Last updated: June 14. 2014 9:41PM - 1361 Views
By - psokoloski@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6392

Ken Wallace, 1994
Ken Wallace, 1994
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Ken Wallace


Then: Owner of five area car dealerships, with Valley Chevrolet in Wilkes-Barre being the largest.

Now: Semi-retired at the age of 67, but every now and then, the Dallas resident still shows up at Valley Chevrolet, his only remaining dealership.

Role: Steered a 1940 Chevy Special Deluxe convertible named “The Spirit of Northeastern PA” through a 4,250-mile journey across the country and an eighth-place overall finish in the 1994 Great American Race.

His Magical Moment: It came the day before the start of the Great American Race, right after competitors and their crew members toured the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk at the U.S. naval base in Corona, Calif.

“The day we went on the aircraft carrier as the same day as O.J. (Simpson’s low-speed bronco chase on Interstate 10 in California),” Wallace said. “We had to drive along 10, we see all these people on the overpass. I said, ‘Jesus, how did all these people know we were coming up this way?’ They’re waving to us. I said, ‘This is really great, these people are coming to see us.’ Know who was behind us? O.J.! The people got the word that O.J. might be coming up that way, that’s why they were there.”

Mickey Cohen


Then: Owner of Luzerne Plumbing Supplies and was also a landlord for rental units he owned in Kingston.

Now: At 81, is retired, but the Kingston resident is still a landlord.

Role: Rattled off direction changes and speed changes from the sheets of directions competitors received each day, and calculated what the driver needed to do to lose or gain speed in an attempt to match a predetermined “perfect time” for each stage.

His Magical Moment: Cohen’s big thrill came after he picked up a newspaper in the early days of the Great Race.

“While we were rallying in California, my interest in motorcycles was peaked by an ad for a motorcycle that I always wanted but didn’t have the money to buy,” Cohen said. “So Kenny Wallace reached into his pocket, gave me $2,000 and I bought the bike. He said there was space on the hauler for it, so we put it on the hauler and brought it back with us. Kenny Wallace is a real A-number one gentleman. And I paid him promptly.”

Joe Anusiewicz

Crew Chief

Then: Line mechanic at Valley Chevrolet.

Now: At 53, he is retired and living in Wilkes-Barre.

Role: Provided spare parts and installed them in an effort to keep a car that kept breaking down often in the early days of the event running to the finish line of the Great American Race.

His Magical Moment: Like any good mechanic, Anusewicz got a kick out of bringing a barely-breathing Spirit of Northeastern Pennsylvania back to life.

“Rebuilt the transmission in a parking lot in Lancaster, California,” Anusewicz remembers. “I had the parts, and then two stops later, we needed a king pin. We found one somewhere around Southern California. This guy has a garage full of classic Chrysler parts. They do restoration work out there that is just unbelievable.”

Frank Wallace


Then: Ken Wallace’s younger brother was a service writer and consultant in the repair shot at Valley Chevrolet.

Now: At the age of 60, he lives in Luzerne and still works in the car business, but as a sales manager in the showroom at Valley Chevrolet.

Role: Worked closely with Anusewicz making constant repairs and tweaks to a broken-down Spirit, practically raising it back from near-dead to complete its intended journey.

His Magical Moment: It wasn’t hard for Frank Wallace to pin down his fondest memory of the Great American Race, which came right after a mangled Spirit of Northeastern PA was blown off the back of a hauler by a Wyoming wind shear.

“The bent king pin was the key,” Frank Wallace said. “Nobody even carries a kingpin for a ‘40 Chevy. We went talking to people in town, they came up with a telephone number of a guy who had a machine shop. We called him at 2 in the morning, and the car had to be race-ready by 6. He made us a kingpin, and it fit just perfect. It was a pretty amazing thing to have a kingpin made in a couple hours for a ‘40 Chevy in a town you don’t know with people you don’t know. It’s neat how people in the country rallied around it.”

Eric Lippi


Then: Owner and operator of E.J. Lippi cleaning services.

Now: Now 60 and living in Wyoming, he continues to own and operate E.J. Lippi cleaning.

Role: Helped the mechanical support crew through some long hours overnight, and also helped drive the team trailer carrying spare parts for the car on its cross-country journey.

His Magical Moment: His favorite race moment included some heavy lifting.

“I’ll never forget the night me and Kenny Sr. stayed up all night,” Lippi said. “We had a bad lifter in that car, couldn’t get it out. The lifter mushroomed. The other guys were exhausted. The old man said, ‘I’ll get that out.’ Me and the old man were out in the parking lot until about 4 o’clock in the morning. We kept pounding on that lifter to get it out. Him and I were so covered with grease, it took us two hours to get clean.”

Dave Daris

Backup Driver

Then: Operations manager and personnel director for the Times Leader.

Now: At 71, the Dallas resident is a commercial real estate salesman licensed with Mericle.

Role: Had double duty on the race, serving on the crew and as a media member. He drove a van that was instrumental in obtaining parts for the car and transporting the crew around strange towns, and also served as the race photographer for the Times Leader’s coverage of the event.

His Magical Moment: In an effort to beat the field and capture the Spirit’s finish on his camera at a final stop one night, Daris was a little too anxious behind the wheel.

“One of my favorite days of that trip was when we were coming into Pleasant Twp., N.Y.,” Daris laughs. “I got stopped doing 120 mph in the van. A New York state trooper pulled me over. I told him, ‘Pleasant Twp. isn’t very pleasant.’ “

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