Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gentlemen, start your engines

Humble hostess (second from left) and racing associates, circa 1989

The Goat and I watched Rush the other day. I loved every minute of it, but it sure brought back a slew of memories.

Back in the day, Budweiser used to run an Indy car race at Cleveland's Burke Lake Front Airport. I always went with Mom and Dad, a boyfriend or some buddies. It was all about cold beer, hot sun and loud fast Indy cars.

I used to love going to the Friday night practice sessions and time trials. Admission was a buck and the crowds were reduced to a few coolios sauntering around drinking beer while the Indy cars screamed around the track.

One year, I got a hold of a couple of hot passes, which got you into the pits. Man, that was great.

Paul Newman pulls into the pits on his moped at the Cleveland Bud 500

Aw hell, I miss those days. I miss Mid Ohio and Nelson's Ledges. I miss the buckets of chicken and zippo lighters and endless mud. I miss Dad telling stories about Watkins Glen and the Bog.

Dad tries on an Indy car for size while his '49 Willys watches on 

I miss Chris Economaki and Jackie Stewart jawing on ABC's Wide World of Sports while Dad and I emptied cans of Stroh's and watched A. J. and Mario and Bobby chase each other around the oval.

I miss all of it.

Maybe when all this goddamn snow finally melts, I'll pack the kid up and drag her down to Nelson Ledges for one of those crazy events they have down there: the motorcycle shows or one of those silly club races.

Now if I could only get this lump out of my throat.

A cargo boat glides by the Roar on the Shore

* * *


Contrary Guy said...

Cool pit pics. Is that really Paul Newman? BTW, they do still have Indy stuff at Mid-Ohio.

Erin O'Brien said...

It sure is Paul Newman. He was big in the racing scene. What a thrill it was to spot him that day.

Thanks for the link. Sounds like a blast.

Bri said...

That sounds really awesome.

We used to go to the dirt track on Friday night, not nearly as slick as Indy but still a lot of cheap, loud fun.

John Venlet said...

Erin, where'd your Dad's '49 Willys end up?

Anonymous said...

Great pica, as always.


Erin O'Brien said...

Hey gang.

When we sold Dad's Willys, I cried like a baby. It was about a year after he died. That said, the jeep's best years were behind her and Dad (as well as the rest of us) all had a blast when she was in her glory days.

Dad did tons on modifications on the Jeep. He rigged the jerry cans onto hinges so you could swing them open and access the tail gate, which in turn rested on the hinged structure. So you could do this.

One of the jerry cans had a secret door. Inside, dad stashed tools and a flask. There were all sorts of little tricks like that to the Jeep.

Oh man ...

John Venlet said...

When we sold Dad's Willys, I cried like a baby.

Even a beer guy could be moved to tears when having to part with an ol' Willys. Have a great day, Erin.

philbilly said...

Honda Indy 200-miler, August 1-3, 2014. Nelson has yet to release full schedule for 2014. Newman raced Nelson and Mid-Ohio many times in the 70's, sometimes in a Datsun 510. Those were the glory days of Bob Tullius' Jags, who now races P51's in Texas in his 80's.
I had a Datsun 510 when I was a traveling racecar wrench, it could not be killed. One Mid-Ohio race day, the Diesel rig was broke, the team owner's Caddy was broke so the mighty Datsun went into town for parts. At 275K + miles, I still drove it down Buckeye to work at 5am, it was not highway roadable anymore. Finally, I drove it to a wrecking yard on Bessemer, oatmeal and pepper ooze steaming through the grill. I climbed out throught the passenger door and went in the office. Owner asked "What'd I say I'd pay for that?" I gleefully proclaimed " 50 bucks!" He said "gotta quit quoting over the phone." Took a cab to the Euc and bought rounds.

philbilly said...

Erin, I may have crossed paths with your Dad in the Bog, but like the 60's, if you remember it, you weren't there. I do remember watching one cold ass Formula One race, 1975, I think, where it poured rain, temps in high 40's. The cool thing about Formula One is that they just switch to rain tires and keep racing. Formula cars operate with upside down airfoils in those fat side pods, so instead of lift like an airplane, they generate downforce, sucking the car to the ground. It was spectacular flow-visualization that day, torrents of mist being ejected from the rear tunnel exits, little tornado vortices dancing at the wing tips, and 30-foot rooster tails off the tires. We were sitting in tree branches a half mile away, and could still feel the ground shake. We warmed up at night next to the infamous vehicle bonfires in the Bog.

I recommend getting out to Lorain County Speedway this summer to watch the Super Modifieds run, pure unadulterated American open wheel racing.

Erin O'Brien said...

Phil, I love both those suggestions. Nelson Ledges in August sounds like sweaty heaven.

As for that mid-70's Formula One race, I remember Dad talking about a very very wet cold race in there somewhere.