Monday, June 20, 2016

The BCRA midgets rocked Marysville

Saturday night June 18 2016 the ¼-mile egg-shaped clay oval Marysville Raceway Park (MRP) hosted the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) midget and midget lites racing program. When the author arrived in the warm environs of Marysville, there were thirteen (13) BCRA midget lites in the pits and eleven (11) full midgets with a twelfth car on the way.

As it had been several years since the author had last seen the lites, Chief Referee David LaManna explained that without a wing, the 1000 CC (cubic centimeter) motorcycle engine powered chain-driven midget lite cars had to meet a 925-pound minimum weight with the driver and all fluids.  At MRP, the lites were a “pill-draw” show, while the midgets set the field through single car qualifying with the better of timed two laps counted as the official time.

Since the BCRA midgets had not raced at MRP since it was remodeled in its current configuration, fast qualifier Cory Elliott’s 14.312 second lap was established as the new MRP track record. Second fastest qualifier Brian Gard was less than a tenth of second slower with his best lap of 14.414 seconds, followed by Dustin Golobic third fastest with his 14.761 second lap time.

The pair of eight-lap midget lites heat races were won by RC Smith and Craig Dillard, but unfortunately each featured crashes. In the first heat, Tim Kinser’s car flipped end over end through the third turn, and the second heat, Nate Buffa’s car bicycled onto two wheels as he entered turn one and Buffa then hit the outside retaining wall head-on. Neither driver was injured but both cars were scratched for the night.

The first eight-lap midget heat race ran flag to flag without a caution flag and was won by Britton Bock over Ellott, Greg Bragg and 16- year old second generation driver Maria Cofer. The second heat race was won by the steadily improving Bobby “Hollywood” Wilson over Taylor Simas and Gard. Golobic pulled into the infield mid-way through the second heat race when his Doug Bock owned #25G midget experienced problems with its Esslinger engine.

The 20-lap BCRA midget lites feature started off with a bang as early in the race, Scott Males of Australia, the feature winner two weeks earlier at Placerville Speedway, rode over another car’s wheel and his #9 machine flipped hard into the outside wall off turn two.  Males climbed out uninjured, and promoter Dennis Gage’s track crew did an excellent job to repair the damaged wall quickly so that the racing program could resume.  When the race restarted, Kyle Offill shot into the lead in his immaculate #2K machine and Offill dominated the balance of the race and he held a half-lap advantage at the drop of the checkered flag. 

Taylor Simas and Maria Cofer, the daughter of 1994 USAC Western States midget champion John Cofer shared the front row for the start of the 12-car midget feature which was marred on the opening lap by a collision which eliminated two cars from the field. Second fastest qualifier Brian Gard’s #88 car spun in turn three and then Gard’s stopped machine was clipped by Mark Malipaard’s trailing car. After both cars were towed off the racing surface, the feature resumed with a complete restart with Simas in the lead and Cofer in hot pursuit.  

Midway through the feature race, Elliott moved up from his sixth starting position to pass Cofer for second place and he set off to track down Simas who held a straightaway lead. As the pair sliced through lapped traffic, Elliott closed to within three car lengths of Simas, but time and the laps ran out and at the checkered flag, the finishing order was Simas, Elliott, Cofer, and Greg Bragg.  During the post-race technical inspection, Cofer revealed that her car had had no brakes since lap five, which makes her third place finish a really remarkable performance.    

The mighty BCRA midgets will next be in action at Placerville Speedway on July 2, while the BCRA midget lites will hold their next race, with wings, at Placerville on July 9.  Both classes will be in action at Petaluma Speedway on July 16 for the annual Jack London Bash and Hall of Fame Induction.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Schutte victorious over BCRA midgets at Petaluma Speedway, Marysville next

The mighty Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) midgets visited the 3/8-mile dirt oval Petaluma Speedway last Saturday night June 11. Alex Schutte in his family’s #38 Esslinger-powered Spike chassis achieved the “clean sweep” after he set the fast time in qualifying, scored a victory in his heat race, and then ran away with the feature race win by more than five seconds over of his nearest competitor.   

The previous week’s race winner at Watsonville Speedway, Dustin Golobic, suffered the misfortune of an engine failure during warm-ups and was forced to scratch for the evening. The winner of the second seven-car  eight-lap heat race was Taylor Simas in the sister car to Golobic’s entry. Robert Dalby chased Schutte across the line at the end of the 30-lap feature race which was run without a caution flag, followed by Britton Bock and young Cory Elliott.
The author was very impressed at how efficiently the evening’s racing program was run. With four classes in action, the racing program began on time, and then progressed quickly and ended at a reasonable time. In this era of multi-class racing programs that often run late into the night, the track promoter, the officials, the sanctioning bodies, and the competitors are all to be complemented for the evening’s brevity.     
The BCRA midgets will be back in action on Saturday night June 18, 2016 at Marysville Raceway Park in Marysville California, with qualifying scheduled for 6:30 PM.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

We lost two automotive giants 

The automotive world recently lost two giants- Louis Senter and Joe Moriarty.

Louis Senter one of the founding members of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and a  SEMA Hall of Fame Hall of Fame member died Saturday, May 28 at age 95. Senter got his start by building and modifying engines for midgets and other forms of oval-track racing.

Senter opened his own machine shop on Crocker Street in downtown Los Angeles called Senter Engineering. After moving the business to Jefferson Boulevard in 1947, he took on Jack Andrews as a partner. The new partnership also brought a name change from Senter Engineering to Ansen Automotive Engineering—a combination of Andrews and Senter—and was one of the first true speed shops in the city, according to Senter. There, Senter developed a lightened, balanced and polished Ford flathead crankshaft kit. The firm sold complete engines, which were shipped for the most part to National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) drivers in the southern states.

In late October of 1950, after Senter became the sole owner of Ansen Automotive, the company expanded again into a building on Normandie Boulevard in Los Angeles. During the ensuing years, a number of automotive icons worked there, including Lou Raney, Ed Pink and Jim Kavanaugh.

In the early ’60s, Ansen Automotive moved to a building constructed specifically for the business on Western Avenue in Gardena, California. The company’s catalog grew to more than 100 pages and featured hundreds of parts, including forged pistons and forged-steel rods, aluminum connecting rods and a safety bell housing that became compulsory at all dragstrips. The piston department was later sold to Nick Arias, who is still making pistons today, and the rod department was sold to Miller Rods.

In 1963, Senter and other manufacturers formed an organization known as the Speed Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA), today known as the Specialty Equipment Market Association. Senter said that the organization was designed to formulate safety standards in the high-performance industry and organize the manufacturers for representation in Washington, D.C., to keep SEMA informed about legislation being introduced that might affect the industry.

Senter began to pull back from the business in 1969, selling to the Whittaker Corporation. Senter stayed with Ansen until 1974 and then became a consultant for W.R. Grace, which included Appliance Industries, Mr. Gasket, Lakewood and Hickey. In 1978, Louis Senter was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame. Senter continued to develop wheel products and companies over the next few years but eventually retired for good. He was named to the Hot Rod Magazine Hall of Fame in 1997, received a Western Racing Association award for his 50-year contribution to racing in 1998 and was named to the Dry Lakes Hall of Fame in 1999.

Maurice Joseph Moriarty “Joe” Moriarty the founder of Total Seal Piston Rings lost his battle with heart disease and passed away on Tuesday June 1, 2016, at his home in Phoenix Arizona. Born in 1928 in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, Moriarty was a prolific inventor, holding several patents on piston rings, including Total Seal’s Gapless and Diamond Finish rings.
Moriarty started Total Seal Piston Rings in 1967 and the company saw tremendous growth over the last several years, producing some of the most advanced steel ring manufacturing capabilities available today. Joe was inducted into the Motorsports Parts Manufacturers Council (MPMC) Hall of Fame at the 2014 PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis. Moriarty leaves behind his wife of 48 years, Donna, eight children and  17 grandchildren. His namesake, Joey Moriarty, will continue to run Total Seal Piston Rings in Phoenix.
Information and photographs for this article provided by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


For Ray Evernham, it is the holy grail of hot rods, a car that inspired his life-long passion for cars, rock and roll and the American car culture.  Now, after pursuing the car for most of his adult life and finally buying it, he faces an even bigger challenge – preserving it in its original movie condition for generations to come. Evernham took a trip to see ‘American Graffiti’ as a teenager and it changed his life.  Today, he is leading the preservation of this iconic nosed and decked 1958 Chevy Impala hardtop featured in the 1973 George Lucas film which is widely regarded as one of the most recognizable movie cars of all time.


‘American Graffiti,’  an iconic film about four long-time high-school friends set in Modesto, California in 1962, featured  several great classic cars throughout the movie, with the 1958 Chevy Impala being one of the most iconic.  In the movie, the white 1958 Chevy Impala belongs to Steve Bolander, the character played by Ron Howard, who loans it to one of the other central characters, Terry “the Toad” Fields. “The Toad” takes the Impala cruising and runs into a rebellious and wild girl named Debbie, who is played by Candy Clark.

“For me, ‘American Graffiti’ is an incredible movie about an exciting time in America,” said Evernham.  “It brought back hot rods and rock and roll and launched the careers of dozens of stars.  George Lucas did such an exacting job creating the set, building the cars and telling the story that you were truly transported back to a time when horsepower was king, you and your friends ruled the drive-in and the world was a simpler place.”

Evernham partnered with Axalta Coating Systems, a leading global manufacturer of liquid and powder coatings, to bring this piece of movie history back to life.  After the Impala goes through a tedious total preservation, it will be unveiled in Axalta’s booth #22391 at the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas during the first week of November 2016.

After being used in the film, Mike Famalette, from Vallejo, California was only 17 at the time when he purchased the car directly from Lucas Films Limited in 1972. Famalette spotted a classified ad in the San Francisco Chronicle and drove to Petaluma where a lot of American Graffiti’s filming was done.  Henry Travers, Lucas Films’ transportation captain turned down the initial offer of $275, but with a little more haggling the 1958 Impala sold for $285.00, Famalette held onto the car until 2015 when Evernham acquired it after it failed to sell at auction.


“To save this car for future generations, we have to go back 42 years to its original movie condition,” noted Evernham.  “It really is a forensic preservation.  We have to take it apart piece by piece, catalog every piece and then repair those pieces.  Every piece of chrome is being straightened and re-chromed.  The emblems are being re-chromed.  The nuts and bolts are being re-plated.  The tuck and roll interior has been entirely disassembled and will be restored back to its movie condition.  Everything we took off is going back in it.”

Evernham said the complexity of the restoration is daunting, and the time required will far exceed any of the award-winning, best-in-class cars built by his team previously for the SEMA show, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and the Pinehurst d’Elegance. “We are applying modern engineering with Bobby Alloway to return this car to the original movie condition,” Evernham said.  “The process of repairing every part requires far more time and effort – and money.  This is It would be a lot easier to just purchase new parts, but that wouldn’t be true to the soul of this car.” 

look close- the dents that "Toad" put in the rear trim of the 1958 Impala when he
backed into another car during the film 'American Graffiti' are still there
The only element Evernham plans to replace is the engine, which blew up on Famlette’s drive home after buying the Impala and he and his older brother replaced it with a two-barrel carburetor 283-cubic inch Chevrolet engine with a Powerglide automatic transmission.  As seen in American Graffiti, the 1958 Impala was originally equipped with the optional four-barrel carbureted 348 cubic Inch engine connected to a three-speed manual transmission.  Evernham found a nineteen sixties 327-cubic inch Chevrolet engine fitted with six Stromberg carburetors, which is the engine that “Toad” boasted to Debby powered the car.   

“When I was a teenager growing up in New Jersey, this car represented everything that was cool about America’s car culture – independence, coming of age, freedom and enjoying your life with your buddies,” said Evernham.  “This car has been on my dream list forever.  To now own this car and lead the preservation of this incredible piece of American history is truly an honor. To me, it’s like having to repaint the Mona Lisa.”

With corporate partner Axalta Coating Systems, Evernham will replace the exact paint and pinstripes on the vehicle. ”Paint technology has come a long way since 1958,” noted Harry Christman, North American Cromax® Brand Manager for Axalta. “Regardless, the paint scheme still represents the most recognizable aspect of this iconic car.  Axalta’s goal with this restoration is to precisely match the original colors using Cromax® ChromaPremier® to preserve the vehicle’s heritage and protect this unique piece of history for years to come.”

“The paint was more than 40 years old and hadn’t been maintained,” Christman explained.  “If it was left unprotected, the car would have been destroyed.  Axalta was able to recreate the exact paint blend, so we’ll return this car to the condition that moviegoers have seen for years.”

Following the car’s 2016 SEMA Show debut, Evernham plans to take it on tour across the country and show the car at shows from ranging Hershey to Amelia Island.  The preservation process will appear in the upcoming season of “AmeriCarna” on the Velocity network.

The Information and photographs for this article were provided by Deborah L. Robinson of Victory Management Group Public Relations.