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Driver among old-timers to gather in March


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Jerry Castor’s Columbus Speedway/25th Street Raceway Oldtimers Reunion will be March 23 at its usual site at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds.

This should be one of the best Oldtimers events ever, in part because Castor, Ron Scheffel and the rest of their hard-working volunteers always manage to improve on their past performance.

However, the big news is that the Hometown Hero will be Columbus native Dave Norris.

Norris was the driving force in starting the Oldtimers Reunion. However, Norris has a racing pedigree far longer than that. He raced from when he was discharged from the Navy in the early 1950s until the mid-1960s, when he stepped out of the cockpit to turn the wrenches for his son, Kerry, and his go-karts. During his long and storied career, Norris raced both midgets and sprint cars with considerable success.

During much of this time Norris operated a Shell service station at 17th Street and U.S. 31 (now National Road). There was often a racecar on a trailer, and sometimes my father would stop and let me smoke over the racer before spurring me into our car so that we could complete our errands.

Following Norris’ retirement from the cockpit, the younger Norris moved to California to race. This left his father with time on his hands, and he signed on as an official with the United Midget Racing Association (UMRA).

Many of the UMRA competitors remembered the time that he ran UMRA fondly. The club had normally been run by a car owner or even a driver whose impartiality was often questioned. Norris not only had good judgment in the calls that he made, but those calls that he made were perceived to be fair. He had no dog in the fight.

At the end of his time with UMRA, it was time for Norris to put on his car owner/mechanic hat again. For literally decades, the two Norrises traveled the Midwest giving a good account of themselves wherever they went. They were particularly successful at Lawrenceburg Speedway, where they would find themselves taking on the likes of Dick Gaines and the Kinser clan.

However, one of their most memorable wins to most local race fans came in the inaugural Sheldon Kinser Memorial at Bloomington Speedway in 1988. To win that race now is a treasured record to any racer.

When the economics of sprint car racing finally caught up with the Norris team, they decided that they weren’t ready to quit yet. So, they bought a modified. The modifieds raced on the same tracks that they had been competing on for years. In addition, Kerry was better than most modified racers of the time.

After a good run as modified car owner and mechanic, Norris retired to a new home in Florida and a part-time job at a golf course that featured free green fees as a perk.

Norris will fly in for the event and will be looking forward to visiting old friends and other race fans.

Castor always lines up a bumper crop of great racecars. However, the old-timers are the real show. Everybody has so many stories that they haven’t even exhausted their best tales before it’s time to go home.

Vendor tables will be available for $10 each. To reserve a table or to get information concerning

the event, call Castor at

812-592-5010.

Willoughby, Kunz shoot for 100

The Kelly Street shop of Keith Kunz Motorsports is buzzing with activity as Pete Willoughby and Keith Kunz prepare three pavement midgets to compete in the opening USAC National Pavement midget races at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway (just south of Daytona). This will be first appearance of the USAC midgets in Florida in eight years and the first ever at New Smyrna Speedway.

Kunz and Willoughby have 97 USAC National series wins to their credit (55 in midgets, 40 in sprint cars and two in Silver Crown). They could reach the 100 plateau on the Florida trip, but it will likely be reached a little later in the season.

The three drivers they are taking are Tanner Swanson, Christopher Bell and Riley Emmel.

Their first win came with Page Jones at Kokomo Speedway in 1992. Other drivers scoring wins for the Kunz team were Henry Clarke, Bryan Clauson, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland, Jay Drake, Darren Hagen, Tracy Hines, Cory Kruseman, Kevin Swindell, Brian Tyler, Cole Whitt and Josh Wise.

Tim McKinney is an auto racing columnist for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.

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