Dealing with your mortality is not something to think about or dwell on every day, because you are alive and death is not in your daily state of mind.
But when cancer and leukemia decide to gang up on you, everything changes and you suddenly find yourself in a heat race with The Grim Reaper. Maybe a 50 rider, maybe an enduro or you could get lucky and run for a year or two.
My situation is pretty clear. There is no cure for my illness, but it can be treated, and I have spent many hours at the clinic in Greenwood, Indiana, with a wonderful team of doctors and nurses.
The outpouring of good wishes, prayers, positive thoughts and support from the RACER Nation exceeds humility. I never dreamed that a guy who writes racing driver stories could impact people’s lives and instill so much passion. I had the best life imaginable, and I had the chance to share it with the fans.
Jim Hurtubise befriended me when I was 17 and stole beer for him in sprint car races, I turned a deaf ear to his Indy 500 crew in 1968, then covered USAC and IndyCar in 1969 for The Indianapolis Star, I worked on Bill Finley’s pit crew in 1971 and driving him crazy in 1972, I got an Andy Granatelli Formula Ford thanks to my friendship with Art Pollard. I wrote a weekly column on USAC in 1974 and a year later became Bettenhausen’s fourth brother because I bought Merle’s midget.
It was a tough love because the first night I ran USAC in Kokomo I did the feature film and then Gary B. told me maybe I was talented and I ‘was on Cloud 9. Three nights later I missed the show at the IRP and Gary told me I was *** y needed to get my name off the car. It was a good time walking the highway with Timmy Coffeen, Bobby Grim Jr. and Tony Lee Bettenhausen. We had no money but damn what an experience as we ran Little Springfield, Terre Haute, Kokomo, Eldora and some pretty sketchy arenas but still an adventure.
Yet it is my job that has given me such an entry into IndyCar history and such an education.
I idolized Herk, Parnelli, AJ, Rutherford, Mario, Gurney, the Unsers and Johncock and by the mid 1970s I was buddies with them all and it was the golden age of racing for my money. . They were modern day and universally revered gladiators.
I was fired from The Star after 33 years after mingling with Tony George, but it turned out to be a godsend as I have spent the last 20 years working at ESPN, Speed, RACER and NBC. Has there ever been a better show than “Wind Tunnel” with Dave Despain? Of course not, and Dave has been so generous in letting me co-host a few times. The most fun I have ever had.
Working with Marshall Pruett over the past decade has been a great partnership and his enthusiasm, knowledge and work ethic is second to none and the main reason RACER is the place to go for news, scoops and insights. IndyCar reviews. Our founder, Paul Pfanner, ensures that RACER remains relevant and vibrant, and co-owners Rob and Chris Dyson have kept the last true racing magazine alive.
I almost died two weeks ago from a nasty infection and fever but my little sister, her best friend and a neighbor saved my life and rushed me to the hospital where three nurses also came to my rescue. I gained 10 pounds and got my appetite back after three months, and my goal is to reach the triple Brickyard title next month.
But I have to tell you about the amazing people who have shown immeasurable generosity.
Randy Bernard sent my sister a Gold American Express card and said that I was not allowed to pay anything in terms of bills. Indianapolis Colts owner Jimmy Irsay did something that can’t even be imagined, but showed just how big his heart is and it’s beyond humility. Ditto for 1970 Indiana Mr. Basketball David Shepherd, whose generosity is out of the ordinary. AJ called several times to ask if I needed financial help and The Gas Man (Tom Sneva) offered me everything I needed. My best friends Steve Shunck, Larry Schmalfeldt, Feeno, Billy Shepherd, Davey Shep, Ralf Frey, Billy Benner, David Benner, Larry Walker, Bob Grim, John Mandlebaum, Al Freedman and Monk Palmore bring me lunch, dinner and hours of good conversation and they rebuilt my condo, installed an electric staircase, built a bed for my sister and kept me company daily. No one has more good friends than I do and I am so… the word “lucky” is not appropriate. It is beyond comprehension.
And my sister Diane has been here three months and I can’t begin to explain what an angel she has been. I would be lost without her skills as a mother and nurse, as well as her best friends Terri, Susie and Riney.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I am at peace with whatever happens, whether it is a year or six months or six weeks or six hours. My plan is to move to Phoenix later this year because I want to see the nephews and niece grow up and just hang out peacefully surrounded by my family, whenever the time is right.
I know I have probably wandered around for too long and maybe given more information than you would like to hear but just wanted to try thanking everyone for their kindness and support and let them know how good you are to me. have made them feel special in recent weeks. Hope to see you on a race track sooner rather than later, but otherwise it was an EXCELLENT ride and I’m so grateful you were able to share it.
And next month is the Motorsport Hall of Fame induction, so that’s one more caveat that I didn’t expect, but I’m honored to be in the same callsign regional than all my heroes. HOF for a Ball State misfire? Hell, it even made Letterman smile from ear to ear.
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