Monday, October 16, 2017

Brady Bacon names finalists for Baton Award

Three finalists have been named for the first annual Brady Bacon Baton Award which will select a young up and coming driver whom Bacon foresees as a future racing star bound for greater glory. The identity of the winner will be revealed on November 11 as part of the 2017 Racers Reunion Banquet in Irving Texas.

Bacon, the two-time United States Auto Club (USAC) sprint car champion from Broken Arrow Oklahoma who began racing at age five and throughout his career Bacon has excelled in midgets, sprint cars and championship cars on both dirt and asphalt race tracks across the country.  With over twenty years of experience in building, working on and racing open-wheel racing cars has provided Brady a unique perspective to identify and evaluate future racing talents. The three finalists for the 2017 Brady Bacon Baton Award are Giovanni Scelzi, Logan Seavey and Tyler Thomas.
Giovanni Scelzi 

Giovanni Scelzi started his racing career at a young age in micro sprints on local California tracks when he was just 6 years old. Those early experiences and the mentorship of his older brother Dominic and his father, four-time National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing champion Gary Scelzi, has clearly helped the 15-year-old driver’s career.  After he notched a remarkable 24 feature wins and two track championships during the 2010 season, the following year, as a nine-year old, Scelzi moved up to the restricted micro sprint class and won another track championship.

In 2015 Giovanni led all 25 laps to claim the “A” class winged micro sprint main event and the “Golden Driller” at the famed Speedway Motors Tulsa Shootout held at the Expo Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2016 Giovanni made the jump to full-sized sprint cars and collected eight victories and his first career California Speedweek championship. During the season, “Gio” claimed the King of Kings Speedway title and recorded a total of twelve top 10 finishes in 17 winged sprint car races and was voted the 360 Rookie of the Year by the North American 410 Sprint Car Poll voting panel.

This season, Giovanni has focused on the King of the West - NARC 410 winged sprint car series with the Dennis Roth Motorsports team and as of this writing leads the championship chase. Scelzi has not restricted his racing to just the state of California, as he scored a clean sweep at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa driving for BDS Motorsports with the Sprint Invaders series along with  three top five finishes in three American Sprint Car Series National series starts.
Logan Seavey celebrates
his Hockett/McMillin win

The next Brady Bacon Baton candidate, Logan Seavey, also hails from the Golden State. While Scelzi lives in the central California town of Fresno, Logan comes from the historic Gold Country town of Sutter in the northern part of the state.   Seavey began racing outlaw karts in 2002 at the ripe young age of 5 years old and won his first race when he was 6 years old behind the wheel of his box stock kart.

In 2007, just his fifth year behind the wheel, Seavey won his first championship, claiming the Box Stock title at the famed Cycleland Speedway in Chico California. Since then Logan has added five more outlaw kart championships that include back-to-back championships in the Red Bluff Outlaws Winter Indoor Series in 2015 and 2016 and the 2015 QRC Speed Sport Challenge.

2017 has been a breakout year for Logan, as he has scored two victories in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League with victories in the ‘Camfield Memorial’ race at Macon Speedway in Macon Illinois and at Lincoln Speedway in Lincoln Illinois on the final night of Illinois Speedweek.
As of this writing, Seavey leads the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League championship chase with nine top five and nine top ten finishes to go along with his two victories.  Last month, Logan had a dream weekend  as he won all three nights of the seventh annual Hockett/McMillin Memorial race in the Daum Motorsports 5D with the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR (non-wing) Sprint Car League.  
Tyler Thomas in action
at the Chili Bowl

The third Brady Bacon Baton finalist, Tyler Thomas has been a standout for the last several years with the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League. Thomas from Collinsville Oklahoma began racing at just four years of age and recorded five championships on the Regional and Club level with 28 wins before he moved to Micro Sprints in 2009.  Tyler quickly put together 9 wins for his first season and quickly moved to the Ecotec Midget division in 2010 and won 6 of the 8 races in which he competed.

In 2011, Tyler debuted in the POWRI Midget Series, and he became the youngest driver to win a POWRI main event at the age of 15. 2012 and 2013 saw Thomas record more wins and podiums to finish 5th and 4th respectively in the POWRI National Midget standings. Last year Thomas added another win and 10 top-5 finishes

After he started his 2017 season with a strong fifth place finish in his preliminary night feature and a 17th place finish in the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa Oklahoma, Tyler has scored three POWRi Lucas Oil National victories at Macon Speedway and Jacksonville Speedways in Illinois and Valley Speedway in Grass Valley Missouri. Thomas won the Sooner Midget Nationals with the Lucas Oil POWRi West Midget League at Red Dirt Raceway in Meeker, Oklahoma, and Tyler with the Brian Thomas #91T midget currently stands 12th in the USAC national midget points.  

The presentation of the Brady Bacon Baton Award is just one of the many exciting events on tap for the 2017 Racers Reunion in Irving Texas on November 11.  In addition to the special tribute to our nation’s veterans for Veterans Day, the banquet will feature as a special guest, three-time Indianapolis 500-mile race winner, the legendary Bobby Unser who will share stories of his many racing victories and times as a racing commentator for ABC Sports. 

Also scheduled for the eighth annual Racers Reunion are programs that will examine the first 50 years of the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) and the life of pioneering Hall of Fame drag racer, Bobby Langley, and the USAC Hall of Fame induction of the legendary Texas racer Lloyd Ruby.

Tickets for the eighth annual Racers Reunion Banquet, which in addition to the feature presentations includes an afternoon guest speaker, autograph session and an afternoon of bench racing with a large collection of vintage race cars and memorabilia are available at


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

1932 Chevrolet Confederate sedan

Given today’s poetically correct social environment, many people will likely be surprised to learn that in 1932, Chevrolet Division of the General Motors Company marketed its new BA series car as the “Confederate.” Chevrolet advertised that the Confederate had “V-16 styling at a six cylinder price" and emphasized that it was the "Great American Value."
The Confederate series encompassed fourteen different body styles and a total of 313,395 were built in five factories across the United States during the 1932 sales year.
Notice the Chevrolet Spark passing in the background
The wire mesh grille was standard
The chrome louvers on the hood dual spare tire side mounts and cowl lights on this car which was seen at the “Autos of Alamo” car show identify it as a Confederate Special sedan.

 The Confederate rides on 18-inch true spoke wire wheels.
The Confederate series was powered by the trusty 194 cubic inch 60-horsepower (up 10 from 1931) “Stovebolt Six” engine connected to the all-new three-speed “Silent Synchro-Mesh” transmission and the "Simplified Free Wheeling" mode was standard, which permitted the car to coast when the driver's foot was lifted from the accelerator via an over-running clutch, that disengaged the driveshaft from the output shaft.

This beauty is very well-equipped fitted with the dual front "Town and Country" horns, dual rear-view mirrors, luggage racks, front and rear bumpers and the optional passenger side brake and parking light. All of these options that could have been added either at the factory or the dealership.    
After one year of disappointing sales with many sales lost to the new V-8 Ford,  the Confederate  was replaced for 1933 by the CA series sold as the "Eagle" and "Master" which when combined sold 140,000 more units than the 1932 Confederate.  
All photos by the author

Monday, October 2, 2017

Cody Gerhardt wins season finale
Maria Cofer claims the championship

Ten of Bay Cities Racing Association’s (BCRA) best pavement midgets were on hand Saturday September 30 at the Madera Speedway for the 2017 season finale. Chad Nichols in the #17N Shanoian Special sped around the 1/3-mile paved oval in 14.193 seconds to claim the top qualifying honors, trailed by Scott Pierovich in the Morris #71R with a best lap of 14.267 seconds.
Cody Gerhardt timed in third fastest trailed by Mark Maliepaard as David Goodwill rounded out the fast five. Leading the second group was third generation racer Davey Hamilton Junior in the Bob Rosen #4, followed by Maria Cofer, JR Williams and Floyd Alvis.  Nick Foster Junior was unable to make the call for time trials in the second Shanoian Special as the #1N suffered from an engine vibration.

Alvis and Cofer led the field to the green flag for the first 8-lap preliminary heat race and Cofer surged into the lead and held the point for the first two circuits. Nichols moved up from his fifth starting spot into second place on the second lap with an outside pass in turn one, then claimed the lead one lap later with another turn one outside pass.

One lap later, Gerhardt charged past Cofer into second place, which dropped Maria in the Arata #88 into third place trailed by Goodwill and Alvis. The running order remained unchanged over the last three laps, all run under the green flag. Foster was unable to answer the call for the second preliminary heat race, which was led wire-to-wire by Davey Hamilton Junior trailed by Pierovich Maliepaard and JR Williams.  

Fastest qualifier Nichols pulled the number “6” pill in the redraw for the starting feature lineup, which positioned Davey Hamilton Junior on the pole position with David Goodwill alongside for the start of the 30-lap season finale feature. Foster was able to take the green flag shotgun on the field but the engine vibrations were so severe that he pulled off as the field entered turn one on the first lap. At the drop of the green flag, Hamilton sped into the lead trailed by Maliepaard Gerhardt Pierovich and Nichols.

Hamilton held a slim lead while the trailing four cars battled among themselves, as between laps seven and ten Maliepaard battled all around the track for second place with Gerhardt finally able to make the high groove work and he began to track down Hamilton. On lap 16, Gerhardt moved low underneath Hamilton as the pair entered turn three. On lap 19, as Goodwill headed down the back stretch his engine went off song, and the #3G came to a stop on lap 20 at the exit of turn two to bring out the race’s first caution flag.

Nichols had a head of steam on the restart and blasted past Maliepaard and Hamilton on the outside of turns one and two to claim second place, but Chad’s evening came to an abrupt end on lap 27 as the #17N coasted into the infield out of fuel.  Cody Gerhardt sped under the twin checkered flags to claim a popular win over Maliepaard, Pierovich, Hamilton, 2017 BCRA season champion Maria Cofer, Floyd Alvis and JR Williams in seventh place. Nichols was scored in eighth position ahead of fellow non-finishers Goodwill and Foster.
photo of Maria Cofer by the author
After the event in the pit area the Arata Brothers’ trailer was a scene of celebration in honor of Maria Cofer’s crowning as the 2017 BCRA champion. Maria continued her family’s tradition of championships, as her father (and crew chief) John was the 1994 United States Auto Club (USAC) Western States series king.
Maria piloted the Arata’s immaculate black #88 #88 on the pavement and drove her father’s red white and black #57 on the dirt portions of the 2017 BCRA schedule. Maria will collect her championship trophy at the annual BCRA awards banquet to be held on January 20 2018 at the Hilton Hotel in Stockton California.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

Owned by the same man for 56 years
Spotted at the 2017 Autos of Alamo Car Show in amongst the shiny brightly painted hot rods and sport cars was this  rather weather-beaten 1961 Chevrolet Impala coupe. This Roman Red with an Ermine white hardtop has an interesting story, as it has been owned by the same man for 56 years and it has spent the last 44 years in the City of Alamo. 

The owner hasn't restored the bdoywork (yet) but he has rebuilt the  235 cubic  inch 135-horsepower  "Hi Thrift" straight six engine.

If this was your car, what would you do - restore it or preserve it as original?  

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A hot rod  with a historic connection 
at the Autos of Alamo car show

At the “Autos of Alamo” car show held on the evening of September 18 at the Alamo Square shopping Center, the author found a unique hot rod with a connection to both hot rod history and the history of the Indianapolis 500-mile race.

From a distance this is a nice full-fendered 1932 Ford Model 18 Deluxe coupe “three window” fitted with a Sparton horn, but the outstanding feature of this hot rod is its flathead V-8 engine fitted with original Navarro 89 cylinder heads. Barney Navarro was a ground breaking early Southern California hot rodder who built hop-up parts for at his Navarro Engineering shop at 5142 San Fernando Road in Glendale California.

Rambler ad scanned from the September 1967
 issue of Motor Trend magazine

For five years Barney Navarro raced on the United States Auto Club (USAC) championship racing circuit, principally at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with an unlikely engine – a Rambler straight six engine as used in the Rambler American passenger car. Barney sleeved the engine down from its original 199 cubic inches down to 183 cubic inches and turbocharged it. A Rambler advertisement in Motor Trend magazine in September 1967 claimed that the engine developed over 550 horsepower.

Unfortunately the chassis in which the engine was installed in for its 1967 debut was a bit long in the tooth; the first rear-engine Watson chassis which powered by a Ford DOHC V-8 engine was driven to second place by Rodger Ward in the 1964 Indianapolis ‘500.’

 Les Scott's official Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo

Navarro bought the car in 1966 from racer Norm Hall who had raced it unsuccessfully during the 1965 USAC engine fitted with an Offenhauser engine. The Rambler-powered car was entered in the 1967 Indianapolis ‘500’ for Kokomo Indiana rookie driver Les Scott who passed his rookie test but failed to qualify for the 33-car starting field.

Over the next few years, Barney Navarro continued to attempt to qualify at Indianapolis with Scott as the driver although other notable drivers tried it. In 1968, after Scott failed his refresher test journalist turned racer Ken Titus crashed the Navarro Watson in practice.

In 1969 Mike Moseley who drove for Wilke Racers and AJ Watson took the car for a “test hop” to help sort of the handling but in the end Scott and the #50 Navarro Engineering Special failed to qualify for the ‘500.’ Later during the 1969 USAC racing season Al Loquasto tried to qualify the car at two races, and  Southern California road racer Dino Dioguardi did not qualify for the starting field at the 1969 season-ending “Rex Mays 300.”

Ace midget car pilot Arnie Knepper drove the red white and blue “Navarro American Motors Special” in practice at Indianapolis in 1970 but did not attempt to qualify. Later that season both Les Scott and Denny Zimmerman unsuccessfully tried to qualify the car for the inaugural ‘California 500’ at the Ontario Motor Speedway in September 1970.

Dave Strickland's official Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo

The following year the Navarro Rambler-powered car now fitted with twin turbochargers finally made the starting field for a USAC race and ran in both heats of the “Rafaela Indy 300” held in Argentina, driven by midget racing stalwart Dave Strickland. The #50 car was flagged in 19th place in the first 153-mile heat race, and 15th in the second heat 8 laps behind the winner.  

After adjustments made during a tire test session at Phoenix improved the old chassis’ handling, the team went to Indianapolis with high hopes. Dave Strickland passed his rookie test, but the over-stressed Rambler engine then reputed to develop 700 horsepower had reliability issues and eventually Strickland stepped out of the car after a practice incident. 
The Navarro-owned Rambler-powered Watson chassis reappeared at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1972 as the “Roughneck Drilling Special” driven by hard-luck racer Leon “Jigger” Sirois, who practiced the car but never made a qualifying attempt.

During the 1980’s Barney Navarro sold the 1964 Watson chassis less its unique engine back to its original driver Rodger Ward who had the car restored to Ford DOHC power with its original 1964 livery as the “Kaiser Aluminum Special.” 

Barney Navarro a true hot rod and racing innovator passed away two days after his 88th birthday in August 2007 but his company carries on and sells modern examples of Barney’s original castings.    

Color photographs by the author
Black & White photographs courtesy of the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chad Nichols dominates the
 2017 Harvest Classic

On Saturday night September 16, the mighty midgets of the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) were in action at the ultra-fast Madera Speedway paved oval as part of the 45th annual Harvest Classic. The first car out for time trials, the #17 Shanoian Special Esslinger-powered Beast chassis piloted by Chad Nichols, spun on the slick surface during his second lap and had to settle for his first lap time of 14.455 seconds.

Chad’s time wound up being fifth fastest, as the six fastest cars all broke into the 14-second bracket. Cody Gerhardt in the Eskesen Racing Beast powered by a Mopar engine set the night’s fastest time with a best lap of 14.352 seconds, to edge out Mark Maliepaard’s best lap of 14.359 seconds in the Maliepaard & Morris’ #51 Beast/Esslinger.

David Goodwill was third fastest qualifier in his Beast/Mopar, trailed by Scott Pierovich in Morris’ #71R midget, while Nichols’ teammate Nick Foster timed in sixth fastest in the #1N Shanoian Beast/Esslinger at 14.601 seconds. Maria Cofer, Floyd Alvis, JR Williams and 2106 BCRA champion Bobby Wilson rounded out the night’s qualifiers.

Chad Nichols jumped into the lead from the pole position in the night’s first 8-lap heat race and led all the way to the checkered flag trailed by Gerhardt, Goodwill, Cofer and JR Williams. Nick Foster grabbed the lead at the start of the second heat race with Mark Maliepaard in hot pursuit before Mark bobbled as he tried for the lead on lap four and spun to a stop at the head of the front straightaway. Maliepaard restarted at the tail of the field but had lost a lap in scoring as Foster cruised to victory over Pierovich, Alvis and Wilson.

The BCRA 30-lap feature was the last event of the evening following the hobby stocks, USAC HPD midgets, winged sprint cars, NCMA sprint cars, Super Modifieds, Legends of Kearney Bowl, California Hard Tops, and two sessions of pulling tractors. Teammates Nichols and Foster shared the front row for the start and Nichols sped into the lead at the drop of the green flag, as behind him Foster battled Malipaard for position and Gerhardt moved up to make it three car battle for third place behind Nichols and Pierovich.

Following a lap eight restart for Bobby Wilson’s second spin of the race, Gerhardt executed an outside pass of Maliepaard to secure third place. The three leading machines then streaked away from the rest of the field as they wove through traffic and built up a 6 car advantage over fourth place Foster by lap 20. As the laps wound down, Gerhardt tried an inside move on Pierovich for second place but could not maintain another momentum to complete the pass.

On lap 24, David Goodwill felt the Mopar engine in his #3G machine tighten up and he shut it down and coasted to a stop on the high side of turn number two. Neither Pierovich nor Gerhardt could challenge over the last five laps, and Chad Nichols took the Harvest Classic win. Fourth place went to Nick Foster, with Maliepaard fifth and BCRA points leader Maria Cofer sixth after she battled braking problems over the last half of the race. Floyd Alvis and JR Williams rounded out the finishers, and Goodwill and Wilson failed to finish.

The BCRA midgets return to Madera Speedway on September 30 in a program with the 75-lap Open Hobby Stock Race, USAC HPD Midgets, BCRA Midgets, Super Modifieds, Legends of the Pacific, and the Legends of Kearney Bowl.

1951 Ford Woodie wagon

At the 2017 “Autos of Alamo” car show, the author spied this 1951 Ford Country Squire wagon, Ford’s last wood-bodied station wagon built in its Iron Mountain factory using maple and birch from Ford’s own Upper Peninsula forests.  Some purists disdain these cars as the body is mostly steel inlaid with wood.
Comparing the two sides of this 1951 Ford demonstrates how little wood was actually used in building these cars.  

Ford had remained the woodie wagon market after Chevrolet had abandoned it following the 1948 model year, as General Motors found that all-steel station wagons were much more cost competitive. Ford dropped the price of the V8 flathead powered 1951 top of the line Country Squire wagon to $2028 but sales for the model year totaled just 22,292 units.
In late 1951 Ford Motor Company sold the Iron Mountain factory, and for 1952 the re-designed Ford Country Squire used 'Di-Noc' wood laminate paneling on the sides and tailgate framed by wood, but the real wood was replaced by wood-grained fiberglass mid-way through the 1953 model year.   

All photographs by the author