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Thousands relish thrill of Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - Driver Bob Fairbanks of Portville, N.Y., rolls past the flaggers at turn 18 in a 1962 Austin Cooper during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. The curve is lined with flamingos, part of a decades-old tradition started by 'Team Tachometer' or 'Team Tacky' for short. Co-captain Paul Bates of Allison Park (seen here flagging on the right), says he and many of the other flagging and communications team were taught by Team Tacky. 'The last of the people who taught us flagging and communication died off last year,' he said. 'We're just keeping the tradition going.'
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Driver Bob Fairbanks of Portville, N.Y., rolls past the flaggers at turn 18 in a 1962 Austin Cooper during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. The curve is lined with flamingos, part of a decades-old tradition started by 'Team Tachometer' or 'Team Tacky' for short. Co-captain Paul Bates of Allison Park (seen here flagging on the right), says he and many of the other flagging and communications team were taught by Team Tacky. 'The last of the people who taught us flagging and communication died off last year,' he said. 'We're just keeping the tradition going.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - Driver Tom Chisholm of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., curves through Schenley Park in his 1962 Lotus 7 during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Driver Tom Chisholm of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., curves through Schenley Park in his 1962 Lotus 7 during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - Cars turn along the roads at Schenley Park as part of the 32nd Annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. The event raises money for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Cars turn along the roads at Schenley Park as part of the 32nd Annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. The event raises money for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - Detail of a pink 1967 Ford Mustang on display at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Detail of a pink 1967 Ford Mustang on display at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - John Guehl of Pittsburgh drives his 1939 Mercury Sprint in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>John Guehl of Pittsburgh drives his 1939 Mercury Sprint in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - A car rounds the turn onto Serpantine Drive at turn 18 during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. The curve is lined with flamingos, part of a decades old tradition started by 'Team Tachometer' or 'Team Tacky' for short.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>A car rounds the turn onto Serpantine Drive at turn 18 during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. The curve is lined with flamingos, part of a decades old tradition started by 'Team Tachometer' or 'Team Tacky' for short.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - The buildings of Oakland rise in the distance beyond a race of sports cars and sedans under 1.5 liter displacement in production prior to 1975 during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix through Schenley Park on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>The buildings of Oakland rise in the distance beyond a race of sports cars and sedans under 1.5 liter displacement in production prior to 1975 during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix through Schenley Park on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - A woman naps under a tree as people look at the at the Mini cars on display at the 32nd Annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. The event raises money for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>A woman naps under a tree as people look at the at the Mini cars on display at the 32nd Annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. The event raises money for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley School.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - Taylor Lutz, 4, of Butler, plays in her family's 1962 Volkswagen Bus during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Taylor Lutz, 4, of Butler, plays in her family's 1962 Volkswagen Bus during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media - Scenes of spectators looking at cars are reflected in the window as Chuck Berrington (in red) of Forest Hills talks about his 1931 Ford Model A on display at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. 'It reminds us of a slower time,' says his wife Jeanne. The two take the car out for trips with the Three Rivers Model A Club.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Scenes of spectators looking at cars are reflected in the window as Chuck Berrington (in red) of Forest Hills talks about his 1931 Ford Model A on display at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park in Oakland on Sunday, July 20, 2014. 'It reminds us of a slower time,' says his wife Jeanne. The two take the car out for trips with the Three Rivers Model A Club.
By Megan Harris
Sunday, July 20, 2014, 10:20 p.m.
 

Chuck Hager knows turn 20.

It's where a BMW ripped two feet of bark from an old oak tree. Three years ago, an Elva careened into a brick embankment there. An MG TD driver threw a tire in 2013, narrowly missing Hager and his fellow corner crew members.

“I love it here. Gas and oil burning off in fumes. The rumble of the engines. It hits you right here,” Hager said on Sunday, tapping his chest.

Hager, 70, of Zelienople celebrated a quarter-century guarding the corner of Bartlett Street and Serpentine Drive at the 32nd annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, where thousands poured into Schenley Park in Oakland for car shows, vendors and a look at more than 300 drivers representing decades in early car and motorcycle design. Races capped off 10 days of activities.

Steve Hronek, 56, of Cleveland sat perched in a chair under a one-man umbrella near turn 18. A cooler on his right and goodies to his left, Hronek said he comes for nostalgia and red-blooded competition.

“My dad had an MG TD, and I used to hang on his seat and see the trees flying by because I wasn't tall enough to see over the doors,” he said. “He'd always tell me when we got home, ‘Don't tell your mom about that.' ”

Some cars often fly by dragging orange traffic cones under their chassis, or with a hay bale impaled on a support bar.

Operators like Hager never call “red” on their radios. To indicate a car's color, they say crimson.

“Red is dangerous,” Hager said. “Red means stop, and everyone has to do it at once. We only say that when something bad happens, like (Saturday).”

Crews halted qualifying laps for about an hour on Saturday afternoon when an unnamed driver wrapped his Lotus 23 around a telephone pole in turn 16. Event spokesman Steve Weber said the driver broke four ribs in the crash, which he blamed on rain-slicked roads.

Clutching a blue and yellow pass flag, Bill Frieder, 73, of Wheatfield, N.Y., jumped when a hunter green 1964 Bobsy Vanguard Formula Vee spun out 30 feet ahead.

Tammy Lynne Calef, 51, waved as she righted the car.

“Moments like that, they're the fun and scary part of racing,” she said later.

A grandmother of four and Stonewood, W.Va., native, Calef took up racing one year ago under the tutelage of a growing number of racing mentors, lovingly dubbed her big brothers, including frequent champ Christian Morici, 37, of Clifton, N.J.

Usually in a Lotus 22, Morici, the third generation in a line of Grand Prix racers dating to the inaugural race in 1983, came to watch this year.

“I went into the wall in 2013, and one car is down, so my buddy's driving the Lotus for me. It works out fine,” he said, grabbing a sandwich. “More beer for me.”

His father, Chris Morici, 59, teased Calef between bites. “It's all about knowing your car,” he said, bowing his head over prayer hands. He winked at her.

“Keep saying it, ‘I am one with the car.' ”

Across the paddock on Prospect Drive, the 36 members of the Kolesar family squeezed in for an annual family photo, one that seems to grow — by cars and admirers — every year.

“It all started five years ago when Jack, my dad, rebuilt this rusty shell of a Jaguar he bought 40 years ago. Brad, his grandson, raced for the first time last year, and they talked my brother Russ into driving this year,” said Lori Cruthers, 55, of West Mifflin.

It's three times as exciting, and three times as nerve-racking, said a cousin, Sandy Philipp, 50, of Columbus, Ohio.

“But that's the cool thing about the Grand Prix,” she said. “It's not just a race to (Jack), or to any of the guys. Friends and family come in from all over to cheer them on, and when it's over, they still have these really cool cars.”

Megan Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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