Crew Chief Curt Michael (pictured to your right of driver) faced the biggest challenge of his career when his car owner, Bill Gallagher, 67, passed away on July 9. His death came midway through a successful new season with rookie driver Briggs Danner, of Allentown, Pennsylvania. However, the team rebounded with a win last Friday during the USAC East Coast Sprint Cars event at Georgetown Speedway in Delaware. They left an empty space in victory lane for where Gallagher would have stood to celebrate.
“Bill was active right up to the end,” said Michael, of Ocean View, Delaware. “I’d been with Bill 13 years as a driver. Covid-19 got him. It took some time just to get over the shock.”
Michael won 10 URC championships as a driver, many of which he earned while driving Gallagher’s cars. Bill Gallagher, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, owned the paving company GEI Enterprises Inc. and top soil and mulch producer Valley Forge, Inc. that sponsored his sprint cars.
“This year, I decided to step back and bring a young guy up,” Michael said. “I’m 49 years old and haven’t raced this season. Briggs is 19, never drove a sprint car until this year, and he’s won six out of 12 races in the USAC East Coast Sprint Cars.”
Michael said Gallagher’s loss was tough on everyone in the tight-knit sprint car division.
“Bill and I were best of friends,” said Michael. “His death was a shock to Briggs’ system. The kid just got his break. Everything was going great. Then, the car owner he just got to know passed away.”
Gallagher’s wife, Esther, and their sons, Joey and Billy, decided to keep the team going. Michael continues to maintain the team’s three sprint cars.
“Bill built such a good team,” Michael said. “It is a testament to him that the team can keep on rolling. We came out winning. We went from shock to elation in a couple of weeks. It was as good as it could be without Bill being there in victory lane with us.”
This year marks the Outside Groove Director of Photography’s 51st year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.