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History of the PRDA

How To Change History Just By Talking About It

Founding Fathers of the PRDA

[Brad] A good cop knows eyewitness accounts are not very reliable. So you are well advised to take this first person account of the creation of the Polish Racing Drivers of America with a degree of skepticism.

That disclaimer aside, here is how I remember it. We were in Daytona Beach, Fla., Tony Adamowicz for the 24 Hour race; me to race in a pair of IMSA-sanctioned Formula Vee races. For money!

One evening in the week before the race, Tony and I were seated in the meeting room of a downtown hotel, members of the “studio audience” for a radio show hosted by Rick Holt, the debonair P.R. guy for Gulf Oil. The son of early Hollywood cowboy film star Tim Holt, Rick was almost too perfect for the task. After all, he was good looking enough to be on television.

But, this was radio and Rick appealed to both of us to be there as he helped promote Gulf’s participation with the John Wyer Porsche team in the annual madness that was and is the Daytona endurance classic.

It turns out that Holt, whom both Tony and I knew because of his work in the Can-Am series for the Gulf-sponsored McLaren team, had a big surprise in store for us. It came about something like this:

“I am pleased to introduce to you tonight,” Holt intoned into the microphone, “two of the three founding members of the Polish Racing Drivers of America.”

The what?

Rick invited us to the microphones at the front table and we proceeded to tell really bad Polish jokes for the next hour, and to apologize for the absence of the third member of our supposed PRDA-founding trio, Oscar Koveleski.

When the broadcast ended, Tony and I agreed that Holt had a pretty nifty idea and that we should phone Oscar without delay. We called him. He agreed to be a part of what all three of us – with some minor misgivings – could be a lot of fun.

[Tony] Brad, I know we have discussed this before, however Feb. Daytona 1970 public radio show announcement with Rick Holt. Rick, You and I sort of let the cat out of the bag sooner than expected.

The original PRDA concept as I recall started in my apartment in Torrance , Ca. in Dec . right after winning my 1969 Continental Championship with my Gurney Eagle F 5000 car. I had contacted Oscar with my hand drawn version of the PRDA emblem & presented the Polish Racing Drivers of America CONCEPT to Oscar. My thoughts were that Oscar's Auto World company, was a natural promotion machine with the AW mailing list to bring forth such a PRDA idea, club membership, etc.

[Brad] Actually, I was not worried about Oscar’s enthusiasm for the idea. He was, after all, known as the “clown prince of the Can-Am series.” He would, and did, do anything for a laugh. And I, as a shameless publicity type, had nothing to lose, image-wise, either.

I thought Tony might, however. After all, he was a serious race driver with championship credentials and the need to appear worthy of sponsor support if his career was to continue. American business does not generally embrace ethnic humor, after all. At least it didn’t in the early 1970s.

But, onward we plunged. Most of the organizing work was split between Oscar and I because Tony lived way out on the West Coast. We came up with a logo (designed in Brooklyn, if it matters), put out press releases and developed a plan to solicit memberships.

The first PRDA Newsletter.  Volume 1 No. 1.

[Tony] Oscar of course knew you Brad and your abilities with promoting the Can Am and Johnson's wax sponsor. He contacted you, Brad. This was before I met you or knew you. I think our first together meeting might have been at the ? NY auto show ? Between You and Oscar , the PRDA logo was refined and the initial costs curtailed producing the patch, stickers and membership card was handled and paid for by AW. Brad, Your PR cleverness in writing impute created the PRDA membership qualifications....the rest is history.

Prior to Daytona 24 1970, I had been contacted by Mike Michener a junior partner in the Michener Patrick petroleum Indy race team to drive at the Indy 500, with team mate Johnnie Rutherford in especially prepared Michener/Patrick Eagles. I of course would be a rookie being groomed as Indy 500 rookie of the year.

I had asked Oscar and You, that the PRDA not be brought into prominence Until after the Indy 500, because I was concerned it would not be an asset for me in the professional world of motor racing circles. This story leads into my participation at Indy.

 

[Brad] The results were pretty staggering. The New York Times did a feature story on us. More than 3,000 fans mailed in real money to join the PRDA. And then we got “the letter.”

It was from Danny Zack, who described himself as the world’s only Polish Ferrari dealer. “We have to talk,” his letter said. “Please call me.”

Zack’s Ferrari/Chevrolet/Honda dealer complex was already active in racing, sponsoring “Jungle Jim” Lieberman’s IHRA Funny Car and providing support for John Greenwood’s SCCA Trans-Am Corvette team.

[Tony] Some how keeping the PRDA concept out of the Motorsports Press inquiring minds was more difficult to accomplish. Rick Holt and his radio show made an Official Announcement of the PRDA in Daytona. The idea was Too Good not to talk about.

The first PRDA Newsletter.  Volume 2 No. 1.

When I was at Indy for my rookie indoctrination, I was approached many times by the motorsports press regarding the PRDA. I of course had no comment on such a spook as the PRDA, virtually not acknowledging it nor denying it either. Remember being a part of the Indy 500 back in the days was a huge race career opportunity for anyone. As far as I know , I was the very first Polish Racing Driver to be at the Indy 500. Donald Davidson, Indy 500 historian can probably verify this.

[Brad] So, the PRDA was not a sponsor-killing idea after all. It might even turn out to be a sponsor magnet, we thought.

Well, not so much, as it turned out. You’ll find more of the story in other pieces on this website. We’re glad you’re here.

[Tony] I didn't want to screw things up by some joking Polish guys goofing around. The sporty car SCCA racers were not well accepted in Indy 500 circles, the way a SCCA rookie was treated back then by the USAC Establishment was often time rude and downgrading. If they could have given you a Beanie Cap with a Propeller on Top to wear for the month, they would have, if the officials had the where with all to think of the idea.

My intro to the PRDA had nothing to do with what happened at the Indy 500 qualifying. It had to do with the USAC chief steward official Harland Fingler and AJ Foyt getting together to keep me out of the 500. I learned recently last year at the Pomona, AWRBA banquet from a prominent ambassador of racing, who relayed the story to me at the Since this person still is a major part or racing circles, I won't mention the name, that could cause some embarrassment or reflect on the integrity of the person. I could get permission to do so....

Founding Fathers of the PRDA Today.

[Oscar] As PRDA Member # 310 Paul Newman once said something like, "Happiness is having good health and a poor memory... " I think most will want to know what's happening NEXT!

Instead of a Space Ship landing on earth with friendly aliens aboard that would change the world ......Three friendly Polish Racing Drivers born in the USA arrived in a Chevy Van at the New York Auto Show in their racing suits and didn't change much.Together they formed the PRDA, tried a number of events, some great and some failures. That didn't matter...thousands of racers and race fans world wide would join anyway...at $3 a lifetime membership how could you go wrong!

When PRDA's Official drivers were racing in USA and Canada in those formative years...many of the 6000 plus members showed up at the races...at car shows..... bringing food and drinks.....helping run events. They became brothers and sisters....some even got married.....(we married a couple in the Auto World Can Am McLaren at Watkins Glen!) . PRDA members made the PRDA what it was then.....and will make it what it will be now.......by going to the races.....meeting new people and making new friends....or finding a wife or husband......or getting behing the wheel of a race car......Round 1 is over. Checkered Flag. Thanks for the memories! Round 2 is just starting ......Geen Flag!!!