Lap 29

 

Driven by the need for more speed, I suppose, Bunky had given up running his Showroom stock 240 Z in CP. The only time he drove it in competition was the race after our driversí school. Like me, he knew he wanted to go racing and acquired a D Production Triumph TR-4 soon after the driverís school weekend.

Bunky did quite well in the Triumph and won the Midwestern Council DP championship in 1973. I brought a few bottles of champagne along the first weekend we suspected Bunky would clinch the championship. But he didnít and I wound up having to take it home again. The second time I brought the champagne along not only did Bunky clinch the championship, he won the race.

Bunky receives his trophy from Denny as Big Al looks on

I brought the champagne into the Mechanicís Lodge where the post race trophy presentation/beer bash was being held. As Bunky was called to the front by Denny to collect his first place trophy, which clinched the class championship, we all cheered.

As he returned to our table, we popped the corks on the champagne bottles and poured out the bubbly. This was a historic moment since one of our own was truly a champion! This was one of the few times we held off on the free beer offered by the host club and toasted Bunkyís championship with the champagne. But once the champagne was gone, we switched to the free beer.

Bunky, Liz and Mike as we toast his DP Championship

There are two occasions from that season that I remember well. The first was the night Jimmy and I went out to Dixon to help Bunky get ready for the first race of the season. Bunky kept the car in a shed on his parentís farm. Over the winter, some mice decided that the Triumph with the number 55 on it looked like a nice place to live. The first order of business was to evict the mice.

As usual, we ran into problems, and things were taking a lot longer than we expected. I worked on changing brake shoes and adjusting the brakes while Bunky and Jimmy worked on the engine. Finally, around three in the morning, I went into the house to get some sleep because I planned to work corners the next morning. Bunky and Jimmy said they could finish up and continued to work on.

I got up around 6:30. Bunkyís mom was up, as she usually was by that time, and working in the kitchen. His father was already out doing chores in the barn. Bunkyís mom told me that Bunky and Jimmy had finished working on the car and were sleeping. She offered to make me some breakfast, which I regretfully declined. I thanked her for putting me up for the night, said good-by and headed for Blackhawk and the workerís meeting.

I was assigned to work as Captain in corner seven and headed out to my station. The morning practices were quite eventful and I had a lot of action in my corner. I was somewhat surprised when the group including DP came out and Bunky was missing. I figured they had not quite finished the car and were late because of that.

I really got suspicious when the DP group came out for their second practice a few hours later, and still no number 55 in the field. Now I was worried something might have happened to them. After all, we had thrashed on the car all night just so Bunky could race that day and he was still missing. Something was wrong.

The first race of the day was for Formula Vee. The field was still closely packed when they came into corner seven on the first lap. As I watched them come into the corner, I saw a nosecone fly up into the air. I could plainly see the number on it and recognized it as belonging to my buddy, Don. He had bumped the rear tire of the car ahead of him under braking and it tore the carís nose off and threw it into the air. I watched it flipping in the air as the field passed beneath it. I was positive it would come down right over some unsuspecting Vee driverís head. Fortunately, it landed just off to the side of the track.

The pace lap for the DP group came by and I eagerly looked for Bunkyís number 55 at the back of the pack where he would have to start after missing both practices. He was not there. Now I was really worried. It was not like Bunky to miss a chance to race. When I got home that night, I called him to find out what had happened to them. I was somewhat relieved when he answered the phone. I asked him what had gone wrong with the car. "Nothing," he said, "we just decided we were too tired to go." That was the last time I would spend most of the night working on any of Bunkyís cars!

Bunky won a few races that year, but I was usually out working on a corner so Jimmy who always crewed for him would ride with him on his victory lap. That was the year when I was Race Chairman for the Grattan race. I decided my duties would allow me enough time to crew for Bunky along with Jimmy. Bunky managed to win his race, even with my help. Jimmy and I piled into the car for the traditional victory lap. Well, Jimmy piled in and I jumped on.

There was no passenger seat in the car, but Jimmy, who was now an experienced victory lap rider, climbed into where it would have been and sat on the floor. I sat on the back of the car and was holding on to the roll bar. As we started out, I was waving the checkered flag they gave us. I soon stopped waving the flag and was hanging on to the roll bar for dear life. Bunky apparently thought the race was still on and he was screaming around the track. I was just screaming.

When we came in from our victory lap, I nearly had to have someone help pry my hands off the roll bar. The chief steward came over and gave Bunky a butt-chewing about reckless driving on the pace lap. At the next Council contest board meeting, they passed a new rule banning multi-person riders on victory laps. After that, victory laps were limited to only one person in addition to the driver and that person had to be in the car - not on it as I had been. After my harrowing ride, I thought this was a sensible rule.

At that race, Jimmy and I also agreed to crew for Mayday Mary, who was there alone with her FV. She was trailing the whole field and had been lapped by the leaders twice. As she came onto the front straight to begin what would be her last lap, Jimmy and I held up her pit board. On it we had written, "Make your move now!" Mayday darn near hit the pit lane guardrail because she was laughing so hard. OK, she was slow but what the heck, she was having fun and again, that is what amateur racing is all about.


My younger brother Greg had caught the racing bug from me as well. He joined Chicagoland and was soon working corners with the rest of us. I recall one morning when Liz, Bunky, Jimmy and I were having breakfast in the restaurant at the South Beloit Holiday Inn before we headed for Blackhawk. We were not very eager to leave for the track due to the monsoon conditions outside. Rain was just pounding down and, on top of that, it was cold.

Greg walked up to our table and said good morning to everyone. I asked him if he was going to work corners that day, despite the rain. Bunky had already said he was going to skip it. Greg smiled and said, "Sure, got my rain gear right here." He held out a little plastic package about the size of a pack of cigarettes. We laughed and said we were not sure that would be of much use. He said that the package had both a raincoat and pants.

We got to the track and at the workers meeting I was assigned to be captain in corner six. Liz and Greg were also assigned to that corner. When we got out to corner six, Greg opened up his package of rain gear and, sure enough, there was a raincoat and pants in there. Greg stuck his foot into one of the pants legs, and the whole leg tore right off. Liz and I laughed and said, "We told you so!" Greg shrugged and said, "Well, at least I still have the jacket." Of course, he tore the arm right out of that when he tried to put it on. So much for his rain gear! We still made use of it, by tearing it to pieces and wrapping our feet in the plastic to help keep them dry.

The weather conditions were so bad that day that I told all my workers to stay in their cars and come running if they saw something happen. I stayed on the corner with the flags and had the rest take turns manning the phones. I saw no reason for all of us to be miserable out there, especially when there were only a few brave souls circling around the track in those conditions anyway.

Naturally, Greg soon decided to go racing as well. Bunky lent him his DP TR-4 for driverís school and a race. Unfortunately, Greg spun out exiting corner three at Blackhawk and backed the TR-4 into the wall, causing some heavy damage to the car. This put Gregís racing plans on a back burner for a while as all his racing money went to Bunky to repair the TR-4.

Finally, he had paid for the damage to Bunkyís car and bought a racecar of his own. Of all things, it was a Datsun 510 Sedan, which in Council raced in S3. The odd thing about this car was that it was a four-door. Four-door cars are not usually turned into racing cars because they are heavier and the chassis is not as stiff due to the opening for the second set of doors. I finally got to race a 510 when Greg and I co-drove his car for Chicagolandís Loooong Race.

The Author in Gregís four door 510

While Greg liked the 510, he wanted to go faster and soon bought a yellow Chevy Camaro that he raced in A Sedan. Greg turned out to be a pretty good driver and was soon in love with the big cars. His racing in this car was not without incident either. One race, as he was coming into corner seven at Blackhawk, a couple of cars spun in front of him and threw up a cloud of dust. Greg assumed it was a one-car incident since he could see the car off on the inside of the corner. Just as Greg entered the corner, the breeze blew away the cloud of dust and there was a second car sideways in the middle of the track, with the driver climbing out.

To avoid hitting this guy, Greg took his Camaro straight off across the runoff area and into the brush across the track. Nicky was one of the workers in corner seven and saw Greg go airborne, and then disappear. The captain sent Nicky to Gregís aid, so he ran across the track and followed the path that Greg had plowed through the brush. Then, at a little rise, the path ended, but there was no yellow Camaro to be seen.

Greg was traveling at a pretty good clip when he left the track. When he hit this little rise in the terrain, his car went airborne and flew over the brush several feet before coming back down and proceeding on till he hit the creek. Nicky was in a panic because he could not find Greg. As Greg climbed out of his car he heard Nicky calling, "Greg! Greg! Are you dead?" Disgusted as Greg was, when he heard Nicky, he had to laugh and shouted back "No, I am not dead!" Nicky replied, "I am happy about that, but where the heck are you? Your track has disappeared!" "I am in the creek," Greg said. "There is a creek out there?" Nicky asked.

It took awhile to extricate Gregís car and it was generally agreed that this was the farthest anyone had ever gone off corner seven. This record lasted a few years until Karen went off in a FV and found a second creek! Until then, no one even knew there was a second creek out there.

Copyright © 2006 by Terry Aasen

 

Back ] Up ] Next ]