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Okay, so like I been tellin' you all (or, as the folks down around Georgia/Kentucky way put it, "y'all" or even a cornpone swillin', t'baccy chawin', drawled-out "y'awyll") I been cooped up in m'study here fr' months bangin' on my dang computer keys n'tryin' t'finish up this dang book. An' ah'm a-gittin' purty close.

Real close, in fact.


Which is why I decided I deserved me a little break-away time t'sneak on down t'where the local folk talk like this here and sample me a little fun an' excitement.

See a few friends.

Eat a grits-'n-grease breakfast special at a Waffle House.

Flog the livin' crap outta somebody else's friggin' racecar.

Write me a race report fr' the dang magazine.

Mebbe even sell a few books, y'know?

At this point we will segue back to standard-issue Midwestern English (as spoken on virtually EVERY national news show regardless of political agenda, underlying prejudices or thinly veiled point-of-view) on account of I don't think I can either stand or sustain the Johnny Reb stuff for an entire e-blast.

Too dang much work, y'know?

In any case, I did indeed sneak away for a few days to sample the delights of the Open Road (say, there may just be a book title in there....) and the joys of the HSR's Walter Mitty Challenge at Road Atlanta. It's one of my very favorite events and racetracks (even if that fast, scary downhill sweep into Turn 12 shrinks your balls up to the size of raisins!) and bigtime kudos & props to the HSR sanctioning body and my compadres and colleagues (and, okay, competitors) over at Classic Motorsports & Grassroots Motorsports magazines. Even my snake-in-the-grass sonofabitch publisher friend Tim Suddard, who once had the poor form to fire me.

But credit where credit is due, eh? And Tim and his cohorts and sycophants (I only include that word so that Tim will have to look it up) ) have done an amazing job rejuvenating the spectator side of The Mitty Challenge and bringing back the special spark, sizzle and sense of both participation and the absurd that drove it back in the day.

Well done!

Now I was at one of the very first "Mittys" back in the early 1980s, and I wrote about it a big, multi-page spread in Autoweek back when it was a cheesy newsprint tabloid and I had hair you could see with my clothes on. Think that was maybe the first "non-Monterey Historics" vintage article ever printed in a major national publication, and I must say I was thrilled and excited by the eclectic, "gathering of the tribes" aspect of the event as well as gobsmacked by some of the racecars (most of which are multi-kazillion-dollar "glass-case jobs" nowadays and too damn valuable for their pansy-ass, ribbon-clerk owners to bring out and race like their original creators intended.

You can take my soap-box now, boy....

That first Mitty represented something of a major turning point in my own life as well, as I discovered to my great and enduring delight that I could more or less "write my way" into fabulous vintage racing cars I could never even dream of affording (see sample pix below)

rather than flogging around in the sorry, slow, awkward, clunky, inelegant, ill-conceived, ill-prepared, potentially lethal and inevitably poorly funded shitboxes (or maybe that should be Death Traps?) I could provide for myself (see below).

I mean, I didn't need a damn safe to fall on my head....

In any case, I was back in the Ride Mooch business once again at this year's wonderful Walter Mitty Challenge at Road Atlanta (read my full report in the upcoming issue of VINTAGE MOTORSPORTmagazine, and click on it to visit the website and maybe order up a subscription?) thanks to longtime racing friend and serial ride-mooch victim/enabler "SuperDave" Bondon. That's me just a couple pix above in his super-quick, Twink-powered Morgan (now being VERY ably handled by daughter and legitimate feminine hotshoe DOCTOR Stacey Schepens). We all go back a long ways and the whole family are just great, great people. Stacey's a PhD and a middle school principal in Gwinnett County outside Atlanta, and they had a local film crew out shooting a piece on her. That's her below heading out to race in the same exact Morgan you saw me in above (note large purple and pink polka dots on her helmet!):

I don't believe any of Satcey's students are aware that she does this sort of thing (as she put it: "they'd never imagine I could be involved in anything cool") and she once again did her mom & dad proud by running up front and racing HARD for the class lead in both of her races. She managed to take a close 2nd on Sunday (like by a few feet!) after a very tough battle with a whole gaggle of grizzled old Porsche 356 racers (some more grizzled than others, and you know who you are). While wearing, I might add, a new decal on the backside of the Mog that reads: "YOU HAVE JUST BEEN PASSED BY A GIRL!"

Good fun!

To be fair, the Morgan has more power and top end than "The Porkies" (SuperDave's phrase, not mine), which is an advantage at Road Atlanta, but the 356s are lighter, arguably brake and handle a little better and have mix-n'-match gear ratios (plus most of their drivers are more experienced). As to aerodynamics, it's a tough call. Which shape is better through the air: a brick or a turd?

See lovely Mercer Dye pic of Stacey and SuperDave below:

In any case, SuperDave had once again taken temporary leave of his senses and offered me a co-drive in his new-to-him 1987 Royale RP42 Sports 2000 (see pix below) and I'm proud to say I didn't hit anything, strip any gears or blow the damn thing up. Plus I lucked into a MONSTER of a start in our BRM Watches Enduro (we had to start at the back, but sometimes it's like you're Moses and the Red Sea just sorta parts for you, y'know?) and that was really, really fun. I don't get a chance to start very often (hey, if something stupid or awful is gonna happen, it's more likely gonna happen when all the cars are bunched tightly together, throttles get mashed desperately to the floorboards, everybody's looking for a damn opening and a lot of the drivers have adrenaline spurting out of their ears) so I'd just as soon the car's owner take that particular risk.

But I do indeed love it whenever I get the opportunity. Oh, sure, I'm nervous like everybody else beforehand (while all the damn "what ifs" and "ugly potential scenarios" go parading through the back of my mind like a disaster-movie highlight reel) but once the engine fires and I'm rolling on the pace lap, heating up the tires...hey, none of it can touch me then!

I loved the car (even though I was a little behind it through some of the really fast sections) and SuperDave and I were rewarded with a nice class win in the Enduro. Although admittedly well down the field and against truly spotty opposition. Although we did beat the old blind lady in the wheelchair fair and square. Below please note me shamelessly bragging on myself in the pits after my stint (blah-blah-blah...yawn) and displaying my special Enduro shirt [available on the website, BTW] complete with manly sweat stains.

But there's a lot more to The Mitty weekend than just my big ego and fat ass, as we had over 350 cars entered, lots of great racing (!!!), no less than THREE enduros, some specialty races for BMWs and real, live Formula One cars (the sound of which will turn your earwax into crystalline chunks of amber), many of them over from the UK. Plus a couple NIGHT races! Want to try one of those myself next year....

Again, my full report will be coming up in the next issue of VINTAGE MOTORSPORT (get a damn subscription, already!) but I do need to mention all the cool, crazy and colorful cars I saw. Like this 1954 Ferrari Mondial that was just sitting there in the paddock (and, I believe, about to get crated up and shipped over to Italy for the Mille Miglia):

Cool, huh?

And then there was the "Concours d'Lemons" car show during quiet time on Sunday (this is church country, after all) which was held directly across from the People Kars booth where I was signing a few books. No, really! See me below signing a copy of TLOR for a 3-year-old named Cayden (I am not making that up):

Fact is, we sold quite a few books at The Mitty (thanks so much to my People Kar friends Frank and Amy) which was both gratifying and profitable. Not necessarily in that order. But back to the "Concours d'Lemons", which had cars of highly varied pedigree, presentation and provenance (translation: there were some real shitboxes) but what do you expect from a car show with classes like "Soul-Sucking Japanese Appliance" (I believe a rusty old Corolla won that one) and my "Burt's Choice" favorite shown below (a rare, station-wagon edition of a Citroen Deux Cheveaux) which was the sole entry in the "Unmitigated Gaul" class.

Good fun, as you can see. Plus some great food and a couple better-than-decent live bands at the partiesFriday and Saturday night. Too bad Carol wasn't with me so we could dance. She really dodged a bullet on that one.

 Anyhow, it's a hell of a great event, and you really might think about making it down to The Mitty yourself next year....

Come post-Mitty Monday and some fairly complex plane connections that lasted way past midnight, I found myself in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to check out, report on and track-test the brand-new NCM Motorsports Park racetrack located directly across I-65 from the justly famous (250,000+ visitors last year)  NATIONAL CORVETTE MUSEUM . Made even more famous by the infamous "sink-hole disaster" of February, 2014, wherein the whole blessed floor of the museum's"Skydome" display rotunda pretty much collapsed into a subterranean cavern and eight historically significant Corvettes fell down into a massive sinkhole (see pix below):

It was quite the mess, as you can imagine, and the insurance carriers were no doubt buying themselves lots of double- and triple-scotches plus painkillers and Maalox by the case.

Some of the cars were in pretty rough shape afterwards (see horrific pic below):

But at least it happened at night and nobody got hurt, and it's all fixed now (the hole, not the cars...although the first of the re-restored Corvettes is back in commission and on display). Anyhow, I highly recommend visiting the National Corvette Museum (and the previous e-blast mentioned Lane Motor Museum in Nashville just 90 miles down the road) anytime you're cruising up or down I-65 through Kentucky and Tennessee on your way to someplace else.

The NCM has a lot of cool stuff for Corvette types, but any gearhead and/or nostalgia buff will find it worthwhile and enjoyable. Not to mention fun.

Plus, for really MAINLINE Corvette addicts, they've got this deal where you can take delivery of your brand-new Corvette right there in the Museum's grand entrance hall with a nice little ceremony, a run-through of all the controls, gizmos and electronics courtesy of a retired Corvette plant employee (the big GM manufacturing plant where the world's entire supply of new Corvettes come to life is just a quarter-mile up the road...and you can get a tour if you like!) and then, as you fire it up and head for the overhead door, everybody in the place gives you a nice round of applause.

That's pretty cool.

And if you're REALLY sick with Corvette fever (and are moreover aware which end of a screwdriver is properly hit with a hammer), you can come down to the assembly plant a couple weeks before and actually BUILD YOUR OWN FREAKING ENGINE!!!!!

I figure you can get a lot a cocktail-hour or beer-keg mileage off a deal like that, and I don't believe Ferrari, Porsche or Aston Martin are offering anything similar....

But I was really down there to drop in on my longtime racing pal Mitch Wright, who has had himself quite a career in the motorsports world. He's been a highly successful amateur and pro racing driver, a team owner (on his own nickel, unfortunately), did a 10-year stint as Director of Pro Racing for the SCCA in Denver (I believe that probably counts off against your Purgatory Time after you die) and then served general-managing/engineering/race-director gigs at emerging and/or evolving major racetrack like Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, NOLA in New Orleans and Pittsburgh International (nee Beaver Run). So Mitch has about seen it all and done it all in the crazy little world of  motorsports world. And that made him a great hire as the "buck-stops-here" general manager of the new NCM MOTORSPORTS PARK (click to visit their website) just across I-65 from the visit-worthy National Corvette Museum and Corvette assembly plant mentioned above.

Now I must admit I figured beforehand that this would be a pretty tame and lame little racetrack. I mean, Corvettes are REALLY fast these days and many of their owners are, ahem, (how can I put this delicately?)...let's just say "gentlemen of extensive experience." And not real racetrack experience, BTW. And the last thing any car company (or any retail brand on the planet, come to that) wants to start doing is killing off their own damn customers.

Or scaring the crap out of them.

Plus it's hard to get those unsightly stains and small, conical peaks out of the seat upholstery....

So the safe thing would've been to build one of those flat-as-an-ironing-board little "technical" racetracks where any doofus can squirt around a few claustrophobic little blacktop squiggles in second gear and brag to his shaving mirror (not to mention all his buddies in the bar) afterwards that he knows what the hell race-driving is all about.

Like I said, that would have been the "safe" thing.

Only NCM isn't like that AT ALL!

First off, it's BIG! Like the full ("Grand") track is 3.2 miles long with no less than 23 (!!!) corners to remember. Or try to remember, anyway. And some of those suckers are FAST, many of them are BLIND and there are lots of combinations, tricky camber changes and some really cool elevation changes.

Suffice to say this is not the sort of track you can learn in a session or two. It's deceptive and challenging and subtle and nuanced. But it's also flowing and graceful and one hell of a lot of fun! Plus three of the corner complexes have been taken directly from the famous international circuit at Le Mans (the PlayStation Chicanes, Mulsanne Kink & Corner and the sweeping Porsche Curves are replicated accurately) and that has made NCM a valuable tool and asset for the Corvette factory team (see them testing below)

as well as some other top-level international teams who are planning to be over at Le Mans this year (I ain't sayin' who, but here's a subtle hint:)

Mitch took the better part of a day showing me around (he even bought me lunch, can you believe it?) and part of that time was spent bombing around the full "Grand" circuit in a tricked-out, 427 cubic-inch C6 Corvette.

Mitch took the better part of a day showing me around (he even bought me lunch, can you believe it?) and part of that time was spent bombing around the full "Grand" circuit in a tricked-out, 427 cubic-inch C6 Corvette.

I'm still trying to wipe the stupid grin off my face.

I should also mention that NCM is decidedly NOT just for Corvettes, and other cars, sanctioning bodies and enthusiast groups, both 2-wheeled and 4-wheeled, are both invited and encouraged. However there IS a muffler requirement (although the sound limit allowed is a generous 103db).

So check it out. The track is really, really good and really, really challenging (not to mention varied) and the curbings, armco barriers, runoff areas and pavement quality are truly exceptional.

(...and tiresome?)

Okay, you Bozos, a bunch of you (but not very many of you Brits, nyahh-nyahh-nyahh) correctly identified the elegant-looking projectile below as a 1951 Chrysler Thunderbolt "dream car."

Chrysler built six of these sexy little beauties (each with a different color scheme) from a highly advanced and streamlined design by Alex Tremulis (who also penned the radical but star-crossed Tucker among voluminous other accomplishments).
But the good stuff didn't end with the Thunderbolt's sleek, aerodynamic shape (inspired by Brit Captain George Eyston's Bonneville speed-record cars), as there were also concealed headlights, hydraulically controlled (!!) power windows, push-button door handles and--get ready for it--a fold-away power hardtop!
That was pretty damn advanced for 1941!

Yes, it's time to test your wits, wills and web-search skills once again. And this question combines two of my favorite things: movies and motorsports. Plus questionable taste, which I also quite enjoy. Credit where credit is due, I owe this particular trivia tidbit to a suggestion from my Fiat- and Beach-loving racing pal Nick England. To wit:
Hint: the entire title of this stupefyingly bad drive-in action epic has already appeared elsewhere in this e-blast....

(wait, make that two)

Please keep those ads & sponsorships rolling in, folks, as we're getting real close to "go" time on the new book!

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: