Blackie Watt back, having fun again
Blackie Watt drives again.
The New Alexandria racer, a legend in Western Pennsylvania, strapped his 72-year-old body into a street stock and ran the feature Sunday at Latrobe Speedway.
"I was out there having fun," Watt said. "I still enjoy it. It was a chance to get out and road-test a car."
Watt expects to drive in some seniors races this summer. Jim Alexander, a long-time work associate of Watt's, had an idle street stock race car. A plan was hatched.
"It had been sitting around for four years. We decided to have him drive it a little bit, just play around," said Alexander, who owned a school bus Watt had driven occasionally in races over the past several years. "We put some new tin on it and prettied it up. We had a good time."
It would have been even better if the car had been more competitive. Watt finished seventh in the feature, last in the field.
"It didn't work out real well," Watt said. "We had too much gear. We were turning 5,000 (engine rpm) out of the fourth turn and 6,000 before the flag stand. The guys just outran me on the straightaway. For that half-mile track, with the long straights, it was too much gear. We'll have to change the gear ratios before we go back."
The finish aside, Alexander considered the outing a successful one.
"A lot of people like to see him out behind the wheel again," he said. "He draws a lot of attention."
Watt, who began racing in 1950, puts his career feature win total between 600 and 1,000, the range owing to the fact he never bothered to keep an accurate count. He ran late models and modifieds, including a 25-year partnership with car owner Joe Pitkavish. The team won 36 features in 1974, taking track titles at Motordrome, Lernerville and Schmuckers (currently Latrobe) speedways.
Watt also ran NASCAR Grand National, currently Nextel Cup, in 1966, driving for Blairsville trucking company owner Harry Neal. Racing against the likes of Richard Petty, David Pearson and Bobby Allison, Watt had nine top-10 finishes in 20 races and finished 30th in the season points chase.
Be it the high banks of Daytona, or the dusty oval at Latrobe, racing is racing to Watt.
"They're going around pretty good out there," he said. "But I've done it so many years, it's like going down the road to get a sandwich. I never did get nervous before races. I always felt like I knew what I was doing."
Watt retains his competitive nature, recalling winning a heat race in a seniors competition last September but lamenting being knocked out of the feature on an aborted start.
"I was starting ninth and when the flag man didn't give the green flag, the guys up front slowed down and cars were everywhere," Watt said. "I got hit in the right rear and it took me out."
Watt won't be at Latrobe this weekend because of a commitment for a family birthday party.
"We just plan to race whenever we feel like it," Alexander said.
That might be more often than not if Watt has his way.
"I'm having fun. I feel good," he said. "I guess I can't go on forever, but as long as I can, I want to keep doing it. You never lose the desire."
Local legendName: Walter Oliver 'Blackie' Watt
Career: 1950 to the present
Feature wins: 600 to 1,000 (There is no exact count)