Wednesday, May 13, 2015

INDY 500: Tres Legenditos' - 2013 IMS Legends Day Autographs - Group 1

Front cover of 2013 IMS Program adorned with multiple (18?) Drivers 'O Yesteryear's Indy 500's Autographs collected on Legends Day. (The Tomaso Collection)
As mentioned in part one of this epic trilogy, it was a long time ago now that I had the pleasure of briefly schmoozing with 21 past Indy 500 competitors at Mother Speedway, with the following inductees of  the day's Group-1 session being...

Joe Saldana, Greg Leffler, Robby McGehee, "King Hiro," (Hiroyuki "Hiro" Matsushita) "BALLS," (Bill Puterbaugh) Billy Roe*, Bill Simpson, Eliseo Salazar*, Johnny Parsons*, Jaques Lazier, Kenny Brack* and Derek Daly.
(* = Autograph previously obtained at prior 2011-12 Legends Day outings; Drivers listed in order of signing)

Joe Saldana
DOB: Nov 14, 1944
Birthplace: Lincoln, Nebraska
Age: 70
I500 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 15th
Years: 1978-79

Fun Fac
When searching for him upon Zed Internetz, it sez' Do You Mean Zoey Saldana? Hya! Having never heard of her before...

As Joe, the ex-racing driver; NOT Zoey the actress; Hooah! Raced in the USAC and CART series between 1977-80, making 31-starts and his most notable claim-to-fame is winning the 1970 Knoxville Nationals, and then being inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2000. His son "Joey The Brownsburg Bullet"" races in the World of Outlaws...

Greg Leffler
DOB: Dec 27, 1951
Birthplace: Indianapolis, IN
Age: 64
I500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 10th
Year: 1980

Can find very little on Greg Leffler, other than his brief Bio says he raced in the CART Series from 1980 to 1983, making 13-starts along with a single Indy 500 start in 1980 driving the Starcraft RV entry. While Greg's crowning racing achievement was winning the 1979 USAC Sprint Car championship.

whilst slogging my way thru the IMS's Driver Statistics webpage, I noticed the name Jason Leffler below Greg's, which naturally would make Yuhs ponder if they're related, i.e.; Brothers, etc. (Witch is another festerin' story here in Nofendersville that's continuing to expand, awaiting Harvesting another day...)

Robin Miller
No, Jason is a Long Beach kid and Greg was raised by longtime mechanic Paul Leffler here in Indiana...

Alas, unfortunately I know I scribbled 'bout Jason after his death after his Sprint Car accident...

Robby McGehee
DOB: July 20, 1973
Birthplace: St Louis, Missouri
Age: 41
I500 Starts: 5
Best Finish: 5th
Years: 1999-2001, 2003-04
Honours: 1999 Indy 500 Rookie Of the Year

Fun Fact
Robby was the lucky recipient being forced to "Sweat" over whether or NOT SMOKE would attempt running for A.J. Foyt on "Boomp Day!" (2004) Although Tony Stewart would never attempt making a run for several reasons - including being a "Factory" GM (General Motors) driver, nee 'Chebbie - while foyt's team had Hondres' (Honda) bolted to their Backsides... As it was A-L-L part of the Smoke 'N Mirrors that turned me OFF completely towards watching "Boomp Day" forever again!

Was totally unawares' until writing this that Robby was the 1999 ROY, (Rookie Of the Year) probably 'cause I was still NOT watching TG's Indy Racing League! As McGee rolled off 27th and finished a commendable fifth, his only Top-10 finish at the Brickyard in his five starts.

McGeee drove for a variety of teams, including: Conti Racing, Tredway Racing, Cahill Racing, Beck Motorsports, Cheever Racing, Panther Racing and PDM Racing. As Robby's best finish of fifth came with the unknown of Conti Racing, and that Boomp Day debacle with PDM Racing, who's owner I interviewed in;

Hiro Matsushita
DOB: March 14, 1961
Birthplace: Kobe, Japan
Age: 54
I500 Starts: 4
Best Finish: 10th
Years: 1991, 1993-95

Stats/Fun Fact
I picked this Autograph line solely for the reason to obtain 'King Hiro's autograph, since I'd actually witnessed him racing at the little known Pacific Raceways, albeit then Seattle International Raceway 'Wayback in the late 1980's, as I've still got the ticket stub for the  West Division Atlantics race held there I attended; YIKES!

Not to mention being one of the countless drivers I'd personally seen racing at another of my Hometrack's, Portland International Raceway, where we took great glee in making fun of the legendous 'King Hiro, who I can still recall that Panasonic/Duskin sponsored Dick Simon Racing chassis poundin' round Tail-gunner Charlie in many CART  races. Not to mention having a Hot wheels replica in a shoebox here at Tomaso Manor!

Yet Hiro was the first Japanese driver to race at Mother Speedway, alongside another first, Willy T. Ribbs, both rookies in 1991, with Matsushita  making a total of 4-starts with his final Indy 500 being his best finish, P10, his only Top-10 finish before Hiro faded off the motorsports radar after "The Split" before retiring in 2001...

For the legend of how  the tag King Hiro was born, along with other Japanese Open Wheel Racing lore, see; Japanese OpenWheel warriors

Bill Puterbaugh
DOB: June 6, 1936
Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana
Age: 78
I500 Starts: 3
Best Finish: 7th
Years: 1975-77
Honours: 1975 Indy 500 Rookie Of the Year

Fun Fact
NO Idea where No Fenders 'Offical Photographer 'CARPETS came up with the nickname BALLS' for Bill Puterbaugh; Hya! May be due to his chrome-dome, eh? As I still remember him wearing a pullover sleeveless sweater during the autograph session - with Messer Puterbaugh   turning the B-I-G' EIGHT-Oh! after the 100th running of the Indy 500...

Another driver I was  unawares' of being a former ROY. (Rookie Of the Year) As Messer Puterbaugh  was bestowed this honour for the 1975 Indy 500 in which he finished seventh, his best finish of his three race outings at the Speedway, as I just realized this accomplishment occurred forty years ago, when somebody named "Uncle Bobby" was winning the second of his three Indy 500 victories...

Bill Simpson
DOB: March 14, 1940
Birthplace: Hermosa Beach, California
Age: 75
I500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 13th
Year: 1974

Fun Fact
I primarily know about Mr. Simpson thru his multiple appearances upon Donald Kay's 'lil Autosport Radio Show...

Bill Simpson is probably more recognized for his Simpson Performance Products than his racing career, most notably for lighting himself on fire to promote his nomex firesuit's durability!

And I was unawares' that he'd begun as a Drag Racer before his foray into Open Wheel Racing. Making his lone start at Mother Speedway in 1974 aboard the #18 America Kid's Racing entry.

Simpson was wrongly accused by NASCAR for his seat  belt being a contributing cause to 'Ol 'Ironhead's death, as it was later determined that Dale Earnhardt had used them incorrectly, which NASCAR settled out of court over Simpson's $8.5m Defamation of Character lawsuit.

Simpson subsequently created Impact Racing Products before selling the company in 2010, with his latest endavour being football helmet design in a company known as Simpson Ganassi Helmets...

Jaques Lazier
DOB: January 25, 1971
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado
Age: 44
I500 Starts: 5
Best Finish: 16th
Years: 2001, 2003, 2005-07

Although jaques, the younger brother of 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy may disagree, he appears to have been what's called a "Journeyman Driver," as Jaques was constantly serching for rides, although not for lack of trying.

jaques IRL zenith came with Team Menard, where he won second time out at Chicagoland before ultimately being let go after filling in for Greg Ray. Was also Robby Gordoun's (Gordon) relief driver when the Californian had to depart Indy for his "Double" at Charlotte.

Jaques also drove briefly for Chip Ganassi as Darren "Dangermouse" Manning's replacement after the Cheepster' had fired the cheeky Brit. Sam Schmidt, A.J. Foyt and Panther Racing, where he replaced 'lil Al (Unser Jr.) who'd retired after a lackluster finish in the Indy Racing League and also got a LUV' tap from Queen Danica at Fontana, which caused the pair to wreck...

Derek Daly
DOB: March 11, 1953
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Age: 62
I500 Starts: 6
Best Finish: 12th
Years: 1983-85, 1987-89

Fun Fact
While I was joking around with thee 'Brackster, nee Kenny Brack who said he'd sign an autograph for one Kroner; Hya! Derek Daly returned to his seat "Justin-time" for me to say I wanted to have a good 'Ol 'Chin-wag (chat) with him, making Daly laugh as Brack good naturedly inquired: What's a Chin-wag?

Derek Daly made his name in Formula 1 racing where he competed for the likes of 'Ol "Uncle Chopper," nee Ken Tyrrell, where he drove a third Tyrrell entry in Canada before his fulltime stint there.

Daly started his F1 career with Lord Hesketh's racing team, Big Mo's (Maurice Nunn) Ensign, Tyrrell, Max Mosley's March, Teddy Yip's Theodore and lastly Sir Frank's Team Willy.' (Williams Grand Prix Engineering) Before crossing the pond to Americres' CART/IndyCar series in 1982.

Derek drove for a variety of teams, as I most notably remember him racing the Provimi Veal car which "The Flying Dutchman" made famous, along with the Raynor Garage Doors car before moving onto Sports Car racing.

Derek as the unusual honour of having finished the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1st and 2nd place driving those all conquering Nissan GTP-ZXT chassis that Geoff Brabham drove to four IMSA titles, while also contesting le Circuit de la Sarthe three times, which I remember him driving for Tom Walkinshaw's dominating Silk Cut Jaguars - where I think Derek once claimed running 240mph down Mulsanne straight!

While his gift 'O gab led him to colour commentary roles for CART and Champ Car, where he implored "Grandma to put down that Whiskey bottle!" Along with sadly calling the 1984 Imola Grand Prix...

To continue reading the epic 2013 Legends Day Trilogy, see; INDY 500: Tres Legenditos' - 2013 IMS Legends Day Autographs - Group 2

Kudos to No Fenders 'Offical Photographer and IMS Sherpa Dave 'CARPETS O'Brien!
Who willingly Drags me around Mother Speedway to A-L-L events, i.e.; Carb Day, Legends Day and the race...