The Frontstretch: Driven to the Past: No, Really! I'm Kidding by John Potts -- Friday March 13, 2009

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I keep thinking about some of the offbeat suggestions I’ve made over the years that have made the “powers that be” simply roll their eyes and walk away.

Last year sometime, I mentioned my idea of using plastic bags filled with yellow or black paint to get the attention of drivers who didn’t pay attention to that color flag.
Simply splatter one on a windshield and they get the message, I figured. ASA didn’t think much of that one, but I still think it would work. Nowadays, you wouldn’t need the bags. A paintball gun would work very well.

There have been a couple of times I’ve made these comments with my tongue
firmly implanted in one cheek or the other. Just a couple of columns back, I wrote about a TQ midget race in the Indiana State Fairgrounds coliseum in the early 60s, when I suggested the hole in the floor wouldn’t be much of a problem after we filled it up with cars. Some folks even thought I was serious.

I got to use that same suggestion about 30 years later during an SCCA road race at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The stewards called me to look at a sinkhole which had appeared about 100 feet off track outside of Turn 11. It was about 20 feet across and 25 feet or so deep. When I used the same line, the expression on the chief steward’s face was priceless.

And, there was the time when the Figure 8 guys at the Fairgrounds were getting really good at finding the gaps, and I suggested automatic jump ramps before the intersection. They could be remotely controlled so a driver wouldn’t know if he was going through the intersection or over it until he got there. I guess those people thought I was serious, too.

Don Wilbur in the No. 27 works the inside against Dick Dunlevy at Dayton Speedway.

The last time I got that kind of reaction was also at IRP. It was when NHRA was first working on setting up a drug testing program. First, I’d better explain that they have what I believe to be one of the best testing programs in motorsports now; however, they were asking for suggestions when they were working on the
idea. I suggested that we buy a roll of litmus paper about a quarter-mile long..

As part of the opening ceremonies before eliminations at a national event, we could unroll this thing from the starting line, then line up all the drivers next to it, and…well, you get the idea.

Some people have no sense of humor at all.

Actually, the first reference I ever heard on possible drug testing came at an ASA race at Salem. Don Wilbur, an old friend of mine from Dayton, was starting on the outside of the 100-lap feature somewhere around the third row. I had seen Don run when flagging some races at the old Dayton Speedway, and I knew he’d push the button. We’re still friends, and he’s active in the Dayton Auto Racing Fans
organization. We still exchange e-mails, and he’s gonna get a kick out of this story.

We had a clean start, and sure enough, Wilbur goes to the outside going into the first turn, and by the time they get to the third turn, he’s in second place. Coming off the fourth turn, he went by Don Gregory, another Ohio hotshoe, for the lead. Milt Hartlauf, ASA’s director of competition at the time, keys his radio and says, “Where’d this Wilbur come from. Looks like he was shot out of a cannon.” I told him I was familiar with Don, and that he was for real.

Rex Robbins, our indomitable president, said, “Tech, you’d better take a good look at that 27 car when this is over.”

Leo Parrish, the tech director, answered, “He’s clean. This is his first time with us and we went over it really tight.”

Hartlauf came back with, “Don’t worry about the car. Let’s give the driver a saliva test. Potts says he’s for real, and everybody knows Potts is crazy.”

A mechanical problem knocked Wilbur out of the race before it was over, but Hartlauf still had a long talk with him.

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Jerry Wahl
03/13/2009 11:27 PM

Great story John, as all of yours are. And that Wilbur guy, he sure won a bunch of races in his day.