Facts are sometimes lost around a race track. Maybe often around a race track. There were four cars involved, not three. It happened in less than two seconds. And nobody was at fault.
But those are facts, and probably don’t matter. Disagreements have a way of becoming facts and the fact is, most of the Big Bore Bad Boys won’t be racing at the Portland Historics this July.
I wasn’t racing when it happened, or probably would have been right in the middle of it. I took last season off to go sailing. I loved sailing but missed the racing, more than I expected. Irish has asked if I want to be buried in the race car and I said “yes, but not with my helmet on.” The helmet would just be weird.
At the 2017 historics last year, there was an “incident.” In fact, there were a few, but only one matters to most of us. P.I. in his Tiger was between Turn 4 and Turn 5, at a place called Turn 4A on the track map. He was being lapped by three faster cars: a Porsche, Ceegar in his amazing TransAM Mustang behind the Tiger, and Excaliber in his thundering big block black Corvette behind the Porsche.
Ceegar and Excaliber have been going at it for as long as I can remember, and it’s great racing with guys like P.I. He knows what’s going on around him, and always let’s faster cars with bigger engines have their race.
The Tiger entered on the inside of the turn and the Porsche went by on the left, on the outside. The racing line there causes cars to drift from the inside of the track to the outside, right side to left side, and that’s what P.I. did. He saw the Mustang in his mirrors, and pointed him by to the right on the inside. All was as it should be.
There was no way P.I. could have seen Excaliber behind the Porsche, not in convex side mirrors mounted low on a low car. So after the Porsche goes by and P.I. sees and points Ceegar by on the inside, and drifts out to where he’s supposed to be, Excaliber, who had been hoping to follow the Porsche, was squeezed onto the dirt. Excaliber touched his brakes to fall back, but tires still on pavement grab, tires in dirt don’t. The big Corvette snapped to the inside, banging the Tiger hard to the right.
Ceegar sees the Tiger coming for him and dives to the grass and gets by without contact, races on toward Turn 6. The Tiger and the Corvette limp off the track.
This is racing. We’ve all been there.
But then things got weird. Race officials came to Ceegar’s trailer after the race to say he hit the Tiger.
“No I didn’t. Look at my car. Do you see any black paint?”
“I don’t care. You hit the Tiger,” he said he was told by officials. They’d made their decision. They’d decided he was at fault. They’d decided they were going to penalize him. There were words. Ceegar packed up his cars and returned to Seattle.
P.I. went to race officials to tell them they had it wrong. They told him that during a race, “you think things happen that didn’t happen.” They said they had a video backing them up, but wouldn’t let anyone look at it.
But P.I. had a video from inside his car, and another video pointed at the cars in the turn was released. From the track it clearly shows there was no damage to the Tiger on the side facing the Mustang. From inside the Tiger, one sees P.I. pointing Ceegar by, getting hit by Excaliber, and Ceegar avoiding the collision. It all happens in two seconds, 4:05 to 4:07 on the tape.
So why did officials hang this incident on Ceegar? There were other contact incidents during the weekend, and no one else was sanctioned, according to racers. It seemed Ceegar was singled out. Others who attempted to contact SVRA, the race organization, were stiff-armed, basically told to tow the line, several said.
Ceegar was put on a “black list” shared by race organizers across the country for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” When he found that out, Ceegar told Tony Parella, owner of SVRA, that he would take action against the organization if he wasn’t taken off that list. They took him off the list, but there were more words. Neither man is known for backing down.
It was a disappointment for all concerned. Cowboy, who has been in the sport for decades, had supported the SVRA coming to Portland and been involved at other venues across the country. He even had seven racers lined up to buy later model TransAM cars to support those races with SVRA.
“Then this hit the fan. That killed it. Nobody here wants to support SVRA. At some point, someone else will take over (the Portland Historics),” he said.
Canuck said he won’t race in the Portland Historics this year, feeling that what happened to Ceegar was wrong. He also didn’t like having officials walk down the line at pre grid, two minutes before the race, chastising drivers and telling them to slow down, that “it’s not the way we race in the SVRA.”
“I’m not saying I won’t race with SVRA again, just not this year in Portland.”
Others have made the same decision. No one is calling for a boycott, but a number of drivers and car owners have individually decided that if one of the group is treated unfairly, it’s unfair to all of us. There will still be a race, but many of the most popular cars won’t be in it. They’ll be at other races in Portland, starting with the Rose Cup in July and the Columbia River Classic in September.
I don’t know if I can still keep up with these guys, but can’t wait to get out there with them and find out. That’s what it’s about, the competition, sure, but also the respect and the friendship. I haven’t had enough of that yet. Maybe there’s never enough.