Jude called about ten 'til eleven. That was late for her, so I thought perhaps the electricity was off in her house, as it has some problems.

We both wish the power had been off in her house.

Our friend Ted Vedrinski was found dead today. His girlfriend found him dead in his easy chair, a pizza at his side.

Ted was a friend, one of the first people who welcomed me when I joined the SCCA. He worked as a tech inspector at Mid Ohio. He'd come around the corner worker campfire, and we'd drink beer and share stories. He was always kind, and he had a lot of stories to tell.

You see, Ted was a racer. He'd driven everything from winged sprint car to an ITB Golf. He'd driven for the Mitsubishi factory endurance team and had driven porsches in the 24 hours of Daytona. He'd won in everything and crashed in everything. And he was a fine driver. Anyone who drives for a factory team can drive, for few get that opportunity. He was a marvelous endurance racer, where the cardinal rule is Don't hurt the Car!. Even at night, you could put him in a race car, and a couple hours later he'd bring it back in, needing only a new tank of fuel. When he raced stock cars he changed his last name to Vedrin, because the NASCAR fans didn't like an 'furrin' drivers winning.

Until age and a stroke slowed him, nothing could keep Ted out of a race car. He'd promised one fiance that he'd give up driving then showed up in a sprint car. Waved to her from the driver's seat. Unfortunately, there was a race underway at the time, and he blew the next corner. When he woke up in the hospital, his engagement ring was dangling from the traction rig! But Ted couldn't be ignored. His fiance ended up forgiving him and they got married (and divorced) anyway.

When I decided to go racing, Ted was there as a mentor. He checked over my ITB Corolla like a mother hen, and tried to guide me as a driver. He also kept trying to fix me up. Unsuccessfully. To Ted, man was not meant to be alone. Even me.

I'm really going to miss Ted. But in that, I won't be alone. Though he loved the big pro cars, his heart was really in the grass roots of racing. On an SCCA race weekend at the end of Saturday's racing, the sponsoring region throws a big party. Everyone is welcome for food and kegs of beer. Beer is racing's lubricant, but the parties are the glue, the time where we who participate in road racing form lasting friendships. There's a lot of laughter, and Ted was always one of the people laughing.

A lot of glasses are going to be lifted to him this year. Which is as it should be. Our campfires will be poorer without him. But they will burn, stories will be told, and Ted wouldn't have it any other way. And when the engines burst to life, and the race cars move out from the grid Ted will be there, though we cannot see him.