Lap 9

 

They say there are three types of men: those who learn by reading, those who learn by observing, and those who have to barf on the electric fence for themselves. It would be easy to say that Bunky falls into the third category because he has done that, but it would not be true. Well yes, he did barf on an electric fence, but that is not the only way he can learn. Bunky really is a pretty intelligent guy, certainly smarter than me, but, well, Bunky is just Bunky.

Eric and I were still roommates in my sophomore year in college, but had moved from the freshmen dorm to the upper-classmenís dorm. While we were moving in, we met the guys in the room next door. They were Leon and a big burly guy with the unlikely nickname of Bunky. I must admit Bunky is the only guy I have ever heard of called Bunky. That alone makes him unique - and he certainly is.

To me, Bunkyís most endearing feature is his gullibility. We soon learned that pulling pranks on Bunky was like shooting fish in a barrel. He loved pulling pranks like most college kids do - but he was simply outclassed. His roommate was no help to him, because Leon loved a prank more than anyone, especially if he could turn it.

We had all read the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury and it became common for us to ask each other about trivial details from the book. Bunky got an idea for a prank and asked Leon if he could come up with some really tough questions from the book. Bunkyís plan was to challenge me to a Martian Chronicles trivia contest, but he would know the questions and answers because Leon would give them to him before the contest. Thus, he would blow me away and have a good laugh at my expense.

Leon loved the plan and agreed because he had a better idea. He came to my room and told me about Bunkyís scheme and we came up with the questions together. Shortly after that, Bunky came to my room and issued the challenge. I agreed and asked when he wanted to do it. He said Leon was coming up with the questions and would be done with them around eight. I guess he did not realize that I would never trust the two of them not to cheat.

As the hour approached, Leon was not done with the questions and answers yet. He told Bunky he was sorry but he had to study a bit. Now that should have raised a red flag for Bunky, since we all knew Leon never, ever studied. The timing was perfect as I knocked on their door just as Leon finished typing up the questions and answers. Of course, Bunky had not seen them yet but I had them memorized.

Bunky asked me to wait in the hall for a minute while he talked to Leon, apparently assuming I would see nothing suspicious about that. While I waited outside, Bunky was in a panic. He had not seen or read the questions yet and there was only one copy of them. Bunky asked Leon if he could remember all the questions. Leon told him, "Yes, I can, but I am not sure I can remember them in order." Bunky replied, "Thatís OK as long as I have this sheet with the questions and answers." This quick solution to Bunkyís problem in place, I was invited in for the contest.

Before the contest began Bunky said, "Ace," (Ace was my nickname in High School and College but Bunky, Eric and Ernie are the only ones who still use it) "I am sorry but I still have some studying to do so I hope you donít mind if I do so during our contest?" I said, "No thatís fine with me, I understand." And of course I did understand - he had to study the question and answer sheet!

The contest began with Leon asking a question that was near the bottom of Bunkyís sheet. It would figure that Leon would recall the last questions he had typed first, so Bunky thought nothing about it. He just tilted his head back in thought. I pretended to be deep in thought and watched his eyes as they returned to his "cheat sheet" and when he found the answer, he sat back and looked at the ceiling. At that moment, I called out the correct answer.

This scenario repeated itself for the next few questions. Soon Bunky dropped all pretext of studying and as soon as Leon asked the question, Bunky would scour the cheat sheet for the answer. As soon as I saw in his eyes that he had the answer, I would blurt it out.

Naturally, I blew Bunky away in the contest as I got all the right answers and he got nothing. Bunky was impressed and after I left the room, Bunky said to Leon, "Christ, just think what kind of grades he would have if he applied himself to his studies like that." Leon just smiled. It was not until many years later up at Bunkyís property on Washington Island that I told Bunky the true story about his attempted prank. I enjoyed that almost as much as the prank itself because, until then, Bunky did not know he had been had.

Bunky is also a big strong guy. I found out just how strong after Leon and I tried another prank on him. Bunky had the habit of throwing himself on his bed when he returned from class. Leon and I took the mattress off his bed and unhooked the springs that supported the mattress. This was not easy as the springs were stronger than we expected and we needed to use a pair of channel locks to undo them. When we were done, the mattress was supported only by its contact with the edge of the bed frame.

We waited expectantly in the room for Bunky to return from class. When he did, as we expected, he threw himself onto his bed. He and the mattress went straight to the floor. Bunky was mad, he jumped up and flung the mattress off. He then grabbed the springs we had struggled to remove and snapped them on one at a time with only one hand. In the face of this display of strength, I slowly made my way to the door and made my escape.

I would like to tell you that I always came out on top with pranks concerning Bunky, but that would not be the truth. In fairness to my good friend, I must tell this story.

A year after Bunky graduated, he decided to marry his college girl friend. The bachelor party was held at a bar in Naperville. Eric was not the only athlete in our room as I was on the cross country team and the track team. I was not very good, but good enough to make the team. At some point in the party, Bunky challenged me to a ten-lap race around the bar. Well, I may not have been all that good, but I knew I could beat Bunky at any distance.

So we went outside to race. Bunky and I stood on the start line and the rest of the guys were cheering for Bunky because, after all, it was his party. Even Eric was cheering for Bunky. The race began and, as expected, I jumped into the lead. Being a trained runner, I knew that looking behind you only slowed you down so I didnít. Besides, I was only racing Bunky and I knew I was ahead of him, so I just kept up a steady pace I was positive Bunky could not match for long. Each time we rounded the backside of the bar, the rest of the guys at the party would cheer Bunky on. After a few laps, I was amazed he was still there behind me.

What I did not realize is that the foot steps I heard behind me were not Bunkyís. Bunky was one of the guys standing there cheering. Turns out that on each lap, Bunky had another guy take over and run for him. I only heard someone running behind me and just assumed it was Bunky. Finally, I stepped into a hole and twisted my ankle and the race was over. Only then did I realize I was not racing just Bunky but all the guys at the party. Chalk one up for Bunky.

Bunky finished off the evening with a flourish. After the party at the bar, Bunky, Leon (who was his best man) and Bunkyís soon-to-be father-in-law, went to the Playboy Club in Chicago. Once there, Bunky promptly barfed all over the beautifully carpeted stairs. Leon said it was a hell of a mess, and funny as hell and I missed it. I did see him barf plenty of other times though, including the time he did it on the electric fence. Barfing became sort of a trademark of his. Camped up at Elkhart Lake, when I heard Bunky barfing in the morning, I knew it was time to get up and get ready to go to the track.

Bunky had been into drag racing while in high school and still holds a national record, primarily due to the fact that the class was disbanded shortly after he set the record. So it was only natural that I would invite him to go to Elkhart Lake with me for a race. I had been going up to Road America regularly for two years before finally, in 1969, I invited Bunky to join me. Bunky had never seen a road race and looked forward to our trip, especially after I told him about the partying that always took place.

My old friends, Jerry and Lynne (now his wife), joined us. We camped on top of the hill in farmer Millerís cow pasture in less than desirable weather conditions. The rain was absolutely pouring down, confining us to the interior of our tent. Bunky was concerned that water would get into the tent and soak his sleeping bag if he slept on the floor. He decided to sleep in a fold-up lounge chair he had brought along.

In the middle of the night, I heard what sounded like metal creaking, followed by a crashing sound. This was immediately followed by a string of curses from Bunkyís side of the tent. I grabbed a flashlight to see what the heck was going on. Bunky is a heavyset man and the lounge chair had collapsed under his weight. Watching him trying to extricate himself from the twisted up lounge chair, while turning the air in the tent blue with his language, was hysterical.

The weather improved and we had a great time watching the racing action in Canada Corner the rest of the weekend as part of a huge crowd with nearly 60,000 people in attendance. We saw Jerry Hansen win the feature for the second year in a row in his Lola T-160. Hansen led all 100 miles of the race. Due to a couple of cars being eliminated by accidents and spins, Jack Hinkle finished second, nearly a lap behind.

We also saw Formula Fords for the first time. Formula Ford had been started in England a few years before and had become very popular, so the SCCA decided to bring it to the U.S. It was soon very popular here as well and we would often see fields of 70 plus cars in the class at future June Sprints.

Bunky enjoyed it so much that he joined me at Road America for nearly all of the races after that. He, like me, was soon hooked and became a huge road racing fan. Bunky even joined Chicagoland Sports Car Club and became very active in the club and Midwestern Council as a corner worker. This common love of sports car racing really cemented the friendship we had formed in college. We remain to this day the best of friends while my other college friends including Eric, who has since moved to Dallas, Texas, have faded away.

Bunky joined us for the Road America 500, which took place the same weekend Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren landed on the moon. Eric and Ernie were there as usual but Tuna had a new girlfriend and opted to skip the race to spend time with her. Having met Kendra, I cannot say I blame him. Ernie had a new girlfriend as well. Her name was Karen and she was also a very fine looking lady. I just could not understand it. Heck, I was at least as ugly as Tuna and Ernie, how come I didnít have a beautiful girlfriend!

I introduced Bunky to everyone, of course he already knew Eric from college when we roomed next to him and Leon.

The first couple of years at Road America we had camped on the top of the hill in farmer Millerís cow pasture. When we arrived for the 500, we found out that he had decided not to open the pasture up for camping but told us his father had opened up a field for camping that was level and closer to the track. So we moved down the road to Old Man Millerís.

This turned out to be a much better place to camp anyway. The field was at the top of a hill overlooking a dairy cow pasture and Old Man Millerís farmhouse and barn at the bottom of the hill. The field was flat and dedicated to camping, so we no longer had to be careful where we stepped. Old Man Miller had even built an outhouse in the corner of the field with one side for boys and one for girls. He also ran a hose up from the farmhouse and connected it to a faucet on a fence post so there was running water to wash up with. That is assuming you did not mind washing up with cold water.

It was even possible to walk to the track from there if you wanted to. The main gate was only about a quarter of a mile away and we could see racecars going up the hill on the front straight from the field. There was another field available for camping right across the street from the main gate but it was usually crowded and not as level. We never did camp there. We did not need to because we were happy where we were, and Old Man Millerís field became our Road America home for years to come.

Old Man Miller turned out to be quite a character in his own right. He was a friendly old codger who loved to wander the campground and talk to the campers. And did he love to talk! He would talk your ear off and his favorite subject was his pacemaker. We camped there two to three times a year for several years and each and every time Old Man Miller would tell us about his pacemaker. He was pretty proud of that piece of medical technology.

Old Man Miller would have some of his grandkids manning the entrance to the field to collect the camping fee and that left him free to visit. We would hardly have our tents pitched before Old Man Miller would come by. His visits could be lengthy, especially if he had just recently had a new pacemaker implanted. We wanted to be polite, but saw no need to tie all of us up, so we quickly learned to take turns talking to him. Whenever we would spot him coming our way, there was always a quick debate as to whose turn it was to talk to him. Usually, over the course of the weekend, we all got a turn. A small price to pay for the cheap camping accommodations he provided for us.

Old Man Miller especially liked talking to Bunky, probably because they were both farmers and the rest of us just city slickers. The thing was, Old Man Miller could never remember Bunkyís name. How you could forget a name like that, I do not know. Bunky is a heavyset guy and wore a goatee that Old Man Miller decided made him look like Burl Ives. Often, when I was the first of our group to arrive, as I was paying my camping fee, Old Man Miller would walk up and ask, "Burl Ives coming?"


With the popularity of the Can-Am, the USRRC had become redundant since it was contested with the same type car but with smaller purses and no series sponsorship like the Can-Am. So for the 1969 season, the USRRC was rolled into the Can-Am, which was then expanded from six events to eleven. To help fill the gap, the Continental Series for F-5000 cars was also expanded and would fill the Road America 500 date.

The F-5000 cars were not suited for 500 mile races. They were essentially sprint cars, designed for races of 100 miles. Cliff Tufte still wanted to keep the RA 500 name, so he came up with a three-heat format for the event. The three heats of 100 miles were actually 12 miles short of 500 kilometers, but that did not seem to bother Tufte - or anyone else for that matter.

The F-5000 cars were now plentiful enough to support a race of their own, so the Formula B and C cars were split off into a separate series. They ran a 100-mile race of their own on Sunday morning. The race was won by Mike Eyerly in a Brabham BT-18. Not satisfied merely entering a car for someone else to drive, TV star Dick Smothers was now doing the driving and actually threatened Eyerly in the early going, running in second place until lap 13 when his Chevron blew a head gasket. I must admit I was impressed with his drive.

The F-5000 race boasted an entry of 30 cars. McLaren had recognized the popularity of the series and had built a new chassis for it. The McLaren M10 was possibly the best chassis in the series and there were five of them entered, including one for Peter Gethin, who was dominating the British F-5000 series. The other M10's were in the hands of George Eaton, Sam Posey, John Cordts and Jerry Hansen. John Surtees was also building his own racecars now and had two of his first efforts, the TS-5, entered. One was a works entry for David Hobbs. John Cannon and Tony Adamowicz had year old Eagles.

McLaren M10

In the first heat, John Cannon took the lead from the outside of the front row. Behind him, Hansen, starting from the second row, spun and was T-boned by Chuck Dietrich. Kurt Reinold then piled into the wreckage. Hansenís car wound up upside down and he was pinned in the car, but Reinold was somehow able to turn the car over and pull Hansen to safety. Amazingly, no one was injured.

Cannon went on the win the first heat despite relinquishing the lead to Gethin on lap 14. Gethin looked like a lock for the heat win but on the last lap, his ignition shorted out and Cannon went past to win the heat.

Gethin was leading on the last lap of heat two when, incredibly, he lost his ignition again, giving the heat win to George Eaton with Tony Adamowicz second. Adamowicz went on to win the third and final heat. With a fourth place in the first heat, a second and a first, Adamowicz was the overall winner. Demonstrating the power and speed of the F-5000 cars, Gethin set a new race lap record at 2:13.6, eclipsing Hulmeís record set in 1967.

Copyright © 2006 by Terry Aasen

 

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