GALION — You won’t find a crazier race car story than the one Craig Clinger has. Clinger’s racing background recently came full circle when he was able to compete in the SVRA Brickyard Invitational Vintage Sports Car race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past weekend.
It has been 60 years since a Galion car, driven by Bob Christie, competed at the Speedway.
Clinger had a race car built in the late 1970s by one of his friends.
“A friend of mine built it, that’s the reason it’s called a Schnepp. He was kind of a stalky guy, that’s why it’s called an XL13,” said Clinger.
‘Chargin’ Charlie Schnepp died 20 years ago, but his work still lives on. This exact car has been around the country, including being owned by Clinger two separate times.
Clinger, from Galion, owned the car from 1979 to 83, but then sold it to take care of life outside of racing in 1984. He started a family and had more important things to keep up with.
“I sold the car so I could raise a family. I just wasn’t quite done racing,” Clinger explained. “When I found it I knew I just had to have it.”
Clinger found the car again in 2017 after it had made trips from the east coast and all the way to the west coast.
“It went from the east coast to the west coast, then to Minnesota.”
Clinger was able to buy the car back after finding it online, though he had to travel some distance.
“I had been looking for it and found it. I just googled the name of the car and found race results from the west coast.”
Clinger made the trip to Minnesota to get the car back, almost to the Canadian border. During the time the car was out of Clinger’s possession it had 12 different owners, and six of those owners actually raced it.
Even after all those years, from the mid-1980s to 2017, Clinger was still able to recognize that it was his car.
“It’s had modifications, but I can tell that it was my car,” Clinger said.
It was time spent with his grandfather that led Clinger to racing. These are times that he will be able to look back for as long as he lives.
“My grandfather used to take us to the races when I was a little kid, and tell us stories about the Indy 500 back in the 20s.”
Now, since Clinger has retired, racing and tending to the race car is just a hobby — it helps pass time and keeps him busy.
“It’s something that keeps me occupied now in my retirement.”
Heading into the race in Indianapolis there were absolutely no expectations, more so thankfulness. Clinger is just glad to be able to be out there again.
“I’m just happy to be out there on the track. I don’t care if I finish in last place. It’s just a lifelong dream to race in Indy,” Clinger said happily.
He subsequently reported, I finished 18th in class in a field of 25 in the feature race on Sunday.”
No matter the outcome of any race results, how the car performs, or how fast it goes — Clinger will have the story to tell of how he tracked down a car after 33 years.