The South Bend Tribune from South Bend, Indiana on April 22, 2005 · C2
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The South Bend Tribune from South Bend, Indiana · C2

South Bend, Indiana
Issue Date:
Friday, April 22, 2005
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C2 South Bend Tribune mirop AUTO RACING Friday, April 22, 2005 Pace lap Subway Fresh 500 Site: Avondale, Ariz. Schedule: Today, qualifying (Speed Channel, 5:10 p.m.), Saturday, race (FOX, 6:30 p.m.). Track: Phoenix International Raceway (tri-oval, 1 mile, 1 1 degrees banking in turns 1-2, 9 degrees banking in turns 3-4). Race distance: 312 miles, 312 laps. Last race winner: Greg Biffle. Last year: Inaugural race. Next race: Aaron's 499, May 1 , Talladega, Ala. On the Net: Bashas' Supermarkets 200 Site: Avondale, Ariz. Schedule: Today, qualifying (Speed Channel, 3:30 p.m.), race (FOX, 8 p.m.). Track: Phoenix International Raceway (tri-oval, 1 mile, 1 1 degrees banking in turns 1-2, 9 degrees banking in For Biffle, full-speed By MIKE HARRIS Associated Press Writer AVONDALE, Ariz. - Greg Biffle never has lacked confidence. In 1997, the Vancouver, Wash., native was racing with some success in one of NASCAR's regional touring series when he got a call from a friend saying team owner Jack Roush was interested in giving him a ride. The drawback was that Biffle would have to come to Charlotte, N.C., to make the deal. "Before he and I had a conversation, he'd locked his shop in Vancouver he had a restaurant and a race car shop and he locked them up and came and camped with us until we made the deal," Roush said, grinning. "He wasn't going to leave until his deal was done. "That really showed a lot of commitment on his part to be able to tear up his roots and to come in and say, 'I want to be part of this and I'll make it work.' I think if we weren't able to move as fast as he wanted to move right away, he was going to drag us into another zip code." Biffle, then 28, was an instant hit with Roush Racing. He won rookie of the year honors in the Craftsman Truck Series in 1998, was the series runner-up in 1999 and the champion the next year. Roush moved Biffle up to the Busch Series in 2001 and Biffle was again the top rookie before coming back in 2002 and winning the Busch title. Stepping up to what was then the Winston Cup series full-time in 2003 presented a whole new challenge. Biffle was not an instant success this time. His rookie year, Biffle won the July race at Daytona but had only five other top-10 finishes and wound up an undistinguished 20th in the points. Last year, Biffle started slowly but came on in the second half of the year to win races at Michigan and Homestead the season finale and moved up to 17th in the standings. While everyone agreed he was a talented driver, some observers were starting to use the word turns 3-4). Race distance: 200 miles, 200 laps. Last race winner: Kasey Kahne. Last year's winner: Jamie McMur-ray. Next race: Aaron's 312, April 30, Talladega, Ala. On the Net: San Marino Grand Prix Site: Imola, Italy. Schedule: Saturday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 6 a.m.); Sunday, qualifying, 3 a.m. (Speed Channel, 1 1 a.m., tape), race, 7 a.m. (CBS, noon, tape). Track: Enzo and Dino Ferrari Auto-drome (road course, 3.057 miles, 17 turns). Race distance: 189.534 miles, 62 laps. Last race winner: Fernando Alonso. Last year's winner: Michael Schumacher. Next race: Spanish Grand Prix, May 8, Barcelona. On the Net: http:www.formula1 .com always ahead - if n I&IVV -J j i.J . ... -J - so a AP PhotoJOE CAVARETTA Greg Biffle celebrates his win in the NASCAR Auto Club 500 California Speedway in February. Biffle has five top-10 finishes, including a pair of victories, in the first seven races of 2005. journeyman to describe Biffle, now 35. His start this season has quieted that kind of talk. Biffle has five top-10 finishes, including a pair of victories, in the first seven races of 2005. He goes into Saturday night's Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway second in the standings, trailing Jimmie Johnson by just 135 points. Johnson, who raced against Biffle in the Busch Series, said he never doubted Biffle's ability. "He's always been fast," Johnson said. "He's always been hard on the gas. When you're in a race with him, he's definitely going to be very aggressive, and that's not a bad thing. I'm not saying that in a negative way at all. "Some guys are reckless and aggressive and other guys aren't. You know with Greg that he's going to be aggressive and put up a really good fight." Biffle's truck and Busch titles were the first NASCAR championships for Roush. Now he has the opportunity to give the team owner his third straight Cup title, joining 2003 champ Matt Kenseth and reigning champion Kurt Busch. Hear all the Cup races home for on the Art Cross is shown in a midget car owned by Ray Ridenour of South Bend. The picture is from the early 50s. The lost Art of storytelling Passing of Cross leaves racing without one of its best By HAROLD LOWE Tribune Correspondent When Art Cross died last Friday, auto racing lost not only a hall of fame driver but also one of its premier storytellers. His death also meant Cross's two daughters Carol McCul-lough, 57, of LaPorte and Debbie Hazlett, 51, of Texarkana, Texas also lost both of their parents in three weeks. Margaret Cross, Art's wife of 58 years, died on March 26. In a moving eulogy last Friday, McCullough said their "love story began over 58 years ago when a young race car driver walked over to a beautiful young woman behind the track fence and said 'You're the woman I'm going to marry." Marry they did and Cross went on to have success at race tracks throughout the country and especially in the Indianapolis 500, where he was the first Rookie of the Year in 1952 and finished second in 1953. He retired in 1955 but never tired of telling racing tales. "My friends would just love to hear Dad tell stories," McCullough said. Margaret Cross tried to limit her husband to a couple of beers per story session, but not always with success. "Sometimes we would be out on deck and he would tell racing stories and Mom would be inside and these guys would go get him another beer when Mom wasn't looking and that would keep the stories going." The stories of his racing days, though long in the past, would be told again and the punch lines would again bring laughs. Cross, 87, was first Rookie of the Year for the Indianapolis 500 in 1952 when he finished fifth. That award, given by Stark & Wetzel, a meat packer, had its rewards besides money. "We got a lot of meat for a on your exclusive MMem radio... year," Cross recalled with a chuckle. Cross's biggest day in racing was May 30, 1953, when he finished second in the Indy 500 to Bill Vukovich, speedway legend. The day was brutally hot with temperatures in the 90s and drivers coming to the pits in droves, seeking relief from the relentless heat Cross drove on without relief until he had worked his way be-hindVukovich. "Every time I came up to pass somebody I would look over and think 'that's not Sam Hanks, that's Duane Carter,' or 'that's not Jim Rathmann, that's Eddie Johnson," Cross said in a long-ago interview about that race. The money from that race, his share of $27,000, went toward a farm in LaPorte County. Cross, the 1952 AAA national midget champion, is also a member of the United States Auto Club's Midget Hall of Fame. His ticket to Indy came from his midget success. In the late 1940s and the early 50s, the midget drivers throughout the East and Midwest could race eight times a week. They would run every night Monday through Saturday and twice on Sunday. "Just an average driver could make $1,000 a week," said Jigger Sirois, 70, a retired midget driver now living in Williamsburg, Va. Once Cross had his memory triggered by a visitor's model race car. The car was the Caruso Offy that carried one-legged driver Bill Schindler to many victories. Cross took the small model in his big hand and smiled and said, "I drove that car, too." He then launched into another story. "We had been running for several weeks and the engine was so weak that we were going to change it soon," Cross recalled. JT h ST PLACE T ND PLACE I DAN WHITE M KATHLEEN PETE Ifl I SOUTH BEND, IN HEBRON, IN 1 Winning Driver: Greg Biffle, SamsungRadio Shack 500 gm Pace Lap Challenge Ad In Monday's South Bend Tribune. H BBDiscover for yu-j They pulled into a small track with the rest of the traveling troupe and discovered the track was oily and slick. It was so slippery that the engines were overpowering the track and everyone was skidding around the track. Everyone but Art Cross, whose malnourished engine was just right for the environment. It couldn't generate enough horsepower to break the wheels loose. "I had fast time, won the dash, the heat and the feature," Cross said. "Nobody else could get going and I cleaned house," he said, laughing at the memory. Vukovich was killed in a gruesome crash in the 1955 race. He was leading when he tried to avoid a wreck in front of him on the backstretch. He swerved right, hit the wall and flipped out of the track. The car came to rest upside down and in flames. It had an effect on Cross. Vukovich was leading the 500 when he was killed. Cross went on to lead 24 laps before a blown engine sidelined him after 168 laps and left him in 17th place. He raced a couple more times, then in August of 1955 he led a race at the Milwaukee Mile before finally finishing fourth. He climbed from the car and told his crew he was going home. He went home and never came back. Although he didn't announce his retirement, he never raced again. "BiMVukovich was killed right in front of him," McCullough said. "He said that made him realize that if he was going to live to raise (us) he had to get out of racing and he did. He was happy to come home, finish building the house and work at Whirlpool." Sirois, a longtime friend of the Crosses, was at that Milwaukee race and shared a story of Art's driving style. Cross was tall from the waist up and as result sat high in his Photo providedJOAN PEHLKE race car. He was easily recognizable in the cars of those days that didn't have high sides that hid the driver. "When he would make up his mind to charge to the front he would kind of square himself up in the cockpit and arch his right shoulder just a little bit higher and cock himself in the cockpit. And boy, when he got that right shoulder up the guys up front had better be careful because he was coming after them ... it wouldn't be long until he started moving to the front," Sirois said. "Art always had that personal trait and he said that was his sign that 'it was time to go'." After that last race he went home to his family in rural LaPorte. "Art just got out of the car, folded his shoulder harness, put his helmet in the bag and he'd had enough," Sirois said. In the ensuing years prominent car owners with first-class equipment came knocking on his door, but he turned them all down. Cross's children were aware of their father's fame. "I used to kid with my friends that I was never Carol Cross or Carol McCullough, I was always Art Cross's daughter. I was very proud of that," McCullough said. "He would go and speak at different functions at schools and go to clubs in LaPorte and talk," she said of her storytelling father. "Everybody knew Art Cross." When McCullough's husband, Fred, became ill and died six years ago, her parents hustled back from their Melbourne, Fla., home to LaPorte. "When my husband died he sat by my husband's bedside with me on his lap. Whenever I had trouble I was always on his lap," McCullough said. "I was always his little girl. "He was my hero." MAGENTA BLACK EDITION 50R

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