Thanks Mom

Episode 263

May 12, 2019

Thinking of my Mom this Mother’s Day 2019

Barbara E. Johnson Sutherland. Mom (Hale Family photo)

My brothers and sisters and I gathered together around my Mom’s bedside January 18, 2003 at the Intensive Care Unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center as her Doctor prepared us and her to remove the respirator that had been supplying her life-giving oxygen for many days.

The doctor told us that when the tube was removed my Mom will die because of her COPD damaged lungs and heart. The nurse moved into a location allowing her to remove the tube and asked if we were ready? My sister Lori moved to the head of the bed with her Bible in hand.

She read from the 23rd Psalm “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. When she finished reading, we said, ‘Now we’re ready, pull the tube’.

My sister, Kristi,  a nurse began suctioning my Mom’s lungs when the tube was removed and fluid rushed in to fill her airways.

The doctor was right, my Mom did die…25 months later on February 19, 2005. Those two years allowed her to mend fences with family as well as my Dad who she had divorced in the early 1970’s. She went to church and sang songs of joy every Saturday night right up until the time when she did die.

I say this to let you know how much my Mom had an influence on me growing up on a dirt poor potato farm on Grimes Mill Road in Caribou, Maine.

This woman who I call Mom was my biggest cheerleader. She never missed a baseball game, which was tough considering the baseball season coincides with potato planting season. My Mom was a large part of the farming operation, however, she arranged to get to every game, home and away.

If there was a band concert, she made sure that she was at that concert. Before I obtained my license she ferried my brothers and sisters to many school and church events.

My adventures and misadventures in motorsports were tolerated by my Mom. She must have been on her knees praying to keep me alive despite my crazy back-of-the- farm exploits. I had made so many laps on an old potato field on the back of the home farm with our 1950 Ford pickup powered by a 239 flathead V8 that I doubt if anything grew on that track pathway for years.

I am unsure if she knew the pickup had no brakes. I suspect if she knew that she might have put the kibosh on my dirt track racing. I learned how to stop without brakes which became handy later in life when I lost my brakes on a few occasions.

After my Mom was divorced, she moved away to Florida then to Massachusetts and was unable to watch me race stock cars at Spud Speedway. I suspect that she would not have attended the races like she did baseball. She did support me in a roundabout way by not speaking in opposition to my racing adventures.

My Mom was quick to praise her son and made me confident to move forward in some areas of life where I may have been reluctant to take chances, including going to school at the University of Maine at Orono and to apply for a job as an agriculture instructor at Caribou Tech Center.

She became as shelter to us in Worcester, Massachusetts when my fraternity brothers and I limped into Massachusetts after travelling by car to Florida and back. We blew the engine in my room mate’s VW Beetle, once on the way down outside of Richmond, Virginia then only a few miles from the same location on the way north.

We disabled one cylinder of the four-cylinder engine in Richmond and pushed northward barely able to maintain minimum interstate speeds. We were exhausted when we finally made it her home. She provided food and shelter before we made our final leg of the trip to Maine the next day. It was soooo good to see a familiar face and have free food.

My Mom’s tombstone at her gravesite at the New Sweden Cemetery. I know it is an old cliché, however, that little dash between birth and death was certainly significant to me. (HTF Motorsports photo)

My Mom died February 18, 2005 from complications from COPD. We were there with her at the end and did our best to honor her at the funeral a few days later. Her influence on my life continues to this day. I love you Mom! Happy Mother’s Day.

Month of May, Indy is the place to be

If there is any month of the year I would like to be in the Indianapolis area it would have to be May. The heartland of America is hopping with open wheel racing. This is my hypothetical schedule were I actually in the area.

First off I would start my month by staying with my friend Mick Saunders in Rushville. He knows everyone both in racing and out. This man was on Tony Stewart’s midget team when Tony was staying with the Martz family in Rushville. Up until a few years ago, Tony was known as the Rushville Rocket. Signs in Rushville attest to that fact.

Mick and I would probably venture up to New Castle to visit former IndyCar driver Mark Dinsmore’s karting facility New Castle Motorsports Park. Who knows maybe I would get a chance to put in a few laps at the one mile road course.

Indy Pro 2000 driver Sting Ray Robb, a 17-year-old junior from Payette, Idaho, driving for Juncos Racing steps out of his race car after setting fastest time in practice. Sting Ray, yes that is his real name, finished second in the Indy Pro 2000 race Saturday May 11. (Sting Ray Robb photo)

My first stop of the month would have to be Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The addition of the road race course to the schedule is a race I would like to see. I would have met Sting Ray Robb from Idaho. Despite the fact that Robb’s sponsor is the Idaho Big Spud Truck, I like the fact that he is also an FFA officer in his local chapter. To a former Ag instructor/FFA Advisor (38 years) that is cool stuff.

You can be sure that later that same day, I would be seeking a good viewing spot to see the IndyCar race won by Simon Pagenaud in the last lap and one-half Saturday afternoon.

While waiting for the Indy 500 on May 26, I would be visiting area race shops including Ganassi Racing to not only see their IndyCar team but their Ford GT program which is ending this year.

A trip to Indy would not be the same without staying a few days with my dear friends Gene and Deb Robbins in Greenwood. I am sure Gene and I would be making a field trip somewhere like Duman’s Turn 4 Restorations in Speedway.

Remember the engine that blew apart on the dyno in previous episode? That video became very popular on You Tube. Engine block fatigue was determined to be the likely culprit. Pieces of the engine flew out through the roof and were embedded in the walls of the dyno room.(Marlatt Engines & Dyno photo)

Marlatt Engines & Dyno would be on that short list. I have featured Marlatt Engines & Dyno several times. You may remember the engine that literally flew to pieces at the Marlatt facility a couple of years back.

A drive in the countryside to see the agriculture industry in action would land me at my cousin Steve Belyea’s home in one of the state’s many corn/soybeans areas in Morgantown, Indiana. After a few days in farm country, I would head to Brownsburg to visit Tom Patsis at Cold Hard Art, and maybe a few of the race shops in Nitro Alley.

Did I mention that there is a famous race going on at the Speedway on May 26th? I have never been to an IndyCar race at the Speedway, although I have covered the NASCAR race six times.

Before the 103rd running of the Indy 500, I would go to the  USAC Amsoil Sprint Car Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track, Terre Haute, Indiana Wednesday May 22 at 6:30 pm. I have not seen a sprint car race on dirt since our honeymoon in Florida February 1977.

Setting fast time at the Indiana Fairgrounds one-mile dirt track, Kody Swanson went on to win the event. (Rich Forman photo)

Silver Crown races would be the  next night when I would see four-time champion Kody Swanson in action. Swanson is also a former FFA member from Kingsburg, California. He would have a visitor in the pits as he tries to duplicate the incredible run of wins in May last season four wins in a row.

Swanson begins his three races in a row with the final race at the one-mile dirt track at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the 64th Hoosier 100. The track surface will be converted to a “horse friendly” surface after the final race May 23rd.

The race was won by Swanson last year. The field of up to 30 starters take the green for the final time at the fairgrounds track at a time to be announced. The winner of the race will win $10,000.

The Swanson family at Lucas Oil Raceway Victory Circle May 2018. Left to right Levi, Allison, Tanner second place, Darla and Mike (Mom and Dad), Kody race winner, Jordan and Trevor. (Rich Forman photo)

Friday’s race action is back at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont less than 10 miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Silver Crown cars will be on the track for the Dave Steele ‘Carb Night Classic’ that evening for 100 laps on the .686 mile banked oval. The field will be limited to 24 qualifiers. The race has been won by either Kody Swanson or his brother Tanner each of the past four years. Tanner has won the race five times.

After the 2018 Little 500 with his family in Victory Circle. The #4 was owned by Gene Nolen and was Nolen’s first Little 500 win. Nolen Racing is Swanson’s 2019 team. (Chris Gardner photo)

Saturday would find me in Anderson, Indiana for the Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway. The 1/4 mile paved oval features one of the craziest race formats of all, 500 laps on the high banks with sprint cars. Last year Kody Swanson won the race for the second time since 2015, his first Little 500.

The front row of the 1972 Indy 500 on the pole in the Dan Gurney car #6 driven by Bobby Unser, middle of the front row in the #12 McLaren Peter Revson and outside row one Mark Donohue in the #66 Penske McLaren. I listened to the Indy races on the radio in the “old days”. (Pete Biro photo)

The next day would be the Indy 500 at arguably the most famous race track in the country. I would want to be near the pits since this race is often won by pit crews with lightning quick stops near the end of the 200 lap event.

Thanks for going along with me on my imaginary journey through the month of May in Indiana.

13 Year Old Garage Genius protegé builds a scale model Tyrrell P-34 Six Wheel Formula One car

Tyrrell Ford six wheel Formula One driven in this race by South African Jody Schechter. I always was a Tyrrell fan. (Lothar Spurzem photo in Wikipedia)

 Gene Lin’s Tyrrell based design has a modified 6.5 hp  4-stroke Harbor freight Predator engine. Gene added a billet flywheel, removed the governor, intake parts, rejetted, exhaust, and added nitrous oxide shot. The side pods are airplane landing gear fairings. The rear wing is a 1997 Reynard champ car speedway wing and the front wing is chopped down aluminum wing from a Japanese car. It is a steel frame with a riveted carbon fiber floor.(Genius Garage photo)

Gene Lin at Genius Garage in Bowling Green, Ohio dreaming of hitting the race track with his scaled down version of the Tyrrell P-34 six wheel Formula One. 13-year-old Lin, with the help of Genius Garage founder Casey Putsch. built the kart from scratch. This is a view minus bodywork.(Genius Garage photo)

On the track with his Tyrrell P-34 six wheel replica, Gene Lin was quite pleased with the results. He learned how to MIG weld as well as a multitude of other fabrication skills. (Genius Garage photo)

Let’s Go Racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:14-16)



Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine