More Thoughts and Comments from John Higgins…

After John Higgins had a chance to listen to Part 1 of our conversation together, he sent me the following thoughts and comments that he felt were very important to add. I’ve included them here, and will add them to my introduction to Part 2 of our conversation when I release that next week.

Greg, I listened to your show last night and realized how hard it is to put almost 50 years of experiences on a one hour conversation without forgetting a million things. I would like to somehow acknowledge the people who I owe for making my life way more than I could have done alone.

First I wouldn’t have ever been a Lexus dealer if Bobby Rahal didn’t secure the franchise for us due to his fame as a great race car driver. Lexus was looking for some well known Motorsports luminaries to help jump start the brand, and along with Bobby they offered dealerships to Roger Penske, Danny Sullivan, Rick Hendrick, and Rick Galles, among others. My long time business partner Rick Grant was there for me when Bobby wanted to sell our store, and he wrote a large check and allowed me to repay him with the profits from the store, and to this day allows me to race his great old cars.

The late Chip Mead was the catalyst for all of us becoming friends in the early 70’s and my long time racing team mate and partner in the Fabcar and our GT3 Cup car, Howard Cherry, has been along for the whole ride. Our crew chief and head engine builder was the late Ray Thacker who never, ever left the track until the cars were ready to run even if it meant staying all night, and he was the best I have ever known in patching up a car during a race to keep it running to the end.

Also my first wife Pam and our girls Lauren and Kara often accompanied me to the races so our young family wasn’t separated for such long periods on time, and in modern times, my wife Chris never misses a race and has come to love the sport and the people involved as much as I do. I just felt bad for making it all about me, cause if it wasn’t for faster team mates putting me in positions to win races it never would have happened. Quitting racing at this point in our lives would be like going home from a kick ass party at 10 p.m., an analogy my youngest daughter Kara offered up as the reason she wanted to go to graduate school. Thanks, jh 

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One more reflection that exemplifies how relationships outreach far from the track. In 2004 I was diagnosed with stage 4 neck cancer and was preparing to undergo a grueling regimen of chemo and radiation here in Dayton when I received a phone call at my house from Dr. Kerry Olson, who is one of the most  respected head and neck cancer surgeons in America at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minn. He had been contacted by Judy Dayton, Duncan’s mother, on my behalf to offer a second opinion on my diagnosis. Ironically Dayton Ohio was founded by early members of the family but Duncan’s family have been prominent Minneapolis residents for many years and are very involved with the Mayo Clinic. Just to shorten the story my wife, daughter, and friend Rick Grant were at the Mayo early the next morning and within 8 days I underwent a six hour surgery that  saved my life.
In January I began a six week intensive radiation treatment, and in early May and 40 pounds lighter, Duncan called and asked me to drive his Chevron at mid Ohio as he was running his Lola T600. I started on the outside front row beside him and he allowed me to lead for several laps before blowing by but the therapy of that race was incredible. The crux of the story is that without his friendship, I would have undergone a treatment locally that most likely would not have spared me, and I’m sure one of  the best cancer surgeons in the country wouldn’t have been in the picture and able to have me on the table in 8 days.
Ironically I was determined to be home for Christmas, and as we started down the runway leaving Rochester the private jet we were on lost the port side engine and had to abort our takeoff and we had to wait for a new plane – but I did make it home for Christmas !!
Well said, John!
Greg