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The speedometer on John Young hasn't slowed down


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The speedometer on John Young hasn't slowed down

By Bruce Mabrito

 

Talk about seniors still participating in sports!

 

There are some stock car racers, drag racers and karting enthusiasts who are

over 60 years of age, but one of the more senior active race drivers in the

San Antonio area is Dr. John Young. He was 71 years of age October 29, 2003.

 

John Young regularly competes in Sports Car Club of America events with his

No. 83 white VW Rabbit and his No. 89 white Mazda RX3. He races in the SCCA

Grand Touring 3 class and primarily utilizes the road racing circuits at

Texas World Speedway near College Station, and converted air fields in

Abilene and Corpus Christi for wheel-to-wheel racing.

 

Trained as a dentist, and after serving a 30-year career in the Air

Force, Young is realistic in his approach to motorsports. "I am a 'division'

racer who has never aspired to 'national' status due commitments of my

profession and family," Young confessed. "I have raced for over 50 years,

starting with outboard class B runabouts, going to various classes of

sailboats, where I met my wife, Kasha, who beat me then in sailboats and

still does. Then I raced national SCCA road rally championships about 1959

and ran the 'Border Rallye' series for Mercedes-Benz in the early 1970s and

won my class a couple of years."

 

John Young has held an SCCA national corner and communication

worker's license and has worked many professional races throughout the

country, including the Alamo Grand Prix held around HemisFair Plaza on Labor

Day weekend from 1987 through 1990. His wife and two daughters, Whitney and

Lari Young, also worked those corners, as the low-slung prototype racecars

zipped around our unique downtown circuit.

 

But being on the sidelines was not enough for John Young. He

recently retired from the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and is

able to devote more time to preparing his racecars. "Having been a serious

Porsche enthusiast for many years, I still have my original 1960 Porsche

1600 Super Roadster," the elder Young said. "I like to build and maintain my

race cars in my own shop doing most all the work myself."

 

But why does a person 71 years of age race cars? "Racing is the

complete package for me, from the mental concept through planning,

construction and finally taking to the track," Young said. "I like the total

concentration of wheel-to-wheel competition, but I also enjoy the planning

and the work to get there. I only do amateur racing. When you race for

money, I see too many cars put into the walls, ridiculous moves, all the way

to the back of the pack. Racing, to me, is a sport, not a business, and I

expect to pay my way for my participation."

 

Young has distinct likes and dislikes in his racing. "I prefer the more open

concept road courses. I am not big on 'canyon racing' where you cannot see

ahead and the walls define everything (street course racing). I like to

drive ahead, where I can see the competition and set up my lines for getting

to the front. I don't race ovals, because they are too confining and usually

too much cut-throat competition. Also, I don't like to put my cars and my

own body at risk unnecessarily. I mainly have to fix the cars myself and the

'body thing' goes without saying for my daughter and myself." Whitney Young

often drives in Sunday SCCA national races, after her father uses his Mazda

or VW on to compete in the Saturday regional events.

 

"I consider motorsports to be a family bonding experience," John Young said.

"We race as a family and always have, regardless of whether it is boats,

motorcycles, cars or whatever. I enjoy crewing for other family members and

giving support, as we all do for each other."

 

As one ages, the body loses agility and reaction times slow. How

does an older driver compensate for that? "I generally try to drive to the

max potential of the car, if necessary. I subscribe to the Graham Hill (past

Formula 1 driver) theory of winning races at the slowest possible speed. I

am very tuned in to the equipment mechanically and will try to save the car

for another day if there is no hope of improving my position," Young

confessed.

 

What do others think of Young? Rick Dawdy, a local automotive shop

teacher in the Judson School district and race engine builder, said, "John

Young is one of the most organized and meticulous people I know. He has the

cleanest racing operation I know of. His medical practices carry over well

into racing. No matter how busy he is, he's always friendly. I only hope I

can be racing at age 71!"

 

George Briscoe, a local musician and former sports car racer, said, "My

recollections of the Young family were that we called them the 'crash

magnets' because every race seemed to have a big incident at their corner.

In reality, they were put at the most dangerous corners because they were an

experienced, tight, alert corner crew. Many of the younger racers and

workers, such as myself, looked to Dr. and Mrs. Young as the 'parent

figures' of the local SCCA."

 

Alex Tradd, an Austin attorney and avid racer, said, "Dr. Young is a man of

honor, a man of family and a true stalwart of racing."

 

Total age, for John Young, is not a problem. He handles that with

his own optimism. "Hell, I race against drivers one-third of my age. That is

no problem since exuberance usually leads off course or to the pits with

mechanical failure. They always say something like 'age and cunning

overcomes youth and inexperience,' or some such thing as that and it mainly

is true. The 'hot shoe' usually does not win in our racing."

 

But that does not mean you don't have to be in peak condition. For

example, John and Whitney Young raced at Texas World Speedway on the 2002

Memorial Day weekend. "It was of course, hot," the senior Young said, "but

it did not feel too bad, in the high 80-degree range. I drove and won the

regional race on Saturday and knew I was about used up physically when we

finished, but winning gives you a real boost. Sunday, Witty drove to a very

tough second place on the national SCCA race and when she came in we shot

the interior of the car with the pyrometer (a heat meter) as she was getting

out. The temperature inside the cockpit was 171 degrees! We knew it was hot

in the car both days since you thought twice about putting your un-gloved

hand on anything metal in the car. That takes some real conditioning!"

 

John Young recently tested his VW Rabbit at Texas World Speedway in

preparation for the upcoming SCCA national races February 14-15 that

typically draw over 200 competitors from around the nation. Young will be

present at TWS, celebrating his name, no matter what his age.

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