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Oldtimers' Reunion marks beginning of racing season

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It’s been a long winter, but racing season is here.

Actually, auto racing has evolved into a year-round proposition. Racing until now has occurred in the South, in the West and indoors.

But now the local season is about to begin. One of the high points of the early racing season is Jerry Castor’s Columbus Speedway/25th Street Raceway Oldtimers’ Reunion scheduled for today at the Bartholomew County 4H Fairgrounds.Castor, Ron Scheffel and their dedicated crew of volunteers work all year putting together one of the greatest events of its kind in the Midwest. Each year they strive to include historic racers that haven’t been displayed here before as well as some old favorites like Joe Cunningham’s beautiful red Studebaker Indy car.

Each year a Hometown Hero is selected to be honored at the event. This year’s honoree is longtime Columbus resident Dave Norris. Norris raced midgets and sprint cars all over the Midwest.

Although he drove for for many different car owners, he spent a lot of time in the Hoffman cars out of the Cincinnati area.

After he retired from the cockpit, he served as owner/mechanic for his son, Kerry, who had a successful driving career of his own. In addition to owning and driving racecars, Dave ran the United Midget Racing Association TQ racing series for a while.

Norris teamed up with Castor to put on the first racers’ reunion. It’s actually hard to tell who actually started the thing. However, it seemed to consume most of Norris’ time for weeks. Just about everyone got the opportunity to help get the first reunion off of the ground.

Like most racers, Norris’ racing wasn’t a full-time proposition. For many years he ran the Shell service station at 17th Street and National Road. He later opened a garage off State Street on Repp Drive.

Both Norris and his son worked in the garage until he retired and moved to Florida, where he developed a serious golf habit.

Norris will be on hand to greet his friends and spend the day bench racing. Castor is still searching the countryside for a racer that has survived all of these years. The Hoffman team is expected to attend with their beautifully restored black midget formerly driven by Dave Norris.

Although it still hasn’t completely come together, Castor is working to assemble the cars that made up the last row of the starting lineup of the 1950 Indianapolis 500.

They are:

  • 31st — The Troy Oil Special was driven by rookie Gene Hartley, who finished 16th. The car has been restored by Ray Boissineau of Concord, N.H. Weather permitting, Boissineau will be here with his beautifully restored racer for all of us to enjoy.
  • 32nd — This starting position on the grid was occupied by the beautiful green Cummins-powered Kurtis Kraft driven by Jimmy Jackson. Jackson retired after 61 laps with supercharger woes. Many of you will remember it for its previous appearance at the Oldtimers’ Reunion. Those who missed it last time will want to be sure to see it this time.
  • 33rd — Starting dead last was Johnny McDowell in an Offenhauser-powered Kurtis Krafl-owned by Peter Wales. McDowell drove the machine to a respectable 18th-place finish.

Castor was pleased to announce that, for the second year in a row, Donald Davidson will be on hand with his astounding knowledge of the Indianapolis 500 and the racers who have participated. Although I have known Davidson for many years, I learn new facts about the Indianapolis 500 every time I talk to him.

Keith Kunz will be on hand with the Bullet/Toyota that Kyle Larson drove to victory in the 72nd annual Turkey Night Grand Prix held at Perris Auto Speedway last Thanksgiving.

Roy Caruthers is expected to be on hand with his beautifully restored racer. In addition, there will be a wide variety of racecars from the early days of racing to the present.

Also, venders will be on hand with racing photos, DVDs and memorabilia of all types. Famed USAC photographer John Mahoney will be on hand with photos of your favorite drivers at reasonable prices.

Following the Oldtimers Reunion, many of you will be ready to go racing at either Twin Cities Raceway Park, where they will be featuring sprint cars of Brownstown Speedway where dirt late models will be featured.

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

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