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
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.