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Public relations director Harvey Duck, 80, dies
Obituaries for Wednesday, March 23, 2005

During his 20-year career with oil-additive company STP, Ormond Beach resident Harvey Duck worked as public relations director for Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR champion.

Duck, who retired from STP in 1998, died Tuesday at Florida Hospital-Ormond Memorial. He was 80.

Duck moved to Amberwood Court in Ormond Beach after he married his wife, Lexy, in 1997. He was born in Seattle, and attended Princeton University and the University of Michigan before working as a motorsports writer for the Chicago Daily News. When the paper closed in 1978, he joined the STP team.

"Harvey was one of the original PR guys in motorsports, and especially in NASCAR racing," Petty said in a written statement Tuesday.

"He came to STP from a big Chicago newspaper, and there hadn't been much of that at all for race teams or sponsors. Harvey knew the sport and he knew the media," the racing legend said.

"A lot of the things people are doing today in PR started with guys like Harvey Duck. Add in the fact he was a pretty nice guy, and he was fun to have around. We've missed him since he retired, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family," Petty said.

During his career, Duck also worked with open wheel and stock car teams, including Mario Andretti and his sons, Jeff, Michael and John.

For several years after his retirement, Duck used his publicity skills for Team Seattle, a sports car team that competes in the Rolex 24 At Daytona race in Daytona Beach, and which raised more than $1 million for indigent children needing medical services in the Seattle area.

Additional survivors include a son, Keith, Bartlett, Ill.; a daughter, Linda Rooney, Downers Grove, Ill.; a sister, Joan Raymond, South Bend, Ind.; and four grandchildren. Memorial donations may be made to the Pattie and Kyle Petty's Victory Junction Gang Camp, 4500 Adam's Way, Randleman, N.C., 27317. Volusia Memorial, Ormond Beach, is in charge.

Ron Lemasters                                                                                                                         Posted Saturday, March 26, 2005
RacingOne.com Columnist

With the passing earlier in the week of Harvey Duck, NASCAR has lost one of its most original and best ambassadors.

Who was Harvey Duck?

He was the man who brought a new age to NASCAR, who set the stage for today’s multi-million-dollar sponsors and taught a generation of public relations people how it should be done. If you cut Harvey Duck, he bled STP red.

Duck, along with old warhorses like Jim Chapman of PPG and Deke Houlgate of Pennzoil fame, was a newspaperman from the big city who immediately grasped the idea of getting publicity from the “ink-stained wretches” they had grown up among for the sponsors who had hired them away.

If not for men like Chapman, Houlgate and Duck, the landscape of today’s sport would likely be vastly different. Among the first to recognize that motorsports would not progress beyond its fragmented, regionalized appeal if it did not broaden its horizons, these
men put theory into practice and made it happen.

Of course, the following generations made their contributions too, and what we have today, especially in NASCAR, is an amalgam
of all that they have wrought. It’s a good thing to see NASCAR in full health, challenging the NFL for supremacy among sports on
TV and in the marketplace. It used to be that baseball was the main hurdle, but MLB’s problems over the past 15 years sank that particular ship.

Let’s not talk about open-wheel racing. The subject is too painful for words. Growing up in Indiana, born to parents who themselves
grew up within sight of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and having listened to Tom Carnegie since before birth, what has
happened to open-wheel racing is heart-rending.

I guess it’s a sign that I’m getting older. The men and women I grew up idolizing in the sport are slowly passing on, and that
brings the inevitability of our own race against time into sharp, clear focus.

Duck was a master of the hearty handshake, the grin and slap on the back style of PR. His infectious good humor earned a lot of
copy for STP, which was perhaps the first big-money sponsor in NASCAR. Andy Granatelli, best-known for bussing Mario Andretti
in Victory Lane at Indy in 1969, was a genius at getting publicity, and in hiring Harvey Duck, he proved that luck had nothing to do
with it.

Richard Petty, the King of NASCAR and one of the most important ingredients in the success of STP over the years, remembered
Duck upon his passing.

"Harvey was one of the original PR guys in motorsports, and especially in NASCAR racing,” he said. “He came to STP from a big Chicago newspaper, and there hadn't been much of that at all for race teams or sponsors. Harvey knew the sport and he knew the
media. A lot of the things people are doing today in PR started with guys like Harvey Duck.

"Add in the fact he was a pretty nice guy, and he was fun to have around. We've missed him since he retired, and our thoughts
and prayers are with his family."

If you’re going to have someone say nice things about you when shuffle off this mortal coil, Richard Petty is a good choice. Of
course, those who knew Harvey will all say nice things too.

Goodbye, Harvey, and God speed.


"Harvey was one of the original PR guys in motorsports, and especially in NASCAR racing. He came to STP from a big Chicago newspaper, and there hadn't been much of that at all for race teams or sponsors. Harvey knew the sport and he knew the media. A lot of the things people are doing today in PR started with guys like Harvey Duck.

"Add in the fact he was a pretty nice guy, and he was fun to have around. We've missed him since he retired, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Past Stories:

Longtime STP public relations representative Harvey Duck is spending his last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in that role. Duck is handing over the reins to Joy Pinto. Duck has been at the Speedway during the month of May since 1969. He covered the Indianapolis 500 for the Chicago Daily News from 1969-78 and has represented STP since 1978.

A Final tribute to Mark Donohue
By Harvey Duck contributing editor

America's greatest road racer, "a correct" man, will be missed by a fraternity that loved him as few others.

Racing celebrities tend to wear different faces for different purposes. There's a smile and an autograph for the spectator, a growl and a cussword for the officials, a word of praise for a rival driver, a cryptic comment to the crew member. The auto race driver usually sees and hears a bit of each so the real personality is partially camouflaged and seldom emerges. Not so with Mark Donohue. He never varied, he was to everyone who knew him intimately or casually, the same gracious gentleman who was more concerned with your moods than with his.

Donohue contributed far more to racing than he received. But the tragedy of the imbalance is that most people - even those in racing - overlooked that fact in the media wake of his death last August.

It was shortly before the crash of his Roger Penske owned car during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix that Donohue confided, "We have discovered some things will really make this competitive in Formula One racing. I'm really excited about the future."

It was his love of mechanical perfection - as much as a physical challenge of driving - that prompted Donohue to become a professional race driver. He won, during an all too brief career, 57 major events in a variety of cars and competitions. He drove - successfully - Camaros, Javelins, Matadors, Lolas McLarens, Porches. Invariably, he drove them not only quicker than they had been running, but with a degree of skill that kept them competitive at the finish as well as at the start.

That consistently high degree of competence was no accident. It didn't come by chance, but through a concentrated program of hard work "Mark knew where every bolt, nut and spring was on every car he drove," recalled teammate Bobby Allison. "And, he not only knew where they were located but what they were supposed to do and if they were doing their jobs. If not, he wouldn't drive the car. He simply would not over-extend a piece of machinery that he didn't have the most confidence in.

"He was, I feel, the finest road race driver that this country has ever produced and given enough time - just one more year, maybe - he would have become America's first World Champion".

Most of Donohue's victories were as precisely orchestrated as a Russian ballet performance and with the exception of the truly "major" triumphs, such as the 1972 Indy 500, they tend to blend into a fellows memory like a montage.

Yet, one that stirs especially fond recollections came in the 1973 Canadian - American Challenge Cup series. It was a blistering hot August afternoon at the four-mile Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Donohue, in the cockpit in the monstrous 12-cylinder Porsche-Audi 917-30 (the same car in which he set a worlds record of 221.160 miles an hour - two years later) simply overwhelmed his opposition.

His average speed of 114.580 in the feature race shattered every track mark. His 122.535 in the qualifying run in a time of 1:57.51 was the first sub-two minute lap that Road America had ever seen.

The pavement was hot, slippery and treacherous as the heat inside the car rivaled a Finnish sauna - so suffocating that Donohue nearly collapsed from exhaustion between races. Yet, that calculating mind of his remained as cool as an ice cube in the midst of the mini-inferno.

"The question today, really, was not how fast I could drive the car," explained Donohue weary but composed after his victory, "because turning in quick laps for a short time is one thing. But, to run fast for 200 miles is something else. The car, as it was set up, did exactly is it should have. I mean, it did what I expected of it.

"But, give me another day or two of practice here and I'd of gone faster. That's what I mean about not approaching the cars potential." That, perhaps better than any other summation, explained Donohue's racing creed:
- The car did what he expected of it.
-The potential must first be approached before he could go faster.

Still, that eagerness to narrow the gap between potential and ultimate performance did not dim Donohue's awareness that increased safety measures were needed. He stressed, before a 1972 International Motor Press Association panel discussion that, "safeguards must be adopted to protect a driver in the event of an accident".

Few people - even those deeply involved in racing - were aware of the close relationship that existed between Donohue and Penske. It was assumed, and correctly, that they got along well and that a Penske-owned car, prepared and driven by Donohue, was a genuine threat in any race entered.

It was appreciated that the pair often introduced innovations that brought out the best in their cars and equipment. Yet, they formed a contrasting marriage.

Penske, a bundle of never-ending energy, was always on the move. He enjoyed the exposure to the news media and the public and those of us privileged to be invited behind the Penske perimeter often chuckled at the ease with which he manipulated his image.

Donohue, during his first competitive seasons, was cast in another mold. He seemed to neither enjoy nor dislike the frequent exposures to the probing finger of publicity, but rather tolerated it as a necessity.

Always pleasant and calm - almost serene at times - he would thoroughly ponder each question before launching his reply. In recent years, though, he became more relaxed at such times and willingly participated in the banter and jibes that sometimes accompany post race interviews.

But, once the garage door was closed to prying eyes, the pair exchanged and then expanded on one another's mechanical know-how.

There were periods of disagreement, but never of dissatisfaction. Once the decision was made - regardless of who advanced the original thought - complete agreement existed until the concept was proved correct or occasionally inaccurate.

It could, in a sense be construed as Donohue's epitaph:
"He was a correct man."

Ask someone who knew him.


Angelo Angelopolous Award

Angelo Angelopolous was the sports writer at the Indianapolis News and loved the Indianapolis 500 race. He wrote the book on Billy Vukovich.

The memorial trophy that resides at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, bears his name and inscription "Sports was his life, and sportsmanship his love. Presented to the 500 Race Participant who best Exemplifies the Creed of Good Sportsmanship!"


1963 Allen Crowe
1964 Bob Christie
1965 Jim Hurtubise
1966 Joe Leonard
  (1967-68 - None)
1969 Arnie Knepper
  (1970 - None)
1971 Gary Bettenhausen
  (1972 - None)
1973 Wally Dallenbach
  (1974-1976 - None)
1977 Salt Walther
1978 Mike Hiss
  (1979 - None)
1980 Johnnie Parsons
1981 Lindsey Hopkins
  (1982-1983 - None)
1984 J.C. Agajanian
  (1985 - None)
1986 Bob Laycock
1987 Johnny Rutherford
1989 Bill York & Bill Pittman
1990 George Moore
1991 Jim Gilmore
1992 Wayne Fuson
1993 A.J. Foyt
1994 Dick Simon
1995 Jep Cadou
1996 Scott Brayton
1997 Bob Clidinst
1998 Harvey Duck

  1. 1980 Racing Petty's Comic Book, 1st issue, Art by Creator of Batman (Bob Kane), Written by Harvey Duck, 60 action packed pages and 4 coloring pages.  Illustrated ilfe story of America's Greatest Stock Car Racer as told by "The King" Richard Petty,  10 x 13"   $45.00

Harvey Duck, the STP publicist who has accompanied Petty on most of his
excursions this season, estimates that Petty can sign as many as 300
autographs an hour, even though he elaborately lavishes swirls and
curlicues and No. 43 on each one. That adds up to 30,000 or more at the
formal autograph sessions held at this year's 29 Winston Cup races.

  "It still surprises me when somebody stands in line for hours just to
ask for my autograph and then says thanks," he said. "I should be the cat
doing the thanking."

  Of all the things he was asked to sign this year, the most bizarre was
offered during a session at the Raleigh, N.C., Fairgrounds.

  "I signed a live duck," he said. "The maintenance guy there said he
wanted me to sign something. We went down to the pond and there's this
duck. He called him Fred. I signed my name and the cat threw him back in
the water. He said he'd given me a pen with waterproof ink so Fred'll
have to shed his feathers to get rid of Richard Petty."

  He'll go anywhere. En route to Northern California for a race at Sears
Point, he stopped off at a Pontiac dealership in Hastings, Neb., to sign
some autographs. Seven hundred turned out.

  The day after the Hastings visit, he was at the Oakland Coliseum for an
Oakland A's-Boston Red Sox game, where he threw out the first ball.

   "I was afraid I was going to bounce the ball to home plate, but I got
it all the way there," he said. "That really made me feel good."

  The next day was "Richard Petty Day" at Sears Point Raceway. There was
no racing, just an autograph session. An estimated 5,000 showed up.

  When a similar outing was scheduled at Bristol, Tenn., last April, it
was raining and sleeting, but fans stood outside for more than an hour,
waiting to step inside for a face-to-face meeting with the King.

  "You should have seen them cats, they was dripping with water and their
hands were so cold they couldn't hardly hold the paper," Petty said. "All
that for a little old piece of paper with my name scribbled on it. It
really touched me, if you know what I mean."

Nascar Nextel Cup Series Tickets


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