Because of the urging of my good friend Don Edmunds, early in 1979, I was able to achieve a life-long dream that I did not think was possible–to own a Midget race car. Don wanted one of his midgets to run “full time” in the competitive USAC National Championship circuit and he knew about my love for midget racing and my desire to someday own a race car. This served as the impetus to enter midget racing.
We assembled the car in the evenings at Don’s Anaheim shop. Everything was moving along smoothly except for the fact that we had no driver, no trailer, nor tires and wheels. This is when the very young and fast Stan Fox appeared on the scene.
On a Monday before our scheduled Saturday night debut at Ascot Park, we made a last-minute deal with Stan that he could have the ride if he brought a trailer, wheels and tires to Anaheim by Thursday. So Stan arrived from Wisconsin to Don’s Anaheim shop late on Thursday afternoon. We completed the last-minute preparation items on Friday at Don’s shop, then on Saturday loaded the car on the tiny open trailer. Off we all went to debut the car in a 50-lap USAC Midget race at Ascot Park in Stan’s very long, Dennis Kirk Dodge van. I believe we finished 4th in the semi that night, but both Don and Stan knew we had something special going, and so did I!
Then Stan ran the #97 Linne Lewis Midget the entire 1979 season and made most of the USAC National events. He was fast and set track records all under Howard Linne’s watchful eye, Stan always ran up front challenging for wins. Then our first USAC National win came in October 1979, at Anderson Speedway when Stan passed Mel Kenyon on the last lap. When the 1979 season came to an end, the #97 Edmunds-Autocraft Linne Lewis Midget was 9th in points. From that point on, all of my Midgets were blessed with the Paul Knirm 9 on the tail and nose up until the cars’ final race in 2012.
I only owned the #97 Linne Lewis Midget for that one season. It was sold to a team that ran the car successfully at Joliet Memorial Stadium for many years, with young Danny Pens winning many races in the car. My goal ever since was to somehow retrieve the car and bring it back to its original splendor and livery.
I was finally able to get the car and the restoration process began in earnest in 2011. Finally, the restoration was finished in July of 2016, with a lot of help from many of the original suppliers. Then on Thursday, August 25, after 37 years from March 1979 debut, the #97 Linne Lewis Midget came back to life. The familiar bark of the Autocraft engine was again heard as it roared around the Irwindale Speedway 1/3-mile track with Jerome Rodela at the helm. What a great moment that was to again see the car perform. I felt exactly the same that day as I did on the cold March evening at Ascot when Stan took the car out for the first practice session. Later that evening at Irwindale, I climbed into the car, sat in the same seat that Stan did, put my foot on the throttle and was pushed off. I flicked the switch and off we went for an amazing 10-lap run that I will never forget.
This #97 Linne Lewis Midget Photo Book is dedicated to all the wonderful, talented, and ingenious people who helped me with this project then and now, and to my wonderful parents Bill and Joy, brother Jim, Marie Fox, Alex Fox, and my loving son Michael.