Wing Side Up

By Bob Gangwer

 

Goshen, IN 5/28/01…Is there any other place to be other than Indiana in the month of May? We have our doubts, but after this last week, even our loyalties to the Hoosier State were strained.

We hooked up once again with our friend Robert Gill who talked us into going down to the middle of the state a few days earlier than we had planned. We left late Tuesday night and made our way to David Sink’s house in Anderson. Dave is a great photographer and a fellow friend of ours and he made a gracious host to a couple of bums.

The plans for the week included practice for the Little 500 at Anderson on Wednesday afternoon, the USAC 50 lapper that night, Carb Day at the Speedway and Little 500 time trials Thursday afternoon, then the Indy Midget 500 at the Speedrome Thursday night. From there we would watch second round time trials at Anderson on Friday afternoon, head to the State Fairgrounds Friday night for the Hulman Classic and then get ready for the Little 500 Saturday night.

Suffice it to say that the best laid plans failed to materialize. We saw more rainbows than racing and by the time we were standing in Victory Lane Saturday night at Anderson, a drowned rat would have dried out more quickly than all of our sopping gear.

After lots of beer, a ton of bench racing, a visit to the Slippery Noodle, and a few hundred extra miles on R.G.’s Blazer, we got to see the one we really came for. The 53rd Annual Payless Supermarkets Little 500 was worth the wait and we got to watch Eric Gordon take his 3rd Victory in this prestigious race over Dave Steele, David Harrison, Gary Fedewa, and Brandon Petty. Steele led 115 of the first 116 laps, while Harrison, Fedewa, and Petty all looked strong and led the race at one point or another.

We’re not going to give you the whole run down here as you can certainly read it elsewhere in the Times, but we will touch on some neat trivia and some thoughts that we came away with.

We thought it was pretty cool that our friend Jeff Bloom got his first ever Little 500 after the Silver Anniversary of his first Little 5 start. Eric Gordon and Dave Steele made up the rest of the front row. Jeff’s luck ran out on lap 337when he blew an engine in turn 3.

Some notables that didn’t make the show were Bentley Warren and Dorman Snyder. Both blew engines in practice, Warren in the V-6 Boles car and Snyder in the venerable and ageless Bellair roadster. Stan Butler was another driver that failed to make the show. He broke a streak dating back to 1982 after trying desperately to get the handle on a car that he had very little track time with.

Jonathan Venard was the youngest starter in the race at 18 and veteran Benny Rapp was the oldest at 78. Venard finished 30th, and Rapp came home 15th.

We had a good time talking to Rookie Rick Pardee. Rick and his crew towed all the way from Utah and nearly had to tow back home without getting to start in their first Little 5.

Pardee now knows what Billy Boat was thinking two weeks ago when he was riding "the Bubble" at Indy. Pardee was the 33rd fastest qualifier and sat in his car through a brief rain shower and six other attempts to knock him out of the field

He waited and hoped that the rain would cancel the rest of the second day attempts, but the track crew, who had become well versed in the art of mile high banked race track drying procedures, got the track ready to go for several final tries. Jason Blonde, Bill Allen, Larry Fritz, John Batts and Stan Butler all gave it their best shot, but to no avail.

In the end Pardee made the field, was the first car to spin, was involved in a small jingle in turn 2 with Bill Tyler, then spun again on lap 245, but ended up finishing the race and placing 20th. "Next year we’re gonna have radios because I would have been a lot faster." Said Pardee afterwards. "This is a fun race and I am glad we came out, but we will be more prepared next year."

Nine rookies started the race with Chris Hayes of Rockford, Michigan piloting the Wayne Stickney #99 to a fourth place start.

Veteran David Harrison was the fastest second round qualifier in the former Gary Schlaffer V-6 roadster now owned by Bob Cechstein. Harrison encountered some trouble early on but was later one of the fastest cars on the track and rallied back to a 17th place finish.

Former supermod pilot, Indy car driver, Winston cup shoe, and former Little 500 winner, Chet Fillip qualified the Dick Fuller STL entry poorly. He started 17th but looked strong early in the race and was moving up until he ran over a car going into turn 3 when it checked up on a restart. Chet tried to continue, but had to come to the pits for repairs two laps later when the front end started shaking violently. He lost several laps but eventually made it back out to race and finished 14th.

What were our impressions? Let’s just say that we hadn’t done a whole lot of smiling all week long until the Little 500 got under way and from that point on we were grinning the rest of the long night. While we don’t get the goose bumps and tears for the start like we do at Classic, we nonetheless, feel the rush, the thrill and the excitement that the roar of 33 cars three abreast, and haulin’ ass on the high banks can produce. It’s a thrill to watch the drivers work hard for 500 laps trying to get through traffic, knowing that the arms are like Jell-O and the legs are cramping faster than a marathon runner half way through the race. As usual there was never a lack of racing and the race was never boring. We have yet to come away from the Little 500 bored, even when Bob Frey was winning all the time and we never get tired of going back. We just hope next year isn’t as wet as the Silver Bullets we polished off.

While we were cussing out Mother Nature, the ISMA boys were in action at the "Home of the Supermodifieds". The Jim Shampine Memorial featured an ISMA 50 lapper and a non-winged Oswego 50 lap points show.

ISMA had 27 supers show up while Oswego boasted 32 in their pits. Mike Ordway took home his first win of the season in the Oswego portion of the program. Ordway who is driving for Clyde Booth this year won over, Greg Furlong, Jamie Moore, Shannon Groves, and last week’s winner, Bob Goutermout. Filling out the rest of the top ten were Tim Snyder, Jerry Curran, Otto Sitterly, Dave Trytek, and Scott Eldred.

Heat race wins went to Ordway, Groves, and Moore. Gary Morton won the consi over Gene Lee Gibson, Jeff Holbrook, Brian Sweeney, and Vern LaFave.

Dave McKnight took home the win in the ISMA supers followed by Russ Wood, Chris Perley, Lou Cicconi, and Joey Payne. Joe Gosek, Tim Jedrzejek, Dave Shullick, Jr., Greg Furlong, and Doug Saunier rounded out the top ten.

Heats winners were Joey Payne, Wood, and Kenny Bell. Joey Hawksby, Jr., won the consi over Jamie Moore, Jimmy Shirey, Scott Martel, and Mark Sammut.

ISMA’s next race will be the one we have anticipated every year. This year it is the "Midwest Swing" as the ISMA cars and stars will compete at the Toledo Speedway high banks as well as Berlin. Berlin will be ISMA’s highest paying show of the year and will no doubt encourage a very good car count for both races.

The SRL races on at Meridian, ID for the Diamond Cup this weekend. Hopefully Davey Hamilton can make up for the rotten luck he had at the Speedway. What a bummer to run as high as 7th with 20 laps to go only to drop out with engine failure and end up way back.

This week has been a long one so we’re at 2 Winchester Trails, Goshen, IN trying to recuperate. While we do, we’ll be waiting for your phone calls at (219) 534-0520, and checking for any email sent to wingsideup@earthlink.net. We hope our new friend Fido, who used to help out Timmy J. and camped next door to ma and pa, will check out the website this week for updates and new pix from the Little 5. It’s at www.wingsideup.tripod.com.

We’re wishing a very happy birthday to Kate Gariepy who turned another page on the 27th. She may be a year older, but she’s still as fine as they come. Also to our good neighbor, friend and fellow "Fridge of Fame" member, Sherry Grote on the 28th.

We have to thank Dave Sink for the great hospitality this weekend and also ma and pa for letting us hang out in their new Fleetwood Class A Motorhome. Now we just have to come up with a name for it. We thought "Billy’s Bounder" or the "Hoosier Hustler", but we think we can come up with something a little more catchy and more akin to ma and pa’s love for the supers. It’s quite a step up from the Coleman pop-up, more comfortable, and a great way to stay dry and "Keep It Wing Side Up and Wheels to the Ground."