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Thu, 27 Oct 2005, 09:15 PM

Gustin, Silver Anniversary and Crutches
By Norm Froscher





Roger Gustin has just about seen it all in drag racing, first as a competitor, jet car driver and then as president of Autostar, which produces the AutoZone Super Chevy Show.

That's a 19-event series which tours the country each year, offering bowtie fans a chance to see drag racing and browse car shows and swap shops at various drag strips.

This year's tour had a 25th anniversary silver medallion on that bowtie, marking its quarter century of existence.

And yes, as we said, Gustin has about seen it all, including the last three months of this tour on crutches. We'll get to that unusual manner of touring in a minute, but first what about this year?

"We had a great 25th anniversary tour this year," Gustin, 64, says. "We had some record-breaking events at Memphis, Atlanta, Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. and an all-time record event at Richmond.

"We had a lot of good events this year, but we also had a lot of rain.

"We've been in this cycle. Everybody in motorsports has fought this for three years, dealing with the rain.

"For instance, they had a three-month drought in Chicago, then we go there and totally lose Saturday due to rain.

"I've been in this business for 47 years and we see all these trends come and go with weather".

Gustin added Denver to that list of great Silver Anniversary events and had more to say about liquid sunshine.

"Boy it is tough to deal with the weather, which can just take an outstanding event and bring it down."

Gustin began racing with Ford sponsorship in 1966, since he didn't want to continue to be an Ohio farm youth. Then when Ford pulled out of racing in 1971 and that's when he made the decision to drive jet cars.

"Nov. 10, 1974 was a very big key in my life," he recalls, "because that was the I obtained my license and was able to run on an NHRA track."

That career came to a halt in 1992 when Gustin was involved in bad accident in New Jersey. His injuries included concussion, broken collarbone, collapsed lung, 33 damaged or torn vertebras in his back, hip broken in seven places, broken sternum and 11 broken ribs.

That made this present movement on crutches seem like a piece of cake, as we will see.

First, in his Gainesville Raceway World Finals Gustin was dealing with possible approaching hurricane Wilma, plus rain from a front moving in from the north. By flip flopping some of the schedule, he managed to complete the event in three days.

Now, what about these crutches, as promised:

     * Did Gustin get back in a jet car?
     * Did he loose control of his motorbike or golf cart and hit the concession stand?
     * Did he not see a Nitro Coupe pulling out of its pit?

No. None of the above.

It was basketball. Yep, you read that right. Basketball, but not even man-on-man, just dribbling up and shooting hoops, back on Aug. 30.

"It was the first Saturday I'd been home in six or seven weeks and I thought I'd just kill some time and use that basketball hoop I have on my home back there in Ohio.

"I did a hard twist and it just crunched like wood as the bone in my right leg was broken in three places. I was in the hospital for three days because the leg was so swollen they couldn't do any surgery right away."

"But there's a positive side to everything," Gustin hastens to add as a punch line. "In all my broken bones in racing, I usually had to go and order a new race car the next day. This time, I didn't loose a race car in the process."

Gustin will continue on those crutches -- which became standard equipment in his golf car the last three months -- until well into November, then, hopefully, he'll be able to get back on track.

"We're now planning our 2006 schedule, which will open our series in Bradenton, Florida next year," Gustin says.

And it goes without saying, he plans to be there, without crutches.





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