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From Racer in Indy 500, a Car That Saved a City

COPLEY, Ohio

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Rubber City Classic

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  • Who Really Won? It’s Not So Simple
    (May 29, 2011)

MAYBE it is Wendell McCrady Jr. who best understands the value of the rust-speckled roadster tucked away in a storage shed in this Akron suburb.

Not the monetary value of the car, built by a Brooklyn-born racing driver who some still argue was the actual winner of the first Indianapolis 500-mile competition a century ago this weekend. But what the car meant to people like Mr. McCrady who grew up in Akron, the town that became known as Rubber City.

“I guess,” said Mr. McCrady, a concrete finisher who now lives in Copley, “I might not exist if it hadn’t been for that car.”

The explanation, a tale rich with history, takes nearly as many turns as some races.

The Man Behind Pirelli's Rise in Grand Prix Racing

Paul Hembery, a Briton, is the motor sports director for the Pirelli Tire company, which returned to Formula One this year as the series’ sole tire provider after an absence of 20 years. Hembery worked for 20 years in research and development in the tire industry before moving to the commercial side of the business. He joined Pirelli in 1992 and has led the motor sports program for 11 years. He was responsible for the company joining the world rally series in 2008 and he was also behind its return to Formula One. He spoke recently with Brad Spurgeon of the International Herald Tribune.

Q. Why did Pirelli return to Formula One?

Pirelli are well known as a supplier to the higher end of the automotive market — the luxury cars, sports cars — and have been renowned for that positioning in the market for many years. Formula One being the top international motor sport category, it is almost a perfect match for a company with our aspirations and our reputation and history.

On top of that there are very few sports — and I always struggle to think of any sports — that are actually a world championship, a genuine world championship, and that occur every year. Other famous world championships either occur every four years, like the Olympics or the soccer championships, and even then they are fixed in one country and they don’t travel the world. So it is almost a unique proposition from that point of view.

How do you balance Formula One’s need for tires that wear out quickly and thus require pit stops and tire changes that spice up the show with the goal of spreading the image of Pirelli technology and tires that are durable on the road?

On Patrol for the Casualties of Potholes

Jose Antonio Cruz carries the tools of roadside salvation, but few would describe him as popular.

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Marcus Yam for The New York Times

Mr. Cruz measured the depth of a pothole and its distance from the road surface.

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Marcus Yam for The New York Times

Mr. Cruz picked up a disabled car on the Bruckner Expressway on Sunday.

With melting snow, road salt and snowplows teaming up to assault the roadways since late December, many street surfaces are crumbling and becoming pockmarked with potholes. As fast as the city fills them, new ones open up — little roadside craters that can cause untold damage to vehicles.

And if those vehicles happen to be in the East Bronx, their drivers may encounter Mr. Cruz, a tow truck driver who patrols that territory.

“New York is Pothole City right now,” Mr. Cruz said. “Everyone is driving through an obstacle course. These streets will take your car away in a heartbeat.”