Friday, July 15, 2011

Remembering Jeff Krosnoff...

Otay, so I’m woefully a Day late (and several Dollars short...) upon posting this story, as Kudos to Kevin Lee who reminded the Open Wheel Racing world (including Mwah) last evening upon Trackside that it was the 15th Anniversary of Jeff Krosnoff’s wicked ‘N fatal accident during the 1996 Toronto Molson Indy, which also took the life of corner worker Gary Avrin...

As I’d tuned in to get Kevin and Kurty Cavin’s take upon that ABOMINATION of an IndyCar race to which I haveda agree 100% with TK and ‘BIG UNIT’s (Tony Kanaan & Justin Wilson) comment about it being EMBARASSING! Which I’ll wait for a further day to expound upon...

Thus back to the late Messer Krosnoff who I really to this day know virtually nothing about, albeit I believe I musta seen him racing in Portland – as the CART Boyz did indeed make their yearly Father’s Day weekend stop on June 23rd that year. To which I also believe was El Zoro’s (Alex Zanardi) debutant Champ Car victory... And hence most likely overshadowed Krosnoff’s race that day...

Unfortunately, all I seem to recall as time screams by is that Mesopotamia known as The Split, as ’96 is the year that CART billed itself as the premiere Open Wheel Racing series, as I still recall the phrase: All the Stars vs. All the Cars... Thus, sadly, I’m assuming I paid either very little or most likely no attention to the rookie driver Krosnoff, who was most likely a back marker aboard his Arciero-Wells Racing (Frank Arciero and Cal Wells collaboration)Reynard-Toyota – especially since it was Toyota’s inaugural Indy Car season – not to mention Arciero-Wells being ‘Juan of the Minnow’s on the CART grid.

Thus, I seem to somewhat still vividly see that beautifully decked-out red & yellow MOMO corse Ferrari 333SP of Giampiero Moretti’s being driven at qualifying speeds during the last hour of that year’s Daytona 24hrs by a virtual unknown by the name of Massimiliano Papis! With Bob Varsha going GaGa over Papis’s breakneck speed whilst trying vainly to run down the eventual winners in the races final half hour. Thus was it here where Massimiliano ggained the moniker MAD MAX from his stellar runner-up finish?

And Krosnoff, who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma but grew up in California, garnering a degree in Business from UCLA, seems to have cut his racing teeth in a most different way, as he spent five years racing in the obscurity of the Japanese F3000 series before being plucked by Cal Wells to help his fledgling association with new engine manufacturer Toyota. Although it’s worth noting that Krosnoff did finish second overall in the 1994 24 Heurs du Mans in which he competed a few times...

Cal Wells:
"We had huge shoes to fill," Wells said. "The team needed a driver who would continue Jeff's passion and commitment to his craft in the same uncompromising fashion Jeff did. We knew we could not replace Jeff, but we needed someone who would understand and emulate his mantra, 'Stay hungry.' Max has given that to us in and out of the car."

Thus apparently upon the strength of his Sports Car  drives in that stunning Ferrari 333SP – Papis was invited to take over the newly deceased Krosnoff’s seat just a few weeks later, which ultimately led to Papis being recruited by Meesh’s favourite IndyCar Owner Bobby Rahal – who once claimed that he felt Max could become “A Zanardi!” With the ultimate irony being that Alex is Papis’s son’s Godfather...

Max Papis:
"It was very difficult," Papis said. "The first time I sat in the car, I thought about Jeff, and now Jeff is not driving, he is not here.
"It felt like someone else's car. The car was not mine. The car was Jeff's."

Thus, I suppose it’s somewhat symbiotic – although I find it more karmic that I stood in line for nearly two hours this year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to get “Stevie Johnson’s” (Stefan Johansson) autograph. As it was the Swede no-less whom Krosnoff made wheel-to-wheel contact with upon that fateful day Up North Eh!

Bobby Rahal:
"The thing that Max brings to a team is charisma," Rahal said. "Forget talent, because that's obvious, but there's charisma. Charismatic people drive things to a higher level through force of will. They're not afraid to take a stand, and I like that about him."

And I can personally attest to this most excellante trait of Massimiliano’s – having witnessed it before and once again whilst standing in line at IMS, when Papis came out to appease the crowd by signing many of ours paraphernalia – yet telling the crowd: My wife sez I’ve gotta get my picture taken with Janet! (Guthrie) Before returning to pleasing the crowd and telling multiple stories too; as it’s alright Max, who claimed one of his downfalls in racing was “He’s too nice!”

And thus, I guess I know the reason why the late Jeff Krosnoff seemingly gets little, if any recognition upon his ultra brief CART career, or his death, as after all he was only starting his 11th Indy Car race which is barely a blip upon the radar. Yet Jeff’s passing ultimately opened the door for Max Papis’s Open Wheel career, who was then followed by another driver nicknamed “Shorty,” a.k.a. Cristiano da Matta who delivered Cal Wells lone CART victory, so who knows just how great Jeff could have become...


To continue reading, see: Remembering Jeff Krosnoff - Part 2

Quotes taken from 1998 LA Times story Papis Is Coming On as the Next Zanardi, written by Martin Henderson...

2 comments:

  1. We were watching the Brahma Bull and Paul Tracy!

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  2. I recall we were thrilled by the Brahma Bull and antics of Paul Tracy's driving!

    ReplyDelete