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USAC legends visit Dayton


In its 44-year history the Dayton Auto Racing Fan Club (DARF) has hosted an all-star roster of racing VIPs. This past Tuesday might rank with the best of them.

In a rare treat for open-wheel racing fans, the club hosted USAC’s national career victory leaders in midgets, sprints and Silver Crown cars. For one night Mel Kenyon (111 midget wins), Tom Bigelow (52 sprint wins) and Jack Hewitt (23 Silver Crown wins) gathered under one roof to be honored at USAC Night at Celebrations Banquet Center.

The trio of legends shared experiences and stories, some even suitable for print.

None of the three drive competitively anymore, but Hewitt still provides thrills by giving fans rides in his two-seat sprint car often for charity or fundraising. Hewitt, 62, walks with a limp and has limited use of his right arm after a devastating accident in 2002. Still, Hewitt — who wants to give every rider an authentic experience — slides the sprinter around better than some drivers with two good arms.

“Everybody thinks I’m so in control when I get out there,” Hewitt said with a grin. “Well, if it don’t scare me I know it’s not scaring you. If they only knew how many times I said, ‘Oh (expletive), this ain’t gonna be good.’ I always pull it out somehow.”

Kenyon and Bigelow are still active in racing on the other side of the wall. Kenyon, 80, still works on midgets and provides driving advice. Bigelow, 73, tutors two of his grandchildren who drive.

“When I was in the cockpit I knew what I was doing. Now the grandkids are in the cockpit, sometimes I’m not too sure what they’re doing,” Bigelow said. “Tommy would run around the bottom at Winchester. I kept telling him you have to get up a little higher, a little higher. Well, about halfway through that year he hit every wall in that place. They’ve both won features at Winchester now and that tickles me as their grandfather.”

DARF’s next meeting is the Injured Drivers Fund Auction on Oct. 22 at Celebrations. Anyone with racing memorabilia to donate can contact DARF at mrnsue@yahoo.com or by visiting the website at darfnews.com.

Green light: The racing season is winding down, but there are still plenty of options.

Tri-State Dragway pays tribute to late owner Bob Louden with its second annual memorial race on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Also on Sunday, Waynesfield Raceway Park hosts a Harvest of Sprints spectacular.

And Saturday, Shadybowl Speedway wraps up its season with a special Max Evans Memorial race for dwarf cars.



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