For Auld Lang Syne
By: Chris Romano
Before you know it the Chili Bowl will be upon us. Before we hurtle into the new year, let us pause to remember those who left us in 2006.
It was a tough year for Indy 500 veterans. Jack Beckley, ace mechanic to drivers like Bobby Marshman and Jack McGrath, who later became a long time USAC official, left us at age 87. Len Sutton, one of the true gents of this game, a three time winner on the championship trail and a second place finisher at Indy in 1962 passed away at age 81. Those in the Racing History newsgroup at Yahoo will especially miss Len. We could log on and talk to a bona fide hero, who never lost his common touch. Mike Magill, a three time Indy entrant died at age 86, while Bob Veith, who raced at Indy eleven times, and made a career out of midgets and sprints, passed on at 81.
Midget men Ed Watson and Gene Genetten left us this year. Gene died in a boating accident after a lifetime of racing midgets. Ron Erfurth, the 1964 Badger midget champion also passed on. 1945 BCRA champ and promoter Bob Barkheimer took his last checkered flag. And how can we forget Johnny Coy, Sr., 4 time ARDC champ, iron man of midget racing who won multiple 500 lap events at Islip on his native Long Island.
The northeast lost their fair share of legends this year. Three time Riverside Park champ Buddy Krebs died at age 74. Beech Ridge veteran Phil Libby left us, as did Fonda champion Maynard Forrette, at age 69. The Frito Bandito, Bobby Santos, Sr., died recently at age 69. Mention Norwood Arena and you think of the three guys who owned it; Bill Slater, Leo Cleary, and Santos. He and Art Barry teamed for a bazillion Modified victories until Santos' forced retirement in 1973. Jack Arute, Sr. took a rundown half mile at Stafford Springs and turned it into one of the nation's showplaces. Mike Joy put it best when he said that no one in the history of Modifieds ever did as much for the division.
Stock cars lost Richard Brooks, the journeyman Winston Cup driver who won at Talladega in 1973, of a heart attack at age 63. NASCAR pioneer Louise Smith left us at age 89, while veteran ARCA driver Jack Bowsher and 1968 USAC stock car champ died at age 75. Busch series hopeful Spencer Clark, with so much promise, was cruelly taken from us in a road accident at age 19. Late in the season Super Late Model standout Charlie Bradberry died in a highway crash at just 24 years of age. Bill Gazaway, former NASCAR Director of Competition passed on at age 74. Bob Brooks died suddenly at age 69. Most of the world knows him as the founder of Hooters restaurants, but he was a friend to racing and also founded the phenomenally successful USAR Procup series. Bob was no stranger to sorrow in his life, losing a son in 1993 in the plane crash that claimed Alan Kulwicki, who took the Winston Cup Championship the previous year sponsored by Bob's restaurants. Pro Stock drag racer Scott Geoffrion died of a heart attack at 41.
It was not a good year in open wheel. World of Outlaws founder, the flamboyant Ted Johnson lost a long battle with cancer at age 72. Paul Dana, just 30, was killed in a practice crash for the IRL race in Miami. Roger Schuur lost his life in a vintage sprint car at Knoxville at age 61. Steve King, 33, died in a crash during one of the Knoxville Nationals preliminaries, and a fortnight later Joe Rebman, 21, lost his life in a sprint car at Mansfield. Fred Brownfield, founder of the National Sprint Car Tour, was killed when struck by a Modified at Grays Harbor Raceway.
Internationally we lost Shekhar Mehta, who died at age 60 after a brief illness. He won the African Safari rally five times. French playboy Johnny Servoz-Gavin won the 1969 Formula Two championship and was teammate to Jackie Stewart in 1970 when he abruptly quit after practice at Monaco. He survived most of his colleagues of the era and died this year at age 64. Guido Dacco drove everything, from sports cars to Indy cars, died this year at age 62. All of Australia mourned when Pete Brock, nine time winner at Bathurst's Mt. Panorama circuit, was killed when he crashed in a vintage rally at age 61. Mark Porter died in a crash at Bathurst just a month later at age 28. Erwin Kremer, together with his brother, made so many Porsche engines sing, left us this year, and co-founder of McLaren International Creighton Brown died after a long career in the sport. We bid a fond, and sad farewell to Clay Regazzoni, five time Grand Prix winner whose career ended in a brutal crash at Long Beach in 1980. We'll not see his kind again. He drove for the sheer joy of it, and after his paralyzing injuries founded a driving school for those with similar injuries. Never complaining, Clay still raced occasionally, and died in a traffic accident in Italy at age 67.
The fourth estate lost Geoff Goddard at age 74, a photographer of Formula One and the European sports car circuit from the 1950's to the 70's. His book, Track Pass, should be on your shelves. Long time National Speedsport News contributor Beryl Ward passed on at age 91. Bob Milner, official photographer for the ASA Late Model Series and longtime official died suddenly at age 63. And Speedway Scene, the paper of record for racing in the northeast closed it's doors after 35 years. Yours truly, and countless others began their writing careers at the little paper. Publisher Val LeSieur was as crazy as he was gutsy, and every week countless thousands waited by their mailbox for his equally crazy collection of columnists. We now live in age where racing results are instantly available by the Internet, and where damn near everything is on TV. Some may call that progress, but if the price is little publications like Val's, I question how far we've come.
The real estate market claimed some little tracks this year. Stockton 99 will no longer roar in California, Wisconsin lost Lake Geneva Speedway, and Memphis Motorsports Park bulldozed their dirt track to create more parking for their superspeedway.
And what will we do without Marvelous Moe Tweedie. I saw Moe flip a car down the backstretch at Beech Ridge. I missed him taking out the starter's stand at Westboro, but I was there for God knows how many shows at the little bullring at Hudson, NH. Never politically correct Moe raced with a blow-up doll in the passenger seat, a mannequin's head affixed to his roof, and was never afraid to give you the fender if you gave him one. If anyone had more fun in this sport, I have yet to meet him. He left us all too soon this year at 61.
We raise a glass to these friends, grateful for the time spent with us, warmed by so many memories. I submit this to you, as I do each year, asking not to dwell on their passing, but oh, how they lived. We remember them all, for Auld Lang Syne.
Best wishes for a happy New Year - Chris Romano