Q: During these quarantined times, I’m keeping myself busy by compiling a list of all the racetracks that Johnny Parsons has raced on. I’m creating his list from online and old newspaper sources. Tedious work, but very rewarding! He’s had a fascinating career. I’m up to 143 tracks and counting.
In February 1977, he promoted a race inside Louisville’s Freedom Hall. I attached a review of the night that I found interesting. I found an old Mailbag in which you mentioned being there.
My question – do you recall if they trucked in dirt to race on, or was that race held on the concrete floor? That building has done it both ways in other years. Also, other articles before the event said that J.P. was scrambling to find a ride because his normal car owner had a heart attack. Curious if you remember him getting in another car or not? I reached out to J.P. on Facebook, but he didn’t reply. Understandable if he doesn’t want to be bothered.
Todd Shannon, Pleasant Prairie, WI
RM: No dirt, just the concrete, but I know I offered my car to him for the feature and I think he might have driven it. J.P. was a damn good racer.
Q: Whatever happened to Jim Gilmore (Foyt/Gilmore Racing)? What was his connection to A.J., and did you two ever come to blows like you and A.J. did?
RM: He sponsored A.J. for many years and was a TV maven from Kalamazoo, Mich. Gilmore Broadcasting started out sponsoring Gordon Johncock and then Jim became a Foyt fan. A really nice man with a great family. Never heard him raise his voice.
Q: Some comments and questions to help pass the shut-in. In 1998, A.J.’s car for Billy Boat was sabotaged the night before the Indy 500. What is the full story? Who, why and what did they actually do to the car? A.J. said at the time he immediately knew someone had gotten into the garage – how did he know?
A couple of Mailbags back, a reader was asking about Johnny Carson driving the turbine car. I was there with my dad that day. It was great back then – the track would open Grandstand E for free. Carson was first tutored in a pace car by Parnelli, then got into the turbine surrounded by film cars. After a few laps Carson said he simply “goosed it” a bit on the back stretch and pulled around the lead film car for a couple of laps on his own.
As a native Hoosier, and more specifically, a native of Indianapolis, I have had fun noticing things unique to Hoosiers, like playing euchere. Diagonally across the street is “katy corner” to a Hoosier, not “kitty corner.” But more applicable to the Mailbag – a native from Indianapolis never calls IMS the Speedway, but simply the “Track.”
Mike in Texas
RM: I seem to recall something about Loctite being placed in an injector or something along those lines, and I remember writing something about the grassy knoll in Turn 2, but I have no other information.
Q: Wondering if you have any stories about the guys who would spend the entire month of May camped out in a corner with their telephoto lenses capturing all the action for the wire services, yearbooks, etc.? As a kid I thought it looked like pretty neat thing to do, and I eventually made a career out of motorsports photography and then got to shoot many IndyCar races just for fun, and had a few pics in Open Wheel. The names I recall from the ’70s and ’80s are Mahoney, Crucean, Gladback, Tom Dick, and the guy I really got a kick out of was Lloyd Masing sitting in the first turn on his swivel stool with his customized Nikon motordrive that was one or two frames faster than everyone else. And finally, since you were a newspaperman, did you ever make an attempt to shoot action shots for the Star?
Steve, Dubuque, Iowa
RM: Just remember Tom Dick always driving down to The Star on a Sunday night with action shots, or someone delivering Masing’s latest crash sequence. Crucean and Mahoney are national treasures, and Gladback was really good as well. Those guys and Jim Chini set the bar really high, and their passion was always evident. I never took a photo, I couldn’t load a camera.
Q: My best friend’s dad grew up in Indianapolis, and every May we get talking about memories of past 500s and stories he has, but they’re usually Carb Night and our memories may be a little distorted. Several of these were in the ’70s, and he had a family friend connected to Mike Mosley’s team. He remembers a crew member named Harold “Tilt” Millican, who seemed to be running the team. The nickname was from an injury that caused him to walk with a limp, and maybe even a real tilt from one leg being shorter than the other. Do you know who he’s talking about, and have any stories you’d like to share about him or the team? My friend’s dad would love to find out more about him. Thanks!
Kyle Jenkins, Edwardsville, IL
RM: Howard Millican grew into racing with Bobby Unser, and there was no funnier or more talented person than Tilt. Whether it was driving a tank into a bar, fixing the transmission on an Indy car, causing a scene at a truck stop or machining parts, Howard was a mainstay in auto racing for four decades. His son, Ronnie Dawes, is also quite astute, and was the engineer for Buddy Lazier’s 1996 Indy 500 win. I still have lunch with him once a week.
Q: I know that naming corners (other than the turn number) is a road course thing, and there are several corners of famous tracks that are notable, like Ste Devote, Eau Rouge, Maggots and Becketts. Oval racing typically just calls them Turns 1 through 4, but since Indy is Indy, how would the suggestion of naming the four turns after the four-time winners (even though we only have three so far) go over? We could have Foyt Corner, Unser Corner, Mears Corner, and the fourth turn to-be-determined (which could be a talking point whenever there’s a three-time winner in the field). Or, wait until we have a fourth four-timer and do it then. Even if only ceremonial, it might add a unique distinction. What say you?
Brian in Indy
RM: Well it’s certainly worth considering, although like you said, it’s a road course thing. But I’ll forward your suggestion to IMS.