Racing Legends Honored at Racers Reunion Banquet

The ninth annual Racers Reunion Banquet was hosted at PCS Productions in Irving on Saturday, Nov 10. Enthusiasts gathered to honor members of the racing community who have made major contributions to the sport.

The day’s activities included admiring cars, browsing memorabilia, a silent auction as well as presentations from historians and authors about the lives of the racers being honored.

Tom Barbour, a hobbyist who owns some Miller cars, discussed a display of Harry Miller memorabilia engine parts with those who passed by. Miller was particularly lauded for the supercharger, which he refined and subsequently popularized in racing.

“Miller racecars pretty much dominated circle track racing in the US in the 1920s,” Barbour said. “Something like 80 percent of the winning cars were Millers, actually to the point where they had to change the specifications of racing to allow other manufacturers to be able to compete

Miller’s shop foreman, Fred Offenhauser, built an engine after the Miller era. Cars using Offenhauser’s engine dominated the circle track racing scene for two decades, taking home wins at the Indianapolis 500 and even besting exotic sports cars.

“The influence of this guy [Miller] goes literally into the ‘70s from the 1920s, so he’s considered the father of American racing in terms of racecar construction,” Barbour said. “The United States had a moment in time when we made the finest racecars in the world, and it was the 1920s. The Miller was the finest racecar in its day in the world, and it influenced names we know now.”

There were several cars on display in a variety of body styles, built for different types of racing. A pristine replica of the Blue Max, an internationally known vehicle, characterized by its blue paint and distinctive lettering of the car’s name down the side, was also on display. The vehicle’s original owner, Harry Schmidt, was a Dallas mechanic who frequently raced funny cars in the ‘60s, leading to his commissioning of the nitro-burning Mustang now known as a legend.

Schmidt’s wife, Terri, spoke with guests about the vehicle and her husband’s legacy.

“The name of the vehicle originated from a World War I movie called The Blue Max,” Teri said. “This car that we have here today is a replica of the 1974 Blue Max, and it has the original body frame.”

The 1974 model was the revival of the car that rocketed into the spotlight of the racing community with Raymond Beadle of Lubbock, Texas, behind the wheel. Teri often travels to events and fundraisers to show the car, which is privately owned by the family.

“I wrote a book about Harry’s life before me and my life before him in the country music industry, then us together, and his cancer journey that ultimately took his life,” Teri said. “The remainder of the book goes through the healing process of grieving.”

The show’s attendees are passionate, according to event organizer Bart Stevens.

“We average about 160 or so, and we usually have 10-12 different states represented,” Stevens said. “This is not a traditional car show. It’s not a traditional reunion. I describe it as a travelling museum exhibit based on oral history. It’s not just a bunch of guys hanging out in the parking lot.”

The show paid tribute to racing legends who left their mark on the sport.

“From the infancy [of racing], we chose Harry Miller, the father of the beautiful artwork we call racecars,” Stevens said. “From mid-century it’s promoter Sam Nunis, who promoted thousands of races and was a real entertainer and prankster. Our last feature is Mike Curb. He’s been involved in racing for 40 years and has an incredible history.”

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