The Rivalry: The Bluebird & The Polar Bear

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Bob Senneker in 1978. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)
Bob Senneker in 1978. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)

This story first appeared in the October 2014 edition of SPEED SPORT Magazine.

Their styles were vastly different, yet they were alike in many ways. Bob Senneker and Mike Eddy and their enduring rivalry would define ASA racing across three eventful decades, leaving an indelible impression on three generations of race fans.

Senneker was the Bluebird, racing the familiar blue No. 84 out of Dorr, Mich. Eddy was the Polar Bear from Midland, Mich., tearing up race tracks in the unforgettable No. 88. Together they accounted for 143 ASA National victories, an astounding 25 percent of all races contested. Senneker was the all-time winner with 85 victories, while Eddy was second on the list with 58.

Throughout their stellar careers they never fought openly, never publicly besmirched each other. Both were quiet and low-key with the media; frankly, neither seemed to have much interest in stirring up talk of their rivalry.

But make no mistake about it: Senneker and Eddy were intensely focused men, engrossed with the thought of winning the next race. The destiny of timing insured that on any given race day each would ultimately have to contend with the other.

“They were both strong-headed, but they were quiet,” recalled ASA founder Rex Robbins. “Mike had a different version of things than Bob might have. I can recall Mike saying many times, ‘I didn’t come here to make friends.’ He was kind of on the defensive with things like that.

“Both of them were very different than someone like Dick Trickle, who was outgoing, fun-loving, very jovial. They kept to themselves mostly. I’ll tell you this much, both those guys showed up ready to race. Every time.”

Eddy came to ASA first, towing to Indiana in the early 1970s to race the seminal regional programs that would eventually grow into the ASA Circuit of Champions. He was the 1974 ASA National Champion, the first of seven titles. His first National win came at Louisville Motor Speedway on June 24, 1974.

Senneker first tasted ASA competition at Winchester’s Dri-Powr 400 on Sept. 29, 1974, beginning an amazing run that saw him capture five consecutive 400s. He earned his solo ASA National championship in 1990.

Senneker’s success at the 400 was a harbinger of what this guy was all about. His smooth, calculating style was perfectly suited to long races and he had an uncanny ability to conserve his equipment, yet keep himself in contention.

Time and again one could watch it play out — in the late stages here comes Senneker, riding the strongest race car out there.

Eddy, on the other hand, was known for his aggressive, exciting style. An absolute master of high-banked tracks, Eddy could seemingly make his car faster by the force of his sheer will.

Their quiet natures were presented in vastly different ways. Senneker was friendly, but offered little in the way of words. It typically took some prodding to reveal his thoughts and his answers were often succinct. Eddy kept folks at bay with his fierce glare and his intense nature. He was willing to talk, but only on his terms and when he was ready.

“Mike was like Dale Earnhardt,” Senneker said. “Aggressive, and kind of intimidating. ASA wouldn’t have been the same without him, I know that. We needed that kind of personality, and it made the show complete.”

“Bob’s style was to be smooth, and of course he was always fast,” said Eddy. “He didn’t necessarily run the car as hard as he could, he could save enough to have good equipment at the end of the race.

“I always drove the car hard, that’s the way it was prepared and set up. It was made to go fast, not run at half-throttle.”

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