1972 Bury My Car at Ponca City

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Editor's Comments: This article appeared in the November, 1972 . Car & Driver. The Ponca City Grand Prix that year was at its hey day. The AMBUCS counted 10,000 spectators on Saturday and 18,000 on Sunday. Total race entries was a record, to date, of 179. Drivers entered included several current or future National Champions: Dan Parkinson, Eddie Miller, Richard McDaniel, Anatoly Arutounoff, Bob Marshall and Dick Davenport.

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lenged Makepeace to show cause why he (Makepeace) should not be burned as a heretic. Makepeace, sensing adverse public opinion, wisely sought sanctuary at the home of beloved lssaquena Countian Lucretia ‘Sunshine” Ferguson, a former adventuress now writing her memoirs at Rolling Fork. From this haven, Makepeace appealed for help to the powerful Ovid Bolus, enigmatic bellwether of SCCA club racing and behind-the-scenes manipulator of the world’s dirigible industry, who was at nearby Vaughan, Mississippi, supervising preparations for the Racing Section of Bolus & Snopes’ planned assault on the Ponca City (Oklahoma) Grand Prix.

Bolus, author of the motto, “Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess,” responded at once to the journalist’s plea. “Fear not, Nigel Makepeace, succor will shortly attend thee,” said a tersely worded communication slipped through Flat Earth Society picket lines attached to the flea collar of Albert W. Underwood, Bolus & Snopes’ company watchdog.

True to his word, Ovid Bolus embarked a platoon of his private police force, the Bolus Boys (or les Ton Ton Cous Rouges), aboard the company’s newest airship GRAF BOLUS II, North America’s first radial dirigible, and headed west to Rolling Fork.

The next morning Robert Mitchell, ace driver for the Racing Section, pulled into nearby Anguilla with the B&S grabber blue Shelby GT-350 in tow. snopesEnroute to Ponca City for the Independence Day races with his rent-a-car turned racer, Mitchell’s task at Anguilla was to create a diversion, allowing the Bolus forces to rescue Nigel Makepeace.

Mitchell strolled easily into an office supply house and asked to see a selection of globes. The clerk to whom Mitchell directed this strange request was the infamous Gordon “Moon” Conkling, disgraced Rhode Island astrologer and arch-foe of logical thought. . and known to Bolus and Mitchell to be an undercover operative for the Flat Earth Society. Handing Mitchell a book of Challenging Crossword Puzzles to keep him occupied, Conkling oozed to the rear of the store and telephoned Jubal Hotbed with the news that a long-haired non-believer had just skulked into town. Hearing this, Hotbed rushed to the home of ‘Sunshine” Ferguson, loaded the picketers into his twin- stacked lH pickup equipped with rear- window gun rack, two-way radio, “whup” antenna, “Forget, Hell” license plate and lucite steering knob. Axe handles waving, the Flat Earth Society roared away in their command car to Anguilla, a s.;ant 5.4 statute miles distant.

Bolus, hovering nearby in the GB-Il, gave orders to land and enter the Ferguson residence. A squad of handsomely- uninformed (sic) Bolus Boys rushed into the luxurious home of the former adventuress, forced “Sunshine” to unlock her boudoir, and loaded a shaken Nigel Makepeace into the airship.

Meanwhile, back in town, with the oily Conkling occupied, Mitchell leaped aboard his GMC and towed away toward the Greenville bridge where he would cross the Father of Waters and head west for Ponca City. The other 3, after hurling “Sunshine” Ferguson from the crew’s quarters aboard the GRAF BOLUS II, began their rise to the next occasion, The Ponca City Grand Prix.

Arriving at Ponca City, site of Oklahoma’s only dirigible mooring ring, Bolus de-blimped and took the team limousine, a dove-gray Hillman “woody” driven by faithful B&S Sergeant-at-Arms Norbert Wankus, to Racing Section Field Headquarters at the luxurious Four Winds Motel where he went into pre-race strategy with driver Bob Mitchell. Also present at the conference was ace refueler Jamie Allen whose dictum, “You can’t fuel all of the people all of the time,” has become a byword at endurance races, assuring him a niche among the nation’s unknown epigrammists. Bolus indicated to Mitchell and Allen that he expected nothing less than a win at Ponca City— which due to its use of public thoroughfares as occasional racing venues was regarded by Bolus as a Neo-Monaco.

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“That’s what Jefferson Davis indicated to General Lee at Richmond, too,” grunted Mitchell. “And you know how far that got him.”

In recognition of a chieftain of the Ponca tribe long ignored by the sports car world, it was decided that the GT350 would be re-christened “Spirit of Standing Bear.” Formerly, the car had been known as “The Spirit of Albert B. Arnold, Jr.” Mitchell, however, refused grumpily to introduce himself around the paddock area as “Sitting Bob.”

“I didn’t come out here to be made sport of,” Mitchell said, idly spinning a globe of the moon he had spirited from the Anguilla office supply store. Grudgingly, Bolus gave in on the Sitting Bob gambit but insisted on calling the various turns by Monacoesque names like “Gasometer” and “Mirabeau.” Unfortunately, Bolus showed a marked inconsistency in these baptismals, confusing an already obnubilate Mitchell. The racing Section brain trust continued plotting long into the night punctuated by Bolus outlining strategy for Tabac and a mystified, but respectful Mitchell asking, “What corner was that, sir?”

In Saturday’s preliminaries, Mitchell and the trouble-free Spirit of Standing Bear qualified high on smileythe grid for a set often-minute races to be held that afternoon. In a statement to trackside pressmen, however, Mitchell said that custom and tradition of the Racing Section precluded the team’s participation in the events. Speaking for Bolus who remained closeted high atop the first floor of the Four Winds, Mitchell revealed that the B&S Racing Section had never taken the field for a preliminary race of any kind. “This is done out of respect for our missing mascot, sorrel mule Dick Johnson,” continued Mitchell. “Rather than spend the time and effort on these smaller races, we occupy ourselves with meditation, contemplation and the consumption of Coors beer.”

Dick Johnson, the most celebrated mule in racing history, disappeared at the first race ever attended by B&S, an SCCA National event at Mid-America Raceway. This was in June of 1971. Since that time, Dick Johnson has been the object of a globe-spanning mule hunt of epic proportions. A report currently under investigation alleges that Dick Johnson is living under an assumed name at the Donkey Sanctuary, a British charitable institution in Berkshire which has as its mission, ‘‘The rescuing of worn and ill-used donkeys from lives of misery.” While Dick Johnson’s life at Bolus & Snopes Farms could hardly be considered as having been one of misery (a staff of three cared for his wants), the B&S mascot admittedly is cantankerous and may have decided to visit the United Kingdom on a whim. As evidence of this cantankerousness, one of the staff assigned to Dick Johnson once said, “Were I to attend Dick Johnson’s funeral, I would stand at his head.”

Thus, the B&S entourage watched from the sidelines as the ten-minute races began. In the race yateswhich would have seen the Spirit of Standing Bear compete, long-time B&S opponent and B Production scourge of Middle America, Mack Yates, took an early lead. Watching Yates, called “Running Cobra,” the B&S group turned expectantly to their witch doctor He-Who-Puts- Knocks-In-Engines, one of the few members of his profession who still accepts track calls. He-Who-Puts-Knocks-In-Engines gestured at the car of “Running Cobra” the next time it appeared. Within seconds, the Number 7 Cobra 289 had thrown a fan belt and pulled smoking into the pits.

Mitchell rushed to a telephone and called Bolus. “He seems to work,” said the exultant driver, “but I’m not sure yet that I feel right about this.”

“Poppycock,” said Bolus. “I’ve known He-Who-Puts-Knocks-In-Engines since my grandfather stole his pappy’s land. He likes to break racers.” The crafty Bolus could be heard chuckling and mumbling “Got him at Gasometer, just like Brabham in ‘70” as Mitchell hung up.

Looking across the paddock, Mitchell observed Running Cobra and his crew- members staring disconsolately at the steaming vehicle. Mitchell resolved to do something nice for He-Who-Puts- Knocks-In-Engines.

On Saturday night, at the traditional pre-race B&S victory celebration, always held prematurely to prevent race day debacles from dampening the spirits of the Racing Section, He-Who-Puts-Knocks- In-Engines sat impassively lost in contemplation, stirring only once during the drappleevening to cast a spell on a hapless waiter who had attempted to substitute garlic-seasoned pencil erasers for escargots. The others, Mitchell, Jamie Allen, Norbert Wankus, Torque Wrench Supervisor Flem Snopes and bystander Bovis Drapple of nearby Stillwater, were ebullient, a feeling epitomized by Drappie who belched expressively after his meal and said, “Boy, do I feel ebullient!”

On race day, Sitting Bob qualified the Spirit of Standing Bear second in B Production, eighth on the grid and first in the hearts of his countrymen. Ahead of Mitchell were a gaggle of sports racers and 240-Zs together with Running Cobra. The Ponca City Grand Prix would be the sixth meeting between Sitting Bob and Running Cobra, a Missouri Ford dealer and Ancient Man of B Production. Largely through devious maneuverings, Mitchell had bested Running Cobra in three of the five previous encounters.

Before race time, He-Who-Puts- Knocks-In-Engines placed himself in a trance near Turn Three and began to sway slowly back and forth while reciting Appendix ‘J’ of the FIA rulebook, mutterings incomprehensible to mortals. Seeing that all was in order with the witch- doctor, the other entourage members repaired to the front straight where they would watch the race while sipping juleps on the veranda of Ponca City’s Hotel Metropole which bordered the track.

With He-Who-Puts-Knocks-In-Engines squatting placidly in the apex of what had been most frequently called Mirabeau by Bolus (Turn Three) and the entourage guzzling juleps at the Metropole, Sitting Bob held a last-minute consultation with Jamie Allen on the false grid. “How is it back there?” inquired Mitchell, indicating the gas tank.

“Well, Bob,” said Allen, “it’s just great. I don’t know when I’ve seen a better-filled fuel cell. Filling this cell this afternoon has been certainly one of the great thrills of my career.”

“Thank you, Jamie Allen,” said Mitchell. “And now it’s time to go down to the track where this afternoon’s feature race is about to begin.”

After delivering a brief Valvoline commercial, Mitchell signalled the starter that all was in readiness and the cars began the pace lap. Passing through Mirabeau, Mitchell was suddenly aware that He-Who-Puts-Knocks-In-Engines was no longer squatting placidly. He was instead dancing about dervishly and throwing off his clothes, shrieking so loudly that Mitchell was able to hear him over the rumbling of the racers. “Good Lord,” said Mitchell to no one in particular, for there was no one else in the car.

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Moments later the starter signalled the race’s beginning and Sitting Bob floorboarded his mount past Running Cobra on the first lap, noticing as he made Turn Three that He-Who-Puts- Knocks-In-Engines was still in an apparent frenzy. Leading his class after the first lap, Mitchell, as is oft his wont, began the second.

Entering Turn Three with Running Cobra pasted to his rear bumper, Sitting Bob’s grabber blue Shelby abruptly lost power. Striking the Shelby with a fender to conceal his elation, Running Cobra dashed by toward an eventual class win. Mitchell, meanwhile, was left frantically pushing and pulling levers until finally a voice came from one of the water-filled oil drums lining the course. It was He- Who-Puts-Knocks-In-Engines, divested of his raiments and standing chest-deep in the drum. Mitchell looked up questioningly.

“Goddam fire ants,” said He-Who- Puts-Knocks-In-Engines with great dignity. “Get confused. Place curse on wrong car.” Gesturing mystically at the car, he told Mitchell to press the starter button.

“Gee, never thought of that,” said Mitchell as the car’s powerful engine started, enabling him to re-enter the contest where he put on a crowd pleasing show and wound up a dismal third-in- class and somewhere in the second dozen overall.

Following the race, the entourage converged angrily on the water barrel containing He-Who-Puts-Knocks-In-Engines. “Covered by warranty,” said the witch doctor. “No charge for services if faulty curse placed on race.”

Assured by two-way radio from the Four Winds that Bolus bore no grudge because of the misplaced curse, the wizard steadfastly refused to be taken to the GRAF BOLUS II for the return flight. “Know what happen,” he said. “Bolus drink many juleps. Get mad. Push me out of blimp. No thanks.”

Back at the motel, Bolus instructed the Bolus Boys to wait until morning and then bring the witch doctor aboard the GB II for the return trip. Arriving at Lake Ponca Park the next morning, the Bolus Boys found that He-Who-Puts-Knocks- In-Engines was in jail. Investigation revealed that the sorcerer had turned himself in to the police the previous evening and had confessed to the crime of failing to send a cipher telegram properly, an offense made famous by the case of Daughtery v. American Telegraph Company, and was being held without bond at his own request.

Learning of this development, Bolus was furious. “We’ll leave without him,” said the irritable racing personality, “but he doesn’t fool me for an instant. This is Unlawful Prosecution To Avoid Flight if I’ve ever seen it.” With Bolus sulking in his cabin, the GRAF BOLUS II rose majestically over Ponca City and headed east while He-Who-Puts-Knocks-In-Engines lay trance-like on a cot in his bare cell.

“Mea Culpa,” he whispered. .

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Dash Plaques 1961-1975

  • 1974
  •  1969
  • 1968
  • 1973
  •  1972
  • 1966
  • 1975
  • 1967
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  • 1971
  •  1970
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Feature Winners

  • 1965 Dick Durant Durant Special Chevrolet
  • 1975 David Jungerman Chevrolet Camaro (The only photos we have of David at Ponca are him spinning. Here he finds the limits of the braking zone at Turn Six as Jack Hodgkinson blasts by.)
  • 1968 Bobby Alyward McLaren Chevrolet
  • 1980 Neil Harrison Bobsy SR6
  • 1987 Don Flegal Chevrolet Corvette
  • 1964 Bud Morley Elva Mk7 BMW
  • 1992 Wendell Miller Swift SE3Q
  • 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1977 and 1978! Fred Parkhill, McClaren Mk8 Chevrolet
  • 1966 Bud Morley McLaren Ford
  • 1961-62 Jack Hinkle Birdcage Maserati
  • 1963 Jack Hinkle Cooper Monaco Climax
  • 1967 Bobby Alyward McClaren Chevrolet
  • 1974 Bud Crout Lola T294
  • 1969 John McComb Ford Mustang

Dash Plaques 1976-1992

  • 1976-B
  • 1976-A
  • 1977-A
  • 1977-B
  • 1980
  • 1991
  • 1989
  • 1981
  • 1987
  • 1979
  • 1990
  • 1978
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