(and Fathers' Day Follies, to boot!)

Okay, so today is "Carburetion Day" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, as everybody on the inside of the sport knows, it's really just a final, pre-race test day for all the teams and drivers, seeing as how racecars running in the Indianapolis 500 haven't been utilizing much in the way of actual carburetors since car-owner Hal Keck brought his famous Fuel Injection Special to The Speedway in 1952:

The car was wrenched by Jim Travers and Frank Coon (later to become famous as Traco Engineering, builders of wonderful and successful racing cars and racing motors) and driven by fearless, skillful and mechanically savvy ace Bill Vukovich--tagged as "The Mad Russian" by the press corps, even though he was actually of Yugoslavia extraction and grew up poor but talented and ambitious in Fresno, CA. Vukovich was absolutely running away with the 1952 500 until the steering broke with just 9 laps to go (see pic below) and so Vuky's tough, dominant drive ended up against the infamous Indianapolis wall.

ut he came back in the same car to win back-to-back Indy 500s in 1953-54, and was leading the '55 race handily and by a large margin when he was caught up in some other drivers' horrific accident on the back straight. His car went tumbling over the outside wall, cartwheeled wildly through a parking area for official cars, crashed heavily and burst into flames.
He did not survive.

Racing is a LOT safer these days, thank goodness, but Indy is still a wonderful and iconic but also daunting and occasionally terrifying racetrack. It's just SO damn fast! And unforgiving. My very best wishes, and even a quiet prayer or two, go out to all the drivers and teams that will be lining up, three abreast and eleven rows deep, when they once again play "Back Home Again in Indiana" this coming Sunday. Special crossed fingers and a wink and elbow-nudge for my friend Billy Vincent and his brother (I used to race against their dad, Bill Sr., and have known them since they were coming to the races in diapers!). Billy served his apprenticeship and subsequently advanced to the position(s) of tech whiz, crew chief & trackside tactician for Roger Penske Racing, and he now serves as Competition Director for front-running Arrow McLaren SP Racing with comingman drivers Pato O'Ward (already a race winner!) and Felix Rosenqvist, plus bull-tough veteran/2-time Indy 500 winner Juan-Pablo Montoya in the team's third car. And a special, You've-Impressed-The-Living-Shit-Out-Of-Me "ATTABOY" to Zak Brown, the fairly new American head man at McLaren Racing. What the MacLaren teams have done and accomplished since he took the reins and how they've improved and impressed, in every respect imaginable, both here in The States and on the international F1 circuit, has been nothing less than amazing. My hat is off to you, sir. But, like Billy Jr. told me when I asked about Zak: "He's a RACER, Burt. That's what drives him."

Also wish good fortune and well-deserved breaks to Simona DiSilvestro, the likeable and impressive distaff driver who is gridded up in the somewhat unenviable 33rd (and last!) starting position for this year's 500. I by happenstance wound up sitting next to her at a media dinner at famous drag racer John Force's fantastic race shop in Brownsburg, IN, and Simona really impressed me with her quiet confidence and thoughtful, honest and determined approach. Her career has its ups and downs, but her talent and skill are undeniable, and I still believe she is (or, at the very least, is among) the best female racing drivers I have ever seen. I also believe she is thoroughly capable, in the right equipment and with the right technical support and sponsorship, of mixing it up with the very best of the menfolk. Not so wild about the "all-female race crew" supporting her at this year's 500 (although I surely see & understand the publicity and marketing angle) but, hey, a lot of folks thought Bobby Riggs was going to clean Billie Jean King's clock in that famous tennis match...

As long as we're talking about The 500, there's a large, semi-flashback section on its history and tradition in the new book. Even brought in a brand-new character (Frankie Floyd, a boozy and cantankerous but nonetheless talented, knowledable and incisive sportswriter for the local Indianapolis newspaper) to help paint the picture. I truly lament how everybody's running the same basic car these days (and one of two highly similar engine choices), while Indy used to be a crucible for innovative ideas and technical experimentation. Like the Hilborn fuel injection setup on Vukovich's new-look Kurtis "roadster" chassis mentioned above. But it was just one of several interesting and innovative technical novelties and notables in the 1952 500. Like the polesitter--with a brand new track record, no less!--was the Cummins Diesel (that's right, a DIESEL-powered racecar!) of Freddie Agabashian. And that was also the year Ferrari (yes, THAT Ferrari) sent a special 375 V12 "Indianapolis" car to The Speedway along with the Scuderia's team leader and about-to-become-back-to-back-World F1 Champ Alberto Ascari to wheel it. But Indy is a tough nut to crack from the outside, and the Ferrari could do no better than 19th on the grid and was the third car out with a busted wire wheel after just 25 laps. Or, in other words, one-eighth of the 500 miles.
Ferrari never came back (although Enzo sure wanted to, and even built a special car for the race in 1986, but it never made it to The Speedway). A return to Indy was also one of the sticking points in the failed partnership/buyout negotiations with Ford in 1963, since Ford already had a damn good Indycar in the radical, mid-engined Lotus Ford that finished second (and maybe shoulda won?) that year.

Anyhow, there are more than a few stories, legends and maybe even outright lies about the Indy 500 in the new book. Speaking of which (brace yourself for an onslaught of outrageous commercialism):

Put your brand, company, product or service in front of a proven, engaged, enthusiastic and affluent audience with a message that will stand out and last damn near forever.
You can also participate as an individual, club, track pack or racing team, or immortalize (or at least semi-immortalize) yourself, a family member, a significant other, show off a favorite car or photo, surprise a client, customer or car buddy, or recognize your favorite wrench-twister, crew chief, prep artist or mechanical wizard. Or, as many have done in past books, you can memorialize someone who deserves to be remembered.
All ads and sponsorships include a signed, personalized and appropriately defaced copy of the leather-bound, limited-run, never-made-available-for-retail-sale sponsor and advertiser special edition of the new book, plus a “beater” copy to actually read. AND a high-quality “200mph Steamroller Book III Sponsor/Sucker” polo shirt in your size that you will be proud to own but embarrassed to wear!
Display Advertising Rates
Full Page: (5”W x 8”H) @ $3000
1/2 Pg.: (5”W x 4H” horiz., or 2.5”W x 8”H vert.) @ $2000
­­­1/4 Page: (5”W x 2”H horiz., 2.5”W x 4”H vert.) @ $1250
1/8 Page (Business Card): (2.5”W x 2”H horiz. only) @ $500
*Non-Profit Club, Personal Photo, Memorial & Group Rates less 25%
Individual/Group/Team Sponsorships @ $250
These make a BRILLIANT and MEMORABLE Fathers' Day gifts! We'll send a highly official-looking certificate to give on June 20, then the book(s) and shirt when they're done (say by end July-mid August).

Contact Burt, Carol or Karen at

THINKFAST@MINDSPRING.COM   (708) 383-7203 or (312) 718-1424
Shameless Aw-Shucks/Makes A Man Proud Department:

So the brother of a very good and highly (!!!) competitive Porsche 356 driver I used to race with and against (OK, and most usually behind) bought a copy of The Last Open Road several years ago--think it was at Sebring--and he recently passed it along to his 12-year-old son, Simon. Turns out Simon really liked it, because now he's up to book four in the series (Toly's Ghost) and just look what he did (below) for his school's Literacy Fair:

In Memoriam:
This is some pretty sad stuff, as the world lost three people who were really important to me--and lots of other folks--recently. Will be writing more about it at another time (or after more time passes, is probably what I really mean) but, in the meantime, I want to take a moment to remember:

Eric Goldman:
Eric (left side in pic below) went from being our landlords' punk kid when we lived on Logan Boulevard in Chicago to being my garage helper, sidekick, assistant and even protoge when I was working on my first Alfa racecar (which also turned out to be my first really successful racecar, but that's another story for another time). Eric advanced to become the top Alfa Romeo mechanic at the dealership where we both worked (Loeber Motors on Clark Street in Chicago) helped, wrenched, towed, ate, slept, traveled, figured, joked, drank, argued, plotted and planned with me while we won a fat handful of races and local amateur championships. Eric went on to do the same for my friend Bob Dekoy (at right in the pic below, with son Thomas) when he started co-driving and racing in my old car. Eric wound up with his own shop and become one of the key, go-to, take-care-of-everybody guys in the greater Alfa and general sports car/musclecar community around Chicago and the rest of the Midwest.

Eric had some ongoing health issues/personal problems thanks to a couple really bad motorcycle crashes and the complications that followed, but he was always great company, fun to be around, terminally enthusiastic, knew his shit and went WAY out of his way for other people. He passed away suddenly and unexpectedly a couple weeks ago, and he surely would have given off one of his sly, satisfied "insider" smirks at the huge turnout of friends and family at the memorial service we gathered for at a local pizza place.

Rest in Peace, friend...

Bill Dentinger:

What can you say about a guy with a phenomenal sense of humor, an oversupply of both intelligence and goodwill who came to the sport of vintage racing later on in life, but jumped in with both feet. His "Beady Eye Racing Team" TR3 was known everywhere, and he helped organize the wonderful F.o.T. (Friends of Triumph) wine-and-cheese gatherings that were a laid-back, low-key and friendly paddock fixture after the noise died down during vintage-race weekends. Particularly at Road America. Bill was not only a great friend and a pillar of the Triumph racing community, but also warm, entertaining company and the embodiment/epitome of the true Vintage Racing spirit. What a great guy to be around! Love him & miss him! Godspeed.

Kas Kastner:
Kas lived a full life and to a very ripe old age, and beyond his accomplishments as a racer, as the West Coast, then National Competition Director for Triumph, his work as a Can Am, Indycar and then winning IMSA GTP team manger, he was just one hell of a nice guy to be around and spend quality time with. He became a real treasure (not to mention inspiration and leading light) among Triumph Vintage racers over the past decade or two. But the best thing about Kas was the sparkle, verve, sense of fun and shining enthusiasm he brought to every place he ever ventured and everything he ever did. Being around Kas--even if your racecar was hopelessly buggered--made everything seem better. He was a light in the drudgery and darkness everywhere he went.

Old Loeber Motors friend/now Florida resident Jeff Eade gave me the pic above (from his wedding in 1978) when I saw him at Amelia Island last weekend. Think the lovely Carol is newly pregnant with Adam here, and I was typically doing my best to face the camera head-on so as to hide my bald spot. Now it doesn't seem to matter one bit where the damn camera is pointed...

On a lighter note (but in keeping with Kas, Bill and Eric's rampant sense of fun, both automotive and otherwise) and speaking of Amelia Island, below is the "presentation mockup" of this year's Buddy Palumbo Award as presented at last weekend's typically wonderful (and eclectic!) Amelia Island Concours. Fabulous show and more detailed report coming in the next e-blast.
Hey, I've got a damn book to finish!

The painting was done by friend and master caricaturist Roger Warrick (of Siebkens "The Last Open Bar" picture fame...and, yes, we have them for sale--just in time for Fathers' Day!--on the website). I asked Roger to pre-create (as opposed to "procreate") the awards presentation at this year's show. That's me on the left (with the cap and books under my arm), friend, Amelia Island show founder and chairman Bill Warner in the middle and Roger's take on my gas-station mechanic narrator, Buddy Palumbo (to right, with coveralls, Dodgers' cap to piss off his Yankee-fan old man and wrench held aloft), in front of a gallery tent filled with all the past famous-racing-person Grand Marshals they've had over the years at Amelia.
How many can YOU name???

The cute little Nash Metropolitan "stand-in" shown below will be replaced by the actual winning car in the final version. More on that in the next e-blast...




JUNE 4-6: The SCCA June Sprints at Road America. Signing in the RA Paddock Shop during lunchtime and between on-track practice, qualifying & race groups.

JUNE 18-20: INDYCAR WEEKEND at ROAD AMERICA. Same deal as above. Likely co-signing with friend/fellow-conspirator David Hobbs, who still has some of his own books to flog. Hate how he elbows in on my turf and customers, but he is SUCH an amusing & entertaining fellow! Still miss him on the F1 broadcasts!
Possible side-trip detour to the VSCDA's Annual Fathers' Day Classic at Blackhawk Farms if I can work out the logistics. We'll see...

JUNE 25-27: SVRA Vintage Races at MID-OHIO (tentative, depending on if I've finished the new book or not!)

JULY 9 (FRIDAY): MILLERS at MILWAUKEE (tentative, see above)

Featured Marque this year is Cadillac, but other Features and Special Classes include British Sports Cars, American Musclecars, American Sports Cars, Buicks, Coachbuilt Classics, Fabulous Fins, Competition Classics, Kickin' Brass, The American Motorcycle and more. For more information, follow this link:
CONCOURSATCOPSHAHOLM or call (574) 532-8352

JULY 15-18: NEW BOOK (hopefully) LAUNCHES at the WEATHERTECH INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE VINTAGE EXTRAVAGANZA at ROAD AMERICA! Usual spot in the Paddock Shop. Probably with David Hobbs again for company and moral support. Hope to also be driving a bit in a Crossle sports/racer and judging in the Friday night Racecar Concours in town. HUGE event. Big Fun. Don't miss it!

JULY 23-25: PITTSBURGH VINTAGE GRAND PRIX in Schenley Park, Pittsburgh. Details/signing location(s) to be worked out. Watch this space!

JULY 26: Complete mental and physical breakdown. Possible spell in Detox and/or Rehab.
Do you have any PRICELESS RELICS that are just too damn valuable and sentimental to get rid of, and yet you are running out of space to keep them (or they have possibly outlived their usefulness, or you can't figure out why you made the damn things in the first place)? Is that your problem, Bunky?
Well,mine too.
Like take the wonderful & evocative (if somewhat tippy and top-heavy) illuminated & decorated THE LAST OPEN ROAD SHOP display I built with my own two scarred and calloused hands for the Road America Paddock Shop. Carol & I have fond memories of all the money we've taken in, wallets we've lightened and charge cards we've processed in its soothing shadow.

Ahh, but time marches on, and a NEW, rolling display with room for more stuff and SKUs is in the offing. So the old one has got to go. I could dismantle it (perish the thought) and salvage the very nice, lockable CRAFTSMAN roller tool-drawer set and metal shelving unit it was built around, OR, I could try to find someone with the space, desire and frame of mind to want it for...well, the fact is I don't CARE what they might want it for! That's THEIR business. I just want to figure out what to do with the damn thing. So here it is (located still in the Road America Paddock Shop, which is where I'd ideally like it picked up):

So make me an offer. Or maybe I should put it on ebay or iBring a Trailer or Antiques Road Show or...
But would rather see it go to a good home where it can be seen, enjoyed & appreciated.
Museums take note: THIS COULD BE THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME (or at least the last 10 or 15 minutes).

Likewise have available the VERY nice & professionally built scale model of Finzio's Sinclair that I had made a few years back by a well-known and well-respected (not to mention expensive!) Chicago-area Architectural Modeling firm. My idea was to make a bunch of them for model railroaders, slot-car tracks, etc., but we couldn't figure out how to make them in short-run quantity at a reasonable price. Not even as kits. Plus, thanks to my exquisite engineering and drafting acumen, the finished prototype is not to any known scale. Close, but not quite. I've had it up on a high shelf in my study for several years, looking down on me as I write, but basically, it's just collecting dust. Would love to see it go to a good home or place of business where it can be seen and enjoyed. See OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETME above. Not to mention getting my frickin' money back!

Offers, Inquiries & Questions about either of the incredibly attractive items above should be directed to Burt, Carol or Karen at: or (708) 383-7203
There were several correct answers (particularly from the Left Coast, make of it what yoiu will) but the H-Modified "Etceterini" featured below are, respectively:

TOP PIC: Saginaw, MI. artist and racecar builder/driver Martin Tanner's gorgeous and flyweight, Saab 3-cylinder-powered Tanner sports/racer. Believe this one is the T5 (he built a series of them), but not 100% sure on that. Beautiful car!!!

BOTTOM PIC: Don Odenborg's strange and wonderful, Mercury outboard-powered H-Mod out of McMinville, OR, circa midsummer, 1963.

Congrats to all you folks with way too much knowledge about and fascination with stuff no-one else gives a damn about!


First off, and in line with the very first section of this E-Blast (can you remember back that far?) tell the world: what was the LAST carbureted (as opposed to fuel-injected) car to qualify for and start the Indianapolis 500? Huh? What was it? And, while you're at it, what year?

And now, once again (pix below), let's play "what th'hail is THAT thing???"

Catch the latest poop & pictures, the Jay Leno interview, Last Open Road swag & highly inappropriate attire from Finzio's Store and the lurid & occasionally embarrassing "ride with Burt" in-car racing videos on the hopefully now fully operational website at: