John Potts

Driven to the Past: When We Were Young and Crazy…

I was going to head this column, "Getting There Is Half The Fun," but the above seemed more appropriate after I thought about it. Back in the '60s, I owned a 1965 Corvair. Loved it, and by the way, Ralph Nader can take a long walk on a short pier. Funny he never mentioned that the problem with the rear suspension was corrected in the 1963 model. I really didn’t want one until they changed the styling for the ’65 model. My first one was destroyed in an intersection collision in Louisville when a drunk driving a big Pontiac ran a red light and hit me square in the driver’s door, knocking me head on into a utility pole. I emerged without a scratch, asking how the other guy was because I wanted to kill him. That was my first new car, and it didn’t have 1,500 miles on it before it was wrecked.

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Driven to the Past: Getting Off The Ground…

I’ve always been a fan of all kinds of racing. When things are dull and we were waiting for a shower to pass over, I can recall watching two raindrops race down a windshield. Anyway, my interest included boat racing for a long time, partly because my father was interested in it, and he served for a while as commodore (I’ve never really figured that title out, usually deciding to let well enough alone) of the Falls Cities Motorboat Racing Association in Louisville. We put on a minor-league regatta of our own, racing everything from outboards all the way up to 7-litre hydroplanes. While I was in the newspaper business in southern Indiana, I got a press invitation to attend the Madison Regatta. This is a historic event, and of course featured the unlimited hydros. Thunderboats. With a weekend off from the ASA schedule, I decided this was something my son and I had to experience.

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Driven to the Past: Random Thoughts…

I keep hearing comments on television that Mark Martin might be the best NASCAR driver who has never won a Cup championship. That may well be true, and I have a LOT of respect for Mark. We were friends while he was in ASA and I was working in that series, and I’ve always liked him. I would really like to see him win a Cup title before his career is finally over. One of the things I like most about his staying in racing is the way he says it’s not about winning a championship. I’m sure he’s honest in that. You can’t fault a passion for the sport, and with Mark, he is staying in it is because he simply loves to race, and getting a competitive ride was too big an opportunity to turn down. And I believe at this point he may be one of the best NASCAR drivers who have never won that title.

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Driven to the Past: Harry Hyde – The Short Track Years…

I’ll have to confess that I don’t know a whole lot about the really early years of Harry Hyde’s racing career. I know that he got into racing after World War II, and I’ve learned that he drove in what we called the “hardtops” at the Jeffersonville Sportsdrome in the late 40s and early 50s, when I first started attending races as a pre-teener. One of his old cars, a 1940 Ford sedan No. 19, has either been restored or replicated by a guy named Gene Boyer in San Carlos, Cal., and runs regularly with the Historic Grand National Stockcars group.

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Driven to the Past: Harry Hyde – The NASCAR Years…

Recalling drivers and others I’ve known through my years in motorsports has been one of the most gratifying things about writing this weekly column for Frontstretch.com. Usually it’s on a humorous note, but sometimes it's historical data which I think is important that the younger fans and others among us should know. Harry Hyde encompasses both. Harry Hyde was one of the most unforgettable people I ever met. I didn’t become acquainted with him until I returned from my sojourn with the U.S. Air Force in 1960. He was a friend of my father and we became friends, too, as I became involved in the construction and then operation of the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville. Harry is worth more than one column, and I’m going to start this week with his NASCAR career.

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Driven to the Past: Taking A Risk At Michigan…

Heard a lot of talk on the TV broadcast from Michigan, as well as in all the shows recapping the race, about crews taking the risk on fuel mileage. Big deal. All they were worried about was finishing the race. I gambled on fuel mileage once during a Cup race at Michigan and had a lot more to risk. Like getting home and to work the next morning. When I was with ASA, we used to race at Berlin the night before both Cup races. Naturally, the thing to do was find a place to crash and head for MIS the next day. This may have been the same night we were looking for a place to sleep--Rusty Wallace said to go to the nearest motel, where he had some rooms reserved, and tell them we were with Wallace Racing.

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Driven to the Past: A Few Short Stories…

As I’ve said before, one of the neatest things about going back to O’Reilly Raceway Park for the Kroger SpeedFest was meeting old friends. However, there was another thing that came up which I had completely forgotten about, and the significance of which I didn’t realize. After the Kroger 200 on Saturday evening, winner Carl Edwards commented that it was one of his favorite tracks, and added that he had gotten his first race win ever on that .686-mile oval, in a Baby Grand event.

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Driven to the Past: Those Were the Days…

One of my old acquaintances from Louisville reminded me this week of something that happened at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway there back in the 60s. It involved Leonard Blanchard, who started out as a Figure 8 driver and developed into a pretty darn good wheelman in the late models and even raced pretty successfully with ARCA and USAC. I’ve already told the story about his first trip to Indianapolis Raceway Park for a USAC race on the road course, and how we fought our way to a fifth place finish with yours truly acting as crew chief. This particular night, I think it was his Figure 8 car that Leonard was qualifying when he got into the wall coming off the second turn and banged off pretty hard, ending up with the car sliding down the backstretch on its top. Something dark flew out the driver’s side window, and I jumped off the flagstand and started running.

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Driven to the Past: REAL Racing…

Once again, we’re not going to be too humorous this week. I hope our faithful readers will forgive me, but I was impressed by "Mike Neff’s commentary":/notice/9557/ on the Brickyard 400 in the Frontstretch Newsletter and felt the “other” races in Indianapolis deserved some mention. For the first time since 2002, I made it back to O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis for the Kroger SpeedFest.

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Driven To The Past: Getting The Job Done…

We’re not looking too far back this week, and we’re not going for laughs. We’re telling a story about one of the unsung heroes of motorsports. Every track has one--the guy who just gets things done, never asks for any recognition, and considers it all part of his job. This subject came to mind when I read the trivia question in Monday’s edition of The Frontstretch Newsletter. That question was “Both the Busch and Truck races at IRP (now ORP) in 1995 contained unusual incidents involving infrastructure. What happened?” Well, I was a part of the staff at Indianapolis Raceway Park at the time, and by the time you read this, hopefully I’ll be back at O’Reilly Raceway Park for the Kroger SpeedFest for the first time since I moved to London, Ky. in 2003. Can’t wait to see some of my old friends, including the guy I’m talking about.

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