The History Of Thunderhill According To David. Part Five
Over the last 20 years I have had the pleasure to meet many people who have contributed in one way or another to the success of Thunderhill Park.
On the top of the people list of Thunderhill Park is Tom McCarthy. Born in Fort Dodge Iowa, Tom came to the South Bay in California to attend college and earn a degree in computer science. In San Jose Tom found racing with the SCCA along with Lucy and Du All Machine. Through many tasks, road races and hard work it was Tom who suggested the solution to the woes that troubled the San Francisco Region of the SCCA in the mid-80s, “Let’s build our own track,” he said. Wow! I still find that inspiring. A solution that was impossible - in California - in the 80’s. Tom led the way with fellow club members, a new track committee and anyone else that wanted to come along. He also dealt with the naysayers to see it through. His reward was to retire from the track board in later years, become “Chairman Emeritus” of the company for life and be put into the SFR/SCCA Hall of Fame. He is a good man who stands at the top when it comes to the people of Thunderhill Park. We reward his effort every day at Thunderhill.
Dick Mudd was born and raised in Glenn County on the Mudd Ranch. He was the District 3 Supervisor in 1993. He saw value for his constituents when he helped us get the permits for Thunderhill. He still sees value in the track. He will tell anyone who asks that Thunderhill Park is one of his proudest achievements as an elected official. I lived at the Mudd Ranch during the earliest months of the project. Reita Mudd made string beans and bacon. Ray Mudd and I laughed a lot. It was fun. Dick was vital to the success of Thunderhill.
Roger Eandi was the Godfather of the SFR/SCCA. He used his influence and considerable knowledge to make things happen in the earliest days. He continued to do this right up to the end of his highly honored career in the SFR/SCCA, SCCA National and in road racing in general. We miss Roger and Lori and the influence that Roger carried with such dignity. He was our friend. He is a legend.
Don Wixcel was the man who made the SFR/SCCA the most respected region in the whole of SCCA. He did this through his passion for the Club and his penchant for detail and documentation. While Don did not make the decisions at the Club level he did the paper work, 24/7, for over 16 years. Like me he accumulated more time on behalf of the Club in one year than most people do in a career of officiating. The new track was not his doing but he did it. He was a friend and a master of the minutia that was the SCCA.
David Ray was a racer in his earliest exposure to the club but his innate entrepreneurial abilities always drove him to the business side of racing. He was there before we started digging at Thunderhill in 1993 and he was there when the idea of Thunderhill West was born. He worked on a plan that would have involved partners with the track extension and he will be there when Thunderhill West opens with Hooked on Driving, another entrepreneurial adventure of his creative mind and boundless energy.
Clint deWitt is a lawyer by training and a BMW in human form. He was there when we concocted the story to buy property from Thor Oden for a horse ranch. He was a national director of the SCCA and he was involved in the creation of the Street Schools and much more. He and his wife Pat are institutions in BMW as well as SCCA and Thunderhill. He can also lay claim to the creation and execution of most, if not all, of the Pacific Coast Road Race of Champions made famous by Tom Foster and his chicken dinners.
Art Siri built Sears Point Raceway. He raced Corvettes with David Arkin and he built the real structure of Thunderhill that made it drain well, not fall apart and stay smooth. Once again he is onboard for Thunderhill West with that special knowledge about race tracks that will make sure that Thunderhill West is all that Thunderhill Park was and is now.
Richard Siri is Art’s cousin and owner-operator of Siri Grading and Paving. He dug all the dirt in 1993. He dug all the dirt in 1995 and is doing so again in 2013. He is from the old school which is how we make things happen using those priceless old-standards of work ethic and problem solving.
Mike Smith is the Regional Executive of the SFR/SCCA and has been for longer than any other RE in the known history of the Club. He is a CEO by nature and a caretaker of his associates and friends. He has provided 21st century leadership for the Club and for the track and has the ability to get groups of people with significantly different attitudes, needs and wants to work together. A new daddy with wife Lanyll, Mike has put more time and high-level skill into all that he does for the track than most of us will ever know. He will now enjoy the greatest of all life experiences with Parker.
Steve Archer raced with his wife Jody in ITS. He worked with Ron Cortez to start the GTA class and he continues to be a vital resource in the financial management of Thunderhill Park. He is a walking [occasionally a very fast bike rider] wealth of knowledge when it comes to high-finance and running Wendy’s restaurants. His wisdom and caretaking of Thunderhill at the board level is unequaled. He was the competition director of the Club during its best years and he was at the root of the cause.
Jon Norman is Alfa Parts in Berkley. More importantly he is a racer and a gentleman with a true sense of order and calm. As a board member his even disposition will take on leadership proportions when the good of the track and the good of the club are on the line. He has been an SCCA National Director and he has been on the track board since it started. He is the leader of Classic Sports Racing Group, one of Thunderhill’s valued customers and friends.
Gary Pitts is or has been everything in the Club at the local and national level. He has participated in many SCCA Regions across the country. His education and resume make him the best man for every task you could ask of an SCCA leader. He was the SFR/SCCA Region Manager during a very critical time. He was National Director for two terms, SCCA President and then SCCA CEO. His experience in all this would earn him a PHD in SCCA but he has a PHD in science. He takes a no-nonsense approach that gets to the matter and skips the frills. He is a problem solver, a mad scientist and a lawyer by training. He reads and advises us on all contracts and other legal matters. He has been with Thunderhill since the start and he will be there after we have moved on. He is the right man for the job!
Gary Meeker has the distinction of being a convert in many ways when it comes to Thunderhill. A long-time club board member and multi-year Regional Executive, Gary wants to be shown that what you say is what you mean and what happens is what is supposed to happen. Gary was the NORPAC Executive Steward for many years. His love and support of the SCCA and Thunderhill is unquestioned. Like a reformed smoker Gary is one of the staunchest supporters of Thunderhill.
Nick Craw was the consummate leader in the world of SCCA when we came along in the late eighties. He exuded all that was the SCCA persona. He supported our track effort and still does.
Jerry Kunzman was friends with Ali Arsham and the Capri Club when we were looking for a home for our new track. In the years that followed he made NASA, RX7, BMW E-30’s and the 25 Hours of Thunderhill happen. Jerry loves Thunderhill and has demonstrated his affection and support in many different ways over many years. He is a computer wizard, inventor, a gun fancier and expert. He is crazy but then he is good at it.
Steve Crawford has a special talent. It is not formula car racing which he did in the 80’s and early 90’s. It is track design. He is good. He is our friend and he can make a great road course on any terrain for good people with sincere goals. He lives in Washington but his heart is in Thunderhill.
Woody Yerxa once helped us try to find a track location just off I-5 in Colusa County. At the time he was racing Spec Renaults. He too believed an SCCA road course would be great for Northern California. In the years since 1991, Woody has used his small plane, and now his helicopter, to enable us to capture the history of the track from the air. All aerial photos are courtesy of Woody and Kathy Yerxa. Woody and Kathy are farmers, a key part of Colusa County and loyal supporters of Thunderhill Park. Woody has a Formula Mazda now, a GT40, a Porsche, a motorcycle, a plane, a helicopter, and two wonderful kids, Melissa and Mitchell.
Kevin Jenkins made a living selling Hercules. He made Thunderhill possible by providing an unconditional $100,000 loan to the effort. He remains an advisor, friend and creative soul. He raced GTA, Formula Mazda and now Motobuggy. Go to www.motobuggy.com for more information.
Sal Versaggi is Italian. He was also the RE of the Club and a passionate member, volunteer and driver. We went to the same SCCA driving school but he acquired far more exotic race cars before switching to family matters, weddings and his business. He was there when we needed him at Thunderhill Park and he was there when the Club needed him. He was on the board of the track until it was reduced from fifteen members to ten.
Linda Rogaski, as Chief Club Registrar, has been a key person in the Club dynamics forever. She is good at what she does and, together with husband Jim, remind me of Don Wixcel when I see the dedication and support they give for all the Club does, including Thunderhill.
Joe Montoya helped bring AFM to Thunderhill. AFM started our motorcycle world which has been critical to our success. Joe died in an on-street motorcycle accident. Others including Lance Keigwin, Shawn Reilly, Jason Pridmore, Barbara Smith, Berto Woolridge, just to name a few, have continued what Joe started and together and with many
others, they have reinforced our partnership with the high energy world of two-wheel track enthusiasts.
Jere Starks is a key person at Sonoma Raceway and has been for some time.
(continued from page 32)He is responsible for our bridge and more. He has always been there when the fledgling Thunderhill called for advice, council and help. Through Jere, Sears Point is our big brother.
You see a picture of R J Gordy when you look up the definition of SCCA – Steward, official, Regional Executive and National Director. He has done all this and more and it is not because he is used to carrying a gun. The former law enforcement officer became a Spec Renault Racer and then all of the above. He processes like a cop, acts like a cop and deserves the respect of one who looks out for the safety of others. With his gal Laura at his side, R. J. has supported the Club, the track and all that is SCCA. Together with good friend Gary Meeker they cause our track board meetings to be better than they would otherwise be.
Peter Nosler operates behind the scenes and under the radar. He is the consummate professional enjoying a new life with new goals and adventures. He is the racer-professional we are very fortunate to have on our team.
The team at Thunderhill that reports to yours truly starts with our General Manager, Shannon Ell who oversees our day to day operations. Shannon is a local boy whose passion is music and whose early years were on the road with bands and shows and more. He joined our team when Dave Albright left us fifteen years ago. You call him to book a day at the track. Shannon’s wife Jessica, also works at Thunderhill as one of our front gate security guards.
Ray Mudd was raised on the Mudd Ranch and is a local boy for sure. His passion is hunting and his kids Vanessa and Jared. He can take you on a white-knuckle pig hunt or get you an extra com set while doing his job as Events Manager. Ray makes our corporate culture of customer-intimacy real.
Bob Maybell started out in Santa Clara but found his way to Willows as a young man. Like Ray his family rates very high on his list of priorities. His family includes: Michelle and their children Brandon and Madison. He is a certified mechanic, a D-1 water operator and a skilled MacGyver. He brings a lot of special skills to his role as our Facilities Manager.
Terry Walker-Taylor was born and raised in Willows. Earning a degree in Political Science from Chico State Terry never thought she would be a Human Resources and Accounting Manager at Thunderhill but she may have envisioned being Mayor of Willows. She has achieved both. Her passion is her community and her boys Brian and Dan. She is incredibly smart and well read. She plays a mean game of Jeopardy. Her Mini Cooper is as close as she wants to get to “real racing”.
Jim Thompson is the newest member of our team. Like Bob, he brings a wealth of specialized training to his job as Food Service Manager. He is good. He has improved our food quality and results. He gets things done, makes no excuses and is clearly having fun. He now knows that the concession business is not like the restaurant business – really.
Colleen Worthington, our Customer Service Manager, is known by everyone, helps everyone and is a champion for the little guy. When her SCCA job ended she remained part-time at Thunderhill to greet our public, our friends and our customers. Her husband and family, the Willows Car and Bike Show and her church define her today.
Stuart Seitz was an intern when he started with us three years ago. Today he drives our social network efforts, achieving spectacular results on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and many other social network outlets. He is 28 and does not plan to be at Thunderhill when he is 30. He has big dreams, big skills and will be someone we can all say we once knew.
Sean Crandall is our man on the job. His dad Phil Crandall was one of our best gate people before his untimely death. Sean is the man who makes the grounds look so good. He mows, weeds, and “leads the way” in what I consider to be one of our most valuable assets – our clean, neat, well-groomed facility.
Dave Rhodes, also known as Turbo, has been with us for 16 years and, despite the challenges of staffing a starter’s stand or flag station, he continues to enjoy his job. “Good Morning Thunderhill” is his call to action. His passion is the people who fill the paddock at Thunderhill Park day after day.
Thor and Melissa Oden bought the Scheeline Ranch in the early 90’s and changed the name to Thunderhill Ranch. They sold us 530 acres in 1992 and have been our good neighbor until a few weeks ago. They sold Thunderhill Ranch to the Dennis family and will move to Idaho. We will miss them. The Dennis family has said they will change the name of the ranch to “Thunder Nut”.
Apparently this is a comment on the merits of buying a lot of land next to a race track. Or it may be about Walnuts?
There were many more fine people along the way but I am out of space. I hope I did not offend anyone by including them or not including them. Perhaps to sum it all up, I want to thank everyone for what you did whether big or small, noticed or not, to get Thunderhill Park to this historic 20th Anniversary.