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Remembering a man passionate about racing

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When Jerry Castor and Dave Norris decided to start their Oldtimers Reunion, they did it with the realization that their crowd was getting old.

They understood each reunion might be the last opportunity to visit racing friends.

That was brought into focus with the recent passing of Delbert Willoughby. When I called Willie Money of Seymour to talk about Willoughby’s racing, he said, “I hadn’t seen Delbert in years, but we were able to spend an hour visiting with each other at the Oldtimers’ Reunion in Columbus. He was a great guy, and he will certainly be missed.”

Willoughby raced dirt late models back in the 1960s both as a driver and a car owner. He got out of dirt late model racing when his son, Pete Willoughby, started racing go-carts. He returned as a car owner in partnership with C.J. Rayburn when the younger Willoughby moved up to dirt late models.

During all of this, the elder Willoughby had become more involved in his trucking company. As he neared retirement he turned the reins of the trucking company over to his son, but he continued to help with the trucking business until it closed.

Delbert Willoughby wasn’t comfortable in retirement, so he helped with his son’s midget racing operation by doing some parts chasing, helping in the pits and driving the hauler. As Keith Kunz Motorsports’ demands on his time decreased, he got the opportunity to transport IRL’s two-seat Indy car to tracks, where fans could rent a ride in the car driven by an IndyCar driver. Willoughby thus became a fixture at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and racetracks across the country.

Willoughby really enjoyed people, particularly racing people. He attended a lot of races, especially midget races. Willoughby, Don Smith and I attended several Chili Bowls together. If you walked through the pits with Willoughby, it could take half a day because we would be stopped by people greeting him.

I know that when I now walk through the pits, I will be stopped by people asking about Willoughby. In the final analysis, there is no better measure of a man’s worth than the memory of him in those who he left behind.

USAC Eastern Storm

The eighth annual USAC Eastern Storm will offer sprint car fans, particularly non-winged sprint car fans, an opportunity to watch their favorite cars and drivers battle each other on tracks that are generally used for winged sprint car racing.

To be sure, there will be some winged sprint car drivers who will show up to defend their territory. However, when Bryan Clauson, Dave Darland, Chase Stockon and Tracy Hines unload, they can represent a formidable challenge. The Eastern Storm will consist of five races at five tracks from June 3 through June 8.

The series will get under way at Grandview Speedway at Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania, with the Jesse Hockett Classic. From there the series goes to Lincoln Speedway at New Oxford, Pennsylvania, on June 4, New Egypt Speedway at New Egypt, New Jersey, on June 5, Port Royal Speedway at Port Royal, Pennsylvania, on June 7, and concludes with Susquenhanna Speedway Park at Newberrytown, Pennsylvania, on June 8.

Each stop on the Eastern Storm tour promises to provide great racing. I had the pleasure of visiting many of these tracks before some demented soul decided that bolting a shed roof on the roll cage of a perfectly good sprint car was a good idea. The racing was great; and there are a lot of historical sites to visit during the days.

Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.

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