This was a round trip from Spartanburg to Charleston and Minneapolis with a Stop In Cincinnati
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The best I can recall, it must have been about May, '73, between the races in Talladega and Charlotte , and earlier in the year I had set up shop in Spartanburg , S.C. The shop was located just a block from Herron Circle, a circular drive underneath I-85 on the Ashville highway. It was just a glorified traffic circle that provided exit from and entrance to I-85 as well as access to the Ashville highway. I had just recently been made crew chief for Joe Frasson from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and with a crew of one full time employee named Mike, we had rented a 2,000 square foot section of a larger building in a small industrial park.
I had begun getting a regular check up by Spartanburg's finest at the start of the third shift ever since they caught me circling Herron circle at a very high rate of speed in my ‘72 Corvette. I was always a technical detail collecting sort of guy, and knew that my ‘vette had the same wheelbase as the race cars, and had made some small mounting brackets that would attach to the sides of the ‘vette that would hold a flashlight and a mirror. I had also mounted a steering wheel angle indicator to the steering wheel and an angle indicating pointer on the dash. I was currently trying to figure out some issues I was having with determining the amount of Ackermann steering I should incorporate into the bump steer when setting up the front end geometry. I knew that the outer tire had a large increase in vertical load and that would result in a larger slip angle on the right front tire and because the left front tire would decrease in load, I anticipated a slight slip angle, and I was trying to do some form of a test to determine if this was indeed the case.
So I had mounted some short track racing tires on some 15” rims and put them on the ‘vette intending to go around Herron circle as fast as I could and looking at the mirror mounted at the front of the left front fender well. I had painted different colors into some grooves that I had deepened into the left front tire, and was using the flashlight to shed light into the mirror and that would indicate which color was showing as I was circling Herron circle.
I would park in the parking lot of an ice cream shop right at the edge of Herron circle, and when traffic would subside, I would make practice runs until I could make sure that the flashlight and the mirror were positioned correctly. When I had that all done to my satisfaction , I went to the shop and had two friends get on I-85 in opposite directions and use the off ramps and arrive at the entrance to the circle at the same time, stop their cars and raise their hoods as thought they were having car trouble. I hoped this would reduce the possibility that I would have company during the ‘fast' run around the circle.
All went well until a car did manage to get in behind me on my second trip around the circle. I was surprised a little bit when it followed me around for one lap, then very surprised when the blue light came on. The officer was really pissed when he first approached me, immediately calling for backup. By the time his fellow officers had arrived, I had tried to diffuse the situation by showing the officer what I was doing, and inviting him to come to the race shop to back up my story. All the ‘boys' were interested to some degree, because it's hard to live in the south and not be enthused by stock car racing. This resulted in a warning ticket only, to my great surprise and relief.
For the balance of my tenure in that job, I was always getting a visit from the local boys, often getting a visit by a member of the Marshall Tucker band and they would occasional bring along a local ‘tag-a-long' after a gig or a practice session. . Because there were only two of us, and some occasional part time and volunteer help we quite often worked on into the morning hours. Fortunately we were only a block or two away from two Waffle Houses, where I bet that I ate 40 percent of my meals while in stock car racing.
Joe called the next morning and wanted me to go to Charleston and get a load of concrete re-bar and deliver it to his family's concrete pouring company in Minneapolis . We were to take our new car hauler and a trailer and go to Charleston, load up the re-bar into the back of the truck and on the trailer, then return to the shop and load a stripped down race car on top of the re-bar for delivery to a restaurant owner in Cincinnati. This was a little stressful request as we had just taken delivery of the used race car hauler two weeks before and I had taken back roads when ever possible until I was able to get a handle on shifting the 15 speed road ranger transmission and the braking of this new ride. It was a cab over Kenworth, 871 GM, tandem axle, single screw, extended wheelbase truck with a 22 foot box mounted to the back. We had worked late the night before Talladega to install a heavy duty trailer hitch and hook up the wiring.
We hooked up the trailer early the next morning and I set out for Charleston to get the rebar, while Mike stayed behind and finished stripping the car for Cincinnati . All things considered the trip to Charleston went as planned and I arrived about 5:00 in the afternoon, and had the stripped car put on the trailer, and I was on my way to Cincinnati about an hour later. This was going to be a long trip and I was concerned about making my connection with the gentleman that was taking ownership of this car. I had spent some time attending the University of Cincinnati several years earlier, but had no idea where this drop was going to be made.
After numerous stops for phone calls that included an occasional meal, and a flat tire on the trailer, made difficult by the fact that the trailer spare was in the front of the box on the truck and surrounded by rebar, It was determined that the exact delivery spot was as yet undetermined, and the only address Joe had was Jerry's (the new owner) restaurant. I knew enough about the address to become concerned as to how this might turn out, as downtown Cincinnati was a mirage of one way streets and navigating them with a diesel truck with a trailer and a new driver was going to become an interesting process.
Continued phone calls to Joe, brought little clarity as he was unable to get in touch with Jerry, and I continued towards Cincinnati . It was 1:00 in the morning when I last called Joe and I was just south of Richmond , Kentucky . He said that he got in touch with Jerry and that he would meet us at his restaurant and have us follow him to his race car shop. Returning from this phone call was when I discovered the flat tire on the trailer, and being alone, it took me over an hour to change the tire. Lucky for me I was near another Waffle House, where I could catch my breath and a pecan waffle.
By the time I reached downtown Cincinnati , and wound my way around the one way streets and found Jerry's restaurant, it was 3:00 in the morning and no Jerry. I called and woke up Joe and of course he was in a bad mood, and a very unpleasant hour and a half followed as Joe could not get Jerry to answer the phone, and Walnut and 6 th street in dimly lit downtown Cincinnati was not a warm, fuzzy place to be stuck in during the wee hours of the morning. I had to walk almost a block away to get to a pay phone, was running out of change and patience and was getting extremely sleepy. Finally, Joe quit answering his phone as well and I had to make some kind of decision as to what I was going to do now. I did not want to sleep in the cab of the truck where it was parked, and by morning traffic would keep me closed in and unable to get out of the city, so I made an ‘executive decision'. I backed the truck and trailer up about 15 feet, unchained the race car using the chain to tie the race car to a light pole in front of Jerry's restaurant. I went into the back of the truck and got a lock from one of the drawers and locked the ends of the chain together so no one would steal the car until Jerry got there in the morning. Then I crawled up into the cab and drove out from under car fairly slowly so as to not dislodge any rebar, and when I heard the loud bang as the car hit the sidewalk and the curb, I hit second gear and didn't stop until I reached Indianapolis where I gassed up and got a quick breakfast.
I wasn't in the mood to call Joe all day as I continued on the 15 hour drive to Minneapolis . I was pretty sure some one was going to be pissed about the car on the sidewalk in Cincinnati and I didn't want to hear about it just yet. I finally rolled into Minneapolis about 8:30 in the evening, Joe laughed his ass off as he told me about how many times Jerry called wanting to know where the key was. As I finally crawled into bed at Joes house, he said don't worry about Jerry, if he can't take joke, he'll just have to piss up a rope.
Man, that sleep felt good, and Joe's wife fixed me breakfast while he took the truck to get the steel unloaded and tell the guys at work about Jerry pitching a hissy fit. On his return, he reimbursed me for the money I had spent and sent me on my way home to Spartanburg , 23 hours away.
I drove until somewhere around Indianapolis , slept a few hours and rolled in to Sparkle City just in time for lunch at the Waffle House.