Stories Of People Who Make A Living In Motorsports
BY ANNE FORNORO
Anne is the daughter of early-days midget racer Russ Klarr and the wife of retired driver Drew Fornoro. She’s worked as a publicist most of her life.
In many ways, racing has defined my life.
My dad, Russ Klar, was a race driver of some renown in the Northeast. I remember seeing him drive midgets and late in his career modifieds (stock cars), but he also raced sprint cars and ‘big cars’ in the 1940s and ’50s.
Through racing I met Drew Fornoro and became the wife of a race driver. I knew my father-in-law, Nick Fornoro, before I knew my husband because Nicky flagged the races that my dad drove in. Unfortunately, at this writing Nicky is battling for his life after a hemorrhagic stroke Sept. 20.
My brother Greg also raced and Drew’s brother Nick, Jr. (Nokie) still does. Racing was a common discussion at our dinner table.
I became involved in my own way, too. I worked on a fan club for a young driver, Leigh Earnshaw, because I’d become friends with his sister Patsy. My best friend, Elaine Brenn, daughter of midget car owner Ken Brenn, was the treasurer and I was the secretary. I was 14 when I wrote the fan club newsletters. I never thought of it as the beginning of my career path, but I did try (and failed) to get him on the “Johnny Carson Show.”
I started writing about the ARDC midgets for the local racing paper, Area Auto Racing News, and, once out of college, worked at National Speed Sport News with Chris Economaki, his daughter Corinne, and Jerry Gappens and Keith Waltz — whom both now work at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
That’s when I made the contacts that led to my job at U.S. Tobacco as an Indy-car publicist. At one point, UST’s Copenhagen, Skoal and Skoal Bandit brands were seen in 13 different racing series, ranging from Formula One to NEMA midgets. For me, it was a dream job.
During my 16-year tenure at UST, I worked directly (or indirectly) with many motorsports personalities including Dan Gurney, Gerry Forsythe, Barry and Kim Green, Teo Fabi, Jan Lammers, Jonathan Palmer, Manfred Winkelhock, Tom Sneva, John Andretti, John Anderson, Jack Starne, George Snider, Davy Jones, Stan Fox, Tony George, Phil Casey, Brian Barnhart, Craig Baranouski, Pancho Carter, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Robby Gordon, Mike Groff, Eddie Cheever, Mai Lindstrom, Scott Sharp, Davey Hamilton, Billy Boat, Kenny Brack, Ted Johnson, Wolfgang Hustedt, Don Prudhomme, Ron Capps, Harry Gant, Ken Schrader, Andy Petree, Benny and Phil Parsons, Rick Mast, Chuck Bown, Quint Boisvert, my husband Drew and his car owners Marilyn Gene Angelillo — and of course — A.J. Foyt.
Most people know me through my work with A.J. with whom I’ve worked since 1985 — more than 22 years.
That fact garners either sympathy or envy, but always admiration. Working with A.J. has allowed me to appreciate the sport’s past and witness its evolving future from a unique perspective.
The public sees A.J. as Super Tex, mesquite-tough with a nitro temper apt to flare in a New York minute. What they don’t see is his heart — it’s as big as his home state of Texas.
When I left UST after its motorsports program was pared down to only drag racing at the end of the 2000 season, I started my own company A-Line Communications. A.J.’s team was my first client with programs in the IRL and NASCAR. Later that year, my father became very ill suddenly, and my mother called me at an Indy-car test asking me to come home immediately. I never asked, but A.J. dispatched his jet to take me home. I’ll never forget that.
And he’ll never forget that I donated my blood when he needed it in the aftermath of his terrible accident at Elkhart Lake, Wis. He took his daughter-in-law Nancy’s, too. I never let him forget that our female blood ‘helped’ him qualify on the front row at Indy in 1991.
There have been many unforgettable moments working with A.J. and his family, son Larry and grandson Anthony (A.J. IV), both of whom I watched grow up. Working on A.J.’s 50th anniversary in Indy cars with his sponsor ABC Supply, driver Darren Manning and the staffs of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a wonderful reminder of why I enjoy my work so much.
My daughter Marie left for college this fall and she worried about being unsure of what to do with her life. I told her it didn’t matter what she did as long as she was passionate about it.
Getting paid to do it? Priceless.
(Original Print Date: September 26, 2007)