Here is that newspaper article. Thank you for your time. I enjoyed our conversation.
By CHRIS RAMBO
In November, 1967, Wilbur Hawthorne of Lisbon hitched up the sprint car he owned to his GMC pickup and began a long trek out to California. His destination was the famous Ascot Park racetrack in Los Angeles and the prestigious Pacific Coast Nationals.
In just his second year as a car owner, Hawthorne and his driver Bobbie Adamson were fresh off a dominating season of racing on the dirt tracks of central Pennsylvania. Now Hawthorne was anxious to see how his car would measure up against the best from the west coast.
"Wilbur drove out there, and I went out on a plane. it was my first time going to California," Adamson said. "I got off the plane, and it looked exactly the way you see in the movies. It was beautiful."
Many of the drivers were Ascot regulars, and when it came time for race day, Hawthorne and Adamson were treated like uninvited guests. When Adamson tied the track record during time trials, one driver told him, "they just gave you that time because you came from so far away."
"There was a lot of hype because we had won so many races back east. We were the only outsiders there" Adamson said. "Nobody treated me cordially, nobody talked to me."
Hawthorne's car did most of the talking instead, as Adamson dominated every facet of the 100-lap feature race. National Sprint Car Hall-of-Famer, and track regular, Bob Hogle was quoted as saying "I've never been beat so bad in all my life."
When Adamson took his spot in the payoff line all the other racers fell silent. No congratulations, no disparaging remarks, nothing. The mood at last lightened when Adamson said, "if anyone knows where to get it, I'll buy the beer."
"Everyone accepted me as one of the guys after that," Adamson said. "However, the track promoter promised Wilbur 600 dollars to help with the travel, but after we beat everybody, he didn't hand it over. As far as I know, Wilbur never got that money."
That day, west coast racers got a taste of what drivers in Ohio and Pennsylvania already knew, Hawthorne's race car was nearly unstoppable.
From 1966-1970, his number-35 machine was one of the most feared in the area. It was synonymous with victory at prominent central Pennsylvania tracks such as Williams Grove and Selinsgrove. During five years as an owner, Hawthorne-who passed away in 2009- won over 40 races and grew into one of the most recognizable names in the area sprint car scene. He was inducted last year into the York County (Pa.) Racing Club Hall of Fame.
"Sprint car racing was getting bigger and bigger in the area at the time," Hawthorne's daughter Joanne Hawthorne said. "It was a great time for my dad to be involved in the sport. The more Bobbie and him won, the more well-known they became."
Hawthorne never won more than during the three years (1966-69) that Adamson was driving for him. Adamson, a western Pennsylvania native and sprint car hall-of-famer, won 42 races, two points titles and two national opens in Hawthorne's car.
"Other drivers began calling the car 'the rocking chair special' because it was so easy to drive that it looked like I was lounging," Adamson said. "It was a perfect car and Wilbur was as perfect an owner as a driver could have. I would not have had the success I did without driving for him."
Hawthorneäborn in 1928-grew up on a dairy farm outside of Lisbon and always had an interest in motor vehicles. He dropped out of school in eighth grade and went to work driving a dump truck as he neared adulthood. Before long, he started his own steel-hauling trucking company. Business was good during the 1960s, with Hawthorne eventually employing 21 drivers and earning enough money to begin his foray as a car owner.
"Our dad always had a strong knowledge of automobile maintenance," Hawthorne's daughter Barb Jones said. "It was a passion for him. He handled a lot of the maintenance on his trucks and always seemed to be in the garage. In those days he made enough money to travel to races every week during the summer and go to Florida for winter races. He wouldn't be able to do it today. It would cost too much."
After purchasing the frame for his car from Youngstown-based builder Floyd Trevis (who designed A.J. Foyt's 1961 Indy 500 winning ride) Hawthorne added the rest, and by 1966 he was ready to compete. He briefly used another driver, before offering Adamson a ride in 1966.
"The car was feared by others, no doubt about it," Adamson said. "Once we started winning a lot, we started getting booed by fans who wanted their favorite drivers to win once in a while. We also had numerous complaints filed that the car was illegal, but none of them ever stuck."
The key to Hawthorne's success as an owner-as Adamson saw it-was his absolute focus on making sure the car was in peak condition and also his willingness to take input from the driver.
"He was very good at letting me tell him what I thought the car needed and then he wouldn't let anything get in his way of making it happen," Adamson said. "We were so in sync, I don't remember ever having an argument."
Jones saw her father's single-minded perfectionism up close.
"With him there was only one way to do things and that was the right way," Jones said. "When you worked in his garage, everything had to be done exactly to his standard or you would hear about it. Once he set is mind to something he was relentless."
Everything culminated with that spectacular 1967 season. Adamson won 12 races and the points title at Williams Grove Speedway to go with seven wins and the points total at Selinsgrove Speedway as well as the win in California.
Hawthorne and Adamson were on top of the world, but the high could not last.
After one more stellar season (13 wins) in 1968, Hawthorneás trucking business began to crumble. A strike in the steel industry sharply cut the demand for transportation. Hawthorne's fleet of 21 trucks was quickly sliced to 10 and would be reduced to two by the time he retired 30 years later.
In early 1969, the cash needed to race started to dry up and Adamson decided to hook up with another owner.
"We parted on good terms," Adamson said. "The money just wasn't there anymore and I got a very good offer from a millionaire named Al Hamilton. Wilbur understood."
Hawthorne remained modestly successful as a car owner for two more years, but his financial woes persisted. He would sell the car in the early seventies.
"Wilbur and I had something very special for those three years," Adamson said. "He and his wife were very nice people to get to know and to race in that car every week was exhilarating. It was a fun part of my life."