Rolex Drivers Share Thoughts on Halloween Before Sunday's Season Finale at Fontana FONTANA, Calif., Oct. 26 - With the international flavor of the Grand American Rolex series, differences in language, cuisine and customs often crop up. One...
Rolex Drivers Share Thoughts on Halloween Before Sunday's Season Finale at Fontana
FONTANA, Calif., Oct. 26 - With the international flavor of the Grand American Rolex series, differences in language, cuisine and customs often crop up.
One such time will be on Sunday, when the series' season finale at California Speedway falls on Halloween, one of America's most popular holidays.
When several Rolex series drivers were asked for their favorite Halloween memories, the answers varied across the board. It seems that a holiday featuring jack-o-lanterns, witches, ghosts, skeletons, parades and trick-or-treating is not universal.
Forest Barber of Fort Worth, one of the winning drivers of the Bell Motorsports/Feeds the Need Racing Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Pontiac No. 54 at this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona, has two young daughters who enjoy dressing up in costumes for Halloween.
"Mary, who is 8, is going as a princess this year, and Ally [Alexandra], who is 9, is going as an angel," Barber noted, adding "Quite apropos!"
Barber is delaying his trip to Fontana so he can participate in a Halloween parade that the school the girls attend will hold on Friday.
"I have a terrific 'Jack Skellington' costume from Tim Burton's 'A Nightmare Before Christmas' that I will be wearing in the parade," Barber added. "It will be a lot of fun. Halloween is a lot of fun. The hard part is resisting the urge to go through my girls' candy bags and sample the 'good stuff.'"
Christian Fittipaldi, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil who lives in Key Biscayne, Fla., will co-drive Barber's Kodak EasyShare car with Terry Borcheller of Gainesville, Ga., in Sunday's Lexus Grand American 400. The race will be televised live on SPEED beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. The two-hour-and-45-minute event starts at 1 p.m. local time, and will be over in plenty of time for Halloween night festivities.
"Unfortunately we don't celebrate Halloween in Brazil," Fittipaldi explained, but he likes the concept. "If I had to choose a costume, it probably would be all black, but with no weird masks and so on," he said.
Like Barber, Doran-Lista Racing driver Didier Theys has two young daughters who are excited about Halloween. Theys is a native of Nivelles, Belgium who has lived in Scottsdale, Ariz. for many years.
"For some reason I never seem to be home for Halloween," he noted. "I've always been traveling for some reason, like I'll be doing again this year.
"Halloween is starting to catch on in Europe, but it's not as much fun as it is here in the States," he added. "It's growing in popularity slowly. The next day, Nov. 1, is the Day of the Dead there, which is a day of mourning for people who have recently lost loved ones," he explained. "It's a solemn day, and not a party like it is here. But Halloween is growing slowly in Europe."
Theys' co-driver in the Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus No. 27, Jan Magnussen of Roskilde, Denmark, concurred.
"Halloween is starting to catch on in Denmark, but it will be a few years before it is as big there as it is in the United States," he said.
"I've been in the States at Halloween before, and really enjoyed it," Magnussen added. "I like the costumes and the way people do up their houses. It will be fun to be in California this year at Halloween to see it."
Fredy Lienhard Sr., another one of Doran-Lista's drivers and the father of the Doran-Lista driver who won here at Fontana in 2002 with Theys, said the same thing holds true for his native Switzerland.
"Halloween is becoming popular now also in Switzerland, but just years ago it was not known," said Lienhard, of Niederteufen. "Now the younger families are celebrating Halloween, quite similar to the way they do in the United States."
Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y. and Dacula, Ga., (yes, that's Dacula, not Dracula) and an American through and through, said he has some interesting Halloween tales but he wouldn't disclose them.
"My favorite Halloween stories wouldn't be printable," said Lally, who is the co-points leader in the Rolex series' Super Grand Sport (SGS) class with his TPC Racing co-driver, Marc Bunting of Monkton, Md.
"The others are pretty boring," added Lally, who also drives for Team Lexus in Grand-Am Cup. That series will hold a companion event to Sunday's Rolex series headliner on Saturday at 2 p.m.
One of his friends and fellow drivers, Spencer Pumpelly of Mason Neck, Va., thought of a tale he could tell. Pumpelly has been driving for TPC Racing in the Rolex series' SGS class and for G&W Motorsports in the Grand Touring (GT) class this year, as well as piloting a Race Prep Motorsports Porsche in the Grand-Am Cup series.
"Of course in college I waited until the last minute to get a costume, and ended up going as - you guessed it - a race car driver," Pumpelly related. "It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it wasn't too many beers into the night (or was it too many beers?) before one of my friends came to the realization that I was wearing fireproof clothing.
"You can guess what happened next," he continued. "A little WD-40 and a match, and I was the walking fireball, at least for 3 seconds before it got really hot and hard to put out.
"I didn't have any hair on my arm for several weeks, and I learned that just because you're not burned it doesn't mean that it wasn't hot," he added with a smile.
"Hopefully my favorite Halloween story will come from the Fontana race and the trip to Vegas that night for the awards party the next day," Pumpelly added. "The real question is what are Andy [Lally] and Mike [Johnson, TPC Racing's team manager] and I going as? The three amigos comes to mind."
One PR representative and journalist who covers the Rolex circuit and wants to remain anonymous recalled a rather unique costume from a Halloween past.
"Nick Fornoro Jr., a midget and supermodified driver, and his wife always go all-out for Halloween with a huge party at their home in Pennsylvania," she recalled. "One year I went to that as a bag of jellybeans. I taped together clear plastic dry-cleaning bags to form the bag, which went from my neck to my legs. I used colorful round balloons as the jellybeans. A big bow around my neck completed the ensemble.
"It was a great costume because it cost next to nothing and I was broke at the time," she added. "The only negative was that I couldn't sit down without breaking a jellybean or two."
California Speedway and the Rolex series drivers plan to get into the Halloween spirit in at least one way this weekend. The track intends to have a special Halloween treat available to children on a first-come, first-served basis at the end of the line at a special autograph session Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The autograph session is tentatively slated to be held near the VIP motorcoach area, east of the water tower, although fans should listen for public address system announcements for the most current information.
For more information on the Kodak EasyShare team, see www.feedstheneedracing.com. For more information on the Doran-Lista team, see www.doranracing.com. Series news can be obtained at www.grandamerican.com, while tickets and other information can be obtained on the track's Web site at www.californiaspeedway.com.