ROOKIE AA/FC DRIVER RELISHES THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME
AA/FC racer Rob Markworth hoped one day his big opportunity would come, and it did. It wasn't quite what he envisioned.
Markworth returned as the driver of the War Horse at the California Hot Rod Reunion, the first official race for the storied race car back in action for the first time at the track where its original driver died following an accident while racing at Auto Club Famoso Raceway on June 28, 2015.
Markworth, once a crewmember on the famed Mustang Funny Car, was given the opportunity to drive earlier this year.
"I call it the Cinderella story," Markworth admitted. "I mean I never thought I’d ever get a chance to drive a Funny Car, let alone being the War Horse. I mean I remember seeing it when I was a kid, and now getting to drive it is amazing. This is my first chance to drive a fuel car. I mean it means the world to me. This is my team, it’s the original team that I worked with. We all changed one position and I mean I couldn’t ask for a better deal. And Don Cooper, the owner of the car, I thank him a lot for giving me this opportunity."
Markworth worked for two seasons with Garten, ascending as high as the role of car chief. The experience of learning under the tutelage of Garten was a priceless experience.
"He taught me a lot. Because I worked under a lot of guys but Roger just, he made it very simple and very easy and had a good, competitive, hard running car that didn’t hurt a lot of parts," Markworth said. "It made it a lot of fun."
When the opportunity to drive the historic car presented itself, Markworth admits the first time he climbed behind the wheel he could feel Garten's spirit calm him, and guide him through the challenging process.
Markworth says it's difficult to recall those initial moments without tears flooding his eyes.
Markworth even has the last two air bleeds he pulled out of the car and makes every run with them in a baggie inside of the waistband of his firesuit. The mementos have been with him on every run since he started.
"I feel him like you wouldn’t even imagine," Markworth said. "He’s definitely there, and I carry him. And that’s the blessing. Some people may think it’s weird to be in a car that somebody may have had a bad experience in, but to me, that’s like a hug from him, you know? It’s amazing."
Markworth licensed in the car back in April in Bakersfield, needing only three runs seal his driving credentials.
"I ran a 6.09 at 231 to get my license," Markworth recalled. "And then we were already bought into a show out in Denver for a match race, so that was my first time with a car in the other lane was Bob Godfrey. I asked him to be there, kind of be my training wheels because he’s such a good driver, if I did anything weird, he could be there to get out of my way."
Markworth did fine in his debut, and though he fell short of qualifying this weekend, he knows his better days are just on the near horizon.
He even tries his best to imagine winning a race.
Markworth pauses, searching for the words and makes several attempts before falling silent.
Then, he finds the words, kinda sorta.
"Man, I couldn’t imagine," Markworth said.