Sunday, July 02, 2000

AUTO RACING INSIDER


Racer's memory never fades for Crittendons

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        Several people responded to our recent invitation to name the top drivers in Greater Cincinnati auto racing history. Among the most heartfelt responses was from Kim Crittendon Wherry of Bellevue, Ky.

        Wherry wrote of her father, Gene Crittendon, who was killed in an accident at Tri-County/Queen City Speedway (West Chester) in 1970.

        Crittendon's career included races on the ARCA stock-car circuit, against the likes of A.J. Foyt and Benny Parsons. He raced at Daytona, the Mecca of stock-car racing.

        “My dad was like a superhero to me,” said Wherry, who was in elementary school when her father died.

        The ARCA circuit races tonight at Kentucky Speedway. Steve Crittendon, another of Gene's children, will be a volunteer ARCA crewman for Willie Green, a driver from Edgewood, Ky., who will drive the No.94 Wildwood Inn Ford.

        Gene Crittendon was 36 when he died. Survivors included his wife Nell and her three children — Jim Booth was 15 then, Kim Crittendon was 9 and Steve Crittendon was 4.

        Kim Crittendon remembers the fun and thrills of staying up late on Saturday racing nights, then going with big groups for post-race restaurant meals. Gene raced frequently at Florence Speedway.

        Families everywhere suffer from untimely deaths. But deaths in racing, a job hazard all realize but few discuss, are something only racing families can understand.

        The Crittendon family knows. You never really get over it.

        “I still think of my dad,” Wherry said. “Every day.”

        MORE HISTORY: Still more responses to our recent story on Greater Cincinnati auto racing history (June 16 story):

        A couple of former racers said that the dates listed for some of the tracks, such as the old Beechmont Drag Strip (late 1950s-early 1960s), Glen Este Speedway (1950s-1970s) and Tri-State Dragway (1960s-present) were off by a year or two.

        Records are sketchy regarding exactly when some tracks opened and/or closed. We've tried to come as close as possible, with the help of Cincinnati racing historian Tom Konop.

        More nominees for the list of prominent local drivers:

        • Dave Jackson, Gary St. Aumont, Glenn Allen Sr. and Gene Harsch, who were top drivers at Queen City Speedway.

        • Greg Staab, seven-time track champion at Lawrenceburg Speedway and now the track's operations chief, was also a top USAC national sprint car driver.

        • Local drivers Lou Bruin, George Bauer, Larry Blank, Joe Burdett, Paul Crockett, Gene Cleveland, Charlie Hon, Don Lamb, Bernie Latham, Bill Mahan, Glenn McKibben, Pat Patrick, Gene Petro, Bob Reeves, Ray Smith, Hank Teegarden and Jack Tekulva, some of whom competed on national circuits.

        • James Spencer, who has a long history in local drag racing and ranks in the top 15 in points in the International Hot Rod Association Funny Car series.

        • Tony Bogolo, who has been a top-10 driver in the national Alcohol Funny Car series.

        • Special mention to Dave Shell, the only blind crew chief on national circuits. Shell, who lives in Lawrenceburg, Ind., has built and tuned engines that have qualified at major IHRA and United Drag Race Association races.

        TUNE IN: Still not enough NASCAR on TV for you? Check out WBQC-TV (UPN Channel 25) each Saturday, beginning with Speedvision's “This Week In NASCAR” at noon. Then comes “NASCAR Classics” at 12:30p.m., followed by “Motorsports Weekly” at 1p.m.

        Tom Groeschen welcomes your e-mail at tgroeschen@enquirer.com.

       



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