Q: I remember watching David Empringham throw a Formula Atlantic around at Long Beach – his car control skills were amazing. Disappointing he never got a ride in CART. Any insight? He was probably more talented than some of the regulars. What ever happened to David and his racing career?
RM: He won back-to-back Atlantic championships and then the Indy Lights title, but the Player’s/Forsythe roster had Greg Moore and then added Patrick Carpentier in 1998 so I don’t think Empringham ever got shot with the “Canadian” team. And strangely, nobody else tried to hire him. He and Lee Bentham were both excellent racers and champions but got passed by, and after driver coaching David started racing sports cars in 2001 and continued for the next decade.
Q: For years I have been searching for the publication I once read that stated a Lotus super team for 1968 that featured Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart all signed to drive in the upcoming 1968 Indianapolis 500. The 1967 500 was an embarrassment for Lotus and Chapman wanted to put them back on the map, along with Andy Granatelli’s help and STP’s money and the new Lotus turbines. Well ahead of their time in design features, I feel. In fact, there is a photo in one of my Indianapolis 500 history books of Jimmy Clark standing next to the turbine wedge car with Colin Chapman and Granatelli after he tested it in March of 1968. Therefore, I know this story has teeth.
I have read where Stewart was injured in a F2 crash (broke or fractured his wrist) and we all know Jimmy Clark was tragically killed also at an F2 race in Hockenheim, Germany. Was the supposed Lotus super team a myth, or was it true? Chapman cut bait after Clark’s untimely death, leaving Granatelli to shoulder the load. Joe Leonard was the substitute driver for Clark and Art Pollard was the substitute driver for Stewart as Mike Spence (who was testing the turbine) was killed at Indianapolis in practice. I marvel at the “what if” for those 1968 turbine cars had one of them won.
Greg Ludlow, Baltimore, MD
RM: From IndyCar author/historian Rick Shaffer: “They wanted Parnelli to drive the ’67 turbine in ’68, but when he saw the new Lotus wedge turbine he politely declined. My understanding is that two of the turbines were entered by Team Lotus and would have been assigned to Clark and Hill, their F1 drivers. STP got the other two entries and I think JYS was signed to drive with Greg Weld. Then Clark gets killed April 8 at Hockenheim. A couple of weeks later JYS breaks his wrist at Jarama. I think he was still hoping to drive Indy, but did not pass the physical. He was the keynote speaker at that year’s Mayor’s Breakfast on opening day of practice, and he told everyone he was going to be driving for “some additive company.” So Spence was Clark’s replacement and then he, of course got killed on May 7, so Team Lotus is down to Hill and STP down to Weld. Joe Leonard originally was going to drive the car Parnelli had driven in 1967, but he crashed it. So I think (because it was No. 60) he got Spence’s Team Lotus car (remember Spence was in Weld’s car when he crashed). Then they added Pollard for the STP No. 20 when it was apparent Weld would not get up to speed.”
Q: Sebastian Vettel can’t seem to find a home in Formula 1. What do you think it would take to entice Vettel to come to IndyCar, and which teams could pragmatically court him and have a stable for him? David Letterman speaks highly of Seb, and I wouldn’t be surprised if RLL made the investment. Could this open up a resurgence of F1 talent to the States like we had with Mario and Nigel? When does IMS anticipate having tickets reissued and mailed? I’ll need to purchase from the second-hand market.
RM: Hmmm, Vettel on an oval at Newton, Iowa. Nah, can’t see it. Vettel on any oval, nah, can’t see it. And RLL isn’t going to pay him F1 money, so I don’t see any way. IMS is re-issuing tickets as we speak, but don’t buy anything on the secondary market until you’re positive it’s the new tickets.
Q: My daughter and I had set up our lawn chairs on the hill outside Turn 5 at Sunday’s Road America race. Shortly before the start of the race, we saw one of the AMR safety trucks come down the straight, hang the left at Turn 5, then come to a quick stop and back up. I figured they spotted something on the track they needed to pick up. I was surprised when every member of the team hopped out, walked around the concrete barrier and up to the chain link fence where there was a boy, looked like maybe around 9 years old, holding a sign. The team all turned around, facing the track with the kid holding his sign while one of the team members took a picture. I said to my daughter, “I wonder what the sign says?” She replied she’d seen his sign earlier and it’s three lines read:
“My Heroes Save Lives”
[the AMR Safety Team logo]
“Future Team Member”
They then turned around so the kid’s mom could take a picture. Once the Turn 5 crowd could see the sign, a big round of applause came up from the fans. I’ve been going to auto races for 55 of my 62 years, and that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It’s one more reason to love IndyCar, especially seeing that parents are still successfully exposing their kids well as seeing the sport. It would be great if you could track down the picture and maybe some feedback from the AMR guys. That might be an article by itself. Thanks for all you do for the sport we love.
John Z., Cedarburg, WI
RM: Great way to end the first weekend of IndyCar racing with fans, and my editor Mark is a sucker for feel-good stories with kids since his daughter is five years old.