Monday, May 13, 2013

On Dan, Danica, Mario and The Olsonite Eagle

Sports: The Indianapolis 500 Brings Back Memories of Some Great Races, Personalities, and the cars like Dan Gurney's car The Olsonite Eagle driven by Bobby Unser.

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco 

It's Indianapolis 500 month and this time of year always brings back some memories. I haven't had a chance to really enjoy the Indy 500 recently. Other things crowded out the space it used to occupy in my mind.

But I will be there somewhere close to a television come Sunday before Memorial Day when Jim Nabors sings "My Indiana Home".  He still does that doesn't he?  I think I heard he died recently.  Oh, that was the guy who played "Goober" Pyle... "Gomer" is still alive. I think.

The fascination of the race was rekindled a few years ago when Danica Patrick came so close to winning. I was sitting by a television at Revolucion restaurant in Fullerton on race day and realized I may be witnessing history. Patrick was so close to being the first woman to win the Greatest Spectacle in Sport.

This was a far cry from when one of my Fullerton High School teachers Arlene Hiss or Janet Guthrie was in the race. I believe AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti got a little pissed because they kept on getting in their way when they would try to lap them at the Brickyard and they wanted them banned. But Danica can flat out race and I want her to win this year. Or some car David Letterman is sponsoring.

When I was a kid Dan Gurney and anything having to do with Dan Gurney was my favorite. I liked Dan Gurney because he was a Hotwheels guy. When you are a boy in the late 60's you're either a Johnny Lightning kid or a Hotwheels kid.

My brother Steve, our friend Tim, and I were Hotwheels guys. And Dan Gurney proudly displayed the Hotwheels logo on his cars. I even had the Olsonite Eagle replica Hotwheel and it was one of my prized possessions. To this day it remains in pristene condition tucked away in Dad's garage somewhere. Al Unser drove the Johnny Lightning Special to more than one win and we were heartbroken. When my Uncle Joe and Aunt Charlene went to Indianapolis to see the race and saw the great Mario Andretti win in that red STP Special we were also heartbroken. He beat Dan Gurney.

Dan Gurney would go on to have success as an owner and his American Eagle Racing shop was in Orange County.

One year our good family friend John Sights was out visiting from Misssouri and staying with his family at our house. One day he packs up his son Gary, my dad, and my brother and I in his Buick and announces "I have a treat for you guys".

So we found ourselves a few moments later in heaven for a guy. We were in Dan Gurney's shop and there they were... two beautiful white Jorgenson Eagles Indy Cars. Fresh back from the Brickyard! With Bobby Unser and Dan Gurney walking around the shop talking strategy and John's friend, a machinist, talking was one of the most amazing days of my life.

The Indianapolis 500 will once again be on ABC television this weekend on Sunday. Check your local listings. You can also link through Bosco Radio: The Sports Channel. It's in the sidebar.

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