He drove a car called the Genesee Beer Wagon. He drove for a rookie woman car owner. He is one of two Vietnam War veterans to make a “500” field. He sold insurance to teams for on-track crash damage.
Steve Chassey made his mark at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with three starts in the hallowed Indianapolis 500 and has stayed involved in different ways through the years.
He had a best finish of 11th in 1983, but he took a lot of different cars to the line, innovations, like the two-tone blue Jet Engineering Eagle, one of arguably the prettiest race cars ever to run on the 2 ½-mile oval.
“I was pretty proud of that,” he said of his ’83 finish. “In ’83, we finished the race with a stock block (engine).”
That was the Genesee Beer Wagon, fielded by Dick Hammond.
The whole experience at the Speedway is something Chassey treasures.
“Growing up in open-wheel racing, that was the pinnacle of racing,” Chassey said of the Indianapolis 500. “In our careers, it’s what we all looked for. I love the Speedway. They treat me nice.”
Chassey built stock cars, then went into the service. He was scheduled to go to Vietnam as a communications specialist, but that changed and he became part of a howitzer battalion as a sergeant E-5. Pete Halsmer is the only other Vietnam War veteran to make the show at Indy. He was a helicopter pilot.
When Chassey returned to the United States from the war, he started racing sprinters, on his way toward the Midwest and Indy. In 1981, he drove for female car owner Lydia Loughery, but they failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
Chassey started the “500” in 1983, 1987 and 1988. After he retired as a driver, he went into the racing insurance business for on-track physical damage. Generally, at that time in the late 1980s, teams figured about a crash and a half per season in their budgets.
“At one time, we had 16 to 18 cars insured,” Chassey said. “There’s not one of the teams now that I know of that is insured for on-track crash damage now. They look at the premium and say, ‘I can buy a whole car for that.’ But what if you knock off the same corner four or five times during the season?”
Chassey moved from Indianapolis to Glendale, Ariz., in October. He was elected a year ago to serve on the Board of Directors of the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers organization.
He would get back into insurance if he found a company that wanted to get involved in motorsports. And he’ll certainly be at the Speedway this month.