SCD: Can you talk about your history in racing, what you drove, who you raced against, the best and the worst?
BC: I first started racing go karts in the alleys behind my parents’ house, we used to race up and down the alleys. It was very unsophisticated then, I mean, there was a go kart track in San Jose and it was no big deal. It was to us at the time, but it was not like today’s go kart tracks. Then Watsonville Speedway was close by so I ended up racing in NASCAR Sportsman. That was the first car that I kind of rebuilt myself from the ground up, and then eventually built one brand new. Those were Chevy chassis bodies and 358 cubic-inch engines, big tires and wings. We ran on quarter-mile dirt tracks. From there I raced Supermodifieds in the late 1960s early 1970s, and the best place we raced was San Jose Speedway. I ran there and drove those cars for three years or so, and from there I ended up in Sprint Cars.
Sprint Cars were the most exciting of any cars I raced, because they were the most on the edge, and I think required the most skill. I know there’s lots of Sprint car drivers who did not drive other places, but there are very few who could drive everything else, then get into a Sprint Car and drive it. You had a 1200-pound car and generally had 800 horsepower and not much brakes. The whole idea was to go 100 percent throttle, which was the opposite of anything else. You start with full throttle then you back off a little. You know, with everything else you start with idle then you accelerate. You’re not going to do very well if you cruise in a Sprint Car. You learn to drive on a really loose surface in the dirt, and you learn to drive sideways all the time. You also learn to drive without a lot of brake or anything. So, I think they’re the best teaching car you can be in, if you can survive them and do it. For me they were absolutely the most fun of any racecar I ever drove, and only because we crashed them a lot, and unfortunately a lot of guys lost their lives during the period when I raced them. Everybody was talking me out of them at some point saying, “Why don’t you do something else?” I had my share of injuries in them, but I was never afraid much, and that is not a good car not to be afraid in. I raced against a lot of really great drivers in those cars. Gary Patterson, who is no longer alive, and all those guys who ran Northern California. Patterson, Leroy Van Connet, Jimmy Sills. There was a really good bunch of drivers in those cars. Leland McSpadden, Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell. You actually were pretty trusting because all those guys could drive real well, and they were all really good at it. Some of them still are. I saw Kinser on TV last night and I go “my God” — 20 times a Sprint Car champion.
From there I went and road raced. I had never road raced before. The first car I ever road raced was a Porsche 934. It was George Styers Jr.’s. car. He didn’t like it. I picked it up used from him and I went and drove it. For me it was a pretty decent fit because single turbo 934s were pretty loose. They ran with a lot of oversteer and a lot of lag so that you really needed to like to have the throttle down. That seemed realistic, in Sprint Cars you drove them with the throttle down too, so I fit pretty good in that car. The first time I drove it was at Infineon, which was then Sears Point, but basically I was against all 935s because in 1978 twin-turbo 935s were the thing to have for all the wealthy sportsman racers. So I ran that car the first time I had ever seen Sears Point, had ever driven a road race car. I think I finished seventh. The second race in the car we went to Laguna Seca for the Trans-Am race that was really the same cars. They didn’t have the 935s but they had the 934 — and Corvettes and Mazdas and all that stuff. I think Peter Gregg won that race and Milt Minter was second, Greg Pickett was third in his big Corvette that he had at the time, and I was fourth. That was the first time I ever raced at Laguna Seca.
In January 1979 we go all through the car and get it fresh and take it to Daytona for the 24 Hour. I took Rick Mears with me because he was a friend of mine, and Monte Shelton, who I didn’t know, but he came with us. None of us had ever been to Daytona, and we got third overall in the 24 Hour. We should have finished second. Unfortunately, that’s when we had two mishaps and they were mishaps on our part. Monte was driving the car up in the garbage, I call it, and I kept telling him don’t drive up there in that high lane, there’s too much trash up there and he came in and said he thought an axle had gone bad. It’s just he picked up some debris, but we wasted 30 minutes changing an axle. And then, later in the night my crew was finally exhausted enough, we had a bunch of other guys helping us, and they made a mistake they sent Rick down the pit road and the left front wheel fell off. So we lost a wheel and he had to limp it all the way around and we had to fix the bodywork and get the wheel back on it. So we lost, in total, about 40 or 50 minutes total in pit time and that was enough to put us third, otherwise we would have come in second. Apart from that, it was a lot of fun.
From that point, of course, the factory invited me to come to Porsche. Then when I got to Porsche they asked me what I was doing and where I came from. I explained to them that I was a Sprint Car driver and they had no idea what that was, so I showed them pictures and they still had no idea what that was. Then they offered to build me a new car, and I kind of told them I couldn’t afford a new car and that I was doing this for fun. Then they told me they wanted me to drive, the way I drove, and they wanted me to drive more, and they helped me to get a new car, and which I still have to this day. The ’79 935 that I have is the last one that was factory built. I’ve had it the whole time. That’s car No. 12. When it showed up here, we went to Sears Point, and in 1979 it was really a big year in IMSA racing. Normally you could go to a race and there were 15 guys who could win. It was a pretty serious group of guys. You had Peter (Gregg) and Hurley (Haywood) and (David) Hobbs and (Jim) Busby and (Gianpiero) Moretti and (John) Fitz(patrick) was running full time. It was a who’s who. Klaus Ludwig was over here running. It was unbelievable the depth of that field. It was fun because with that first car in that first race I got fifth. The next week we went to Portland, I had never seen Portland in my life and I qualified on the front row next to Peter Gregg, and that got everybody’s attention. Then we ran wheel to wheel the whole race. We lapped the whole field and only on the last lap was I running out of fuel because we didn’t know enough about fuel, putting it in cold and expanding the tank and stuff. We still got third, I ran out of fuel and I had to go to reserve. if we wouldn’t have run out of fuel we would have gotten second. After that I drove the Moretti car quite a bit.
Later on I drove 962s. Then we started going to Pikes Peak, first in 1979 and 1980, and set the qualifying record with the car that I keep upstairs. The Unsers got that car outlawed after that year because they couldn’t run with us. We were faster in every section of the race than anything they had there. They basically got us outlawed from that point. I went back to Pikes Peak in 2000 and drove the Kenworth, the big truck. I tested it for the chairman of Kenworth and then he told me he wanted me to drive it, so we went to Pikes Peak and for three years in a row we set the record for big trucks. Which was pretty amazing, because it is a 13,000-lb truck and has almost 2000 horsepower and 4000 lb-ft of torque. That was the year that Dave Richards brought over the Prodrive team with all the Subaru rally cars. Just to get a sense, the Prodrive drivers were only averaging 30 seconds faster than the truck, which is funny because I remember Nick Fry coming over and introducing himself to me and telling me I had all his guys completely spun out because they couldn’t figure out how this truck could go not much slower than a factory Subaru was going. Anyway, now I’m going to Bonneville this year with a car that should go close to 300mph, and I’ve never done that. Other than that I have a car that will do a pro race once in a while, but mainly we do a lot of historic car racing, which is a lot of fun. We have a lot of guys who used to race in the day, from (Bobby) Rahal to Hurley, and it’s just a blast. It’s a lot less stress and more fun than pro racing was, and you get to drive lots of different cars!
SCD: Is it unusual for someone to have such a broad interest in automotive types? Hot rods, street and sports cars, vintage and historic racing cars and on and on?
BC: Well, a lot of people think it is, but my particular friends who are car guys, like Bruce Meyer, who is my best friend, and we do tons of car stuff together, and he likes all kinds of cars. Bruce and a number of other guys we all hang out with are the same. They like hot rods, they like Porsches, they like racecars, they like low riders, so I think it’s normal. When you go into their garages to see what they like, you only see what they drive. A lot of these people have a hot rod, I don’t care who it is. For example, Tom Armstrong from Seattle. Tom likes everything, from Duesenbergs to Cords, to Cobras, and hot rods, he likes everything. I think there’s a lot more of that, and part of that is a maturing process for a lot of guys. It’s just over time they appreciate much different cars, and I think I got an earlier start on it. Starting at 10, it’s been my business. It isn’t like I went and became a real estate mogul and then came back. I never stopped doing it.
I think for a lot of guys, if they have the time and they can afford to do the cars, then all of a sudden they slowly have an appreciation for lots of cars. You see them start off with one kind of car then all of a sudden change. They may start out with Ferraris, then like Porsches or racecars or want a vintage racer or whatever. It’s just a thing that develops over time. Now having said that, there are lots of guys who just like one group of cars, they’re just total Ferrari fans or they’re just Corvette fans, and you go to their garage and it’s all just one kind of car. Some of these guys have just the greatest collections in the world of one marque. That’s just never been me because I like everything. I was lucky I went to Indianapolis when I was very young, and that I went to dirt tracks when I was young, and went to road race courses when I was young, before I got to drive at those places. I got to experience a lot of different cars all the time, and because it’s all I’ve ever done, really, in my entire life, I have had a huge exposure to it and got to experience a lot more of it.