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50+ Years of Racing in the PNW
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The Red Candle
The following is the story of the legendary red candle. Many years ago residing in Northern California a fellow corner worker and friend Bob Leip gave a few of us a printed copy of this story. For many years the story was told at the end of day worker social events or at the start/finish line which at that time became the center of all worker party gatherings. You can believe it or not, but those that believe feel there is some mystical power about it
At the peak of the candle's popularity it made the mainstream enthusiast magazines. Most of us remember Road & Track would perform road tests of specific race cars. At the end of those tests they would publish a specification page. On at least one occasion, the candle sticker could be clearly seen, drawn in, on the left front fender, just as it was on the real subject vehicle.
One specific incident at Laguna Seca in the late 70's comes to mind of Walt Mass driving his famous 240Z .On the second lap flat out, blowing a tire exiting turn two (old turn two) and barrel-rolling 6 times. Walt was ok and the only identifiable item on the car was the candle. Over the years, many drivers would attest to the powers as they too walked away.
It all started innocently enough just prior to the 1972 ARRC. Bob Leip, a turn marshall from the San Francisco Region was preparing for the trek across the country to some obscure race track in Flowery Branch, Georgia. His wife asked if he'd like to take something with him to ensure that he would enjoy himself. Since his wife claimed to be a witch, and Bob was sure she had supernatural powers, he said "Sure, I'd love to". He then received a candle. It was red. Bob was told the candle works in this manner:
"It must be lit after sunset. It must remain lit for at least 30 minutes. It must be extinguished before midnight. Only you can light it, and you must blow it out".
Nothing else. No magic words to say. No other conditions. If it were done in that manner it would ensure that Bob would enjoy himself the following day. Being the organized person that he was, Bob tossed the candle in his bag.
There was a regional race at Riverside Raceway the weekend before the ARRC, and he planned to work the regional then head for Georgia. The first day at Riverside was a nightmare. It rained so hard that Bob decided, for the first time in his life, not to work a race. He was miserable! Cold, wet, and not working. Then he remembered the candle. So Saturday night Bob lit the candle. Sunday dawned with one of the most beautiful days Southern California had seen in years. Even the weather prognosticators were surprised. Bob thought, "far out, it works". The next few days of travel were almost unbelievable. Bob would light the candle and the next day would be perfect. When Bob wouldn't light the candle the next day all kinds of little things would go wrong like the transmission in the motor home, little things like that. By the time he got to Atlanta, Bob was freaked out. The first night a group of San Francisco region workers were sitting in the motel room when Bob started to light the candle. The laughter was disheartening. So Bob told the story up until that point. Then everybody really started laughing. The next night Bob decided not to light the candle. The following day was a deluge. That night while watching TV the weatherman said, "If you think you've seen rain wait until tomorrow". Bob said BS and lit the candle. The next day there wasn't a cloud in the Georgia sky. For the next week it was the same thing all of the time. When Bob lit the candle everything was just fine the next day. When he didn't light the candle the next day was a disaster.
When driver's school came around in 1973 Bob left the candle home. About the only thing the drivers learned how to do was hydroplane. Before the second weekend of drivers school Bob lit the candle. The weather was nice all weekend. Five minutes after the last checkered flag on Sunday it started raining and it rained for the entire week. What makes this episode significant is that it had been raining for a week before the weekend right up until an hour before tech on Saturday morning. By this time the candle was beginning to receive notoriety. Towards the middle of the year Bob received a jacket from all the turn workers. It had a large candle embroidered on the back with the legend SCCA CHAPLAIN and the name Father Robert embroidered on the front. After an incredible Can-Am in October at Laguna Seca, Autoweek said, "There must have been a sorcerer on the Monterey Peninsula this past weekend". The workers knew who it was. During the winter of 1973-1974 a number of workers and drivers began to get together for some interchange. Someone suggested a decal be made of a candle and thus the official good luck symbol of the San Francisco region's turn workers was created. At first it caught on relatively slow. Then the stories began. "I swear I was going backwards into the guardrail at turn 4, counting how much it would cost to repair the damned thing, and then it stopped. I didn't hit anything. It must have been the candle". "Look at my car. It's a total disaster, except where the candle is. I'm going to repaint the car as a giant candle." "Since I put the candle on, I haven't DNF'd a single race". One Formula V driver had been racing for seven years. He'd never finished better than third. But he always finished third. Third in all the races; third in regional points; third in national points; third in the ARRC. He put a candle on the car and won his next race. The first win of his career. Obviously lots of these things were mostly coincidence, or were they? Would you take the chance? Just one word of caution. The candle goes on the left front fender or as close to that as possible. Once on the car it'll do it's job if you help a little. But whatever you do, don't get upside down and put it out. Then your in a world of trouble.