Karting, Daytona, Books, and Hot Cars

Episode 191

December 18, 2016

Northern Maine Karting Association Senior Cage Karts at Spud Speedway at the beginning of 2016 season. Photo by Geri Martin

Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) Senior Cage Karts at Spud Speedway at the beginning of 2016 season. Photo by Geri Martin

NMKA Experiences Growth in Preparation for 2017 Season

NMKA members met last week to discuss their new rule package and planned for the 2017 racing season. The club voted to accept World Karting Association (WKA) specifications for the Briggs & Stratton Animal engine. Most kart tracks in Maine now utilize the WKA spec Animal engines.

According to the NMKA Engine Committee, the common specification should allow racers from most major tracks in Maine to race at other facilities without needing separate engines.

Other items discussed dealt with rule clarifications, tire/rim rules, gear ratio rule, and race day procedures.

NMKA has need for a Race Director and pit gate attendant which are paid positions. Members were given responsibility to follow-up on conversations with weekly sponsors as well as division sponsors which help to fund the week-to-week race activities.

Projections were made about numbers of racers for the 2017 season. Senior Cage Karts were expected to have nine karts, three times the number that raced weekly in 2016. Junior Cage Karts expect five karts on a regular basis, up from three in 2016. Kids Karts have one more racer from Canada joining the three that now race in the youngest racer class.

Galen Morror of Limestone, NMKA kart owner and engine committee member said, “I expect the numbers of racers from Northern Maine and Western New Brunswick to increase. The engine rule change should allow us to have racers from downstate to come north without having to have a different engine. When we raced at the tracks to our south, several teams mentioned that they would like to race at our track next summer.”

The club members discussed hosting a special event next season for kart racers state-wide and will be releasing the Friday Night Kart Series schedule soon. Dues for the 2017 racing season need to be paid before January 1, 2017. Dues are $25 per race team which includes one kart which is eligible for points. If a team has more than one kart each additional kart will cost $10 making that kart eligible for points and reserving a racing number for the season.

Back To Daytona for 24 Hours Endurance Race?

MazdaSpeed Prototype on the  pre-race grid. The car was the first out of the race  due to a yet to be disclosed engine related problem. HTF Motorsports photo

MazdaSpeed Prototype on the pre-race grid. This team and others have released the new Daytona Prototype International  (Dpi) models which will compete in the 2017 edition of the historic event. HTF Motorsports photo

I will know early this week whether I will be making a return trip to Daytona International Speedway for the 24 Hours of Daytona January 28-29, 2017. The race will feature four Ford GT racers, the debut of the Daytona Prototype International class, and multiple world-class drivers.

The Dpi class features new cars from Mazda RT24-P, Cadillac DPi-V.P., and Nissan Dpi Ligier. The Mazda cars are campaigned by MazdaSpeed. The Cadillacs will be in the hands of Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing. The Nissans will be  run by Extreme Speed Motorsports.

If I am able to attend, you can be sure that I will interview Daytona Groundskeeper Jason Griffeth and get an update on his work at the track. I will be speaking with In The Pits’s John Williams radio show live from the track on Friday the 27th.

My all time favorite racing moving, LeMans starring Steve McQueen. This 1971 release has been seen by me at least a dozen times. HTF Motorsports photo

My all time favorite racing moving, Le Mans starring Steve McQueen. This 1971 release has been seen by me at least a dozen times. HTF Motorsports photo

Le Mans, the Racing Movie

I remember when Le Mans was released in 1971, I had an agreement with my girlfriend at the time that I would go to Love Story featuring Ryan O’Neal every time she would attend the Le Mans movie with me. Turned out I saw Love Story three-times and I am not sure if she ever went to another Steve McQueen movie after seeing  Le Mans three times.

The exciting news is that Sandro Garbo and his team of artists based in Switzerland have released a graphic novel featuring the iconic McQueen movie. You can get more information about the 64 page book at http://mcqueenlemans.com/

One of my favorite quotes from McQueen came from a conversation he had about the movie. “I’m not sure whether I’m an actor who races or a racer who acts,” said McQueen.

He shared his passion for motorsports when he laid the foundation for the film which he hoped would be the best racing movie ever made. He chose Le Mans to make his dream come true.

If the casual observer watches the film I believe they will find it lacking a dramatic story line. The motorsports enthusiast with knowledge of the Porsche vs Ferrari battles at the track after Ford left in the late 1960’s, will realize those battles were classics.

The video was shot with state-of-the-art equipment in 1970-71, which even to this day is quite impressive. The racing action in the cockpit, though not the quality of in-car cameras today, gives one a sense of speed which topped out well over the 200 mph mark on the 3.7 mile Mulsanne Straight.

Tony Bettenhausen and Sons, An American Racing Family Album by Gordon Kirby with Merle and Susan Bettenhausen, and Joseph Freeman Editor. HTF Motorsports photo

Tony Bettenhausen and Sons, An American Racing Family Album by Gordon Kirby with Merle & Susan Bettenhausen, and Joseph Freeman Editor. HTF Motorsports photo

Bettenhausen Family Photo Album

The pictorial history of Tony Bettenhausen from Tinley Park, Illinois, south of Chicago  tells the story of a racing family who were part of the local and national stage in the late 30’s through 1993.

Tony Sr. began his career in 1937 at the age of 21 driving the ex-Zale midget at the Chicago Armory. He raced midgets until all racing was shut down by the government on July 31, 1942 for World War II.

The book proceeds to chronicle the post war exploits of Tony including several Indy 500 races. His best finish at Indianapolis was second in the 1955 race driving the H.A. Chapman Kurtis 500C-Offy, finishing behind winner Bob Sweikert.

Many remember Tony Sr. for the way he died at Indy in 1961. Bettenhausen was entered in the Lindsey Hopkins new Epperly lay down roadster for the race. He set the fastest time in practice turning laps over 149 mph and was expected to be the first to lap the Speedway at over 150 mph.

On Friday the day before Pole Day qualifying, he set fast times in the morning. Later that same day, his best friend Paul Russo asked Tony to drive his Watson-Offy which had won the 1959 Indy 500 driven by Rodger Ward. The plan was to see if Bettenhausen could wring a little more speed out of the car and offer set up instructions for his friend.

After several warm up laps, Bettenhausen was racing down the front straight at speed when a bolt fell out of the suspension causing him to sharply turn right and barrel roll on top of the wall, ripping up fence posts along the way.

The Illinois driver was killed instantly from a basal skull fracture. All the details and photos are recorded in the book.

All three of the sons’ racing stories were told with a chapter dedicated to each. Multiple photos tell their stories as well. Racing was not easy on the sons.

Middle son Merle lost his arm in a violent Indy Car crash at Michigan International Speedway in July 1972.

Youngest son Tony, Junior was killed in a light plane crash in Kentucky in February 2000.

Oldest son Gary had the best racing record and is probably best remembered for leading the 1972 Indy 500 or 138 laps only to be stopped by overheating with 25 laps to go in his Penske McLaren.

Gary would later in 1980 finish third in the 500, his best result at the 2.5 mile racetrack. His low-budget Wildcat was given little chance of finishing the race let alone finishing third. He ran his last race in May 1996. He died in March of 2014 at 72.

What I liked about the book was it gave me some background about a racing family I had heard about yet did not follow closely as I was growing up. Each of the four chapters contains a narrative of each Bettenhausen followed by many photos from not only the family, but a variety of other sources. The end of each chapter gives a yet-by-year statistical report of how that particular Bettenhausen performed.

With 224 pages of information and hundred’s of photos I went through the book rather rapidly. The author of the book, one of my favorite, Gordon Kirby mentioned the book “Go! The Bettenhausen Story”  by Carl Hungness. I suspect that book had more detailed information about the family which would have made my reading experience even richer.

As a former agriculture instructor I would have enjoyed more about the exploits on the 240 acre farm in Tingley, Illinois. I realize the book was about racing and not farming, however, I am curious.

The author Gordon Kirby who lives in New England is one of the most prolific motorsports writers in the United States today. He is the US editor of the British Monthly “Motor Sport” writes a weekly column “The Way It Is” found on his website www.GordonKirby.com.

Kirby has covered over 600 Indy Car races and over 800 races in all over the past 40 years. He is currently staff writer at Racemaker Press in Boston the publishers of this book. More about this company and their books can be found at www.racemakerpress.com.

My rating for the Bettenhausen Book is 4 **** out of 5. I think that if I had read the “Go!” book before reading this one and if I was more of a Bettenhausen fan I would have gotten into the book. Because I like pictures, however, this was an interesting read.

Closing With Some Radical Car Photos

You may recall that my wife had a deer run into the side of her car in October when we were headed to Portland for the Maine Press Association awards. You found out that she has a Toyota Yaris which we have found to be very good, reliable transportation.

The car is not a hot rod so I thought I would show you one that is a fire-breathing 380 horsepower version. First my wife’s version of a Yaris

My wife's 2008 four door Yaris after getting the deer dents removed and fresh paint courtesy JRT Customs in Caribou. Nothing racy about it for sure. HTF Motorsports photo

My wife’s 2008 four door Yaris after getting the deer dents removed and fresh paint courtesy JRT Customs in Caribou. Nothing racy about it for sure. HTF Motorsports photo

Toyota Yazoo Racing's  Yaris rally car. Photo courtesy Autoweek/ Toyota Racing

Toyota Yazoo Racing’s Yaris rally car. Photo courtesy Autoweek andToyota Racing

Side view of Toyota's Yaris rally car. I am not sure if my wife's stock Yaris has enough horsepower to haul that massive wing through the air. Photo courtesy Autoweek andToyota Racing

Side view of Toyota’s Yaris rally car. I am not sure if my wife’s stock Yaris has enough horsepower to haul that massive wing through the air. Photo courtesy Autoweek and Toyota Racing

Since we are looking at hot cars I am closing this week’s episode with a couple of photos of the Ford GT. I saw the racing version for the first time at Daytona last January. I did see a prototype at the Ford display as well.

The first street versions rolled off the Multimatic assembly facility in Markham, Ontario recently. I am unsure who get’s the first unit. I do know that it became and instant collector’s item.

First Ford GT off the line at Multimatic in Canada. I am unsure who the owner is. Ford photo

First Ford GT off the line at Multimatic in Canada. I am unsure who the owner is. Ford Executive Raj Nair is third from left. The unit is powered by an 3.5 liter EcoBoost twin turbo V6 producing 600 plus horsepower.
Ford photo

An overhead view of the hand built Ford GT at the Multimatic facility in Markham, Ontario. Ford photo

An overhead view of the hand built Ford GT at the Multimatic facility in Markham, Ontario. Ford photo

Let’s Take Time Off From Racing and Celebrate the Birth Of Our Savior, Jesus Christ,

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.