Florida Regions SCCA Goes to Indy

Florida Regions SCCA Goes to Indy
By: Bob Lee

 

The awesome Florida Region SCCA has had no less than seven drivers that went on to race in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. This race is better known as; The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

One of those seven was Lyn St. James. Lyn was the second woman to compete in the illustrious race. She began her racing career in the Florida Region SCCA driving a Ford Pinto in the Showroom Stock C Class. She went on to race at Cosworth Vegas in the Showroom Stock A Class, with much success. She also drove with her husband John Caruso in The 24 Hours Daytona and won in their class.

After numerous road racing rides, Lyn finally was allowed to drive at the Indy. She was named Rookie of the Year in 1992, and had finished eleventh over all. It was an excellent finish for her first time at the Brickyard! Lyn continued to race at Indy until the year 2000. In 2016, she was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame.

Don, Bill and Dale Wittington attended driver’s school at PBIR. Don and Bill went on and raced at the 12 Hours of Sebring, again at The 24 Hours of Daytona, then proceeded to win the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1979. All three brothers; Don, Bill and Dale qualified for Indy in 1982. This was the only time three brothers qualified for the illustrious race.

Dennis Vitolo raced Formula Ford with the Florida Region before going on to Indy. In a1994 and 1997, Dennis qualified for Indy after joining the Dick Simon Racing Team. He also competed in the Tamiami Indy Car Race.

Randy Lanier raced with Florida Region driving a 356 Porsche in the E Production Class. In 1984, Randy became the IMSA GT champion. He then proceeded to Indy in 1986 where he was Rookie of the Year.

John Paul Jr. was one of the best at both, road racing and Indy car racing. He had multiple fine finishes. John was an extremely talented driver and a wonderful man who taught driving at PBIR (Palm Beach International Raceway).

To Bobby Johns goes an honorable mention. In 1965, he and teammate Jimmy Clark finished 7th at the Indianapolis 500. One of Smokey Yunicks’ advertisements, sponsored by Hurst Shifters, shows Bobby sitting in Smokey’s side-car at the Indy. Bobby was also a NASCAE driver who won the Atlanta Journal 500. As our Firestone Tire representative, he gave away one free tire for every four wins.

These seven drivers of the Florida Region SCCA, that drove in the Indianapolis 500 Race, are a proud part of our team here at the SCCA.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE ITs GONE????

 

WHERE HAVE ALL THE ITs GONE????
(Sung to the melody of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone)

When SCCA instituted IT classes (improved touring) which came out of SS classes (showroom stock). The SS cars were limited to four years of eligibility only, after which they were useless to racing. The numbers of cars in the SS classes was dwindling quickly. The loss of all these tough, competitive cars, and drivers caused the club to lose members.

A few years passed , and as I recall, in the early 80’s, SCCA came up with the IT classes which took those great cars out of mothballs and started the racing once again. It also brought fresh blood to club and membership and fields of cars flourished. With four IT classes of competition, there were about twenty-plus cars in each class in each race, and sometimes the field was up to 100! Besides its being highly competitive class, it brought REAL racing to a more affordable level. Example: tires lasted 3 or 4 races and engines would last season. There simply was no more inexpensive way to race. The required street tires and limited modifications actually resulted in better affordability and more competitive racing. All the endurance events include IT classes even to today, guaranteeing a large field and successful weekend of racing!

Over six years, there was a favorite race “The Longest Night” held by the Florida Region SCCA at the old Moroso track (now the PBIR track) that lasted 24 hours from the afternoon of December 31st to the afternoon of and a bunch of people showed up to help the crews and to work the track. We also ran several 12 hour races where only IT classes raced. Currently, other classes (on street tires) are driving enduros.

How can we fill the field again and get the drivers in the club and folks in the stands?

Bob Lee
Publicity Director
Florida Region SCCA

SCCA Bracket Enduros: Another Low-Buck Enduro Venue?

SCCA Bracket Enduros: Another Low-Buck Enduro Venue?
Grassroots Motorsports
June 2015 issue

It’s like bracket racing moved from the drag strip to the road course. Or you can call it SCCA’s way of wooing racers who seek a simplified classing structure. Either way welcome to Bracket Enduro, an SCCA program set to launch this summer.

“The goal is to create an endurance program that is budget-friendly, allows wide range of cars, and has a rule set that is enforceable,“ explains Heyward Wagner, the SCCA’s director of Experimental Programs. “One class is unlimited: whoever goes the farthest the tastes wins. The other three have target lap times, where the goal is to be consistent, reliable, and error-free. Target times will be consistent with ITS, ITB and a couple of seconds off of ITC.” In other words, your low-buck endurance car may have another place to play.

Traditional race rules too restrictive and confusing? The SCCA’s new Bracket Endure rules should welcome cars of all types and budget.

One Man’s Bucket List

JR Smith, my friend of almost 50 years, said he wanted to drive an Enduro race with his old friend, Bob Lee. Cool!

Since he lives in Utah, I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, but what a great idea!

JR used to drag race, as did I. In fact, we co-owned a Buick V8 powered dragster for a while. I’m not sure how he came to move to California in the late 60’s and got a job with LA Sheriff’s department. Over the years Joe (JR) raced drag boats, on and off road motorcycles, sailboats and bicycles. We kept in touch and eventually Joe got into road racing  and became a driving instructor at Miller Motorsports park and won NASA National Championships in a Corvette.

Well, Joe kept after me and we decided to race at Homestead, a first-class racetrack. Of course, it was convenient that my local Florida Region SCCA was holding a double endure there at the end of June 2015. We gathered all the necessary documents to make the board happy and registered for both endure races. Well, our Homestead saga started with much drama, when on the way down Krome Avenue to the track, my motorhome (towing the race car on a trailer) had a tire come apart (pulled over and changed tire). A short time later a transmission failure in Florida City. Close, but no cigar.

After much handwriting, I called my son, Todd. He works for a race team (American Speed Factory) as crew chief. So, Todd unhooked the semi-trailer, brought a strap and towed/hauled the complete rig to the track.

Once at the track, we realized we have no clue how the heck we will get home after the races. Well, we have a race to run and shift priorities!

The Saturday endure was held on the long course and it was Joe’s first time at Homestead. Even though Joe had little practice, he drove the bulk of the first race, since it was called early due to rain with the threat of lightning. We came in first since the ITB class
leader had lost wheel. I was glad Joe would have a trophy to take home.

Now, what the heck is going on with the motorhome. It had so much over the years and had lived nine lives and I was hoping for a tenth. Todd called our friend David Hamilton to ensure we would have a tow home, if necessary. Starting out with how the motorhome sounded, screaming like it was getting no fluid, I removed the tranny pan and the filter looked okay. After some deep thought, I figured it might be better with no filter, so I went in to remove it. When I dropped the pan again, I noticed the filter had been installed in reverse and caused a blockage. Swapped it around. Good so far.

Well, Sunday went smoothly except for, during qualifying, the brake pedal went to the floor going into turn #6. Joe kept the car off the wall-“barely” (but an excitable corner worker yelled over the radio, “Jesus Christ, he is going into the wall.”) JC was not driving but JR was- this was a good laughable topic among all the workers. Having to pump the brakes on the short course, which is harder ob brakes, Joe got out of the car after his drive and was completely overheated and dehydrated- needs to get used to Florida weather. Pouring ice water and iced towels to the back of his neck helped cool him down. We finished the race without incident. Hot, hot, hot weather!

Our car, the trusty Fire Arrow performed well. We would have enjoyed going a bit faster, although were just happy it ran smoothly with no problems.

Joe’s bucket list has one fat check mark!Hope he has a bunch more fun along the line. You can be sure I will be checking on his adventures!

Bob “Thundershifter” Lee

Bob’s Tales

Very nice article in the Sun Sentinel on June 1 2015 about Danny Matienzo, who plays baseball for the University of Miami. He is the designated hitter and has helped the team get to the playoffs. His father is Eugeno Matienzo who raced in the Sports Car Club Association and tried to get his son to race. Danny liked baseball better so Gino, as we know him, finally sold his race car and helped his son in his baseball career. Gino was a good hard racer with his Camaro in GT1.

I remember one day at the Palm Beach my son Tim was racing the Maverick. I was listening to the radio and Bill Elliot had just won at Charlotte. I was informing a Ford Maverick, also No. 9. he seemed doubtful as he was gridded fifth behind some very good cars, including Gino. NEVER FEAR, I SAY! The race starts, Del Taylor is leader, he ignored a yellow flag, which in turn cost him a black flag. Tim is fourth, Clauncey Wallace Jr. must have done the same thing, resulting a black flag of a stop and go. He comes into the pits his crew knows nothing, goes to the steward and back out. This put Tim into second place, Gino got so excited at leading the race, he spun out at turn nine.

TIM WINS!

FROM WEENIE TO WINNER!

Bob Lee

Memories of Paul Newman

There are many of us in the S.C.C.A. who have memories of Paul Newman not as an actor but as a fellow competitor.

I realized early on that the “PL Newman” listed as winning S.C.C.A. events racing a Datsun 510 in the Northeast was actually Paul Newman, but the first time we ever turned a wheel against each other was at Palm Beach International Raceway duringWinter Nationals. Paul was a frequent visitor to our Winter Nationals, when the weather in the Northeast was too bad to race in, and we competed against each other in the same group in my AMX in A.S.R. and him in his 510 in B Sedan.

I was also drag racing my four-speed Camaro at the drag strip, and Paul came over to try out his clutch as he was having problems with it. Some how, I got to talking to him about drag racing and how drag racing worked, as he didn’t have a clue. I explained how the Christmas Tree worked and how to stage and make a run, which he subsequently did.

I always regretted not taking him for a run in the Camaro, so he could see how it actually worked! I suppose with the shifts and going through the gears. What a story that would have been to tell! I think he would’ve enjoyed that ride.

From one racer to another.

Bob Lee

Track Night In America

TNiA-4c-LogoWith no previous on-track experience required, the SCCA Track Night in America driven by Tire Rack with partial support from the FIA Sport Grant Programme is “The Fastest Way to Get on Track” for any automotive enthusiast.  All you need is a street car in good condition, a driver’s license, a helmet, and the desire to have fun and hang out for the evening with others that share a passion for cars.  From complete novice to advanced driver, Track Night in America is a fantastic way to spice up a boring weekday with an hour of on-track excitement.  Limited entries are available for each Track Night in America event, so visit www.TrackNightInAmerica.com now to learn more and reserve your spot!

Torque Update – William P. “Bud” Merrill

bud-merrillIN MEMORY OF:

 

William P. “Bud” Merrill, 80 of Delray Beach, FL passed away quietly with his family by his side on Sunday January 25, 2015.  Bud served as an Officer in the United States Army in World War 2. Bud had served with the Palm Beach County Sheriffs and the Delray Beach Police as well as in the agricultural industry for 40 years in the Delray Beach area.

Bud also worked in the competitive auto sports area for more than 40 years with organizations such as SCCA, VDCA, BMW and many other clubs as an organizer and steward.

 

Bud was pre deceased by his wife Pat by almost 15 years.  He is survived by his 6 sons, Bob, Harry, Bradley, Michael, Gary, and Mark; and a daughter Lori Anne Merrill Calvin; and 15 grandchildren. Funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.

 

My Remembrances of Bud Merrill:

I received a call this morning that I had been expecting, but I was not ready to be told that my friend and mentor, Bud Merrill had passed away.  I had spent a couple of hours by his side last night, I had seen that he was ready, but I was not ready to hear the news.  For those of you who didn’t know, Bud had been having health problem for at least a year before he saw his final checkered flag.

 

Bud has been a Steward for many organizations over the years, SCCA, VDCA, SVRA, HSR, BMWCCA, PCA and probably more clubs along the way.  Bud was always devoted to Florida Region.  Bud always was and always will be a Steward’s, Steward, and will never be replaced. Bud had served in almost every position in Florida Region, from Regional Executive to his current post as Parliamentarian.

 

He has worked as Executive Steward and is currently our Deputy Executive Steward.  He has told many times that he did not want titles, just the ability to help the region. Bud has also won almost every award that Florida Region and Southeast Division has to offer.

 

I first met Bud in the mid 60’s at the original PBIR.  He was part of the group that kept the races going back then.  I was a corner worker at the time and really did not want to talk to a Steward.  I worked many races and Bud was always there for Florida Region.

 

In the early 70’s I stopped working events and ran rallies.  When I returned to the race track in the mid 80’s, Bud was there.  He and I spent many hours under the “Tin shed” at Moroso.  I learned quite a bit listening to Bud and how he would run an event.  The first thing he taught me was to not take myself too seriously, listen to what was being said and try to reach a fair decision that was good for all parties.

 

I resisted joining the SCCA Stewards program for almost 10 years, until Bud talked me into joining.  He told me that the program was changing and that he thought that I thought a lot like he did, and that we could make a change in the way “it had always been done”.  I know that I will never be “Bud”, but I sincerely hope that I can live up to his expectations.

 

Bob Ricker

 

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