June Sprints Checkered Flag
Editor's Notebook, June 1998
Late Sunday afternoon, on June 26, I finally took a victory lap of Road America, holding the checkered flag out the passenger side window of the winning Neon in the SCCA Showroom Stock class. The June Sprints were winding down. This was the last race of the weekend and I had been staffing the radios for Bill Bartlett, husband of Lea Bartlett, a Thunder Valley featured driver.
As we accelerated out of Canada Corner up the hill toward the Billy Mitchell bridge, I shouted to Bill that we were passing through Thunder Valley, the sweetest spot on Earth. I hadn't seen it from the center of the track in a number of years. I guess I had never been able to fully appreciate its beauty before, while I was concentrating on the braking point for turn thirteen, between the concrete abutments of the bridge.
|"why I love racing..."|
This ride around the track reminded me of why I love auto racing. It's not about winning and losing, about danger, speed, beating the other guy, or gaining stature. It's about a community of people bringing all their skill, determination, commitment, and passion to bear on a common enterprise.
Road America, in the middle of the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin, is the most beautiful and most demanding stretch of asphalt in America. Susan and I had arrived on our scooters Friday afternoon after checking into a lovely small hotel in Plymouth. We scootered the perimeter and watched the action on the track from the hamburger stand in the paddock. We hung out with the five hundred drivers, their families, their friends, and their crews who had come to this spot from all across the United States to be with one another.
We met Kathy Lyle, from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, an excellent driver of a BMW in the T2 class. We watched Andrea Kasiewicz race her Sports 2000 in a masterful display. We noted, but did not meet, Nicole LaRue, driver of a Spec Racer Ford, who seemed to be having a great time running in the middle of the pack of 80 cars in her class.
|"I gave him splits..."|
Lea Bartlett wasn't at the June Sprints. She was participating in a Neon Challenge race in Minneapolis, so her husband made the trip from Vermont by himself, towing his car and doing all the crew work. I helped him a little by timing his qualifying runs and giving him lap times over the radio during the sessions. My radio contact with him during the race itself was to give him split times, tell him when the track was green, and congratulate him on his victory.
The weekend was perfect. The days were hot and sunny, the nights cool and stormy. The restaurant in the hotel was excellent. The brats and the egg sandwiches at the track were even better.
Susan and I never made it down the hill to see Thunder Valley from the side of the track during the weekend. We were too busy with other explorations. Coming out of Canada Corner, with the checkered flag flapping out the window, was my only visit to Thunder Valley at the June Sprints. It was, however, the best.
In May, we asked you all to give us your thoughts on a women's auto racing championship series. Your response to our consumer survey was terrific (and we identified a number of women drivers we didn't know when they filled out our driver's survey). We offered a bookshelf model of a 1965 Shelby Cobra in a drawing from survey respondents.
Our crack office crew reached into the virtual giant spinning barrel and drew the winner, Ann Fitzgerald of South Carolina. We sent her the prize and she wrote back: