Hi everybody. I’m just that bald-headed old ex-Indy driver that loves racing with everything that you can imagine. I just wish I was still back there and engineering cars, but at least I do have a chance once again to be a part of the Indy program, although in this case, it's the Indy Vintage Race, which last year was the first time they had the largest Vintage Race in history. 700 cars entered that race. I had the fortunate chance to drive a 64 Corvette, owned by a gentleman that has driven it since the day he bought it, almost since it was brand spanking new.
It's his pride and joy, and for him to have let a crazy like me drive it took a lot of gumption from you know where. In my opinion, he wants me to drive it again. He shares the race with me. Last year, unlike this year when raced, he sent me back out. I came in for him to drive and he said you're doing so good, stay in the car. Then the officials said you can't do that. You're supposed to drive half the race and he's supposed to drive half the race, so I had to come back in.
We didn't win the race, but by golly, maybe this year we can because this year, we'll do it right and I won't have to come back in to change drivers at the wrong time. It was yellow flag last year. We were able to come in on a yellow. When he sent me back out, I had to come in under green, so we got behind a little bit, but he went on that day to finish third, the highest finish he'd had in his race against all of the people he had been racing with over the years. He was the proudest guy in the world.
You know, it all gets down to, as an example, when I first got in the car, I said to him after three laps, the car goes bad. It just starts to slide all over. Why don't we start the race with about three pounds less air? He said we can't do that. The tire company gives you a specified starting point. I said is it in the rules that you have to have a specified starting point on the pressure? No, they just give you a recommended best pressure.
I said their recommended best pressure is for the best efficiency of that tire at its optimum period of time. I said let's start with three or four pounds less and you'll be at your optimum about the second lap throughout the race.
You'll be at your optimum throughout the rest of the race. As an example, instead of looking good the first two laps and then falling way back, you'll look a little bit bad the first couple of laps and then charge forward the rest of the race. Which do you want? Well, that's what I want, and he finished third.
I love doing that. I love helping to engineer the cars. I love to drive. Those guys cherish those cars with their lives actually. Most of them are not rich people that can just throw away money. Most of them are people that have this life for driving a race car and can't afford to really do it in a way that they get to Indy or something, so they buy a sports car and they do it in that manner.
That's the reason the Sports Car Club of America has been so successful over all the years because you get all of these people who want to drive race cars, can't afford it, can't get the sponsors, but it gives them a little bit of fun and a chance to do it. This year, they're having 33 Indy drivers instead of 22. Last year it was 22. It went over so big with the fans and of course we have an autograph session where all of the Indy drivers and our co-owners are signing autographs for the fans.
There were lines lined up to the point they had to send people home. It was a situation where they want to do it again this year, but with 33 drivers instead of 22. Of the, shall we say so-called over-the-hill drivers, like Al Unser, who won Indy four times, he's considered an over-the-hill driver now, Bobby Unser, etc. Dick Simon, Mario Andretti, all of us old guys will be at Indy again this year for the Vintage Race, only instead of 22, it will 33. That's exciting.
When I drove that Corvette, I looked down at the speedometer. It was 176 miles an hour entering turn one at the end of the road course. Turn one is a 90 mile an hour turn at the most. You've got all these cars coming down into one turn, all vying for that little, shall we say sweet spot on the turn, so that you can come off the turn fast. That's exciting. It's exciting. I started at 16th last year and coming off first turn, I was eight. That meant I did a good job.
I spun out later on in the race because I got a little bit fatigued with my eyes, starting getting a little blurry. I did spin out twice, that's about when we changed drivers and he proceeded to get into the car fresh and brought it back to about where I was. He's a good driver, the owner of the car. It's just that he said what he learned while I was there that what will I do if the car is not working? I'm going to think what would Dick do, because that's what he did when we had a problem with the car. I asked him what do you think we should do? He did it and it worked. I'm going to always say to myself, what would Dick do?
Improvise, you have to. If you don't have the millions of dollars to go out and test, you have to be ready to make the changes at the time. I enjoy very, very much, whether it's driving a go-cart up here at K1 or whether it's driving an Indy car.
It's the first time I went there. I got second place. The guy that won first place is one that goes there all the time.
There's a bunch of kids that just live out there. He worked for the company, and he won.
What year is his Vintage car? It's a 1964 Corvette, black. Does it handle very well on the track? Yeah, with 900 horsepower. The engines have to be a certain cubic inch, you can do whatever you want to.
It was naturally aspirated. You can do whatever you want to. You can put a high RPM, high lift cams, everything. You can do all that. When I race the super-modified’s, you had to have 327 cubic inches was the maximum you could use. Everybody at the track was using 327 Chevy. I went to Mickey Thompson, had him build me a 289 Ford, stroked to half inch stroke to 327. With a half inched stroked engine, it gave me so much torque coming off the turn, I could pass people freely. As long as I made sure that the car had traction in the rear, I won 20 out of 21 races.
Basically, if the rules are ... 327 inches for that class, and then you can put high lift cam, you can put this, you can put that, that's fine. That's fine.
You can't do any aerodynamic tuning on the car. It's got to be Vintage. Vintage means the car has to be the same, same as stock as it came from the factory. What you have inside, even down to the transmission. The problem I had with the transmission on this car was he's got the old transmission box that you can't shift without a clutch. I grew up shifting with no clutch.
Or just plain left foot on the brake, right foot on the gas, burp the gas, shift at the same time, burp, burp, burp. You never even knew I was shifting. When you have to use the clutch, it takes time and you lose time. That's the only drawback for me as a driver, I had to put a two by four taped with silver racing tape on the bottom of my racing shoe in order to do the heel-toe operation that's required when you have to use the clutch.
You use your toe on the brake, the heel on the gas. I had to put a two by four on and tape it with some racing gray tape to the bottom of my foot in order to do that toe-heel because I couldn't reach the pedal. The driver, the owner of the car is six foot three. I'm five seven.
That makes a little bit of difference.
I couldn't reach, so I had pillows piled behind me, blankets piled behind me. The seat that wraps around you to keep you solid when you're going through the corners, there was none. Just pillows. This year, what he's excited about is he's bought an adjustable seat where you can roll the seat forward. It's on tracks. It's bolted to the frame and it comes forward and back, so he says Dick, I've modified the car to where we can slide the seat forward for you.
This year, I don't know who the crazy guy will be next to me, and I'm not going to hurt his car. If I owned it, I'd go after the win for sure. I don't own it. I'll do my best without hurting his car. It's a 45-minute race. It's almost three point something miles around there.
I hope to see everybody at this year's SVRA race! I'll have more to speak about then.
Here's a link to their page: SVRA