World Championship.
    A very delightful, charming, soft-spoken gentleman.
    Indirectly, he might have made me a better driver.
    A friend of mine had a Ferrari F40. He had it at Lime Rock for a Ferrari Drivers Day. Phil was there and asked my friend if he would like him to "take" him for a ride.
    My friend (who was an instructor for the club) says he never thought his car could go that fast around the track, and Phil was driving like he was out for a Sunday drive.
    The lesson I learned from hearing that story was, basically drive within your limits and talent, know them, and be comfortable.

    Andy Hillenburg. Andy has a driving school based in North Carolina. Born in Indianapolis, and has been involved with racing all his life. More than 20 years in NASCAR, and qualified 33rd one year for the Indy 500 on a scratch budget. DNF because of a part failure.
    I convinced my wife that since many of our sportscar tracks involved some part of an oval, it would be smart of me to take some NASCAR lessons, so several times I wound up at Atlanta Speedway with Andy and his school. We became friends and had many occasions to break bread together and talk.
    At one time he called me and said since NASCAR was doing road courses, and all he's ever done is turn left, he'd like to try one of my cars on a road course. Never could work out the logistics, but very honored he thought of me.
    One of the conversations I'll never forget is when I asked him about driving in the Indy 500. If I remember correctly, he qualified at around 219 mph, and hit speeds up to 238 mph.
    He replied with a dreamy look on his face as if he was in the cockpit, and said, "Jack, I was driving the car with my right hand talking to me". Which meant that as he entered a turn, when the car would start to push, or understeer, the steering wheel force would lighten, and he would back off on the throttle a bit, therefore he was telling his right foot what to do by how his right hand was sensing. Now these adjustments could happen 50 times in a turn, but that's what it took to be a professional racing driver.

    Brett Bodine.. Brother of Geoff Bodine who I happened to not get his autograph, but did get a chance to talk with him for a few hours at St. Louis Gateway track.
    Our group had the track for the weekend. Practice Saturday, and race Sunday.
    We were told that a couple of NASCAR teams had rented the track Saturday night for testing, and we were not to go to the track. Sure!!!!!!
    After dinner my wife and I found ourselves back at the track, with a distance starting about 50 yards away from the garages, which slowly reduced to 0 yards in about 20 minutes.
    I'm sure it was because my wife is so attractive that we were invited over and watched as a car would go out for a few laps, come in for some changes in settings or gear ratios, then back out for a few laps. Got invited into the maintenance trailers for a tour. Wouldn't hesitate to be operated on in one of those trailers, they're so spotless..
    Was talking with Geoff, and since our road course involved turns 3 and 4 of the oval, I asked him how he goes into turn 3. He looked over at my car with the single roll bar, and he said something like he wouldn't drive it very fast.
    Not long after that, and I'm sure that most of you have seen the footage, but Geoff was driving a truck in a race and got punted head over heels into the infield with parts being torn off the car with every somersault. When it finally came to a stop, all that was left was a roll cage, and Geoff was alive.
    Happened to talk with some of his pit crew a while after that, and they told me that one more roll and the cracked frame would have opened.

    Other signatures.
    Derek Bell; 5 times LeMans winner, 3 times Daytona 24 winner.
    Ralf Schumacher, brother of Michael. Met him at the inaugural F1 at Indianapolis. He would not sign our Ferrari name tags but did sign my picture.
    Ross Bentley.. Race driver and author of racing instruction books.
    Lee Petty NASCAR
    Dorsey Schroeder NASCAR
    Wally Dallenbach NASCAR

    Several others I can't read or remember.

    Now it's your turn.
    Last edited by USCANAM; 05-21-2020, 08:10 PM.
    Cape Cod Taxachusetts

    3LT GDO/AYM Coupe. Z51, Mag Shocks, Yellow Calipers. Black Interior, Black Suede Seats, Yellow Stitching. Yellow Seat Belts.
    Illuminated Sills. Front and Rear Splash Guards. Chrome Wheel Locks,
    3000 TPW ????????????

  • #2
    WOW, I will have to think about this one. I was an Indy car fan for a long time. One of my best friends has been involved Indy and Indy Lights racing for decades as both a driver, Team Co-owner and Owner. Through him I have met people like Mario and Michael Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Danica Patrick, AJ Foyt, Arie Luyendyk, Al Unser Jr and quite a few lesser names. Nothing like a week at Indy and watching the race from a box on the finish line or down by the pits with a Hot Pass.


    • #3
      I use to throw snow***** at Cha Cha Shirley Muldowney in Schenectady New York before she became famous back in the 60s, just to hear her filthy mouth cuss out us 10 year old kids, . Knew her husband Jack Real well growing up. We Called him Oil Can Harry. He Had the BP station around the corner from my house, where I worked pumping gas for a while back in 1970 when I was 16. Met Big Daddy Don Garlits several times and had him at a Show I did in Orlando, Fl in 1989. Use to visit him in Ocala, often. Did not meet Dale Sr. but was at the finish line when he won the one and only Daytona 500. Have wonderful pics of that day.


      • #4
        In my original post, I made reference to the Geoff Bodine truck crash, and stated that he got punted into the infield. My error, unfortunately he remained on the track which was probably less forgiving than the turf.

        I think it's important to note that many supercars that are capable of equal speeds to the NASCAR trucks, have suffered a similar fate of somersaulting when control is lost and they encounter a curb, railing, ditch etc. when exploring these speed capabilities on public venues.

        It's fairly obvious what would be your vehicle of choice is such a situation should occur.
        Cape Cod Taxachusetts

        3LT GDO/AYM Coupe. Z51, Mag Shocks, Yellow Calipers. Black Interior, Black Suede Seats, Yellow Stitching. Yellow Seat Belts.
        Illuminated Sills. Front and Rear Splash Guards. Chrome Wheel Locks,
        3000 TPW ????????????