Checkered Flag

There have been a couple of recent passings of note to the racing community and we’d like to share them with you here.

(Thanks to Buddy Matthews and Jerry Pell for bringing them to my attention — Ed.)

The following is reprinted from MMR – My Motorsports Resources

Denise McCluggage – Friends Remember

Greetings!

Nearly a week has gone by since we learned of Denise’s passing. The shock has worn off, and with the sadness that persists has come the realization that a very special being was in our midst. But you already know that.

What follows are comments by friends and admirers plus a series of images by her dear friend and webmaster Garret Vreeland, and a recent podcast made by Mark Greene and on his website Cars Yeah!

Thank you to David Bull, Dom Miliano, Tom Burnside, and everyone who wrote to share their thoughts.

Jesse Alexander – Denise was a dear friend and we shared a number of wonderful memories from the middle to the late 1950s  when she came to Europe for the racing season. We were both at Le Mans when Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien won the 24 Hours. And then at a spectacular Historic Mille Miglia in the 1980s my son and I shared a Mercedes Benz 190 press car with Denise, giving her an opportunity to REALLY press on. It was great fun. The three of us had a ball. This wondrful lady will be sorely missed by so many.

Toly Arutunoff – She had a depth of insight that went beyond anyone else I know. And when she said insightful things they were so obvious and logical; she was to the car world as Sherlock Holmes was to crime sleuthing. Every conversation with her was a delight. Then there was the estheticism in her writings – her wonderful vocabulary. And don’t forget her photographs. During my last evening-long visit with her, half a dozen years ago doggone it, she brought out a selection of her favorite photographs. Truly wonderful stuff. And as she spread her chosen work on the coffee table we simultaneously said, “Jesse Alexander, eat your heart out!” A conversation with her was never just a “car guy” conversation, as much fun as they are. A huge and irreplaceable loss, from the days when motorsports was truly a sport.

Alain de Cadenet –  I only heard the sad news yesterday. What an active soul she was. Always willing to pass on news, views and ideas. Coupled with her tote bag of memories and experiences that made her a very special person and a bridge to a bygone era of decency and excellence that will,hopefully, endure forever in her writing. A pioneer minded lady if ever I met one.

Keith Carlson – Through our publisher, Peter, I had the great good fortune, on a few occasions, to spend several memorable hours with Ms. McCluggage. She was a very charming and vivacious lady. Perhaps of interest to others is one conversation we had when I asked, knowing that she had been at Mills in the late Forties and that Dave Brubeck was studying with Darius Milhaud there, at that time, whether she had met him. “Met him? I lived with him! And with his wife and several others, in a big old house in Oakland.” I said, “So you must have also met Paul Desmond, and Tal Farlow?” She said, “Sure, quite a few musicians hung out there and we had some great parties.” Yet another fine facet of the excellent and enviable life that she had; good for her and good for us for having had her.

Alex Dearborn

Denise McCluggage in Nassau – In the early ’60s the December Nassau Speed Weeks was the venue favored by GP stars and USA amateurs alike…. Off-season for the former and huge fun for the latter.

I was there for the VWoA – sponsored Formula Vee GP, driving for Autodynamics.

A young woman appeared in my pits dressed in blue Dunlop coveralls and carrying a polka-dotted helmet, instead of the usual halter top and bell-bottoms “Could I borrow your car for the Ladies’ Race?” she inquired.

Huh? The feature race for FV drivers from all over the world was later in the day, and this woman has the temerity to ask to use my car! 

Somehow I found myself agreeing to the loan, and off she went. After a few laps, she didn’t come around. I saw Denise walking back to the pits. Er, I had a little shunt on the back straight, she ventured. Ray Caldwell’s crew had to scramble to get the car ready for me to run the feature!

Denise McCluggage at Sugarbush – I suppose, with the appearance of a sports car in the ski area parking lot being a rare thing, it was inevitable that I would see Denise McCluggage. Although a Vermont resident, she was still a motorsports correspondent for the New York Times, and was active racing Ferraris. 

She lived up a steep driveway off the access road, and after inviting me to visit, warned that I wouldn’t make it up the driveway in “that car”, referring to my 356 Porsche. Of course, that was the dare I needed to make the try. After a few runs, I parked it at the bottom and walked up, passing her Land Rover which bore the VT license tag, “DOG”. Knocking on her door I asked if the dog was the biting kind. Well, no, Denise replied, “some people have a dog named Rover, but I have a Rover named Dog”. I spotted a piano in the living room, and asked her if she played. “Not too much”, she replied, “but Phil Hill visits once a year to tune it.” Good reason to have one, I thought. 

Denise’s definition of a sports car: “It makes the trees blurry”

Larry Edsall – Read a wonderful piece Larry wrote about Denise for ClassicCars.com here.

Vic Elford – I first met Denise McCluggage over fifty years ago in London. She already had a number of years of circuit racing behind her when she decided that European Rallying might be fun too. In 1963 my co-driver for the Liège-Sofia-Liège rally was Terry Hunter. Perhaps the fact that our car caught fire and burned to a cinder in the middle ofYugoslavia had something to do with the fact that my friend Terry then left me to join Denise as her navigator in her newly acquired Mini.

Denise always had a smile for every occasion and was always in a hurry – especially in a car. About eight years ago Porsche had a rather special event at the Barber track in Birmingham, Alabama where a number of driver/instructors were on hand to drive and be driven in the latest offerings from Stuttgart. I am a lousy passenger under any circumstances and a couple of laps with Denise at the wheel as though she was auditioning for a drive at Le Mans, did nothing to change that!

Au revoir Denise. We will miss you

Michael Furman – I wish I could call Denise and ask her how to write this. The wording would be concise – yet beautifully descriptive. The thoughts would be conveyed with a level of accuracy that left no doubt in anyone’s mind of the enormous respect and admiration I had for her. There would be wonderful stories about a life well-lived expressing wisdom, enthusiasm and a youthful fascination with life.

The words would have that twinkle from her eyes and that big smile she graciously shared for everyone.

It was an honor to know Denise McCluggage and call her a friend.

Dan Gurney – Denise McCluggage was a true original, the way she wrote, the way she talked, the way she behaved and the way she lived her life, nothing was ordinary.

We have been friends ever since she and her great friend Phil Hill picked me up at the airport in Paris in 1958 to drive south to Le Mans together where we all were scheduled to race. Denise was a pioneering racing lady who was not intimidated by famous men on the track, be it the Nuerburgring, Sebring, Riverside or the Targa Florio. She amused generations with her witty observations which she shared in her writings over many decades. I see her in my mind’s eye laughing with old pals, Briggs, Phil, Shelby andStirling. We were young together, we grew old together, I will miss you Denise!

John Lamm – Intelligent. Witty. Fun. Insightful. Honest. Cheerful. Clever. Honest. Sincere. Observant. Wise. Imaginative. Understanding. Literary. So talented. Award-winning writer. Great driver. Dear friend. Missed. Terribly.

Paul Russell – It is somewhat daunting to try and write something meaningful in remembrance of someone like Denise. She was such an colorful, intelligent, multi-skilled person. As much as I admired her athleticism, it was the way she could entertain and inform through her writing that really fascinated me. It seemed to come from the fact that she truly was engaged, whether driving a race car, or having a conversation with a new friend. She was interesting because she was curious and interested in everything, and could quickly distill her reactions like no other.

Her tachometer rests at zero now.

Fred Stevenson I had the privilege to meet Denise in 1960. I was just out of the Army, lived on Morton St in the Village and worked at a management consultant firm at 22d & Fifth. I used to walk down Cornelia St to go across to Washington Square Parkand then up Fifth, a route that passed by the store front of “Competition Press” which was her “office”. I was a corner worker at the time and finally got nerve one day to stop in and say hello. She was very gracious and whenever I was on my way back to my flat and saw her door open I would stop by for a brief chat. When I started racing I ran in to her on occasion and she was always very pleasant.  

I have a personalized autographed copy of her book “By Brooks Too Broad For Leaping” from 1995. A great driver, particularly during that period, and most certainly a brilliant writer. BTW I believe she conceived /started “Competition Press”, not simply being part of the Comp Press/AutoWeek group. She was originally a sports  reporter for the ” New York Herald Tribune”. 

Lyn St James – Thank you for reaching out to me. Yesterday was a difficult day after hearing the news about Denise’s passing. Peter [from MMR] knew I was working on putting together the pieces to interview Denise for historical preservation and had received the ok from The Henry Ford Museum. She and I were emailing as late as last week and I was just waiting for her to be in a position to feel well enough. I felt so strongly about how important she was and how much better it would have been to be able to have her stories and experiences told by her rather than by others. Those of us who got to hear those stories personally all walked away tickled, sometimes shocked, but always feeling like we’d been touched by a ray of light. 

The many tributes I’ve read since her passing are wonderful and capture her accomplishments and significance to each individual. What concerns me is how will future generations know about Denise. And how will that story be told. 

I’m not a writer and while I knew Denise, I wish I had known her better. I think while she was an original, she represented an era in society and in racing that is vanishing in front of our very eyes. Vintage racing and the many celebrations of previous eras of automobiles and people which has grown exponentially in the last few years is helping us grasp the glorious past. Losing Denise makes me want to hug Dan, Stirling, and the other greats still living the next time I see them. I guess when we continue to invite them and honor them in a sense we are hugging them. 

I met Denise about 30 years ago at a Ford media event where they pitted us against each other to drag race Mustangs. I only knew her at that time as a journalist from Autoweek, and I remember thinking then “hot damn she can drive for an older woman; I better step up my game.” It wasn’t until after that, and I’m ashamed to say many years later, that I came to learn the amazing and significant things she had done and who she was. That’s why in 2007 we honored her with our Pioneer Award at our annual Women in the Winner’s Circle celebration. Besides wanting to honor her I wanted all the other women drivers to know about her and to meet her. It gave me such joy to watch her interact with them. I think it was a learning experience for them all. 

There will only be one Denise McCluggage. She will be missed. I hope her legacy will be authentically remembered and shared.

Janos Wimpffen – The name Denise McCluggage resonates with anyone raised on American motor racing from the 1950s forward. She was such a multi-dimensional force that it is difficult, and wholly unnecessary, to rank her accomplishments as to their importance to sports car racing.

Denise will be remembered as one of the most successful pioneer woman racers of the period. Moving from a Jaguar XK140 in 1956, to a Porsche 550 for the next two seasons, and then an Osca in 1959, she was a regular on the scene in the Northeast andMidwest. Soon she was no stranger on the international stage either. Often co-driving with other prominent women of the day such as Ruth Levy and Isabel Haskell, McCluggage raced in 11 World Endurance Championship events. Highlights included a GT class win with a Ferrari at the Sebring 12 Hours of 1961, and a second in class at Sebring in her final major race there in 1967.

Throughout this time she brought a unique sensibility to the journalistic coverage of the sport. All too often, coverage of motor racing was of the dry “he was fast, he led, he won” style. Denise came from a broad New York literary background and was already writing on many other subjects, including another sport that she loved-skiing. McCluggage introduced a new ethos to motor sport coverage, imbued in large part by her close friendships with many of the participants. This also informed her excellent photography. Denise’s portraits of drivers and action during that period are some of the most poignant in existence.

Denise was also a keen businesswoman. She was the creative force behind Competition Press which became AutoWeek, one of the most significant publications in the field. Even after leaving the helm of the magazine, she certainly never retired. Denise continued to write extensively, including several books, countless articles and many commentaries appearing on websites in recent years. She was a much sought after speaker at car events and lectures, where she was invariably entertaining, informative, and enthralling.

Perhaps above it all, Ms. McCluggage spent the last few decades as a mentor. She guided and encouraged several young women who were new to the sport. Denise was always there to help with projects related to the history of the sport. It was in that capacity that I first met her. Beginning in the mid-1990s when I embarked on my literary journey into the field, she was one of my first champions. Denise provided me with ample tidbits about her period in the sport and introduced me to many other people. Given her stature in the sport she could have been reticent to open up or she could have been intimidating. Denise was neither. She was always there to guide and to help. Meeting with her or just listening to her stories was worth every minute. Those times will be sorely missed.

above image © Tom Burnside

I have known about Denise through her AutoWeek columns for what I consider eons, and though I got to know her personally a mere three years ago, it feels like decades. Denise came to New England for a series of lectures arranged by MMR and we spent the better part of a week together. Our major connection was of course cars, more precisely motorsports, and our second and equally important shared passion was “words”. She was a Word Person. Often described or introduced as a Racing Journalist, she would demur and gently remind the speaker that she was a journalist first, “That’s how I earn my living” she would say. At various times she was also a racer and a skier and a writer, but she was always a journalist.

We tend to forget that Denise McCluggage was a very good photographer. There is a rather good picture of Enzo Ferrari and Phil Hill in which Phil is standing just a bit behind and to the right of Enzo and both are pointing to an unseen object ahead of them. Denise explained that whenever Enzo saw a camera pointed at him he would raise his arm and point at something… anything. This gave him the aura of command. In this picture Phil is behind Enzo mimicking him. Great picture. Now you know the secret.

Two years ago Denise and I were at Pebble Beach together. She was staying at a great hotel in the heart of Monterey. She was invited to an event on Saturday night but didn’t feel well enough to go. I asked if she wanted to do a quiet dinner but she said no. I told her I would get something for her. She also mentioned that she had forgotten her broad brim “Judges” hat. I came back in a little while with an assortment of ProBars, “a complete meal” as they say on the package. Unquestionably nutritious, questionably tasty. I also had a woven straw hat. She was delighted. Where did you get the hat, she asked? Try the Raisin & Oatmeal treat I said, it’s my favorite. What about the hat, she persisted? Whole Foods, I replied. She said, Terrific! I’ll wrap a bandana around the brim and it will be perfect. About the ProBar, they are right about them, she said the next morning, you eat one and you have had enough.

There are books you read because it’s your job or you are interested in the subject. There are those you read for entertainment. Every once in a while you find a book that is so well written that the subject becomes less important than the reading experience. The Centered Skier is such a book. One, I believe this is her best writing. Two, you will learn about Denise McCluggage and the journey that brought her to writing the book. And, three you may even learn something about skiing.

I mentioned earlier that I got to “know” her three years ago. That’s true but I met her in 1995 at the Monterey Historics. I was looking for Denise simply to introduce myself and say thanks for all the great stories when I spotted Phil Hill in the Road & Track tent. I asked him if he knew where Denise was and he said he was going to see her and would take us there. As we walked along we chatted about the cars he was driving that day and the cars he had raced. When we finally met Denise, he introduced me as his friend and she was very welcoming. I told her how much I enjoyed her work and she asked me if I had seen the book she wrote with Tom Burnside entitled American Racer. She introduced me to Tom and I bought a signed copy. I treasure that book. Tom has a few left and you can have one signed by him and Denise. Contact Tom at tbside@comcast.net.

I am a fortunate man. I met a person of shared interests and for a while we walked the same road. We were soul mates. And the remarkable thing about Denise McCluggage is that everyone who knew her well felt exactly the same way. Wasn’t she terrific?

Pb

We wish to thank the following MMR Newsletter advertisers for foregoing their traditional ads for this special edition: Reliable Carriers, Coachbuilt Press, Racemaker Press, Volante Classics & Autosports Marketing Associates.

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George Paul Arnold

GREENSBORO, NC — George Paul Arnold passed away April 24, 2015 at Carriage House Memory Care. Born February 9, 1926, in Indianapolis, he was the elder son of George Arnold and Margaret Schako Arnold. Following high school, he entered the US Navy in 1943. At the end of WW II he remained in the Navy in order to go on an Antarctic Expedition, Operation Highjump, led by Admiral Richard E. Byrd. It was a wonderful experience for a young man at that time in his life.

Following his discharge from the Navy, he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and graduated with a BFA. He was invited to study and have his art work critiqued at the Barnes Collection, at that time located in Merion, PA. Relocating to North Carolina in the 1950’s, he was instrumental in designing the Virginia International Raceway, along with fellow sports car enthusiasts Ed Welch, Ed Alexander and Hooper Johnson. None were engineers or track designers, and the radius of Turn One was determined by the turning circle of a construction contractor’s bulldozer. Car and Driver magazine has named VIR as one of America’s best road courses.

George taught art at both NC State school of design and UNC-G. He subsequently worked in graphic arts and design, and for a number of years owned and operated George Arnold Associates, a graphic design and trade show display business. He also worked and was skilled in fine art restoration. He was a painter of pictures, both in oils and his favorite medium watercolor. His works are in a number of private and public collections.

In 1987 George and friends Bob Kelley, Norman Graham and John Fisher went to Peru to work on an international Habitat for Humanity project. Their project was in Puno, a small village on the shores of Lake Titicaca near the border with Bolivia. Upon their return to Greensboro, they were the catalysts for the establishment of a chapter of Habitat for Humanity. George was on the first board of directors and a committed volunteer and promoter of that organization. George also volunteered for Friday morning breakfasts at Greensboro Urban Ministry as long as he was able. He was a Rotarian and a Paul Harris Fellow.

George loved BMW motorcycles and took many trips with his cycling friends all over the country. They attended BMW rallies and trips across country. He and his wife Tommie (who did not share the motorcycle trips) traveled together extensively in Mexico and Europe.

George was a member of First Lutheran Church, Greensboro.

He is survived by his wife, Tommie Foscue Arnold, and several cousins and many friends. He was predeceased by his parents and his younger brother, Max Richard Arnold.

Gifts to honor George’s memory are suggested to First Lutheran, Emergency Assistance; Greensboro Urban Ministry; Habitat for Humanity for Greater Greensboro; or the Alzheimers Association of Western NC.