CONCORD, N.C. — Roger LeBlanc died sometime during the night of July 26 or the morning of July 27 at his home in Troy, Pa.
LeBlanc was a racer, but more than that, he was my grandfather on my mother’s side. He was my last surviving grandparent and very much a throwback to a different era.
He had, let’s say, a few unique traits about him. He was missing a few fingers on one of his hands, which he lost during work accidents. Despite missing those digits, he was still very good at pool. I’m told he hosted pool nights at his home for years, probably winning a few pennies from some of his friends on more than one occasion.
Grandpa Roger, as we called him, had a tendency to show up with little or no warning. He’d drive from Pennsylvania to Georgia to see other members of our family and would just show up at my parents’ North Carolina home, sometimes unannounced and occasionally with a call a day ahead of time.
As he got older his hearing began to fail, making it more difficult to have a conversation with him, especially on the telephone.
Grandpa Roger always wanted to talk racing, which excited me because Grandpa Roger remains the only member of our family to drive a car race.
I don’t know a lot about his racing endeavors. I know he raced for a time, either before I was born or when I was very young, and in his senior years he got the itch to go racing again and did.
During his racing renaissance, he competed at the now-defunct Redline Raceway in Granville Summit, Pa., and Dunn Hill 2 Speedway, which is now known as The Hill Speedway in Monroe, Pa.
Approximately 10 years ago, I tried to arrange a trip to Pennsylvania to watch Grandpa Roger race, but during the phone call to pitch him the idea, he acknowledged that his eyesight was beginning to fail.
As a result, he no longer felt safe in a race car and didn’t want to endanger himself or anyone around him, so he thought it best not to race anymore.
I was disappointed, but I understood. He retired his race car to his property in Pennsylvania, where it remained until his death.
A short time later, I tracked down a photographer who had photos of Grandpa Roger racing at Dunn Hill 2 Speedway and she was kind enough to send those photos to me on a CD.
I shared those photos on Facebook at the time and most of my family was shocked to see them. Apparently, no one had seen any photos of Grandpa Roger racing, much less seen him race in person. I eventually managed to get Grandpa Roger to sign one of the photos and that photo hangs in my kitchen.
The photos drew lots of comments and resulted in some fun conversations for a few days, but that was about it. Around the same time, I’d discovered even more pictures from another photographer based in Pennsylvania, but I didn’t have the money to purchase the pictures at the time.
Consequently, I have had the photographer’s website bookmarked on every computer I’ve owned since. Every now and then I’d be reminded of the photos and I’d go looking through them all again, and wish I’d gotten the chance to see him race just once.
When Grandpa Roger died in July, I was reminded again of the photographer and the photos I hadn’t yet purchased. I decided that if I didn’t buy the photos right then and there, I wouldn’t buy them at all, so I purchased every photo the photographer had of Grandpa Roger.
It took two months for me to get my hands on the photos, but on Sept. 28, a little more than two months after my grandfather died, the photos arrived.
There he was, slinging dirt in his blue No. X100 pure stock. I never asked him why he used X100 as his number, but knowing him it had little sentimental meaning.
By the time this issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine reaches readers, my grandfather’s estate will have been sold at auction. Included among the items at the auction will be the race car. As much as I want to own it, I’m no race car driver and I believe race cars should be raced and not sitting somewhere in a garage as a display piece.
I hope someone buys the car and races the hell out of it. That’s what Grandpa Roger would want.
For me, the photos are enough.