LONDON: The Racing Journal
VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. — Last week I was barely away from the TV. There was a lot to watch. The Barrett/Jackson auction from W. Palm Beach, Fla., was on for several days; my beloved Yankees had a three-day series at Boston’s Fenway Park with the hated Red Sox, who started the season 0-6; The Pro Bowlers Tour had a big tournament on Sunday; There was Nationwide racing from Texas on Friday with the Cup race on Saturday night.
The Indy cars were in Alabama and the Masters Golf Tournament from Augusta, Ga., was on Thursday through Sunday. My remote finger was busy.
The best event by far was the Masters. Seeing this old beautiful traditional course on HDTV is a thrill. The competition was great. There was a five-way tie for the lead with three holes to go. Included was a comeback try by Tiger Woods. The production and the commentary was first rate.
The baseball game(s) weren’t as satisfying as the Sox took two of three. The bowling as so-so because the egomaniac that won, I can’t stand.
The Florida stop for Barrett Jackson is usually their weakest. The highest priced car went for $175,000.
Getting to the racing. The Nationwide race was the same old thing. Cup drivers ruled the roost again. The Cup race droned on and on forever. Five hundred miles on a Saturday night was a bit much. The commentary was deeply inferior to the other sports. Between “Boogity,” etc. and Larry McFumbles you hope that Mike Joy, the only pro in the booth would do all the talking.
There’s no such thing in the ESPN coverage. Anchor man Marty Reid is a huge bore who has yet to say anything interesting. His cohorts are all NASCAR butt-kissers.
Versus should televise NASCAR. They do such a great job with Indy racing. They have the best anchor in Bob Jenkins and they smartly picked up Wally Dallenbach, Jr., easily the best race analyst. The whole crew is great and the camerawork and production put Fox to shame. I wish they were doing the Indy 500, as we’ll be stuck with Marty Reid again. Even though Will Power led all the way, the crew made it entertaining.
I often like to write about my early memories in racing. One who I have never written about is Ronnie Herra.
Born Reynaldo Herrera, he was from Manhattan and worked as a hairdresser. He also was a great stock-car driver, racing at places like Dexter Park, Freeport and Islip. He was a teammate to the circuit’s biggest winner — Al DeAngelo. Herra probably ran under more aliases than any other driver.
In 1955, the big fad all over the country was frontiersman Davy Crockett.
There were movies, TV shows and a million selling record about him. One night Herra’s no. 8 had “Davy Crockett” painted on it as the driver. The car was adorned with coonskin hats, Davy’s signature. “Davy” won heat and semi races that night. The kids loved it, except me, as I knew Herra was driving.
Herra was a professional ice skater. He received notoriety for jumping over 14 barrels at Grossinger’s in the Catskills. He was good looking and the person most aware of it was himself. If there was a beautiful woman in the pits, you knew whose car she’d be with.
In 1956, things went haywire on Long Island with Dexter Park closing. The All-State Club was tossed out by Freeport’s Jake Kedenburg and Islip was independent. Johnny Coy paid the price for racing at Islip. Kedenburg barred him for life. This hurt Coy. He lived in Freeport.
Drivers were on the fence where to race. Herra ran his only NASCAR GN race at Langhorne, Pa., that year. At Riverhead Raceway, on the far East part of the Island, “Bob Reinaldo” suddenly was winning features in the famed Juke Box Modified. Soon it was “Bob Williams” doing the same in that car.
Both were Herra. One could speculate why he changed his name so often. He won 20 times under various names at Riverhead, but soon was gone and forgotten.
A few years later, I noticed his given name in results in NSSN of sports car races out west. As expected he did rather well. A few years later I heard he had moved to southern California where he worked selling luxury cars in Beverly Hills. He sold a lot of cars to wealthy women, I’m told.
The early days of racing were great because of so many great races. There were plenty of characters too.
Ricky Rudd’s nephew, Skeet Ulrich was starring in Law & Order Los Angeles, but they killed him off. There are no guaranteed spots in show biz.
25 Emerson Place Valley Stream, N.Y. is my address. E-mails go to [email protected]