I liked the way Swede fit into Gurney's All American Racers' theme: straightforward,
racing-centered, honest and clean-cut. Even the graphics
on their cars reflected that orientation, with deep colors and strong but
spare graphics. Not a lot of fol-de-rol in their approach to the entire milieu.
in the week of the 1970 Mission Bell 250 Trans Am at Riverside, I was tapped to
work as Re-entry Starter during one of the first practice sessions. It wasn't
an easy job, but essential. The pros came out of Turn Nine at incredible rates
of speed, and that meant they passed the Re-entry point, which "blended" into
the straight between Turns One and Two, at even more phenomenal speeds. The blend-point
was very close to the line the fast cars took at the exit of One, and carried
entering cars smack into that line. If a car left re-entry under full acceleration
it would be traveling, at most, two-thirds or three-quarters the speed of the
fast guys trying to use the same spot on the track.
The fast guys, if running at their maximum compromise between speed and turning
forces, would crest the rise at the Turn One tunnel treading on a very thin line,
one difficult to adjust without losing speed, line, and perhaps control. Drivers
entering from Re-entry had no view of the exit of Nine. It was the job of the
Re-entry Starter to time the release of the re-entering car so that it would not
be endangered by or interfere with the progress of any cars leaving Turn Nine.
you would expect, Swede was one of the first to go on track for practice. He always
seemed eager to get with it, to do what he did so well. He made a few laps and
called in at the pits. When he came to Re-entry to go back on course, he slowed,
looked at me, then over his shoulder, then at me again, and went down the Re-entry
road, ignoring my signal to "hold." When he reached the edge of the racing track
another car was aimed directly at him, and closing at maybe 40 MPH faster than
Swede's 90 or 100 MPH. The oncoming car had to alter his line and lose time, something
that had an effect on his entire lap. Swede caught and passed him within a few
I spoke to the Chief Steward, saying, "I hope Mr. Gurney will say something to
his driver about obeying official signals. Rules are for everyone, aren't they?"
In just a few minutes Gurney came to me and said Swede apologized to the other
driver, and would come to do the same for me, if I wanted. I said, "Nah, just
tell him I understand where he is coming from, and we all have to learn to trust
A class act, from beginning to end, I think.