ART THAT RACES
It is still there for the looking, though admittedly less
frequently as race cars become more regulated and uniform.
It’s that little unexpected gem, that twist of creativity, skill in
craftsmanship, that funky reuse of a discarded piece. You can see it
in the approving smile of the passerby in the pit area.
the last couple of decades rat rodders have stretched funkiness into
a whole new methodology – eye candy for sure, though sometimes over
the top with the stale skulls and cross bones. In drag and
oval-track racing, however, “rat” has been less purposeful, more
Unquestionably, necessity has challenged many
the racer to the off-the-wall solution for speedy repair. Case in
point is in the photo above. Hunter “Hot Shoe” Bates, barely 14
years of age, was in his rookie year in a dirt modified at Devil’s
Bowl Speedway in Vermont. One night he mega-slammed the wall in his
heat race, mangling his front end. But his Green Mountain team was
full of beans and was going to make the main, thank you very much.
Wrenches started flying. One stuck, helping piece together the front
clip. The splint was unsightly and risky for sure, but don’t laugh.
They made it through the night. Hunter was track champion the next
year at 15.
In other cases, probably artistic funk starts
with someone looking around his or her garage shelves to find the
solution to a problem. One of the most popular and grittiest stock
car performers on the East Coast over the last 40 years has been
Hall-of-Famer Peter “Travelin’ Man” Fiandaca. Who could come even
close to the number of races Pete has run with such painfully
limited resources? Ask anyone about Pete and his cars. Usually blue,
usually #135, brush-painted, they will tell you, along with some
story about how he struggled to a win somewhere and commented in
Victory Lane, “I’m not the fastest, but I got here first.” And then,
more often than not, they will tell you about the piece of art that
symbolized Pete for years. His air cleaner.
|(Howie Hodge Photo)
Everyone in racing constantly carries on about
money. It’s been going on for a lot
of laps. Approaching the
1970 season, we were putting together a modified in our
on a shoestring. It came time to sort out the ergonomics. Despite
monstrously impressed with Linda Vaughn, we were in no
shape to order a Hurst
Golden Shifter. A couple of old tire
irons did the trick, though looking at the
arrangement today, we
were pretty nuts.
|(Coastal 181 Photo)
It’s just not in stock cars. Here’s a caption and photo from a
book we will be
bringing out next month with Joyce Standridge:
DID YOU SEE THAT? Unforgettable
Moments in Midwest
Open-Wheel Racing. “Shhh. Don’t tell the Illinois Department of
Transportation about the old road sign serving as a floorboard in
the Kenny Brown-owned, Steve Knepper-wrecked car. The statute of
limitations has run out for this 1998 caper, right? That’s Dennis
Mann (#44) and Bill Bauer (also #44) on the right. It’s at the
now-shuttered 16th Street Speedway in Indy.”
|(Kevin Horcher Photo)
Last weekend was this year’s Celebration for the Maine Vintage Race
Association at Beech Ridge Speedway. Lots of old-time race
including some rough-and-ready bombers from
back in the day. This particular Ford
coupe was built in 1959,
raced a couple of years by George Wentworth, and
bought by Plum Potter. One thing to take to the bank: That shock
mount wasn’t goin’ anywhere, even though bomber racing was then a
sport. Formed from an axle it was, of course, solid
steel. And you have to love the
steering arm headed south in
circular fashion to hold the top of the second shock.
had the wit to think weight in those days.
|(North East Motor Sports
Museum/Dick Berggren Photo)
You could see it at straight-line shows, too. Small can be
beautiful. In the 1950s,
Scott Fern of New England’s Strokers
club built a rail dragster from the ground up.
It featured a
truly minimalist front suspension. It might be called a “one point”.
Note that single rubber biscuit!
On and on it went, the art of racing funk. Sometimes it even
brightened the winter
months. Long-time friend and engine
builder Jeff Mackay built this keepsake for
journalist, Joyce Standridge. She says, “This is Darrell, so named
because his jaws are perpetually open.”
|(Joyce Standridge Photo)