by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowMay 16, 2012 10:08 am UTC No Comments
I don’t want to recap Shelby’s life in this post. Others have written that story over the past several days. The truth is, I’m a little late to be writing an epitaph on the man. From the moment that I heard the news of his passing though, I’ve known I had to write about my feelings.
I was a kid in the late fifties and sixties. I loved all sports but auto racing was a magnet for my attention. I’ve written before about how tough it was to get timely racing info back then. Especially so for the things that happened mostly in Europe, like Formula One and Sports Car racing. Lucky for me, that my dad subscribed to Sports Car Graphic and Road & Track. There I found coverage of men who became, and remain, my heroes.
F1 and endurance racing was then, as it is again today, dominated by European manufacturers. Ferrari and Porsche in sports cars, Lotus, Cooper, BRM and Brabham in F1. But a handful of Americans – and man, did they ever look the part of All-Americans – went over there and competed. When they had the right ride, guys like Dan Gurney, Roger Penske, Richie Ginther and Carroll Shelby won, against the best in the world.
For a few of them, winning in someone else’s, some other country’s, car wasn’t enough. They must have heard the comments like; “yanks can only build cars that go in circles”. I think they got pissed.
Shelby, Penske, Gurney and Jim Hall are my Avengers.
They built cars here, in the states, and went to Europe and beat the best in the world. I can remember to this day, how proud I was when Shelby’s Cobras won and Hall’s Chaparrals and Dan Gurney’s Eagle Westlake F1 car won at Spa. That Eagle was the first, and only American F1 winner until The Captain, Roger Penske went back to Europe with his own car.
The greatest achievement, most significant anyway, may have been when Shelby lead a team of Ford MK IVs to victory in the 24 hours of Lemans, beating the best of Enzo Ferrari’s 330 P4s. Glorious.
In the Avengers comics, Tony Stark is Ironman. He designed his famous suit of armor to protect a damaged heart. He did more with it than that.
Carroll Shelby was one of the longest lived recipients of a heart transplant. He accomplished much after, and lived an amazing life.
When I heard of Shelby’s death, I texted Steve and asked that he try to get Dave Despain On Pit Row this week to talk about ‘Ol Shell. Here is the highlight of Daves interview. I hope you enjoy it.
Photo credit: Sports Illustrated