Monday, August 8, 2011

A different Spin on Firestone’s previously announced Exodus

Whale, once again another story has been languishing in that all consuming Black Hole of Ye ‘Vurd Documents – affectionately known here at No Fenders as the NFWHV! (NoFenderz WormHole Vortex...)

Thus, I thought it somewhat – if vaguely symbiotic, albeit a stretch? As listening to DannyBoy ‘SPIKE Wheldon in the Versus Broadcast booth during his short time there, which I’ve enjoyed quite immensely - made me think of this somewhat nebulous coincidence, of how potentially Wheldon’s enforced Summer Vacation prior to becoming the 2012 Dallara “Test Dummy” along with Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) seemingly will reinvigorate his stalled Open Wheel Racing career, of which another testing gig previously enabled another racing team and Open Wheel Star to return to the fold of IndyCar... 

Alas, I seem to vaguely recall originally being miffed by “Flintstone’s” resurgence in Open Wheel Racing, ‘Circa ’95 - for some strange reason noting their apparent future crushing of Goodyear in CART, (Championship Auto Racing Teams) Err Champ Car – has anybody noticed how WICKEDpedia is now denoting all of the CART statistics as Champ Car? But I digress...

For reasons unknown, I first became aware of Scott Donald Pruett during those Halcyon Roush Ford Motor Company “Tin tops” days, when the Cat in the Hat (Jack Roush) was lighting up the IMSA/SCCA Pro series with his NARLY Ford Mustangs, Merkur XR4Ti’s and Lincoln Cougars... As ‘Scooter’s first championship was in the WICKED lookin’ white Mac Tools Merkur XR4Ti, in which Messer Pruett won the 1986 & 1988 IMSA GTO Titles, with the ’87 Trans Am Crown being the Merkur’s Vegamite in the GTO Championship sandwich...

And it’s funny what we keep stored away as mementos, eh? As I possibly still have the torn out Autoweek article documenting Pruett’s ascension into Indy Cars, Err CART... As I still recall Pruett spending all of his savings - $70,000 I believe to buy a pair of rides with Dick Simon’s outfit.

And I was unaware that Pruett was the 1989 Co-Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis, sharing the honour with Bernard Jourdain – which seems even more impressive since ‘Scooter was driving for Truesports in the relatively new Judd 2.65-liter turbocharged V-8 ‘lump which Truesports took over from Galles Racing...

What’s funny ‘bout not knowing to me ‘bout Pruett’s ’89 Indy 500 success - is that for reasons unknown – apparently being totally 100% immersed in the world of Formula 1 I don’t even recall watching the Indy 500 that year, as after all I’d just attended my inaugural F1 race, the USGP sponsored by Iceberg in the Valley of the Sun on June 4, 1989 and hence perhaps I was in Phoenix over Memorial Day or suffering a Heat wave?


Yet I was Backhoed again Just-in-time for my then yearly trek to Portland International Raceway (PIR) for the Budweiser/GI Joes 200, where I went ‘Big Game Huntin’ for the very first time ever...

As I still cannot say exactly why, but I went in search of ‘Scooter’s John Hancock, waiting patiently for a glimpse of Pruett in his pit stall, to which a very nice Blonde ended up telling me that if I came back later she’d make sure I got his autograph. (Perhaps his wife Judy?) And she was true to her word as I still recall feeling like a Big Cheese as after returning I was the only one of the small gathering in the Paddock granted an autograph from the California Ace.

Pruett was one-fourth of Indy’s rookie class that year, an eclectic bunch by my accounting, with a ‘KuhNuck, (John Jones) a Mexican (Jourdain) and a Belgian. (Didier theys)

As history denotes, Scott suffered a ‘Mega Pre-season testing incident in west Palm Beach, Florida in March, 1990 – at the wheel of the Truesports Lola-Judd chassis, as I seem to recall him having lost his brakes at an overly high rate of speed... Which surely was a horrific accident for Pruett, as it makes me think of somebody named ‘Regga’s (Gianclaudio "Clay" Regazzoni) career ending accident behind the wheel of an Ensign-Cosworth F1 chassis at Long Beach in 1980, albeit Regazzoni, who suffered a brake failure unfortunately crashed into the abandoned Brabham racecar of Ricardo Zunino – hurtling airborne before striking an unmovable concrete barrier and ultimately would become paralyzed for the remainder of his life...

Yet ironically, Regga’s accident occurred whilst driving a second stint for Ensign F1 – Maurice “Mo” Nunn’s team, whom I believe later helped with Patrick Racing’s renaissance... As Pruett would spend the entire 1990 season rehabilitating, before returning to the keyboard of the Truesport 91C-Judd in 1991, followed by a second disappointing season in the 92C-Chevrolet Indy-A V-8 before Truesports demise...

So just how does all of this relate to Firestone you may be asking? Well in 1994 Scott Pruett began his CART comeback by spending the entire year testing Firestone’s black majik ring thingy’s for Pat Patrick, before returning to competition in 1995, as I can still vaguely recall that memorable last lap victory by ‘Scooter – just pipping ‘lil Al (Unser Jr.) at the stripe by the scantest of inches  for his inaugural victory. As I know some of you OvalHead purists will scoff at my next remark; BUTT! Now that Michigan 500 was a true Humdinger of an Oval race – which I feel quite a lot of todays are missing; as only Kentucky’s recent events rank close to Mwah...

And I do recall Pruett winning his second and final CART event at Surfers Paradise, Australia – which is somewhat Symbiotic to Mwah, having just gone there for the first time ever. (Australia) As that was truly a Mega-bitchin’ event as Randal would say! A la Portland; which I noticed that Milwaukee has stolen another page outta PIR’s playbook... First stealing their traditional Father’s Day weekend date, and now having tied-up a major Brewery as their Title sponsor; Oh Never Mind!


Although I was happy to hear that David Hobbs Honda got behind the Milwaukee event... Whilst Avocado Motorsports Marketing’s PR rep Monica “The Race gIRL” Hilton jumped ship to HVM Racing to take over PR duties for Symona-Symona, a.k.a. Symona de Silvestro prior to the race; but I digress once again...

Scott Pruett stayed with Patrick racing for four years (1994-98) before moving over to the Arciero Wells Toyota powered team for his final CART season in 1999 – where ‘Scooter gave the Japanese Auto Giant its inaugural Championship Auto Racing Teams Oval Pole at Fontana, CA., before a most disappointing “Y2k” (2000) rookie campaign in ‘RASSCAR aboard the Cal Wells Tide-Chevy before being replaced by Rickey Craven...

Thus, as Dan Wheldon begins his testing regime this Monday, I can only surmise that his upcoming next generation Dallara Indy Car Series program will hopefully lead the Englishman back into the Indy Car fold on a Fulltime basis next season, preferably with Bryan Herta Autosport - not to mention at age 33 – hopefully another four-plus years in the Open wheel Racing ranks, eh? As ironically, or karmicaly both ‘Scooter ‘N ‘Spike (Pruett & Wheldon respectively) will be competing against each other this October Down Under in the ‘Aussie V8 Supercars Gold Coast 600 race at Surfers Paradise along with several other Big Name drivers...

1 comment:

  1. Great column. Hadn't thought of the Wheldon/Pruett parallels, but they're all right there. Nice little trip down memory lane into my early-CART fandom days... :)

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