Local motor notes: Heart scare for veteran Grass Valley racer

Published: Friday, Jun. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C

Claire Holdaway knew something was dreadfully wrong. Her husband, Jack Holdaway, wouldn't have pulled off into pit lane at Monterey's Laguna Seca Raceway and hit the tire wall less than a lap into the race if he wasn't experiencing an emergency.

The 54-year-old from Grass Valley has more than 30 years of racing experience, his wife said.

Claire Holdaway said she sprinted from the far end of pit lane to where her husband's 1960 Mini Cooper had come to a stop, the engine still revving but the transmission in neutral. Her husband was suffering a heart attack when she arrived and was restrained by Sports Car Club of America volunteers on hand to help officiate and provide safety measures for the race last Saturday.

Claire said it was the quick thinking of one of those volunteers who ascertained immediately what was happening and called for emergency medical technicians, likely saving Holdaway's life. Holdaway, at one point, did not have a pulse but was resuscitated en route to a Monterey hospital.

He is doing well and recovering after having bypass surgery Wednesday.

"Those volunteers absolutely saved my husband's life," Claire Holdaway said. "They did an amazing job, and I am so grateful. I thought right away that it was a heart attack because he would know how to get the car stopped if it was a mechanical issue. He wouldn't have hit the wall, especially at such low speed."

Claire also has raced the 1960 Mini Cooper in SCCA-sanctioned races and considers herself a part of the Northern California vintage car racing community.

The race was part of a Vintage Auto Racing Association event, of which the San Francisco chapter of the SCCA often helps out, said Jerry Casini, the local chapter's steward. The San Francisco SCCA covers most of Northern California.

The association was operating a skeleton crew, he said, because of the NASCAR races last weekend in Sonoma, where other members were working. Still, each SCCA volunteer has ample training and they responded well, Casini said.

"I've been racing against (Jack Holdaway) for 30 years," said Casini, who lives in Jackson. "He's a good guy, and I'm so glad he's still around."

Casini, 73, raced until a few years ago, but he is now unable to pass the physical required to compete in SCCA events.

"I can't pass the physical because of my heart," Casini said. "Claire told me that Jack showed no symptoms of heart troubles before the race. You just don't know sometimes."

Claire Holdaway said her husband had one artery completely blocked and another 80 percent blocked. He'll be in physical rehabilitation the next couple of weeks, she said, and his racing future remains uncertain.

"I don't know (if he'll ever race again)," Claire said. "We'll have to talk about that."

Gregg wants hometown win – Andy Gregg has four main event wins at Placerville Speedway in 2013. He's finished in the top 10 in the points standings the past two seasons racing in the King of the West Sprint Car Series, but he's looking for a KWS win for his hometown fans. He gets that chance Saturday night as the series returns to Placerville.

Recent KWS history hasn't been too kind to Gregg, though. On April 27, the first KWS race in Placerville, he finished 20th. In the two races last season, he was 16th the first go-around in April but did manage to climb to third behind winner Brent Kaeding and Sacramento's Kyle Hirst in the July event.

Racing on Saturday will begin at 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.placervillespeedway.com.

Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at editorwriter@att.net.

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