Shrine Klowns Meet Up With The Flying Frenchman

Episode 190

 

Shrine Klown Band Aide with future Maine Motorsports Inductee Erny "The Flying Frenchman" Levesque at Forest Hill in Fort Kent. Photo courtesy Band Aide

Shrine Klown Band Aide with future Maine Motorsports Inductee Erny “The Flying Frenchman” Levesque at Forest Hill Manor in Fort Kent. Photo courtesy Band Aide

Look Who Anah Shrine Klowns Run Into

“I walked through the door at Forest Hill Manor where there was a couch and who was sitting there but Erny “The Flying Frenchman” Levesque”, said Band Aide, an Anah Shrine Klown who was making the rounds to nursing homes in northern Maine Saturday.

The Shriner Klowns were blanketing northern Maine Saturday hoping to spread some Christmas cheer to any residents they came in contact with. The most northern part of the County was covered by Band Aide, Si as Santa Claus, Hearty, and Disco, all members of Anah Shrine Klown Unit.

New Sweden resident,Hearty, struck up a conversation with “The Flying Frenchmen” mentioning that as a young stock car racing fan in the late 60’s and early 70’s he watched Erny wheel the #29 Jade East Chevy at Spud Speedway. This was the first time he met one the icon from the St. John Valley. The two were able to talk racing several minutes and share stories.

Erny said he was pleasantly surprised when the Klowns recognized him and they helped make his day special  with conversation and shared memories.

Maybe we all can take away a message of hope from the exploits of these Klowns and get out to visit someone who may be lonely or in need of a listening ear this Christmas season.

Beryl Hale passed away on December 2, 2016 at age of 89. Hale Family photo

Beryl Hale passed away on December 2, 2016 at age of 89. Hale Family photo

Death of My Cousin Causes Me to Look Back

When I heard that my second cousin, Beryl Hale, died on December 2, 2016 I knew I needed to get together with family and friends at visiting hours at Mockler Funeral Home in Caribou last Monday evening. When I walked into the funeral home it was like a trip down memory lane. Gathered before me were most of the characters who were an integral part of my life growing up on Grimes Mill Road in Caribou.

Our parents turned us loose in the morning as we found a variety of things to entertain ourselves without the need for adult planning or close supervision. Our parents knew that wherever we ended up playing baseball or tinkering with bikes, or playing games in the woods or fields that surrounded us, the other parents would make sure that if we messed up our parents would find out and consequences would follow.

The freedom I enjoyed taught me to be a leader as well as innovator. Games would be organized and plans were made to take junk and utilize it for some magical machine which in our mind was a good as any store-bought equivalent.

We never had the money to spend on real machines or new baseball bats or balls. A loud foul hit behind home plate would interrupt the game when all were required to look down over the hill for the hidden ball. Once the ball was found the game could resume.

While talking to the characters who were part of my life in the 60’s,  I realized that the seeds were being planted for what would become a lifelong love for baseball and motorsports.

Memories of time spent at Beryl and her husband Dale Hale’s house one mile up the road flooded my mind. The many hours spent at their house as well as many other Grimes Mill Road homes provided a chance for me to think outside of the box and dream big dreams.

Beryl tolerated the collection of neighborhood kids who clambered around her home which sported a baseball field they kept mowed as well as many hills to ride our bikes up and down trying to impress one another with our prowess.

Four projects which I recalled played a part in my passion for things mechanical, a stripped-out Renault with a five horsepower Briggs engine, a pedal bike with a different five horsepower Briggs engine, a 1968 Polaris Mustang snowmobile and stock cars.

Most of my time was spent with my cousin, Beryl and Dale’s oldest son, Myron Hale, the owner of County Sports, the Polaris dealer in Caribou. I remember thinking how clever his Dad was when it came to things mechanical.

Dale acquired a Renault car, type and model long forgotten by me. He, with the “help” of the kids, removed the body leaving only the frame, engine, and transmission. After removing the cylinder head, Dale installed a cast iron five-horse Briggs and Stratton engine to the top of the engine block. The power from the Briggs engine was sent to the crankshaft of the Renault thus providing the propulsion for the buggy.

One can imagine the incredible speed that a 5 horsepower engine could generate in a car which must have weighed over 1/2 ton with all extraneous parts removed. The Renault provided an alternative to racing tractors. The tractors never did look the part of race cars. We thought we had a Grand prix car.

Imagine a 60’s style bicycle with a heavy cast iron Briggs and Stratton mounted behind the driver’s seat. A simple belt drive provided the power to the rear wheel. The only brakes were your shoes since the coaster brake in the rear was removed to mount a pulley.

Before the inaugural launching of the top-heavy bike, we got the idea that Briggs put that shroud around the engine for looks only. Removal of the shroud would surely yield more power without the constriction of the metal cover. Plus it looked cool.

I do not remember much about that first ride with driver Myron Hale aboard except noting it was loud and top-heavy. I noted the engine ran crappy and tried to cut out and die several times.

It was during one of those times when the engine was sputtering that Myron reached behind to probably manipulate the throttle when his hand came into contact with the cast iron fins of the rapidly revolving flywheel cooling fan.

It was after he pulled back a  profusely bleeding hand with a deeply cut finger that we figured out that shroud must have had at least one purpose, keeping wayward fingers from contacting rotating parts. At the funeral home that Monday evening Myron showed me the scars from that adventure.

The single cylinder 1968 Polaris Mustang that found its way into the Hale’s garage was one of the first on Grimes Mill Road. I remember the ratio of riding time to working on the sled was about 1:4. Fours hours of figuring out how to get it to run or fixing parts we broke during that precious one hour of riding on trails made cross-country behind their home.

It was in that freezing cold garage where we tried simple fixes like burning off the fuel on flooded spark plugs that I lost my desire to own a snowmobile. Myron’s reaction was the opposite. He developed a love for snow sleds which eventually led to him becoming a Polaris dealer later in life.

When I graduated from college Myron and I partnered bought our first stock car, a 1958 Ford that was driven at one time by Limestone’s Adam Albert. We retrieved the   car from the woods behind Albert’s Limestone home and brought it to my grandfather’s barn which would become the headquarters for Hale Enterprises ” The Racing Farmer”.

Both of us tried racing the 292 Y-Block Ford at Spud Speedway in the top class with Chink Maynard, Bobby Alexander, Mark Jones, Gerald Craig, Hal O’Neal, and Freddie Haines, to name a few. I cannot recall why Myron stepped away from the driving duties and I became the only driver.

Ownership of that car forced us to think about ways to keep the car on the track. Our number was 2 which I think was appropriate since it was hard to put together two laps without spinning out. We called it the “Spin Machine”. It taught me how to spin and control a car as it was spinning.

The 1958 Ford gave way to a 1964 Ford Galaxy which we re-bodied with a 1967 Fairlane. That car was almost as bad as the “Spin Machine” often becoming a moving chicane for the faster cars as they passed us by.

The final car owned by Myron and I,  we purchased from Bobby Alexander when the person who commissioned the building of the car reneged on his payments. We were so poor that the engine was put together with 7 flat-top pistons and one dished piston in a little 289. The top cars all ran 302 engines.

We won 4 feature races and 10 heat races with that 1964 Fairlane. We learned that the money spent having Bobby Alexander set up the car was worth it since when we tweaked the car it rapidly made its way to the back of the field.

If people at that funeral home could have read my mind that evening I am not sure what they would have said as I made my way down memory lane while remembering a lady who was a part of my growing up years. Thank you Beryl Hale for putting up with us kids.

Austin Picks Up Most Popular Driver Award

Austin

Touring Series Most Popular Drivers L to R Alon Day, Whelen Euro Series, Austin Theriault, K & N East Series, Trey Hutchens, Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Melissa Fifield, Whelen Modified Tour, and Salvatore Lovino, K & N West Series. Given at NASCAR Hall of Fame, Saturday evening in Charlotte, North Carolina. AT Racing photo

Kody Swanson and DePalma Racing Team Win USAC Silver Crown Team Award

Kody

Kody Swanson fourth from left with his wife Jordan to his left on stage at the USAC Silver Crown Team Championship awarded to DePalma Motorsports. This was the team’s third championship in a row. Swanson photo

The Indiana Roof Ballroom in downtown Indianapolis last Friday night was the scene of the 2016 USAC Awards Banquet where champions were crowned in each of their three major series. If you follow UpNorth Motorsports you know the Swanson family since we have followed him throughout the season on his quest to win his third straight driver’s championship.

You may recall he lost the Driver’s Championship at the last race at Eldora to Chris Windom who won the race and Championship despite coming into the race down only a few points to Swanson.

Swanson had enough points throughout the year to earn the owner’s championship for the #63 DePalma Motorsports team.

Noteworthy is the trophy awarded to all winners that evening.The trophies were constructed by Maine native Tom Patsis. Patsis owns Cold Hard Art (CHA) in Brownsburg, Indiana and has produced many unique trophies for a multitude of race series.

Trophies made by Tom Patsis of Cold Hard Art for USAC Championship night at Indy. Cold Hard Art photo

Trophies made by Tom Patsis of Cold Hard Art for USAC Championship Night at Indy. Cold Hard Art photo

When asked about the awards ceremony Swanson replied, “It is always great to share in a special night for USAC to honor their driver and car owner champions. This year it was especially neat to celebrate the DePalma Motorsports team on their 3rd straight car owners Championship in the Silver Crown division, and something I’m thankful to have been a small part of.”

USAC announced their TracSAFE Initiatives which were well received at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in Indianapolis last Wednesday through Saturday. The USAC press release stated,

“A USAC initiative aimed at driver safety was introduced during the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show at the Indiana Convention Center Thursday.”

“The TracSAFE system will launch in early 2017 and will be implemented in the three USAC National Championship Series: Silver Crown, AMSOIL National Sprint Cars and National Midgets.”

“USAC will supply the TracSAFE equipment to teams at each of the series’ national events throughout the 2017 season.  USAC has led the development of this innovative new safety feature with support from Toyota Racing Development.”

“A light system on the dash and the back of the roll cage of each racecar will serve multiple functions.  The innovative feature incudes an indicator on the dashboard that will light up yellow when the track goes under a yellow or red flag situation.  The system is connected to USAC’s timing and scoring, which will allow for an instantaneous response from race control to the competitors on the track to alert each driver in the event of an on-track incident.”

“Furthermore, a series of three lights will be located on the back of the roll cage.  During green flag periods, the lights will serve as “leader lights” to indicate to fans the running order position of the car on the track.  If a driver is leading, one green light will be illuminated, two green lights for the second-place running car and three green lights for the third-place car.”

“As soon as timing and scoring goes under a yellow or red flag condition, the three lights on the back of the cage of all cars will immediately flash rapidly to alert drivers of a full-course yellow flag condition.”

“Additionally, scan code stickers will be placed on the back of each driver’s helmet to allow medical personnel quick and easy access to the driver’s detailed medical history.”

I asked Swanson to comment on USAC announcement of TracSAFE, “I applaud anyone that attempts to make our sport safer, and appreciate the effort USAC is making with their new initiative. I really think the caution light on the dash inside the cockpit is a good step to improving our reaction time to the change in track racing condition, and would be a positive step toward making our sport safer.”

A Couple of Cool Race Cars Revealed to Public This Week

I just had to show you the Ford Mustang also unveiled at PRI in Indy. The race only Shelby FP350S is powered by a 5.2 L V8 with a Tremec 3160 six-speed manual transmission, racing seat and six point roll cage. Ford Performance photo

I just had to show you the Ford Mustang also unveiled at PRI in Indy. The race only Shelby FP350S is powered by a 5.2 L V8 with a Tremec 3160 six-speed manual transmission, racing seat and six point roll cage. Ford Performance photo

M-Sport Fiesta Rally Car

M-Sports’ new Ford Fiesta Rally car unveiled this week for use in the World Rallycross (WRC) Series. Wouldn’t you like to try this mean looking race car?!

More from PRI next week.

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

 

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing.