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 Tributes To Loved Ones

Remembering Russ House
by Norm Bogan


Russ House At Ventura

Russ House

Back in the late eighties, while attending nearly every sprint car race at Ascot, one of the race fans that I encountered was a gentleman with a Long Island accent, who shared my fondness for these high-powered machines.  Like so many that you see on a weekly basis at the track, we had a nodding acquaintance and often a few brief comments to each other about who was driving a new car or a recap of a driverís performance at the previous race.  Regular fans establish acquaintances, many becoming true friends as they sit together, sharing their racing enthusiasm.  When Ascot closed, the hardcore fans followed the CRA sprints to distant venues.  These fans formed a strong bond, often recreating highlights from previous races.  

Russ being a resident of Ventura County found it easier to make the short journey to Ventura Raceway, rather than travel a hundred miles or more for a CRA program.  Under the direction of Jim Naylor and his staff, the racing program at Ventura was an exciting down-home presentation, with many of the contestants from the local area.  Russ became a committed fan of the Ventura format and could be found there at each event.  Russ would arrive in the early afternoon and slip in the back way to blanket his favorite perch in the stands.  It wasnít the top row spot that most early arrivers strive for; he preferred to sit low in the stands, near the entry ramp and next to the announcer.  This made it possible for increased access to the racers and crews, who would stop by and greet Russ during the evening.

In the early evening, Russ would man his position with a clipboard in hand to document the eveningís action for posterity.  As the racers come by, Russ was always a positive force, offering encouragement, telling them how well they were doing and letting them know, they didnít need to change a thing, because the racecar was ready!   

If a competitor had a problem and was down until repairs could be made or new parts obtained, Russ let them know that if they needed some financial help, they could come to him.  Over the past few years, a number of the racers have benefited from the generosity of Russ House.  When one of the drivers was about to move up in class to a more powerful car, Russ partnered with several others to provide funds to purchase the new racecar.  He didnít discriminate either, as he helped individuals from the Sprints, Pony Stocks, Modifieds or Street Stocks.  At the annual VRA Awards Banquet, a number of drivers and car owners from the various classes acknowledged the kindness of their benefactor.

Born and raised in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, as a teenager, Russ was interested in drag racing and participated at a few events.  This was his total experience as a racer.  Following graduation from high school, like many young men, Russ enlisted in the U. S. Navy and served as a fireman on an aircraft carrier.  During his third year of military service, tragedy struck as Russ was involved in serious automobile accident, ending up with a severely broken leg.  While in the operating room to make repairs, the orthopedic surgeon suffered a fatal heart attack.  This delayed the surgery for a few days and upon the return, Gangrene had set in and they were forced to amputate his leg.  After rehabilitation, House was reassigned to desk duty for a few months and then granted a disability discharge.  He was only nineteen years old. 

Securing employment with the Grumman Corporation found Russ settling in Long Island, New York.  For the next thirty plus years, House served this company as a valued asset, eventually becoming an expert on the weapons systems for the F14 fighter aircraft.  As a software engineer, it was his job to make the ďsmart bombsĒ smarter and Russ was often summoned by military commanders from around the world to attend to their fleet of aircraft.

In 1986, House was transferred from New York to California.  Finally settled in, Russ soon discovered Ascot Speedway and the odyssey of Russ House, ďrace fanĒ began.  While House had only a few years at this revered venue, it became his all-time favorite.  Sprint cars on dirt, whether winged or non-winged were his first love and Russ seldom skipped a show, once he started going to Ventura.  In 2000, only two weeks of racing were missed after triple-bypass heart surgery.

Russ was active in the organization Parents without Partners and in January 2000, an acquaintance was made with a lady at one of the discussion groups.  After seeing each other at the meetings and going with the group for coffee afterwards, they finally planned a real date in April.  Of course, the perfect date was a Saturday night at the Ventura Raceway. 

Now Cindy was no rookie at this race stuff.  As a teenager, she visited the drag races at Orange County Raceway, near her Anaheim home and later attended races at Corona and Ontario Speedways.  After relocating to Medford, Oregon for several years, Cindy returned to settle in Ventura County in 1988 with her two young daughters.  That first date with Russ brought back pleasant racing memories from years past and she was hooked once more.  On December 9, 2000, Russ and Cindy were wed, merging their households as Russ gained two teenage daughters.  His three children were grown and living elsewhere, Rusty in St. Louis and daughters Connie and Amy in Long Island.

Cindy still spends Saturday nights racing and while daughter, Dani will be attending UC San Diego in the fall, Russí youngest stepdaughter, Nikki has become an avid race fan and will soon enroll in the Jim Hall Go-Kart School to pursue racing at that level.  She and Russ had become quite close and they mapped out the plans for her to experience the thrill of racing.  Russ was also a gun enthusiast, taking Nikki to the range and teaching her how to use firearms properly. 

Russí closest friends in racing were Paul and Sally Weingard, who used to set in the stands with House, until they purchased a Jeep to use as a push-truck.  Often socializing together, Russ treated them to a three-day Mexican cruise.  The Weingards along with Russ and several others took driver Chris Wakim under their wing, offering help and encouragement for racing success. 

Russ had planned to work with driver, George Kreider for the 2002 season.  Kreider is not only looking for his fourth consecutive championship in the VRA Modified class, but also has his sights set on moving into a sprint car.  Russ was supportive of Kreiderís current project of developing a fleet of Pony Stock cars and making them available to aspiring drivers, with the emphasis being to continue developing new talent, keeping the Ventura Raceway programs alive.

In late 2001, Russ was diagnosed with a form of Leukemia.  Being a straight talker and a very organized person, Russ was methodical in planning events in his life.  As this demon worked on Russís body, he made a great effort to put family matters in order, while also sharing his technical expertise with fellow workers.  The ailment didnít respect all of Houseís good traits and early in 2002, the disease took Russ from us.  Many at the races from drivers, officials, raceway staff and just average fans will miss Russ House.   

 
Russ With Chris Wakim

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