Dave Schleppi talked about racing, family and the decades he's spent refurbishing his 1961 San Diego Steel Products Indy Roadster. It was all he could do to hold back the tears as he accepted the Bahre Trophy during the final day of the 24th annual Vintage Racing Celebration at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"When I first got my racecar, I was told that if I didn't go to any other event, I had to go to the Vintage Racing Celebration," said the 72-year-old Schleppi, who harkens back to his teenage years working on a pit crew as the foundation of his racing roots. "Over the years, we’ve met so many people here and have become friends with, talking to them and racing against them on the track. It’s a thrill to come here and race on one of the top tracks in the country."
The Bahre Cup is an award named after Bob Bahre, the founder of New Hampshire International Speedway, and is given out annually to a participant that has shown longevity and commitment to the Vintage Racing Celebration.
“We’ve really come to realize over the years the love that Bob Bahre has for not only racing, but for vintage cars,” said Schleppi, a native of Batavia, Ohio, who has been attending the speedway’s annual vintage event since 1999. “We appreciate the foresight he had in not only building this great facility, but including this event on the calendar. And we applaud (Bruton Smith and SMI) for carrying on that tradition.”
Built in 1960 and retired in 1983, Schleppi has done extensive work to restore his Indy Roadster to the 1961 configuration. The car was raced extensively from 1973-83 as the Roberts Steel Erection Roadster, and has been driven by such notable drivers as Mike Magill, Greg Weld, Bob Hurt, Bob Pratt, Al Smith, Cy Fairchild, Tom Sneva, Ray Wright, Duke Cook, Johnny Logan, Marv Carman and Jeff Bloom.
Standing in the Sunoco Victory Lane on Monday afternoon, Schleppi announced that this would be his last trip to the Magic Mile for the vintage weekend. In fact, he will be selling the ’61 Indy Roadster - the first Chevy V8 to attempt a qualifying run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 1961 - so that he and his wife, Arlene, could do some much-deserved traveling. Among their planned trips will be stops in Seattle, Wash., and Memphis, Tenn., to visit their two sons and their respective families.
“We just felt it was time,” said Schleppi. “My wife has wanted to do some travelling for years, so we said that this would be our farewell tour. And I can’t think of a better way to cap it off than to be holding this trophy here today.
“I’m going to go through withdrawals – I know it,” he continued. “But we’re still in good health and we want to take advantage of that as we look toward our future.”
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manger of the speedway, presented Schleppi with the trophy.
“It’s guys like Dave that make this whole circuit work year in and year out,” said Gappens. “I always love coming out of my office, walking over and seeing these cars out on the track. I applaud Dave for his work and for his passion and participation.”
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