By Bill Foland
08/25/02 ...Here I am again on a very nice Sunday night in Mtn. View, California. I will be covering an event that can only be described as an event. I will also be telling you all about my experience the past couple of weeks at the USAC Pavement Sprint car races. So without further talk, he I go.
When a milestone is reached it is usually celebrated with a whole bunch of fun and partying, like when Barry Bonds hit homer #600, they had Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Frank Robinson at Pac Bell for a celebration. Well, this past Saturday night, Howard Kaeding was honored for his 70th Birthday, a milestone that I hope I can get to. With a surprise party, it is tough to make sure that the secret doesn't get out and this was no different. With Howard's son's and daughter's all pitching in as well as numerous other people that made things go smooth, this went off without a hitch.
As we all congregated in front of Brent's house waiting for the arrival of Howard, there was more bench racing and B.S. than anyone could ever imagine. It was a who's who of former and present Champions as well as friends and family that have known Howard and the Kaeding's forever. As Howard was brought up to the house with a blindfold on, the balance of the 200 people were waiting to pounce on the surprise. As Howard took the blindfold off he saw all the people and was awestruck with the outpouring of love and affection. We sang Happy Birthday to him and as even Howard said, he was speechless for the first time.
After giving Howard our best we got on with the party as most people had to have boots on for all the B.S. that was flying at that house. Some of the drivers included former Indy Car Champ Joe Leonard, Clyde Prickett, Fred Ede Sr., Anthony Simone, Mark Monico, Burt Foland, Stan Sinn, Nick Rescino, Pat Holton, Gary Willey, Kevin Pylant. Also in attendance were former crew members for Howard and Brent including Buddy Parden, George Maciel, Ron Wesphal, Denny Millard, Chris Good and myself. Former San Jose flagman Red Bender, Tony Goularte and San Jose track announcer Kenny Takeuchi were also there with Kenny doing a magnificent job as the Master of Ceremonies.
As the microphone was passed around the stories bout Howard were all pretty tame, but funny none the less. Howard did so much for the sport of racing in our area, it would be tough to list everything but the most impressive stat that I saw while compiling some notes was the fact that he once won 17 consecutive Main Events, with most coming from deep in the field. I have a hard time thinking of something that I have done 17 times. Howard's wife Dixie was there and she is a great woman that has been with Howard since the beginning. Sandy, Kim, Joel and Brent all deserve a huge pat on the back for making this party a reality as well as Myles McIntee with High Five Pizza for the great food and beverages. A fun time was had by all and it was a once in a lifetime event that I am honored and happy to be able to attend. Thanks to all of the Kaeding's for letting me be a small part of this special event.
My past few races have been eventful to say the least. My first USAC race of the year was at Madera, a track that I enjoy going to because I usually have several family members in attendance including my Grandma Alice Costa. The night started out ok with a 11th fast time in the 18 car field. The heat race was very eventful as I held onto a loose car and struggled to finish 5th in the last transfer. I started 10th and was able to get up as far as 7th after I passed Anthony Simone on lap 23, but a spin coming out of turn four sent me back to the tail of the field and was very frustrating.
As the green flag reappeared I was able to make my way back up to 10th at the finish. I was happy with the finish but not with the spin.
The following week we made our way to Carson City and had some trouble with the car hauler but made it to the track in time without missing any track time. Hot-laps went pretty good but when I went out to qualify I messed up both laps and ended up 16th out of 28 cars. In the heat race I got a good jump at the start and was leading going down the back straight. The laps go very fast there and you are on the edge every lap. As I saw the white flag coming out of turn four, I was thinking to myself "just make a good lap, don't screw up" and I did and took my first ever USAC heat race win. It was very special as the car is working great this year and I am very comfortable driving.
In the Main event after starting near the tail, I was able to get by a few cars and was holding my own when the leader came around me on lap 40. A lap and a half later I was spinning down the back straight after being punted from behind and had to go to the tail of the field a lap down and ruined my night.
The following week after having the truck worked on up in Reno during the week, my dad flew up there on Friday and headed for Madera. Trouble arose in the truck once again and my dad babied the rig to the side of the road and fixed it as best he could. Madera was still in doubt but my dad cowboyed up and made it all the way to Madera as we met him there at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday.
The night started off pretty good with my best ever USAC time trial with a 7th fast time. In the heat race I was able to run 5th and transfer into the A-Main. I only need one car out of the top 6 to miss it out of the heat race, but it wasn't to be as they all made it and I started 7th in the A-Main. At the start of the main my car was a little tight and I spun on lap 2 and had to go to the tail one again. After the restart I was able to make my way past a couple of cars, then a couple more and ended up running 10th once again. I was happy with the finish but I need to stop the spinning. The next race I will be at will be at Madera on September 21st so I hope to see some of you at the tracků BF
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