JUST UPLOADED – PART 1 WITH JOHN HIGGINS!

John Higgins is deeply involved in the sport of racing, highly accomplished, and connected to a myriad of other participants and professionals in the sport. Like so many of my guests on Vintage Racing Podcast, John is rightly proud of the accomplishments, friendships, and partnerships developed over an almost 50-year career, but at the same time he is humble and almost self-effacing.

John calls himself just a used car dealer, but he owns what was the nation’s first standalone pre-owned Lexus dealership, building it into a $55 million business that carries new, pre-owned, and lease vehicles, and has grown ever since he and Bobby Rahal first joined forces to start the company. He later bought out Bobby Rahal’s interest, and both his business, and his past and present racing activities have been the topic of many press interviews. John is also a member of the prestigious Road Racing Driver’s Club.

John’s races include a bunch of IMSA events, 12 or 13 Daytona 24-hour races, at least that many events at Sebring, Camel Light races and many, many more. For many of those years, he and Chip Mead were co-drivers, but John shared wheel duties with a list of other professional and amateur drivers (John tells us a funny story about a certain celebrity driver).

By his calculation, John has driven in 573 race and vintage race events, often in more than one class per race! His long list of races is almost equaled by his long list of race cars, just a few of which include the Fabcar Camel Light car, a bunch of Porsches, including the 1969 LeMans winning 910 now residing in the Bruce Myers collection. John still races one of the only 6 center-steer 718 RSKs ever built, in which he and his cohorts have won dozens of vintage races, and which also won a best in class award at the Amelia Island Concours. John is also a car collector, and he shares his philosophy of car selection that many of us can relate to.

It hasn’t all been gravy; John battled cancer in 2006, but after successful surgery and recover, continues to run Lexus of Dayton, Ohio and enjoyS a busy schedule of vintage racing.

John spent almost two hours talking with me, sharing some of this rich history, some funny stories of life on the racing circuit, and the importance of building friendships and associations throughout his life. I’ve split our conversation into two parts to be released about a week apart, and I am confident that when you listen to part 1, you will not want to pass over part 2 – you’d miss too many fascinating stories about some of the most interesting people in racing. I also recommend you listen when you can go online to look at many of John’s race cars.

John sent the photos below to run with his episode, and there are more great photos I’ll include with Part 2 when it is released in about a week.

As always, I want to thank all of you listeners of Vintage Racing Podcast for your support and encouragement. Please tell your friends about the podcast, and tell others about it at your next race event. I don’t participate in social networking, so word of mouth and positive reviews on iTunes are important.

Also, a big thank you to John for this interview, and to Jeff Kline for his time and energy to promote Vintage Racing Podcast, and for asking his friends and colleagues to participate. Thanks for listening!

John Higgins and Brian Redman in 1987.
John Higgins in his first race car, a TR4 IRS, 1969.
John Higgins in discussion with Dan Gurney before the start of the Mid Ohio round in 87 or 88, possibly discussing his guys’ inability to pass without some sort of contact which was frequent when driving the Camel Light cars in this series.
Rick Grant’s 718 RSK at Monterey. John Higgins has driven this rare car in over 65 vintage races.
Bobby Rahal and John Higgins watching in amusement as Lorenzo Lamas leaves the pits during practice for the Miami GP with the rear body section, including wing, sitting on the ground; Lamas ran 3 laps without noticing.
John Higgins chatting with Jochen Mass before the start of the Columbus 500 street race, 1986 or 1987.
Victory podium, 1987 12 hours of Sebring with John Higgins, Howard Cherry and Charlie Monk just 4 weeks after finishing 2nd in the 24 Hours of Daytona in the same Fabcar Porsche.
Victory podium at Miami Grand Prix, 1987 with John Higgins, the late Chip Mead and Dr. Charles Monk
John Higgins driving Duncan Dayton’s Chevron to finish 2nd in the last Jo Bonnier Cup race of the series in 2005 and clinch the series title. John had a horrific crash in his own B31 at Mid Ohio and Duncan loaned him this car to stay in the series while Fabcar was fixing his car.