Spin the headline: each generation, it seems, despises the previous one

I know a lot about motorsport but there are two guys who know more.

The first is John Strothard. After the races one night we had a long discussion about who was good and who wasn’t and he identified Kenny Brack, correctly, as Kenny “Breck”. I could learn a thing or two from this guy, I thought. We spent the rest of the evening arguing and eating a T-Bone steak and strawberry shortcake which we paid with the $ 100 tow our friend Gary Morton received for taking his midget TQ to Peterborough Speedway that night.

The other is Peter (Pete) Turford who, when I first met him at a Molson Indy in the late 1980s, told my personal racing story, including the races I had run, the cars I owned and the people who owned them before me. “Your supermodified 27 started out as ’05 owned by Pat Murphy, the postmaster in Virginia Beach, Va. He had been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and competed in the race after the war because he had missed the adrenaline rush. ” And so on. I have to get to know this guy too, I thought.

Both guys are cards. Turford carries a picture of himself finishing a marathon in Indianapolis in 1991 in his wallet. That way he could tell people that he “ran Indy”. Strothard was not a very good runner but was a great crasher. “I had a big one at Lancaster (Speedway),” he said, “and I actually won a qualifying race at the indoor races in Niagara Falls crossing the finish line at the upside down while always being in first place. Top that! ”

I was talking to Pete Turford this week. He is in his early sixties and is living every middle aged man’s dream. He works for the Ohsweken-based Miles Hill Racing Team and has spent the spring and summer with fellow Canadians Steve Moulton (owner / mechanic) and driver Dylan Westbrook in Brownsburg, Indiana. Pete and his son travel all over the United States as a mechanics sprinter on one of Hill’s cars.

“We ran Tyler (Sunshine) Courtney at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Texas last Saturday night,” he said, “and he destroyed the car in the first lap. So we’re just taking it apart to fix what we can. , then let’s use new parts to assemble the car for the next race. ”

I’m only 800 words (approximately), Pete, so how did you become a walking racing encyclopedia? Not just interested, but expert? I’ll let you talk.

“In 1966, a pretty good driver named Sammy Snider was killed in a fire at Flamboro Speedway. The Delaware and Nilestown Speed ​​circuits decided to add firefighters to their safety teams and Flamboro joined them. I had an uncle who was a firefighter and took me with him, so I went to the races three times a week. I was six at the time and loved it. I have heard a lot of colorful stories, but some of them could be called “great stories”.

“As a result, I always wanted to know what happened in relation to the legend,” he said. “Do you know the story of the Smokey Yunick Chevelle?” That’s when Smokey allegedly built a 7: 8 scale car to reduce drag and passed NASCAR technology? This stuff drives me crazy.

“There is a guy who took pictures of this car, measured it, put it on a grid and found the car to be exactly the normal size. I thirst for truth.

Some of the things that fascinate him are a bit obscure, but important nonetheless.

“The first day of qualifying for the 1955 Indianapolis 500,” said Pete, “it was really windy and nobody wanted to go out. Finally, there are only a few minutes left. Jerry Hoyt got out and stuck the car on the pole. I have the Floyd Clymer Indy 500 Yearbook 1955 and do you know what the main story was? What a bunch of wimps the racing drivers of 1955 were compared to guys 20 years earlier like Wilber Shaw and Henry Banks, who wouldn’t let a little wind bother them. They were talking about guys like Jimmy Bryan who were wimps? That’s what people are saying about racing drivers today. This stuff puts everything in perspective.

“People are talking about drivers like Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly celebrating before a race. Today the drivers are in such good shape that they could all beat those old folks. Jeff Gordon; never seen without his shirt?

“Formula 1 drivers; the physical form they are in is phenomenal. I try not to be the old man by saying that the young people of today are not good. We get that all the time in sprint cars, where people say no one has ever been as good, or will be as good, as Steve Kinser, and yet we have the genius of Kyle Larson unfolding under our eyes. eyes.

“The question must be asked: how can he be so much better than anyone else?

Next week, I’ll tell you the story behind the photo that illustrates the opening of this column. Hint: It was taken in 1965 at CNE Speedway in Toronto. It was sent to me by Turford, who photographed it at a Brownsburg auto restoration store owned by a guy named Rick Duman. We will talk about six degrees of separation, in addition to other things.

Norris McDonald, former editor of Wheels, covers the Canadian and global auto racing scene for the Star. He is a member of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ NorrisMcDonald2.

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