Friday, May 11, 2012

Racing world responds to death of Carroll Shelby

   The following statements were released Friday regarding the death of legendary auto racer and car designer, Carroll Shelby:

   Edsel B. Ford II, member of the Board of Directors of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company:
   “Today, we have lost a legend in Ford Motor Company’s history, and my family and I have lost a dear friend. Carroll Shelby is one of the most recognized names in performance car history, and he’s been successful at everything he’s done. Whether helping Ford dominate the 1960s racing scene or building some of the most famous Mustangs, his enthusiasm and passion for great automobiles over six decades has truly inspired everyone who worked with him. He was a great innovator whose legend at Ford never will be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

   Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman:
   “Carroll was one of the best friends I ever had. He was known all over the world as an icon in the automotive industry and one of the greatest names in the history of motorsports. He was a great Texan and a great innovator with a style of his own. I’ll never forget how he would climb out of that sports car with bib overalls and a cowboy hat. Ford will do all but close the company because of his passing. I admired him a great deal and will miss him greatly as a friend and a business partner.”

   H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, former president of Charlotte Motor Speedway:
   "Perhaps in the history of auto racing Carroll Shelby was the most unique character rivaling Bill France, Sr., Enzo Ferrari, Smokey Yunick, Barney Oldfield and even Juan Manuel Fangio. It was not what Detroit taught him but what he taught Detroit, Akron and the other capitals of automobile performance. He could see the future of performance better than anyone I ever knew. He told me in 1965 when he was a major Goodyear distributor and I was with Firestone racing that there would be only two owners at Indy -- those two companies! In two years he was right because they financed everyone of the 33 cars.
   "His contribution to performance was so varied. First was his amazing Cobra that stormed Europe like Patton. Then Henry Ford 11's Ford GT-40 that smashed past Ferrari at LeMans. Also he was such a people person he left Ford and helped Chrysler develop the Viper and then came back to Ford! How many guys could do that.
   "With his heart  and subsequent organ transplants he told me he felt like a parts house and then said he was working on getting new eyes. I learned so much from him about
how to just keep going and at the same time developing new projects. He was a humble man who treated everyone the same."

   Chris Powell, president of Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
   “All of us at Las Vegas Motor Speedway are saddened by the passing of Carroll Shelby. Mr. Shelby was a true pioneer in the automotive industry as well as a very accomplished sports car racer. His Shelby Cobra is one of the iconic automobiles in our country’s history. We were honored to be associated with his company for two years as the sponsor of our NASCAR Sprint Cup event, and to have him serve as grand marshal for our races in 2009 and 2010. He leaves a lasting legacy and will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Cleo, his family and his legions of fans."

   Tom Compton, president of the NHRA:
   “The automotive industry has lost a pioneer and the motorsports world a legend with the passing of Carroll Shelby. He and our founder Wally Parks were very good friends and Carroll frequently attended events at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California.  On behalf of everyone at NHRA, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

   Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France:
   "Carroll Shelby was a giant in the motorsports industry and the automobile industry overall. Known primarily as an innovative automotive designer, he started building his legacy as an outstanding driver. Along the way, his name became iconic.
   "On a personal level, he was simply a good friend to so many of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

   Richard Petty:
   "Carroll Shelby was a visionary for performance and speed for the Ford Motor Company. It was his ideas that helped push the Cobra and most recently the Mustang brand to the American people. He was an innovator of his time and helped Ford become a leader in the racing and performance world. The entire Petty family sends their prayers to the Shelby family.”

Dale Junior: It's not just me

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes issue with the idea his current career-worst winless streak and lack of winning a Sprint Cup Series title are reasons why some tracks are still dealing with attendance problems.

   As Earnhardt has reiterated in the past, he believes economic factors still greatly affect race fans - many of whom travel long distances to the races they attend.

   "I don’t really think (TV) viewership and attendance is directly tied to the success of our team. We do have a great fan base and a loyal fan base that I think watches the races regardless of how we’re running. I just think it’s challenging financially for the demographic to afford to come out to a race," the sport's most popular driver said.

   "I think hotel prices are really high and gas is really high and just trying to get here and enjoy yourself has become quite expensive. A lot of people are not willing to make that sacrifice. They can sit at home and either watch it on TV or mow the lawn -- I don’t know. I think that it will cycle around and things like this always do kind of have a cycle. It will improve over time. When the confidence is gained in the consumer to come back out and spend that kind of money.”