Gary

by Arnold Nelson

     Gary is my little brother. he is 2 years younger then me. We are as different as 2 brothers can be. Gary is tall, I am short. Gary was always a good athletic, I was always chosen last. Gary had lots of friends, I always preferred my own company so I had few friends. Gary likes anything mechanical. I like handling money. Gary always had trouble in school, I never got into trouble. Gary was not afraid to lie to protect a friend I always told the truth. Gary was good with his hands I was not.

    When Gary was about 14 he started going to the Riverside Race track on weekends to watch motorcycle racing. Gary decide he had to try it. Gary was so young they would not let Gary ride unless he had his parents signature. So Gary brought the paper home and got our parents to sign it.

    Gary started racing motorcycles and he was good. He won quite a bit. I don't think he ever got seriously injured. When Gary was 16 he was running around with his friends and heard a high power engine. This excited Gary,he had to find out what was going on.

    What he found was a man named Ivan Baldwin. Ivan was a local race car driver around Southern California. Everybody called him Ivan the Terrible because he was not afraid to bang up his race car to win a race. Anyway Ivan had 1 person working with him and they were getting the car ready for the next race.

    Gary asked Ivan for a job. Ivan pointed out an old engine in the back of the shop and told Gary to tear it down. Gary loved it. He tore the engine down, he had some problems, but figured out how to get around them. Ivan was so impressed that Gary tore the engine down and never asked for any help that Ivan fired the other guy and hired Gary.

     They had some long hours and very little money. Local tracks did not pay very large purses. Gary learned ever thing he could from Ivan. When NASCAR came to town he was always asking them for a job.

     One day one of the teams said move to Charlotte and we will hire you. So Gary took his girl friend and they moved to Charlotte. Gary worked his way up fast to crew chief.

    Gary's passion had always been research and development. 1 year later he got his boss to let him set up an R+S car and run it at the Firecracker 400 in Daytona. So Gary set the car up, got a relatively unknown driver, and picked up a crew wherever he could, and went to Daytona. To everyone's surprise, except Gary's, they the got that car in the race. What is more amazing is, they won the race. It was the only win that driver ever had.

     Gary was crew chief for many years for many of the top drivers. Gary was a work-aholic he would work 16 to 18 hours a day 7 days a week. The long hours were partially responsible for the end of his first marriage. He told me one of his bosses had to make him take vacations. He had to learn to take vacations. Another of his bosses told him to quit motorcycle racing he was too valuable.

    Gary found out the director of Winston cup was leaving and Gary put in for it and got it. There were a lot of jokes for a while about the worse offender now doing the policing. Gary took it all in stride. Gary said that was a huge job. He was trying to close up all the gray areas he spent his life in. I Don't think he ever got them all closed.

     After a couple of years they hired another director and Gary moved into Research and development which was always his passion. One on the most important innovations Gary came up with, and there were many, were the flaps on the tops of the cars.

     At the speeds the drivers were going if they got turned around in a crash the back of the car would life up off the ground and sometimes the car would go flying. This was very dangerous.

     One day Gary was eating a hamburger and playing with the Styrofoam container and had an idea. His idea was to cut holes in the tops of the cars and put flaps over the holes so if a car got turned around the flaps would open and relieved the pressure in the car and keep the car on the ground. It was a big success and it wasn't long before it was mandatory on all cars.

    Gary married again to a beautiful lady who had 1 son after they were married they had 2 more sons. Gary's oldest son has raced in a few races and he finished well. Gary is now retired from NASCAR and has his own company selling racing engines. He also is a consultant for 3 racing teams on the Gran Am circuit. Gary tells me he is not working near the hours he used to and spending a lot more time with his family. I don't think Gary will ever stop completely he loves working to much.

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