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Swede Savage in the AAR Barracuda
First in line at Re-entry, just as you'd expect

 Scan: CLICK to see a bigger cropped version of this Union Oil Co photo of Swede Savage in the AAR Barracuda at RIR 1970
                 Photographer: H.D.Emerson/UNOCO

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.

Early 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.

As 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 laps.

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 each other."

A class act, from beginning to end, I think.


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Yes, I was there. Yes, I had an orange hat and big dark shades . . .







But I think that's not my head appearing above the car. Wrong kind of hat, and I'd have been in front of the car.