I WAS BORN in a time of fins, chrome and bullet taillights. The small-block Chevy was just a baby and Ford was making the last of the little T-Birds. Sam Hanks was the Indy 500 winner, and they were still racing on the beach in Daytona. It was 1957, a landmark year in automobile history.
Some of my earliest memories growing up at the Jersey Shore are of guys singing a capella doo-wop songs around a fire in a 55-gallon oil drum, with ’49 Mercs and ’58 Chevys parked in the background. These same guys pooled their money to buy one set of drag slicks to use between them for racing at the Englishtown and Old Bridge drags. Everybody had spare wheels, and they would just mount and dismount as needed. Wheels were only five bucks at Howard’s Junkyard, so it worked.
For years I traveled to the dirt and paved tracks of the Northeast with my Uncle Nick. Nick, short for Ed Nichols, was a lifelong car guy. I also worked at the local Texaco station alongside my dad until I built my own race car and went racing. I quit playing baseball and that didn’t sit too well with “Pop,” but Indy was waiting for me. I just knew Roger Penske would be calling any day.
Well, Roger didn’t call, so I called him, which led me to the IROC series, where I was a mechanic and test driver. I spent almost six years at IROC working under my mentor, Jay Signore. I learned a lot from Jay and I met some of the most incredible racing champions of our time.
Now, 30 years later, I’ve semi-retired from auto racing and I travel the country finding incredible cars that represent America’s automotive timeline.
My racing history has opened doors to places I could only dream about: from Virginia moonshiners and their 1940 Fords to a private conversation with auto racing royalty Mario Andretti, about finding the original 1965 Brawner Hawk. Behind some doors we’ve found hidden gems and classics that have been protected for many generations.
Along with my friend and all-around car guy Rick Hendrick, I’ll continue to search for the cars and stories that reinforce America’s passion for the automobile on Velocity’s AmeriCarna show.
I look forward to giving you a behind-the-scenes pass right here as I explore our love affair with the automobile.