XENIA — Before NASCAR was mainstream, Harold Crouch was a huge fan.
Crouch, 93, spent much of his life on his favorite pastime: race cars. Anyone who frequented Dayton Speedway and Kil-Kare in Xenia has countless stories of the amazing cars and great finishes the speedways have seen, of which the majority Crouch could retell in the same vivid detail as race day.
The 1960s and 1970s race world was dominated by one driver in particular: Mario Andretti. When Murphy’s Auto Care in Beavercreek hosted an autograph signing, it was clear that there was no man more deserving of an autograph than Crouch, an Elmcroft of Xenia resident. He was told that there was a surprise in store for him, but he had no idea of the honor and thrill of that particular day, July 10.
With the gracious help from the staff of Murphy’s Auto Care, Crouch was moved to the front of the line. Andretti presented the elderly man with a plaque, and awarded him a “Lifetime Fan Award.” Crouch was brought to tears by the ceremonial presentation in his honor. He and Andretti reminisced about memorable races from decades past. He enjoyed the 1954 Chevys that were showcased that day, and especially reveled in imparting his experience, knowledge and wisdom to the young owners of the cars. Although Andretti was the celebrity in the crowd that day, Crouch was the one who received the royal treatment. His immediate celebrity was evidenced by the bystanders who gave him a warm applause.
As a result, Crouch was able to relive the days when those 1954 Chevys were not “classic cars,” but instead a part of daily life for those who lived those nostalgic black and white scenes in brilliant color.
Crouch’s experience isn’t limited to the Dayton area. He remembers well his 65 trips to watch the Indy 500, his first being 1947. He passionately retells of the exciting finish of 1961 when Pernelli Jones clutched the title, even after losing his brakes halfway through the race. Crouch was sitting near the finish line that day, and remembers it as a time when “things were simpler.”