01/15/07 5PM- History of Auto Racing in PA - by Oscar Koveleski
Oscar Koveleski: When was the first time you drove a race car in a race.
Chris Economaki: March 1939.
Oscar K.: Where?
Chris E.: McCormick's Park. Ashley, PA. It wasn't a race track, it was a used car lot with night lights. They removed the used cars, to have the race.
The promoter was George Perluke. Next day they put the used cars they wanted to sell back on the lot.
Oscar K.: What type of race car:
Chris E.: It was a home built Midget with a motorcycle engine . Terrible vibration. Track was bumpy. He had no driver willing to drive it.
Oscar K.: How did it go?
Chris E.: I borrowed a helmet that was 3 sizes to big. It fell off early in the race and the guy behind me ran over it and ruined it.
Oscar K.: Your lucky your head wasn't in it! What else?
Chris E.: Don White owned the helmet and was upset. They cost $15. I paid him a back over a period of time, $1.00 at a time. It took awhile.
Oscar K.: Was that your first and last race?
Chris E.: Yes. There was a race track in Blakeslee, PA, corner of 940 & 115. I was their first announcer (Pocono Raceway is a few miles from this intersection).
Oscar K.: Was that the first time you announced a race?
Chris E.:.......please continue......
It didn't take me long after meeting Oscar for the first time to get my own "PRDA Worthy" story.
I was at the 40th anniversary party for McLaren Performance. The day was winding down, I had been following Oscar around trying desperately to keep up. I was pooped, but there was always one more person to talk to, make contact with, or photograph for Oscar.
I got a chance to get away to use the restroom so I took it. After doing my business, I somehow managed to drop my keys on the ground. When I bent over to pick them up, I heard a RRRRRRRIIIIIIIPPPPP! I had torn the crotch out of my pants from the bottom of my zipper to almost my wasteline in the back. A sinking feeling came over me. A breeze came under me.
Off to find Oscar. I knew I couldn't stay too long before someone would notice my predicament, most likely to laugh and point fingers as well. I had to find Oscar.
I finally found Oscar, and called him over to me. I told him what had happened, and his response was no less than "So what?"
I told him I needed to call it a day and go back to the hotel room. The day was pretty much done anyway.
"You can't leave yet, we still have work to do. Come on..." I followed him past several people, each of which he asked them if they had any Duct Tape.
"Oscar, I'm NOT Duct Taping my pants shut."
"It'll work! It'll be fine," Oscar said confidently.
This went on for some time, when Oscar finally decided we had done enough and could call it a day. I couldn't get to my car fast enough.
sigh... My first Oscar story. Hopefully not my last.
Brad To The Rescue
Most of my "racing" stories aren't anywhere near as interesting as Tony's or Oscar's -- after all, I never did much racing.
So most of my stories will be about beautiful women I've known.
The first to come to mind is Christie Brinkley. Actually, what comes to mind is that I came to her rescue.
It was in the pit lane on the weekend of the very first ever Detroit Grand Prix in 1982. It was Saturday and I was checking on things during the running of the Formula Atlantic support race.
Suddenly, as the old story goes, there arose such a clatter. A pit lane steward was attempting to eject someone who lacked the proper pass. The steward was a short, squat female with a very red face.
The ejectee was the tall, stunningly-blonde Ms. Brinkley. She tried to explain that she was part of the pit crew for her boyfriend's Atlantic entry and that she had mistakenly left her pass in the hotel room.
The steward was having none of that.
Exercising every bit of gracious authority I had as the Detroit Grand Prix Press Officer, I assured the pit steward that I would take care of things. Ms. Brinkley and I walked away from that unpleasant scene, arm in arm.
Dave Deal, famous wacky artist who's given us Deal's Wheels, Deal's Caricatures, the famous Revell model series, and many more important graphics, was chosen for this award for the following reason:
(Dave): Oscar? This is Dave Deal.
(Oscar): Oh, hi Dave.
(Dave): Well, I finally did it.
(Oscar): Did what, Dave?
(Dave): I flew my plane into a garbage truck in Mexico.
(Oscar): That's fantastic, Dave. How high was the truck flying?
Silence for a time from Dave. Finally...
(Dave): No Oscar, I was landing. I thought I was landing at this little airport in Mexico, when I was really landing on one of their streets. The garbage truck came out from a dump and wap! I hit the wing... more conversation... Oscar, I want to buy a membership for a friend of mine's wife.
(Oscar): Okay Dave. Why?
(Dave): Well she drove her car head on into a twin engine plane taking off from the Long Beach airport. She thought she was on the freeway.
(Dave): Honest. Check with the FAA.
(Oscar): Okay Dave. She's in.
Later, after hanging up...
(Oscar): Boy, what some people won't do to get in the PRDA.
[Oscar Koveleski] At the Can Am Pre Race Party at the first Road Atlanta Can Am 1970 thrown by Arthur Montgomery at his "club" (Pres. of Coca Cola who built and raced Dooling 61 gas powered tethered model race cars on a wire before RC) (his club had gold plated handles on the urinals and a attendant in a tux).
A "sloshing good time" was had by all and everyone spoke very freely.... (maybe even the punch was spiked?) My lady, my lover, my wife, mother of our four kids who handled our teams timing and scoring Elaine got into making a strange bet with the banker who bankrolled the track.
The track (for some unknown reason?) decided to rent a Can Am race car for the legendary stock car driver Lee Roy Yarborough to race us.
Apparently this "banker" guy liked to bet. Probably that's how he got into loaning money to build race tracks in the first place? My wife gave him 10-1 odds that I'd beat Lee Roy "Yabows" ass to which they agreed on.
Race day the track temp was 120 degrees and with 88 gallons of 130 octane heavily leaded fuel weighing 528 lbs were pumped into the bladders ( the fuel was so potent it burned your lips and nose inside ) so you could run 200 miles without pit stops.
Each gallon of gas is the equivalent of 6 sticks of dynamite or 528 sticks and it's good to know nobody does that anymore.
Nobody, then knew about cool suits, power steering or having a cool ice box with liquid cool drinks pumped into your mouth through a tube powered by a slot car Mabuchi motor! That came much later.
It was not the best race or the best of times for many but our team did well with a 4th place finish and $8000 winnings. I got out of my car and walked to the shower where all I did was "soak" under cold water then shoved Chapstick up my nose and put some on my lips. I drank about a gallon of water.
Back at the car, the banker showed up in his southern dress, white suit, tie, Panama hat and paid his debt to my wife Elaine. At 10 to 1 odds this is going to be good. It was great! He he paid her off in 10 $1.00 bills!
I asked her why she only bet $1.00. Her answer, I only had $2 in my purse. We're happily married over 50 years. She worked on the first Auto World catalogs- we did trade shows in USA, Europe- races in USA, Canada- we worked together, took our kids when we could and left them home when we couldn't.
Yellow Lighted out of the Indy 500
[Tony Adamowicz] I became the only person in the History of the Indianapolis 500 to have ever officially qualified under a yellow light condition. This yellow caution light brought upon one of the senior individuals who turned it on in turn one during my first qualifying lap.
"A careless USAC official manning the track lights in turn 1, failed to notice that Tony was given the green flag for his four lap qualifying run by the starter Pat Bedand. When Tony dove into Turn #1 at 225 mph, the fellow activated the yellow track lights! Everyone saw it.
Tony dutifully lifted and coasted through Turns 1 and 2. Then the green light flashed on for good, and Tony ran hard until receiving the checkered flag at the end of four laps. His first lap, ruined by USAC's error, was only 160.8 mph. The second lap was 166.8, the third was 166.4, the fourth was 164.8." - Gary Wheeler, Chief Designer, Dan Gurney's All American Racers, retired.
All efforts to have a re run was officially denied by USAC. I was bumped on the 2nd weekend of qualifying and became first alternate. First alternates never get to start the Indy 500, however are subject to all the festivities and drivers meetings, etc. After the last drivers meeting, Harland Fingler took me aside and told me that:" I would Never Race in the Indy 500 as long as he was around" Cold but True, I never got to race the 500, he was one SOB. I was the 2nd recipient of Jigger Seriois "the hard luck award" from the AWRBA for being "Yellow Lighted out of the 500."
For more detail on this story, visit the a2z Racer site.