Post Number: 1005
Posted on Saturday, February 04, 2006 - 8:02 am: || |
Whitey Gorsuch – “The Flying Dutchman”
By Dan Hall
Perry Speedway held an “Old Timers” reunion race on August 27, 1989. The event featured veteran drivers Eddie Anchor, Art Clark, Dick Flaig, Devere Bliss, Ed Almeter, Bill Brainard, Roger Ott, and many others. The special starter for the two segment race was Whitey Gorsuch. Despite serious health issues, Whitey took his position in the starters stand. Dee Wallace, Whiteys daughter, recalls that day fondly. “He had not been involved with racing since he retired in 1969. Despite his illness, he looked forward to seeing everyone again. We were down in the pits and went over to talk to Art Clark. It had been twenty years since Art had seen my dad. Dad had put on a lot of weight and Art did not recognize him at first. When Art realized who my dad was he said, "I'd like to see you fit down between
the cars now Whitey ". Art was making reference to early days when Whitey started the field down on the track. During the parade lap, Whitey would march between the two rows of cars. The next lap, Whitey would start the race with his trademark routine. He would run towards the cars and leap into the air with the green flag waving. Art Clark remembers, “When Whitey came down to the pits, I did not recognize him. He came up and said “Hey Art you haven’t changed at all in twenty years. His daughter, Dee, immediately said “that’s more than we can say for you Dad.” This event was the last time Whitey would start a race.
Whitey was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1924. His family moved to Wellsville, New York a few years after his birth. The family eventually settled in Andover, New York. Whitey attended Andover Central School until his senior year. He joined the United States Marine before graduating. Whitey started boxing while in the Marines. When his tour of duty was complete, Whitey returned to Andover. He graduated from High School shortly after his return home. In November 28, 1948, he married Lila Childs. His racing career began at the fairgrounds in Wellsville. The number 13 was a crowd pleaser. Every week he would flip his car in front of the grandstand. The name “Flying Dutchman” evolved from Whiteys aerobatic maneuvers. A close friend, John Gostley remembers the first time he saw Whitey race. “I believe it was 1948 when I first saw Whitey race. The track was over in Naples, New York. Whitey was driving the #13 and flew right off the track. He ended up hitting the grader that was off the third turn. The car was history but that never bothered Whitey”. John recalled another story. “We were going to the races down at Smithport. Whiteys last car was wreaked and he needed another. He goes to one of the local used car dealers and asked to try one out. Just before the race started, Whitey shows up in this car. I asked him where his race car was and he just smiled. Whitey drove the “borrowed” car in the race and it was definitely used at the end. We passed him on the highway going back home. He was pulled over to the side of the road. There was a lot of steam coming out of the engine compartment. Whitey returned the car to the Used Car lot and said no thanks. I believed he wreaked all the cars he drove. He did not like the corners.”
The crowds continued to be entertained by Whiteys flipping the car. The track owner asked Whitey if he would like to be a starter. Whitey decided to give it a try and retired from driving. Whitey was the starter at Wellsville, Cuba Lake Raceway, Olean Raceway, Angelica Raceway, Hornell Raceway, Hunt Raceway, Smithport Raceway, Perry Speedway, North Collins Speedway, and Holland Speedway. Whiteys wife, Lila, started working as scorekeeper at Cuba Lake. She accompanied him to all the races. Several times Whitey got hit by race cars. The first time was at Wellsville and the second was at Hunt. Whitey would always come back to the crowd’s approval. Dee remembers “Mom and Dad were at the tracks about four times a week. Mom said she remembers Whitey starting at three tracks in one day.” Dee was nine years old when her dad retired in 1969. Art Clark said “Whitey and Lila worked at North Collins for me. He was a real good starter and kept the show moving. One thing for sure is he did not take any crap.”
Whitey’s influence on racing can still be seen today. Steve Ott, Wyoming County Speedway starter said “When my dad (Roger) was racing there was some very talented starters. The one who had a lot of influence on me was Whitey. Whitey would start the field right on the track. He had a lot of flare and enthusiasm.” Larry Woodruff, starter at Lancaster Motorsports Park remembers “I was a small boy when I watched Whitey flag at Olean, Angelica, and Cuba Lake Raceway. All I remember is he was flashy, flamboyant, and charismatic. He was the thing that I remember the most about my childhood racing experiences. I knew then that’s what I wanted to do someday. We lived right on old route 16 in the town of Hinsdale. Saturday afternoons was spent waving my flags at the race cars heading to Olean Raceway. I could spot them a mile away and start running and jumping with the flags just like Whitey. I probably thought that’s the way they would always start the races. Those guys must have thought this kid is a little nuts. One incident I remember involving Whitey happened at Olean. One race car went out of control and came up the bank where the starters stand was. The car started barrel rolling right toward Whitey and flips right over his head. Whitey hit the ground but was okay. He got back up, dusted himself off, and finished the reminder of the races. All those starts on the track and I almost lost my hero where I thought it was safe. He was struck by a driver who jumped out of line to soon. I was not there but my sister, Verna saw it.”
The racing world lost Whitey on December 1, 1996. The following is a poem written by Whitey’s daughter, Dee.
A TRIBUTE TO DAD
MY LIFE HAS BEEN A HAPPY ONE, SO CRY NO TEARS FOR ME,
THERE'S LITTLE THAT I HAVEN'T DONE, AND SO LITTLE I'VE LEFT TO SEE.
THEY NEVER THOUGHT I'D LIVE THIS LONG, A WILD STREAK I HAD,
BUT WOULDN'T MISS THE JOYS I'VE KNOWN, BEING A HUSBAND AND A DAD.
THE YEARS I'VE SPENT WITH MY WIFE, 48 OF THEM IN ALL,
WERE FILLED WITH LOVE, TEARS, AND HOPE, TOO MANY TO RECALL.
WHEN I WAS YOUNG, STRONG, AND TALL, I REALLY HAD NO FEARS, I CAUSED ALOT OF
MISCHIEF, THESE STORIES WILL BE TOLD FOR YEARS.
MY COUNTRY WAS MY GREATEST JOY, FOR IT I FOUGHT WITH PRIDE,
SO MANY DREAMS AND FAMILIES LOST, SO MANY FRIENDS WHO DIED.
EVEN THOUGH I HATE TO LEAVE YOU ALL, MY JOURNEYS NOT COMPLETE,
FOR I HAVE THINGS LEFT TO DO, MY SAVIOR YET TO MEET.
HE'LL KNOW MY TRIALS, GREAT OR SMALL,
HE'LL COUNT THEM ONE BY ONE,
HE'LL JUDGE ME BY MY GOODNESS,
HE'LL KNOW MY WORK IS DONE.
SO NOW I MUST LEAVE THIS EARTH, SO CRY NO TEARS FOR ME,
FOR I AM ALWAYS WITH YOU, MY LOVE'S MY LEGACY
Dee Gorsuch Wallace Dec.5th, 1996
To say Whitey was a mischief-maker is an understatement. He always pushed the limits. He was never without words and marched to his own drum. Whitey had a passion for racing. He had a bigger passion for life. His influence on racing still exists today. Whitey is a big part of western New York racing history. He was a starter, a showman, a family man, and a good friend. Most of all, Whitey was the Flying Dutchman.
Post Number: 1013
Posted on Sunday, February 05, 2006 - 1:12 pm: || |
Post Number: 1014
Posted on Sunday, February 05, 2006 - 2:15 pm: || |
The above program shows starter, Whitey Gorsuch giving the field the green flag.
Post Number: 2392
Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 3:49 pm: || |
(Dick Wittie photo)
Whitey at Perry Raceway as he starts the field down on the track.