BOUNCES OF BERGIE
|On Wednesday, February 23,
in the middle of Speedweeks, the Living Legends of Auto
Racing hosted a sell-out crowd at their annual awards
banquet in Daytona. The honorees were Linda Vaughn, Ken
Schrader, Buddy Parrott, “Tiger Tom” Pistone, Eddie
Spurling, and Dr. Dick Berggren.
Berggren, of Ipswich, Massachusetts, won the Russ Moyer
Media Award for his 45 whirlwind years in print, television,
radio, and personal appearances. He received thunderous
applause following his gracious acceptance.
It was an honor to make the presentation.
|Dick Berggren. My goodness.
You might think you know him down here, but just
maybe you don't.
You do know about his journalistic
and photographic achievements, first with Stock Car Racing
Magazine, then Open Wheel, and Speedway Illustrated. You
know of his lively, intelligent, so well-prepared TV pit
road reporting. You know of his role as racing's
representative and host at countless racing functions
But you likely don't know about what he's
been for us...the Northern faction of the racing community
that has been held up in igloos for the last couple of
That Dr. Dick Berggren is the essence of
intensity - a joyful, high-speed ball that goes higher and
higher with every bounce through life. His nicknames are
spot on: Dr. Burp and The Rolaid Rocket. Of course, we just
know him as "Bergie."
A perfect example came when
Bergie was just 16. A friend suggested he cruise by the
local drive-in to check out the counter girl. Opposites
attract. Kathy Kanehl was - and is - beautiful, long and
luscious hair, as serene as a high mountain. Man, did the
Rolaid Rocket ever bounce off when he saw her. And thank
God. Only Kathy Berggren has been able to keep him somewhat
tethered for the last 50 years.
And there was that
tipping point in Bergie's schooling. He was not an engaged
student as a kid. He was a doodler, drawing pictures of race
cars and rushing off to his afternoon job in Connecticut's
tobacco fields. Then one day a guidance counselor told him
he'd never amount to a hill of beans. Wow. Did Bergie ever
bounce out of that office. He wiggled into Quinnipiac
College, earned straight As, always sending his report cards
back to the guidance guy. Then, even while working non-stop
and racing, he was awarded a Ph.D from the prestigious Tufts
University. The unlikely subject: sleep deprivation.
You can all take it to the bank that there were some
outrageous moments in Dick's career behind the wheel. Few,
however, can match the scene of his first win. That came in
1971. It was in a clapped-out Supermodified-from-hell on a
gritty, dangerous oiled dirt 5/8 mile in New England called
Lakeville. He had no right to win. And, as the car sat in
Victory Lane, it was smoking, reeking, leaking from every
orifice. Bergie was off to the nearby Golden Spur ranch with
his crew, spending the entire purse on bubbly.
something on that crazy day hit that bounce cord. He
realized how much more he would have to do to race
successfully. He befriended a serious engineer from RCA,
Doug Gore, bought a Don Edmunds Sprint Car, and took no
prisoners. He ended up a major feature winner and all-time
record-holder at Beech Ridge up in Maine.
As you can
gather, the guy had to work fulltime back in racing days to
keep it all going. He'd supplement his income writing press
releases and taking photos for the New England Super
Modified Association. He was reporting up at Arundel, Maine,
one day in the late 1960s when, of all things, a rabbit ran
out in front of the pack and was disassembled. Russ Conway,
the announcer, quipped, "So much for the Easter Bunny..."
At the end of the show, a grandmother accosted Russ
saying he had ruined the lives of her sobbing grandkids. "No
problem," said Russ. "We have just hired a new announcer,"
turning to the dumbstruck Dick Berggren. It was not so many
Februarys later that Bergie was interviewing Dale Earnhardt
at the start of the Daytona 500.
It was really at
that moment that Dick began leaving us for his national
adventure, making all of us in New England so proud. We
grooved on his success, as we did with Ralph Moody, Pete
Hamilton, Ron Bouchard, Ken Squier, Mike Joy. We applauded
as he won....
As Bergie's TV career wound down, we've
seen a bit more of him. Quite predictably, all that
unendingly energy is going to a charitable project that will
benefit us all.
Bergie has been back and forth, up
and down and all around New England of late, choreographing
the construction of a formidable motorsports museum on the
grounds of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Even in this
uncertain economic time, he has assembled a blue chip team,
raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, and already amassed
an enormous collection of photos, memorabilia and even cars.
To be honest, all of us up North raised an eyebrow when
Dick and Kathy bought a house recently here in Holly Hill. I
think we're all gonna have to talk about that. A couple of
months in the winter is OK, but the summers are ours. What's
fair is fair.
And, now, will our friend, Dr. Dick
Berggren, please approach the podium for acceptance of the
Russ Moyer Media Award.
Bergie back in Sprint Car days in the early ’70s.
(Coastal 181 Collection)
© 2015 Lew
Boyd, Coastal 181
If you were
interested in this Tearoff, you might enjoy the book below: