Saturday, March 31, 2018

Buff and Shine go to Riverside

(Editor Note:  This Blog Post was the beneficiary of two articles written about the same event: one by Louie Figone in "VKA First Turn" and another by Francis Weir in "VROOM International Karting" magazine, March 2018.  Thank you Louie and Frank)

Last month was the 14th Annual Vintage Kart Reunion, held at the legendary Adams Motorsport Park in Riverside, California. Last year Shine, our 1961 Fox GO-Boy Kart, went to be shown and to make its maiden race entry.  It was a fantastic experience.

I enjoyed Shine so much that in September, 2017, for my 70th Birthday, Nancy bought me a third Kart, a 1961 Fox MAK-KART.  We purchased it from Tony Garbarino, a vintage Kart collector in the Bay area and named the kart "Buff".  It has twin McCulloch MAC-20 engines and is a replica of the poster Kart for its time.  Here is a photo of John Mullen (of Newport Beach, the owner of Buff prior to Tony -- Ron Cubel and Vince Hughes each had a hand in Buff's restoration) with Buff from a few years ago.

Here is the 1961 poster, courtesy of legendary Fox Kart Guru, Dick Teal:

Here are all three karts:  (l - r) Sparkle, Shine, and Buff.

This year we decided to take both Buff and Shine to Riverside.  Poor Sparkle had to stay home.  If you are curious about the inspiration for the names "Buff" and "Shine", please be sure to read all the way to the end of this post!

We entered Buff in the Friday afternoon judging for best restored rear-engine Kart.  Both Sparkle and Shine had won in previous events, but this year the competition was intense with 126 total Karts at Riverside.  Sadly, we came home empty-handed.  Sorry, Buff!

Tony Garbarino always brings impressive Karts.  Here is Tony (background, left) with his award-winning Kart, making a reunion with Buff at Riverside.  Tony won two awards: First Place for Restored Rear engine, and The People's Choice Award for his Restored Rathman Exterminator!

Friday night's activities started with a surprise birthday cake for Faye Pierson, legendary Karting figure, who will turn 90 in July and is still as active as ever.  Faye drove all the Heats in her class on Saturday in her Bug Kart (notice the Lady Bug on the cake!).

The Adams family hosted the Friday night dinner, followed by raffle drawings with lots of great prizes and the awards ceremony.  Special thanks to Scott Wigginton, Frank Weir, and Jack Murray for being the show judges.

On Saturday it was time for racing.  Last year we learned that "real" Kart racers wear white jeans.

Louie Figone wears white jeans!

 Tom Corso wears white jeans!

Some people wear white jeans with Piloti racing shoes that match the paint job of their Kart!

Buff's engines had not been run for many years, so Vince Hughes promised to help me go through them to get them ready for racing at the Bakersfield event in April.  So it was Shine's turn to run on the Riverside track for the second year in a row.  Last year I had a small mechanical issue (of my own making), but this year Shine and its two vintage West Bend 580 Five-Port engines ran great.

(Photo Courtesy of Jerry Imboden)

While I enjoy driving the Karts on the track, I get equal enjoyment in seeing the people who are so passionate about vintage Karting.  As a complete newcomer to Vintage Karting, I feel so fortunate to meet and get to know people who were there in the beginning of Karting and are still passionate about the sport today.  Here are a few of these great folks:

Frank Weir is a fellow Fox Kart enthusiast.  Every year Frank comes all the way from Ireland for the Riverside event.  I first met Frank in 2016 after an email introduction from Jim Donovan.  Frank saw his first Fox Kart in 1961/62 at the age of 14.  Before long, using savings from his summertime job harvesting potatoes (by hand, in Ireland) Frank had saved enough money (supplemented a bit from his Mom) to buy his first Fox Kart.  Frank has been involved in Karting his whole life -- I'll be writing more about his amazing history in a future blog post. You would think that Frank would get the "Long Distance Award" for coming to California from Ireland (about 5,200 miles), but you would be wrong!

 Peter Ward comes to the Adams Riverside VKA event every year from Victoria, Australia (about 7,900 miles from Los Angeles), and thus gets the "Long Distance Award".  Peter is another Karting legend.  He began by making his own engines and frames in Australia.  He placed 2nd in the Australian Championship in 1965, then with a new kart he purchased from Jerry Solt, Peter placed 1st in 1966 and came to the Adams Track at Riverside in 1967.  What history to have raced at this same track for over 50 years.

Over the next 10 years Peter won 11 National Championships.  Peter was the Australian Karting Association President from 1986 to 1996.  Peter has managed to store Karts and supplies in a storage place in the Los Angeles area allowing him to compete with the locals at Adams each year. 

In the photo below Peter is sitting with fellow Australian Bruce Barwick, who along with his brother Graeme, have joined Peter at Adams for the past few years.

Scott Wigginton owns a high-tech machine shop in Santa Clara California.  He brings a few meticulously-restored Karts to the VKA events.  Scott became involved in Karting because of his son, Adam.  Scott's friend, George Jelich asked Scott if he thought Adam, at the time 8 or 9 years old, would like a Kart.  Things snowballed from there, with Scott building replicas of classic Karts (including an amazing reproduction of the 1962 Go Kart 1200 that was featured in VROOM Magazine) and going to Vintage races with Adam from  Medford, Oregon to Riverside, California.  Adam's love for motorsports culminated in his May, 2017 graduation from the School of Engineering at San Jose State University. While at SJSU, Adam participated in the Collegiate Formula SAE car design and performance competition.  In July of 2017 his team finished 1st overall in engineering and design.

We always enjoy seeing Scott and Adam.  Scott was especially helpful to me during the restoration of Shine in sourcing some really rare parts.

Here is a photo of Adam at the National Collegiate Formula SAE Competition!  Like Father, Like Son.

Romero Llamas is a sports car, exotic car, and Kart enthusiast.  He escaped from Ohio for some nice California weather, and was able to secure a ride in a friend's Kart so he could join the Adams action.  Thanks, Romero for snagging a Corvette Racing shirt and for bringing it to me at Riverside!

Terry Ives is a machinist, engineer,  and mechanic from Granite Bay, California.  While walking home from a part-time job in 1958, Terry saw a yellow Carretta Kart sitting in the front yard of Tom McFadden.  Terry stopped to look at the Kart and ask a few questions and he was instantly hooked.  He has been Karting ever since (60 years)! 

Terry has something like 80 Karts.  Is that a world record?  We love visiting with Terry and his wife, Carol.

In case you think that Terry has lost the competitive drive, forget it!  I stopped by his trailer after one of the Riverside heats to see how he did.  I had noticed that he was leading a tightly packed group of racers.  As you can see in the photo below, Terry's floor pan came loose during the race.  Do you think he would slow down for a little thing like that?

My great friend, and mentor, Vince Hughes scored 1st Place in "Past Champion, Rear Engine" with his meticulously restored Wahlborg Bearcat with dual West Bend 700s.  More about Vince in the next Vintage Karting Post (he's helping me get Buff ready to race at Bakersfield in April)!  

Since this is a Corvette Blog, we have to weave Corvettes into each post in some fashion.  For 20+ years I have had a poster in my garage which advertises car detailing products.  I nick-named the poster ladies "Buff" and Shine"!  Nice looking 1959 Corvette, huh!?  It seemed to me that those were good names for some classic restored Fox Karts.  I hope you agree!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Dragster Dan

Readers of this blog will remember my drag racing friend, Dan Schrokosch, from Operation Corvette Rescue and removing the tank sticker from the one-owner 1967 427-435 Corvette.  

Dan has been interested in drag racing since he was 10 years old, when he attended his first race at the Carlsbad Raceway in 1969.  By the time he was a teenager, Dan was racing instead of watching.  Dan has driven and owned more race cars than you can count.  For the past eighteen years Dan has been successfully campaigning a vintage, engine-in-the-front, driver-in-the-rear, classic dragster.  Anyone who can strap 1,000 horsepower between their legs and go racing is a hero to me! Dan’s house is filled with trophies, including many “Wallys”  (see below).

In an era of “celebrity” racing, including NASCAR, NHRA, IMSA, and Formula 1, Dan is an anomaly.  Racing on a modest budget, using his own tools and equipment, financed by loyal, local sponsors, doing virtually all the mechanical work himself, and relying on friends and family to do all the race prep and pit work, Dan’s success is a marvel.

This month Dan has something very special to celebrate – another victory in Nostalgia Eliminator 1 (“NE1”) this time at the  2018 Good Vibrations March Meet in Bakersfield, California, his 4th victory at this venue.  Here’s the story:

Last weekend was the 60th March Meet – a West Coast drag racing event that draws a large number of competitors and spectators.  Until this past weekend,  Dan had won the March Meet event in NE1 three times, including being the defending Champion by virtue of his victory in 2017.  In NE1 the driver has a target time of 7.60 seconds, and getting your car to run as close to, but no faster than, that time is essential for victory.  Despite a rain-filled weekend Dan was able to qualify in the field of 31 NE1 cars in 3rd place with an impressive 7.623 time.  As qualifying moved through the day other drivers did well and Dan ended up qualifying 6th in the field.  Because it rained all day Saturday, eliminations couldn’t start until Sunday. 

Assisting Dan in the pits, and in prepping, towing, staging and retrieving the car were his long-time pit crew members Marcus Havens, and Dan’s wife, Kim.  With their help, on Sunday Dan was victorious over the #22 qualifier in round one.  The day grew dark and cold, but by Sunday night Dan was also victorious over the #10 qualifier in Round 2.  Unfortunately, Marcus needed to leave Sunday night to return to work, leaving Dan and Kim alone to continue the campaign. 

Kim is amazing!  She drives the truck, towing the dragster to the staging area, gets Dan settled in his racing suit and strapped into the car, starts the engine, gets Dan aligned at the starting line, watches him blast off, yells like a cheer-leader, jumps in the truck, races down the tract to retrieve Dan and the dragster, and tows him back to the pits.  Then she does it again in the next round!  Amazing!

The whole family is involved in the racing program.  Kim and Dan's son, Bohdi, age four, is already a drag race fan.  He has been joining Mom and Dad at the races since birth.  He now even has his own Junior Dragster. 

The weather on Monday returned to California beautiful and the continuation of eliminations.  Dan’s third round was about as perfect as is possible with a reaction time of .004 seconds on the starting tree and a run of 7.602 – you can’t get much closer than that.  Now the field was down to four cars and two rounds to go!

Round 4 proved to be Dan’s best run of the meet.  By this time Dan was matched against last years’ season-long NE1 champion.  With nerves of steel Dan beat his opponent by 2 one-hundredths of a second at the line, and ran a remarkable 7.600 dead on!  Damn, that’s good!

Continuing the extremely competitive racing of the weekend, the fifth and final round was another nail-biter.  Dan shaved his opponent at the light by one one-thousandth of a second, and his time through the course was three one thousandths of a second faster.  Victory is always sweet, but to finish a full weekend of racing with such tight competition and in near-perfect driving is surly as sweet as it comes!

Dan’s reward for this amazing, nearly perfect, performance?  In the photo above you can see the trophy.  It is called a “Wally” in recognition of the legendary Wally Parks, Founder of the National Hot Rod Association.  It is the most coveted trophy in Drag Racing.  Cast in Bronze, smiling, standing next to a huge racing slick, the figure of Wally Parks holding a classic helmet – what a perfect image to celebrate a racer like Dan – vintage, old-school, low-tech, filled with grit and determination, and hoping to race dragsters as long as he can hold a steering wheel.

Dan wanted me to be sure to thank his sponsors for their support this season and throughout his career (some of his sponsors have supported him for more than eighteen years).

Congratulations, Dan!  You are an inspiration to anyone who ever broke the beams at the starting line and blasted down the track!

Dan's Sponsors:

Mother Earth Brewery
Churchill's Pub and Grill
Curtis Drilling
Chapman's Automotive
Maxima Oil
Kevin Walsh
Helix Mechanical
Crest Water Treatment
Comp Cams
TCI Transmissions
Machine Tech Racing Engines
Cogswell Motorsports
Lyons Muffler
Seaside Rooter
Carb On Tech
RK Fence
Lenard Izbicki
Water Works
San Diego Gear and Axle
Joe the Door Guy
Jiffy Tite