It’s an exciting weekend at Indianapolis for racers from the Pacific Northwest.
Dave Kuniki of Surry, BC is okay after hitting the wall on Saturday, June 18 at the SVRA Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational.
“I lifted and touched the brakes. The car jumped to the right and slapped the (retaining wall). It was a hard hit. That’s when I realized I had no steering. The car came down into the grass and I tried to ease on the brakes, but the car jumped to the left and started to spin.”
The car then hit something with the left front. The cause of the mishap was a mechanical failure. A nut that holds steering mechanisms together came off. Kuniki had no way to control the car.
“It’s an uneasy feeling. I don’t recommend it,” he said.“But I never felt my life was threatened. I have a container seat, and a strong cage. But they took me to the medical center to get checked out, took my blood pressure, asked me questions.”
Although the damage looked slight, once Kuniki and mechanic Freddie Jonsson got under the car, they found the impact had bent the a shaft holding the lower “A” arm that supports the right front wheel, and the left side tie rod was bent. That was it for the weekend.
“You just don’t know if something is cracked,” he said.
Tom Cantrell had an excellent race on Saturday in his 1998 Ford Penske Taurus stock car, taking first place in the SC3 race group.
“We got way ahead of those guys. I hope I keep my cool and make it happen again,” he said, looking forward to Sunday’s final.
Driving his Can-Am car, Cantrell said he was still getting used to the machine. “It’s really, really fast,” he said. “We’re hitting a buck eighty (180 mph) or more.”
Then he has to slow down and turn 90 degrees left on the Indy track.
Matt Parent came close to giving the Northwest a one-two finish in that group on Saturday, coming in third in his Skoal Bandit stock car.
Matt Parent’s Skoal Bandit, prepared by Horizon Racing
“We’ve had a really good weekend, so far. We finished third overall (on Saturday) with Cantrell in first. They waved us into victory lane, put us on the podium, had us drink milk (an Indy tradition).
Matt Parent on the podium. Photo provided.
“We’re also doing well in the Corvette in B production. We were third in that group, and Tony and I (Tony Darmey of Horizon Racing and Performance who prepares race cars for Parent and several others in Seattle) ran in the enduro,” said Parent.
Another SOVREN car from the Pacific Northwest, a 1964 Studebaker owned by Jeff and Jerry Taylor, won “Best of Show” at the event, possibly the most significant in the nation.
“They came by and asked us to bring our car down to the area where they were having the concert. There were two other cars there. They gave an award to the best open wheel car, and one to the best prewar car. Then they gave us the award for “Best of Show,” said Jeff Taylor, of Sisters Oregon.
“ ‘Best of show?’ I wanted to ask if those guys had been drinking. I think they’re nuts, with all those incredible cars there,” said Taylor.
The Rex Easley Studebaker race car. File photo by AeroSportPhotography
The Studebaker has always drawn admirers, and the well-constructed history of it’s first owner, Rex Easley, has always brought a smile. Kuniki, with one of the many beautifully prepared cars at the event, was pitted next to the Taylors all weekend.
“There must have been 300 or 400 people who came by. They pretty much didn’t see my car, they were there looking at the Studebaker,” Kuniki said.
Curt Kallberg, another racer from Oregon, had a good race. On Saturday, he started in 16th.
“Most of these guys have never seen a ‘Kallberg start.’ I jumped about five of them by going up near the wall on the start into the first corner. I got to ninth, but gave two spots back, ended up 11th,” he said.
Curt Kallberg, #68, next to Corvette driven by legend Al Unseer Jr.
Car prepared by Jon Bibler. Photo provided by Patti Cordoni
But always for Kallberg, it’s the people and the fun that matter as much as the racing. “This is the maybe the best event we’ve ever been to,” he said, reflecting on the history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the quality of the promotion and the cars.
Everything was top drawer, with music provided by Three Dog Night. It was rumored that after hearing Kallberg sing along, which most people in the audience were able to do, he might be asked to tour with the band.
“Nah, that’s not going to happen,” Kalberg said. “I was singing loud, but when they heard me, they left the stage. I was devastated. But I also know ‘Achy Breaky Heart,’ and I’m going to sing that for Billy Ray Cyrus.”