The Frontstretch: Driven to the Past: Race Cars Off the Track... by John Potts -- Thursday May 6, 2010

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Driven to the Past: Race Cars Off the Track...

John Potts · Thursday May 6, 2010

 

We’ve all heard stories about race cars being driven on the road. In fact,
back in the early days many of them were driven to the track, headlights taped
up, and then raced.

But some of my favorite memories are cars that were taken for impromptu
“test rides.” I think I’ve already told the one about Allan Barker of Louisville
and his Taraschi Formula Junior in the state fairgrounds parking lot. That
wasn’t a really good place to test cars, because there was a Kentucky State
Police driver test station on the property, and those guys were always roaming
around.

The trooper who tried to run Allan down never caught him until the Taraschi
was on the trailer, and he was somewhat embarrassed when they lifted the hood
for him and he found out his 406 Ford had been outrun by a four-cylinder engine
about a foot long.

Another incident on the state property came after a late model race one
Saturday night at the Fairgrounds Motor Speedway.

J.E. Foley had a Plymouth Roadrunner driven by Buddy Webb, and one night
they were having all kinds of problems with it. It kept “blubbering” coming out
of the turns and Foley never got it right during the program.

Four or five of us were sitting outside the office, having an adult beverage
or two after the lights had been turned out. Foley suddenly said, “I just
figured out what’s wrong with that thing!” and jumped up on the trailer and
began fooling around under the hood.

Then, of course, he had to check it out, so he pulled it off the trailer and
took off for a lap around the baseball stadium. Apparently the troopers also
pulled security duty, because the sound of that hemi attracted a KSP car.

The trooper pulled up to us, and wanted to know where the guy with that loud
car was going. We told him he’d be back in a minute. He wanted to know why the
car was so loud.

“They don’t put mufflers on those,” one guy said.

Off goes the trooper after Foley, and we were treated to another car chase
around the parking lot. Foley didn’t get around the light poles as quick as
Barker did with that little open-wheeler, but he was still able to lose the
cruiser on each corner. The trooper was way over on the rocker panels, tires
screaming, each time Foley made a left-hander.

After a trip to the other side of the stadium Foley got back to the trailer
and pull and was buckling it down when the officer skidded to a stop in front of
us.

He wanted to see Foley’s license, of course, then wanted to know why the car
didn’t have a license plate.

“Musta lost it,” Foley said.

“Remember the number?” the trooper asked.

“Yeah,” Foley said, and pointed to the big ‘2’ on the door of the
Roadrunner.

Like Barker, Foley got off with a warning, and as a speedway official I was
instructed to pass the word to all of our people that testing cars in the
parking lot was a no-no.

From then on, it was officially a no-no. At least until they moved the
driver testing station away from the fairgrounds.

L. E. Foley’s entry didn’t outrun the field, but after a tune-up, it did outrun the law in the parking lot after the race.

I was only sorry that Buddy wasn’t there to take the car for that spin
himself. He had something of a mischievous streak.

Once during the International 500 ARCA race, while Johnny MacIntosh was
flagging, promoter Milt Hartlauf had me working the third and fourth turns. I
was down there with a box of plastic bags filled with cement. This was standard
procedure in long races. If the track got a little slick, the drivers would
signal, we’d toss out a few bags, they’d spread the cement, and we never slowed
down.

Nothing much happened this particular night, and at about 250 laps Buddy
went by and looked over at me. I waved at him.

Next time by, he gave me a signal that I was the best race official around.
Told me I was number one.

When he went by the next time, I was still laughing.

Not really the hardest I laughed at a driver, though. Jim Eames, who was the
partner of and chief mechanic for a driver (and Louisville motorcycle officer)
named Virgil Oakes, used to hop in a late model once in a while himself.

Now, the flagstand at Louisville was level with the top of the 30-inch
outside wall, and you were pretty much eye-to-eye with the drivers.

People used to ask me why I was always laughing when Jim finished his
qualifying laps and took the checker.

I finally had to admit it was because he made it a point to stick his false
teeth out at me as he came by.

I mentioned this on the Fairgrounds Motor Speedway facebook page last week,
and somebody replied, “That sounds like something my granddaddy would have
done.”

Racing was a lot more fun in those days.

Contact John Potts

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Don Mei
05/07/2010 09:08 AM
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In 1974 or 5, two of us were working on my Yamaha TD2 road racer in my garage until late at night. The Loudon AMA National (aka Laconia) was the following weekend at the old Bryar Motorsports Park, a wonderfil 1.6 mile road course that was sacrificed to build New Hampshire International Speedway. Anyway, we finished putting the bike back together about 2am. No way I dared to start it up at that hour in my quiet suburban neighborhood so we decided to toss the bike in the van and go the three miles to the big Stop and Shop parking lot right off interstate 95. We got there, unloaded the bike and I fired it up and rode it around the parking lot. Everything seemed fine so I impulsively grabbed my helmet and rode down the nearby ramp onto 95 and ran the bike up to maybe 125 with no fairing to the next exit, got off and repeated the ride going back to the parking lot.A state trooper heading north saw me when i was returning on the southbound side so he flipped around at the next exit and drove into the Stop and Shop lot just as we were loading the bike back into he van. A rather vigorous discussion ensued about the identity of the motorcyclist the trooper had observed riding at a high rate of speed. Fortunately, he was a bikie and was in fact planning on riding his Triumph to Loudon that weekend. He spent a good 20 minutes checking over the TD2 and we parted friends. To cap it all off, he came by my pit that weekend right after the 250 race to say hello. I think I finished 22nd or so out of about 45 bikes. Good times.

John Potts
05/07/2010 11:48 AM
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Good story, Don. I didn’t have enough room to talk about Charlie Glotzbach. He used to take his ’64 Chevy out on Indiana 460 late at night after tuning it up.
Every time, he’d come back in the garage, then go over and stand by the phone. Sure enough, it would ring and Charlie would answer, “Hello Sheriff. Yeah, I know. I won’t do it anymore.” He should have added “tonight.”