Sixty years at Indianapolis and other venues and some good karting years have given me perspective, but racing’s ironies still grab me. So it was again this weekend when I was privileged to meet another of racing’s oldest stars and a young favorite while demonstrating model planes at Cleveland’s “Piston Power” show.
I’m not an autograph collector, but when one of my club mates joked that I should ask Danica Patrick to autograph my little red plane, I thought, “Why not?” I’d offer her a kind word.
Two hours before her appearance, I saw little kids and parents camped out in the autograph area, a reminder of the difference she has made in young girls’ aspirations.
In contrast, walking back to our area, I found a solitary figure standing by his race car — no lines here. He was the legendary Hershel McGriff, winner of the first Carrera Panamericana and many NASCAR races over perhaps the longest continuing career in the sport’s history.
Generously sharing as long as I could stay, he said at one point, “Young people don’t remember me.” All I could say was, “They should, and I do.” I returned for his autograph on my plane.
Later I was among the last of many people admitted to Danica Patrick’s signing area in this otherwise under-attended event. Instead of just quick autographs, Danica was talking to everyone, posing for pictures with families and individuals, and generally giving much more than one would expect from someone who had spent a rough previous afternoon more than two states away, racing hard and being bounced off walls.
From her appearance, effort, friendliness and charm, even this late, one would never have known. I was impressed. Now I had a memento of two overlapping careers, which began more than half a century apart. How cool is that!
So thanks to Hershel McGriff for sharing so generously with a stranger and to Danica Patrick for her grace on a tough weekend. In this contrast lies the constant concern that unaware fans owe it to themselves and their heroes to learn and preserve racing’s history. Otherwise racers’ accomplishments live only in fading memory.
Serge Krauss, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Fixing TV Ratings
This week in the Indianapolis Star there was a short article about ESPN being upset about the 27 percent drop in ratings of NASCAR races vs. last year at the same time.
Number one, the races are too long. Cut them back to 300 miles with a couple of 400 milers thrown in. That would bring some more excitement. Look at IndyCar, 300- mile races on ovals and you can’t break away with the fear of missing something.
Number two, shorten the season. Thirty-six races are too many. Make it 30, tops. Give people more time off and make it more exciting for the fans. When you run 500 whatevers every week that is boring.
Don’t try to run up against college football on Saturday nights. NASCAR will lose every time.
Arnold Edgar, Coatesville, Ind.
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