SI Vault
Edited by Douglas S. Looney
August 09, 1976
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August 09, 1976


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Although some new passenger cars are being sold without spare tires because of the more than three-month-old strike at the major tire companies, auto racing is just beginning to be affected. During Prohibition the big drinkers had plenty of booze, too.

But now the strike is starting to tread on racing, especially stock-car racing, in which a 500-mile event uses up to 500 handmade tires. It is making for an unfair situation, because the guys who have access to plenty of tires are the guys who are going to win.

Drivers short on tires almost certainly will start stretching them out for precious extra laps, not just on the superspeed-ways but on the hundreds of short tracks when the crunch is really being felt. That spells trouble.


As the little old lady said after being helped across the street, "It was fine, except I didn't want to go across the street." That is sort of what happened the other day to a sailor from Annapolis, John H. Kelbaugh.

Seems he and a buddy were enjoying the briny on Kelbaugh's 28-foot Triton sloop some 300 miles northwest of Bermuda when they spotted a Dominican Republic minesweeper. Because sailors always are checking out where they are, just as baseball players always are knocking imaginary dirt from their cleats, Kelbaugh signaled the ship.

But the Spanish-speaking crew mistook the routine query for a message of distress and hastened toward the sloop. Kelbaugh tried to indicate that there was no trouble, repeat no trouble, which time the minesweeper got a bit too close in its daring rescue attempt, bashing the sloop and causing the fore-stay to snap.

Kelbaugh, now frantically trying to make it clear there was no trouble, repeat no trouble, was horror-stricken to see the minesweeper back off, then return for another attempt. But again it smacked the boat, damaging it so much that the mast had to be cut free.

Now there was trouble. And the Dominicans knew it. So they took the sloop in tow, allowed Kelbaugh and his friend aboard their ship and started toward land. The towline broke.

At which time the Dominican crew said something in Spanish approximating, "Oh, the heck with it." Then they refused to go back for the sailboat since they had places to go and people to meet and couldn't afford to dally any longer. Kelbaugh last saw his $16,000 boat drifting, drifting over the horizon.

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