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Sturbin: A Personal Bucket List

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 9 2010
RacinToday's John Sturbin interviewed 2008 Indy 500 Scott Dixon on Sturbin's 29th visit to the Speedway (RacinToday file photo by Jim Pedley)

RacinToday's John Sturbin interviewed 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon on Sturbin's 29th visit to the Speedway. (RacinToday file photo by Jim Pedley)

As of Jan. 1, I reluctantly joined the millions of Americans without health insurance. This is the product of a combination of procrastination and frustration.  As in, when a media colleague about the same age informed me he was paying $1,100 a month for a single-payer policy with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas…I decided to procrastinate.

So, while vowing to remain fitter and healthier than ever in 2010, I also decided it was past time to write down my very own Bucket List. In keeping with our purpose here at RacinToday.com, what follows is a list that, hopefully, every car guy can appreciate.

*Continue covering the Indy 500 – Last May I realized a career milestone by staffing my 30th consecutive Indianapolis 500. You can argue that in this day of the abbreviated attention span, the Indy 500 doesn’t command the stranglehold it once had on the sporting public. But nothing in motorsports matches the anticipation of race-day morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway…the pageantry, the clockwork timetable of traditions, the true meaning of Memorial Day. I’m good for another five Indys, at least.

* Make a return trip to Le Mans – Been there/done it in 1989, when Mercedes-Benz made its triumphant return to the Circuit de la Sarthe after a 34-year absence. As it turned out, that was the last year of the “old garages” and pit lane – the setup you may recall from Steve McQueen’s classic  movie, Le Mans. With the help of one Salvatore Zanca, a nice New Jersey boy working in the Paris bureau of The Associated Press, I was credentialed as a stringer. This time, I’d like to pull an all-nighter as a fan.

* Cover the NHRA’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals – There were years when I made as many as four trips to Indianapolis; to cover the 500 (pole qualifying and race), NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 and Formula One’s U.S. Grand Prix in a season. But not once on any of those occasions did I take my rental car on a trip to O’Reilly Raceway Park in Clermont. The NHRA bills the U.S. Nats as its premier race, although I’m really torn between this event and either the season-opening or closing races at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.

* Drive a lap around Watkins Glen International – You can cover a lot of ground at WGI on foot during a six-hour Grand-American Rolex Sports Car Series race, gaining a real appreciation for the elevation changes and undulations of the 3.45-mile layout incorporating “The Boot.” I’ve seen everything from 1970s-era Formula One cars to NASCAR Modifieds to SCCA Trans-Am to Sprint Cup cars race at The Glen. Now I’d like to attend one of those track days to maybe drive my sister’s Mach 1 Mustang around that sucker.

* Ride my Harley-Davidson to Sturgis – Back in the mid-1970s, I rode with a group of guys who all owned Yamahas. In successive summers, we made trips from Rome, N.Y., to Toronto, Cape Cod and Montreal. Four of us now all own Harleys, and the clock is ticking on our next long-distance adventure. From what I’ve seen in several TV documentaries, the Sturgis rally defines the term “cluster.” So I’d probably settle for a day well-spent in and around that little South Dakota town…followed by a hot shower and soft bed.

* Tour the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village – Maybe I could stop in Dearborn, Mich., on the way to Sturgis? In any case, two cars housed in the museum are of interest – the 1961 Lincoln in which President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 and the No. 82 Lotus-Ford Jim Clark drove to victory in the 1965 Indy 500. The Kennedy car was turned into a hardtop during Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, when it should have been refurbished and preserved. Clark’s Lotus is a true “survivor.”

* Attend the Monaco Grand Prix – A trip to The Principality has little chance of happening…as I probably won’t be able to convince Elin Nordegren that I am a worthy successor to Tiger Woods. As it currently stands, I’ve grown accustomed to watching the race inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s spacious media center a few hours before the start of the Indy 500. But it’d be fantastic to experience the course and landmarks I’ve seen on TV up-close, and catch a glimpse of how the rich-and-famous get it done.

* Return to the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving – In order to compete in the “Celebrity Race” portion of the late/great Grand Prix of Dallas street race around Reunion Arena, I attended a three-day course at Bondurant’s facility at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix. My ego – and wallet – both took beatings on the final day, when I somehow spun out my Mustang on the drag strip, tapped the wall with the rear bumper, and tore it off. Cost me $400…as I was graduated summa cum humble.

* Sign-up as a bidder at Barrett-Jackson – Every car guy I know has at least one vehicle he (or she) never should have sold. For me, it was a 1968 Camaro (327 CID/4-speed) that I fussed over for 13 years. Came down with Corvette fever one year, sold the Camaro…and know all about “seller’s remorse.” So, every time a pristine 1968 or ‘69 rolls across the stage at one of the B-J Collector Car events…and exits after being sold for six-figures…my acid reflux returns. Too, there’s always that 1960 El Camino project car…

* Camp out at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in an RV – Rather than dive full-bore into a weekend of sharing parking space with the hard-core clientele of NASCAR Nation, this event looms as the perfect alternative. True, the prestigious, season-opening race of the Grand-American Sports Car Series attracts a niche audience – and that’s the beauty of it. Moving around the course would be relatively easy. And if the weather turns inclement, just head inside the ‘ol Winnebago for Speed’s coverage. Java, anyone?

* Drive a portion of Route 66 – My aforementioned Corvette fever began with the hit TV series Route 66, as Tod Stiles, Buz Murdock and their top-down ‘Vette took us on a tour of 1960s America. From the Dallas/Fort Worth area, it’s northward to Amarillo with the option to head either east to Oklahoma or West to New Mexico. Ideally, this trip would be undertaken in a fawn-beige ‘62 Corvette. But perhaps a Honda Pilot might be better-suited to bringing back memorabilia collected on the way to wherever.

* Author at least one motorsports book – There is a glut of motorsports reading material out there, and I’m not exactly looking to write “The Life and Times of Francis Ferko.” Unless, of course, some publisher wants to pay me for it. But surely there is an overlooked motorsports personality or moment in time worthy of a book. And imagine, if the book became a best-seller…I could attend the Monaco Grand Prix, sign-up as a bidder at Barrett-Jackson and even afford to purchase single-payer health insurance.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 9 2010


  • Brian Gafner says:

    You don’t want to drive WGI in a “stang” do it in the Boxster with the top down.
    As far as Daytona and the Rolex I say we plan on it for 2011.
    Everytime I get ready for the speed coverage of this race, I remember what a rush it is to be on the infield, at the turn just before the horseshoe, at night when the cars come blasting out of the corner with fire coming out the exhaust and no warning. What a hoot.

  • SB says:

    I can commiserate. My first car was a Matador red 1968 327 3 speed Camaro. I have never stopped missing that car. Unfortunately, I totaled my baby in 1973. I cried for weeks.

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