This one might be off our usual track, but it’s as funny as anything I can come up with. Regular readers of this and the old Driven to the Past column, as well as those who have purchased and read the book, will recall the story of the day Earl Baltes almost got run over at Dayton.
This week we have comments received via e-mail from two of the principals involved in that incident, each having considerable comment on the other.
First, from the driver…
I want to correct the “historical” or should I say “hysterical” record here a bit. I am the not well-remembered driver of No. 52 Blue that day and a life long friend of Mickey Thompson.
Although your article is witness to the fact that something truthful is in this story about my little, what should I call it, wobble in the 4th corner and straight away at Dayton Speedway that day. I however have only the vaguest memory of it. What I’m saying is that I think that your memory of these events may be, really are, affected by the overly theatrical rantings of Mickey. Bottom line: NOT a reliable source.
Don’t get me wrong, I love him dearly and in a manly kind of way; we have been friends since high school. Just know that in all these years I have never seen him (or me) tell a story without a great deal of embellishment if not pure invention.
Let me set the record straight – I did not almost kill Earl. I loved the tow money he paid week after week for just showing up. Besides, in a back to the future kind of way, I knew he had to stay upright to sell Eldora one day to Smoke! Just because I read the time on his watch as I whizzed by him is no reason to believe it was a “close call.”
Second, Mickey did not have to pry my hands from the steering wheel – I was nervous and shaky then and still am today, which is why I may have taken my hands off the wheel as I careened left and right – because, like you know, I could have bruised a finger or broken a nail. One can’t be too careful. I might have wanted to be a concert pianist one day (didn’t happen, by the way).
Third, the real reason for the spin is, as you suggest, the different sized tire on each point of the car — a little creative team managing by our chief wrench and ringmaster, none other than Mickey Thompson. It is no accident that his other nom-de-plumes are Foggy Goggles and Mickey The Clown. Let him deny that!
Fourth, Mickey has always blamed this incident on my ethnic heritage of being a hot-blooded, quick-to-panic, Italian blood. I, like most Italians, have a unique skill for survival. So, in my own way, I was in control in sort of a hand-waving, oh-s***t kind of way.
Fifth, we finished 7th in the feature race that day — the highest we ever finished in a Sportsman race. And that’s the truth, despite Mickey’s and your failing memory. Some day, Mickey in his search for all things Dayton Speedway will verify this fact one day.
Take it from me, I never meant Earl any harm. And yes, il mio dio, I was in TOTAL CONTROL.
— Gerry “Lattanzio” Lantz
And now, a reply from said car owner/chief wrench/ringmaster, who also happens to be the majordomo of the daytonspeedwaylives Web site…
Lantz is not to be trusted. He was raised by wolves and was a habitual paste-eater through the freshman year of high school. At any loud noise he would, until just recently, drop into a fetal position and begin whimpering (part of his well-documented life with the wolves I suppose). Furthermore he has been known to laugh out of context, a result of the loneliness he knew as a child, brought on when even his imaginary friends abandoned him. To this day, there is a better than 50/50 chance that he has a live (or nearly alive) frog in his underwear.
His email to you is the first time that he appears to understand that we had a Chevrolet. He told everyone at the time that he drove a Herkemer Battle Jitney and preferred to be addressed as “Her Royal Highness, Gloria.”
I tell you he was one difficult SOB to work with. But at least he was insanely slow once on the track. He was once lapped by a car being pushed by two guys. Honest.
My remembrance of the events of that day at Dayton are absolutely 100 percent accurate, as are yours. Give no credence to Lantz’s tale; you’ll only be feeding his frightful psychosis.
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