Buzz Rose challenges the dirt at
1968. It was the final sprint car race at the historic
fairgrounds that had claimed the lives of Bill Schindler and
Johnny Thomson. (Al Consoli Photo, Buzz Rose Collection)
In these TEAROFFs, we try to cover as much of
racing’s expanse as we can, geographically and chronologically
In 2010, TEAROFF subjects ranged from Davey
Hamilton prepping for the Brickyard, to Steve Arpin’s ARCA win at
Talladega, to catching up with Langhorne winner Roger Treichler, to
Lee Allard’s crash in a supermodified on Labor Day 1964.
We’ve run Photos of the Day showing wound-up folks road racing,
dragging, and tearing across the sands of Bonneville. No question
that the common theme to all of these is a passion for speed and the
thrill of competition.
That said, among those who really
follow racing, the most intense emotion is often reserved for that
amazing era of pre-roll cage, touring sprint cars. Who among us
would not give a fortune just to exercise one of those sonorous
monsters on a heavy half mile?
Those who actually raced them
– and survived – never seem to forget.
There is a collection
(see left column) of great open wheel books on Coastal181.com penned
by Buzz Rose, a wonderful, vibrant guy and a member of the Sprint
Car Hall of Fame. Buzz just sent in a “tearoff story.” He told us he
has trouble explaining just how much sprint car racing meant to him.
We think it came through loud and clear.
summer of 1961, the “Diz” Wilson Offy team in I.M.C.A.
consisted of drivers Jim McElreath, myself, and Johnny
Rutherford. We were all good pals and traveled throughout
the Midwest to all of the I.M.C.A. “punkin” dates (county
fairs) and state fairs during July, August and September.
On August 13th, we arrived at the Mower County Fair in
Austin, Minnesota. I was driving Wilson’s #7 Offy and the
car had been suffering from a bad magneto for several days.
Needless to say, I was really exasperated. Diz was doing the
best he could and was awaiting a new magneto from Indiana.
The Austin half-mile was a wet, sandy track. The
dirt stuck to car and driver like glue. My pal Jim McElreath
and I managed to qualify for the front row of the main event
even though my car was still sour.
Knowing my car
wasn’t running well, I came up with an idea to help my
teammate McElreath win the feature. At the green flag I
would let Jim slip in front of me and go on to win.
Lots of times young racers disconnect their brains from the
throttle foot, causing mayhem. Many times they leave their
brains in the pit area.
On the parade lap my big 270
Offy started to run on all 4 cylinders and I got excited,
never to think about McElreath and my plan again. I bolted
into turn one flat out, with my knobbie tires churning in
the wet dirt. Holy mackerel! My car was running good. I went
on to win the race.
As I.M.C.A promoter, Frank
Winkley was presenting me with the trophy, my other
teammate, Johnny Rutherford, told me to get my racecar
loaded up and leave. It seems that McElreath was really
upset with me. I looked over and saw a big mud-covered
McElreath glaring at me. The only clean spot on him was
where his goggles had been. He was a sandy, muddy mess. It
seems he didn’t use many tear offs. Then I remembered our
deal. I felt ashamed as I left for our next race. Jimmy
didn’t talk to me for a couple of weeks. I knew my mistake
really hurt our friendship.
It has been 50 years ago
since that incident happened. We are now old guys and see
each other a couple of times a year. Believe me, Jim never
lets me forget my mistake and it lives with me today.
Lessons learned: To all young racers, always leave your
brain connected to your foot. And always use lots of
tearoffs when in doubt.
To my pal of 50 years, Jimmy
McElreath, I am still sorry.
1961 – The first-ever sprint car race at Eldora Speedway.
to R, Buzz Rose, Jim McElreath, Diz Wilson, John Marcum,
McElreath and Rose finished 1st and 2nd in the
main event. Wilson always
bought steaks when his drivers
brought their big Offys home 1st and 2nd.
Happy 2011 to all from Coastal 181.
© 2010 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181