PDR MECHANIC WALTER HUFF CONCLUDES 33-YEAR MOTORSPORTS CAREER THIS WEEKEND AT NAZARETH NAZARETH, Pa. (April 25, 1998) - - When Walter Huff began his motorsports career, the one thing he couldn't have predicted is that it would span over...
PDR MECHANIC WALTER HUFF CONCLUDES 33-YEAR MOTORSPORTS CAREER THIS WEEKEND AT NAZARETH
NAZARETH, Pa. (April 25, 1998) - - When Walter Huff began his motorsports career, the one thing he couldn't have predicted is that it would span over 30 years. But after over three decades in racing, this weekend will hold a special place. Nazareth is where Huff, who is the head mechanic and powertrain specialist for the PDR Enterprises/Water Joe Racing team, has decided to quietly step aside from his life long passion of racing. Although his future plans will revolve around power and speed, he leaves racing content in the knowledge that he always gave his best effort, but thankful to all who helped him forge an unforgettable career.
"The type of people that racing attracts is probably the main reason I wanted to be in the sport," said Huff. "Racing has enriched my life. Few other things in my professional life have been as satisfying as seeing my handiwork end up on a podium. Those are the rewards I have enjoyed." Huff's passion for racing can be traced to his mother, Diana, who was "as big a race fan as there could be." Huff's stepfather, Hart Fullerton, was also instrumental in Huff's development years as Fullerton had a deep interest in motorsports and many friendships throughout the sport.
"I was fortunate enough to be around racing as kid and that deeply influenced my direction in life," said Huff. "Times are so different now. For instance, I came from an era where drivers licenses weren't issued to anyone under 21. Race car drivers weren't exempt. In order for me to get behind the wheel of a race car before I was 21, I had to become an emancipated minor. I did that when I was 20 years old." Huff has rubbed shoulders with many of Indy car's elite past including Johnny Parsons, Pancho Carter, Andy Linden, and Roger Ward. "In fact, I used to sweep the floors at Halibrand Engineering in Culver City (Calif.) after school with Roger Ward," said Huff. "In those days, drivers only got paid when they raced the cars. You survived on odd jobs. The one thing you could count on was you knew who your friends were."
Huff began his professional engineering career 33 years ago developing and building engines for Shelby American. Under the watchful supervision of Shelby engineer Ryan Falconer, Huff built engines for a range of cars including Cobras, GT-40's and GT-350 Mustangs.
"I was fortunate to work with some of racing's finest engineers of the day," remembered Huff . "I worked with Irmy Omerso, who was one of the best Indy car mechanics in the business, and Ryan Falconer, who was literally an engineering genius. Falconer played a significant role in the development of the Novi Indy car."
Huff's primary "behind-the-wheel" experience came during a 10 year period between 1965 and 1974 when he raced Formula II, Formula Libre, F & G Production, B Sports cars, USAC Midgets, and CRA Sprint cars.
In 1974, Huff teamed with famed engineer and driver Don Devendorf at Electromotive where he was responsible for the development and maintenance of engine driveline components for Devendorf's Datsun B-210 race cars and Brad Frizell's IMSA GTU 260Z. Devendorf won the C-Sedan Championships in both 1974 and 1975.
Huff created his own race shop in 1976. Special Interest Automotive (SIA), of Sylmar, Calif., specialized in race car preparation, product design, car development, and testing. SIA won pole positions in a variety of SCCA Endurance and IMSA Firehawk events. During SIA's 12-year run, no cars prepared and serviced by SIA at the track failed to finish a race due to mechanical problems. SIA's clientele included Tilton Engineering and the Nissan Competition Department.
Huff changed paced during the 1986 race season when he served as co-crew chief for one of Elliott Forbes-Robinson's and John Schneider's Performance Motorsports Buick-powered Trans-Am cars. The following season, he was crew chief and team manager for American Instrument Racing while campaigning a Nissan 300ZX Turbo in SCCA endurance events. Huff moved into Indy cars in 1988 with Fisher Engineering where he became one of the primary engine developers for the Buick Indy car program. In addition to building Buick race engines for the two-car Buick entries in the 1988 Indianapolis 500, Huff also coordinated engine building and a testing program for NASCAR and IMSA clients.
Huff's crowning accomplishment with Fisher Engineering was when he assembled the first Buick Indy motor to run and survive a 500-mile simulated Indy car test in February 1988 on the McLaren dyno. He was awarded a plated piston in recognition of accomplishment.
"The key has always been to associate yourself with winners," said Huff. "Luck has played its role but I have always believed that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. I think it's a life lesson you have to live by. You never know when opportunities will arise but when they do, you can only blame yourself if you're not ready to grab them."
He returned to American Instrument Racing for a three-year stint as team manager and crew chief. AIR prepared the IMSA GTU Nissan 240SX for noted engine builder and driver Don Reynolds. As an aside with AIR, Huff developed the prototype "executive performance driving" program for Nissan Motor Corp., USA. He also created the "arrive and drive" racing program which was designed to train celebrities and other non-professional drivers for their first amateur races. Acclaimed actress Marsha Mason was one of Huff's first celebrity clients. Huff rejoined Fisher Engineering as a dynamometer technician and engine consultant for customers that included Dale Earnhardt Enterprises, race truck drivers Rick Carrelli, Ron Hornaday, and more, Huff joined PDR Enterprises and driver Michael Todd David in 1995. "PDR ran an advertisement in January of 1995," said Huff. "Former PDR crew chief Tony Woodford, who once worked for me in 1985 as a welder, called me up and said I should look into PDR. It looked like an ideal opportunity and that's how it has turned out to be. However, I feel its time to move on. I don't plan to quit working but I feel the best thing for me, my wife Gale, and our children is for me to look to a new direction. Motorsports has given us a good life." Speed and action don't appear to be drifting far from Huff. In fact, he may be headed to more powerful, louder, and expensive engines. "I'm looking at other business options, but one that has caught my attention is working with twin-turbo charged water-cooled V-8 aircraft engines. These engines are primarily used in the private sector of the aerospace industry." The post-racing era for Huff will be absent of concrete walls and pit stops, but his need for speed may again settle him within the cutting edge of technology.
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