Farewell ADRA, We Hardly Knew Ye
Don Ewald Speaks Out About the Demise of the Fledgling Organization
By Don Ewald
I haven't said much since a very depressing trip back from Darlington. Now, after a few days of reflection, I find I have way too much to say. So I'll just address a few things now (making very long stories short) and fill in the gaps later. This is NOT an official statement from ADRA.
First and foremost, I want to thank all of my friends and acquaintances for their public support (like Troy & The 1320 Group) and for the dozens of private e-mails and calls I've received since Tuesday. I can only hope that all the other people (including the racers) who believed in this are getting the same support. Bill and Lyn Chapman (more to follow) really did a number on not only drag racing but people's lives and I will not rest until they pay for it.
I'll start with the good news and that would be Darlington. Good news you ask? Well, from my perspective I was able to glean some positive angles to what was otherwise a disaster. AND, the ONLY reason there wasn't a lynching is that one Larry Hensley (one of my new favorite people) saw through Chapman and managed to put together a pretty good bracket race to supplement our (ADRA) pathetic 28 car turn out. He then juggled funds all weekend to make sure what money there was went in the right direction. I can only imagine how flaky he (and his ace crew) think we are but personally I hope we cross paths again.
[I will add a footnote here that nobody has mentioned yet -- Before his dismissal on 5-26, Chapman had his final blow to ADRA's financial heart. Against the advice of Larry and everyone else he demanded that a crash ad campaign be launched which resulted in a total waste of another 22K. Just think of the bills that could have paid.]
My personal thanks to the racers and fans that made a leap of faith and came to Darlington. My biggest (and very biased) thanks go to Mark Polson (Polson & Cox "Dixie Flyer) and crew. They made me a very happy man when I confirmed that the car they are running is in fact my 1969 Buttera chassis (my last FED). Aside from the cage, kidney bars, and wheelie bars - the chassis is original down to the bolts and anodizing. Unfortunately (for me) time and circumstances didn't allow me to make a planned burnout in the car but just sitting in it again was okay with me! Mark still has the original cage so you can only guess who would like this car back when the team steps up to a late model chassis. Check it out at:
Other racers who deserve a mention are the ever loyal "Orange Crate" gang (Dale & "Super Cook" Kat Suhr), Fuller & Dunlap, Kent Terry (great driving job in round one), Dom Paris, Lincoln Hassell (REALLY doing it for love), The McClain bunch, Ricky Ruiz, Richard Langson, Ron Hope, Ron Stambaugh & Family, Don Gatliff, Mousie and Mike, The Tank Dude, and everyone else I missed. The cars that did run put on a good show and at least introduced nostalgia racing to people who had no clue. AND - to the people of South Carolina - a nicer bunch you'll never find!
To the ADRA guys who, like myself, gave them a freebie (committing only after Chapman was fired) in hopes a miracle would occur in SC -- I hope we can work together again. Keith & Virginia Ferrell, Jim Van Dyke (and his Safety Safari), Jim MacMonagle, Jim Beam, Mike Shiller (who really busted his ass), Dick Bybee (who single handedly removed the Chapmans), The Road Crew and anyone I forgot. The irony of this was that we were finally at a race where we could do the jobs we were hired for (without Chapman overriding everything) and there were no cars to do it with. Bummer.
ADRA: As most of you know, I'm not a Board Member (but then who REALLY is?) and I'm not an investor (unless you consider the 5K they owe me) -- I was an employee who, like several other vets, came on board because we believed in the concept and were convincingly assured that ADRA had "very deep pockets". From day one, I had a gut feeling that something wasn't right -- especially since I knew Chapman had priors at screwing people. What I banked on was that the Board could keep him in check and that ADRA would be run like a business, which it never was. Yep, I bit like a great white shark.
Can it be saved? Believe it or not, I think yes if they: (1) The bad checks MUST be taken care of very soon and a felony turns into at worst a misdemeanor. (2) Hire an attorney and accountant to find out EXACTLY what's broken and start to fix it. If the investors don't press charges and the vendors are contacted with payment arrangements, another bullet is dodged. (3) Since the momentum is there and the cancer removed (Chapman) with responsible and accountable leadership ADRA could continue on a limited basis (as it should have from day one) and build toward a future. Am I still dreaming? Maybe. But knowing what I do (which is more than I wanted to know) I believe with money and brains ADRA can survive this mess. AND, if it can, has the potential to be one of the strongest organizations in motorsports. A Phoenix rising from the ashes if you will.
Okay - that's enough. I've been promised by Dick Barber that the checks will be made good. Another false promise? Buying time? Could be - I hope not. I've been told that ADRA will make an official statement soon. I suspect they will but I have no clue what it will say. Personally, I'm putting my ducks in a row to take any and all legal action possible. Hopefully I won't have to go there.
Finally, I'm so very sorry to all those who got involved in this deal on my name or the other names of respectable and sincere racers who let ADRA use their names and not their talents.
Count to five and duck!