Not exactly the American Dream

Posted by Iannucci | 6/05/2008 | 13 comments »
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The horror story regarding the abrupt demise of American Dream Motorsports (ADM) was first brought to our attention yesterday by the braintrust at TrackSide Online, and after looking further into the details it’s apparent this had become an epic disaster for anyone even remotely affiliated with the team.

According to KVBC the story starts off last year in Nevada, where the graduating class at Rancho High School had raised $5000 so they could hold their prom at an establishment near the Tropicana hotel and casino. They all worked summer jobs at a country club and sang about cooking in the kitchen before Troy and Gabriella finally...wait, that’s "High School Musical 2". Sorry.

Anyhow, the kids in Las Vegas raised the money and cut a check to a businessman named Eric Zimmerman for use of the facility, which is where the story begins to descend into tragedy. Turns out Zimmerman didn’t have a license to hold a teen event, but much to the dismay of the kids he still pocketed the check. The yutes (“Did you say ‘yutes’?) went to court, Zimmerman was a no-show, and the judge ruled in the kids favor. Unfortunately they actually ever saw a dime of their money returned.

We fast forward to 2008, where Zimmerman has purchased the assets of the former Playa Del Racing team. I’m guessing it cost more than $5K. At Indy this year AMD looks to run Al Unser III in the Indy Lights Freedom 100 and Phil Giebler in the Indianapolis 500. “Just Al” Unser runs a respectable 11th but loses his sponsorship after the race, while Phil Giebler puts his Panoz into the wall with authority while attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Probably not the results the AMD bunch was hoping for.

I’m reluctant to relay notes from an unverifiable source such as a message board, but in this case it’s all we’ve got. What follows is culled from responses by ADM crew member Paul Gray at the Indiana Open Wheel forum. You should read the thread yourself, but in case you are lazy or disinterested your humble host will summarize.

With no drivers and one less car Zimmerman himself drove the transport to Milwaukee where Tony Turco was expected to drive in the Indy Lights race. After pulling over for a meal, a series of unfortunate events involving a fire hydrant resulted in Zimmerman being taken into police custody in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on an outstanding warrant relating to (surprise!) the kids he stiffed in Nevada. You fight authority, authority always wins.

Despite the incarceration of their boss, the rest of the ADM team soldiered on to Milwaukee and assembled the Indy Lights ride. With the owner in jail Turco, who himself apparently owns the race car or the transport or both, decided he didn't want to race under the circumstances because he didn't want to pay anymore cash money than he already has. Turco supposedly worked out a deal with Zimmerman’s wife where he would drive the transport back to Indy so she can liquidate some assets contained in the truck in order to raise the $22,000 bond to release Zimmerman from jail. Sounds like a plan, except that according to Gray this Turco guy drove the transport home to Cincinnati instead of Indianapolis.

No, I have no idea how everyone in this story can just up and drive a big rig.

So as it stands today:
• Prom night kids in Vegas are still out five grand
• Team owner is still in jail awaiting bond
• ADM team is evaporated after working without pay
• “Just Al” has no ride for the rest of the Indy Lights season

Well, at least Phil Giebler is out of the hospital. TSO is continuing to follow the story as it develops, but for now let this be a reminder to those of you not named “Sarah Fisher” that the auto racing business can be just as cruel as it is cool. In cases like this, even more so with the cruel part.


  1. Justin // June 05, 2008 10:45 AM  

    This is awesome now, get the likes of the Whittington brothers, Randy Lanier and John Paul Jr. envolved and its the 80's all over. Arrests, Ride-Buyer's, and Theft every thing that a good 80's racing story needs except for the drugs!

  2. Anonymous // June 05, 2008 10:48 AM  

    I want to start by saying I feel sorry for the honest people that got screwed in this deal.

    And now time to poke fun at other's foibles:

    I went to the link Jeff provided. If that was a script for a sit-com episode, nobody would believe it. However, I must admit I got a good laugh from it, mostly from shaking my head in disbelief. Particular parts I loved:

    Barney Fife rolling up 30 minutes after the initial call and saying "Sorry for the delay, nothing happens in this part of town, so we don't patrol here."

    Evidently the Dunkin' Donuts is clear over on the other side of Kenosha. :^/

    Fire Marshall Bill ("Lemme showya somethin'!") grabbing the fire hydrant and twisting it to prove yes, hitting a hydrant with an 18 wheeler will damage it.

    The cop asking if the storyteller has 22K for bail. 'Cause you know, everybody carries a Platinum Card with a 25K limit.

    Turco driving the big rig back so Ms. Zimmerman can sell the assets to raise the bond $$$$$$$. Perhaps neither Ms. Zimmerman nor the storyteller have ever heard of a bail bondsman. To be fair, no wife ever expects her husband to get arrested, nor do I as an employee ever expect my boss to get arrested. Committed perhaps, but not arrested.

    In his defense, Mr. Zimmerman can have his lawyer claim he was following in the footsteps of such colorful open wheel car owners and drivers like John Paul, Jr. and Sr, Dale, Don and Bill Whittington and Randy Lanier.

    The only thing that would make this story better is if Zimmerman was talking to Larry Curry about signing on as an engineer for American Dream Racing before he got arrested. Birds of a feather and all, you know.

    If they'd just stopped at a Cracker Barrel, none of this would ever have happened. :^P

  3. Fred Hurley // June 05, 2008 11:01 AM  

    Umm ... wow. Gotta feel bad for the guys who were showing up because it was their job. Those crew guys have bills, man. Also feel bad for Al III. It's a shame to see him suddenly put in that position by a guy who hours later would be in a cell somewhere in Wisc. Nice.

    My favorite part is the pay driver grabbing the rig and heading home. That's what makes the whole thing art. :-)

  4. Jennifer Coomer // June 05, 2008 12:05 PM  

    Wooooooooooooooooooow. Seriously. Woooooooooooooooooow. Thanks for this soap opera scoop.

  5. Anonymous // June 05, 2008 12:14 PM  

    hmmmm maybe... sarah fisher can pick up a cheap transporter and an indylights car...
    actually i think it would be benificial to her team to get a lights program and keep her team busy through the year, even if she doesn't drive the car.

  6. pressdog // June 05, 2008 7:38 PM  

    My fav part of the story is when the guy gets NAILED for stiffing the kids. That's "comeuppance."

  7. Anonymous // June 06, 2008 3:21 AM  

    Many many years ago, Zimmerman was thrown of the campus of UNLV for selling tickets to students to an Indy Car race at LVMS.

    He evidently purchased a boatload of tickets from the speedway's owner at a deep discount siting a special promotion he was doing for the college and some racing effort he was putting together in conjunction with the college.

    The funny thing was the college knew nothing about it.

    I was attending UNLV when this happened and was taking business courses.

    I remember the whole incident turned into a business class of "how not to do business". Zimmerman should have probably attended.

  8. Anonymous // June 08, 2008 9:04 AM  

    Tony Turco is a known thief in Hamilton Ohio. He actually is a truck driver, wannebe racecar driver.It was his truck hauling the trailer. He towed it home and is probably selling the contents right now. Zimmerman will never see his racecar or equipment again.

  9. Anonymous // July 01, 2008 6:14 PM  

    It's called Karma Eric Zimmerman Karma. It takes a theif to get a theif way to go Tony!! He took 5k from the kids and moved his way through Arizona taking some others along the way before he reached Indy.

  10. Anonymous // July 17, 2008 11:10 AM  

    I know Toni Turco hes one of the best guys i know hed give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.If i was in trouble i know i would want him in my corner. And i dont know about the race team but do you keep a driver on because of his name or do you need a driver that drives hard and wants to win. And the stuff that happend at the race track im sure toni did what he thought was right should he leave his 40.000 rig thier the voltures were swarming.

  11. Anonymous // July 27, 2008 12:31 PM  

    You know him so well you mispelled his name.The shirt he would give was probably stolen.Ask his wife about his many girl friends over the years.I bet if you really knew Tony , you would be surprised, just like Zimmerman was when he asked Tony to bail him out.

  12. Anonymous // October 16, 2008 3:25 PM  

    Source: Hamlin Brothers Racing
    Date: 10/31/2000

    News Index .: Print the article .: Discuss the article

    Hamlin Brother Racing, a top-notch team competing in the NASCAR Northwest Touring Series announced that is has merged with American Dream Motorsports to run the 2001 season in the Series.

    The team plans on building two new cars, along with two new Nutter Racing Engines. Driver Kevin Hamlin and crew will prepare the three car operation and run the full schedule along with running on a limited schedule in both the NASCAR Southwest Touring Series races and the Re/Max Series.

    "It takes quite a bit of time for teams to get sponsors, and we were lucky to be able to gain support through American Dream as fast as we did," Hamlin said, "It can be an impossible task at times, and we're excited to have people backing us that are ready to win races, and will help us do it."

    Hamlin and team will debut the #33 American Dream Monte Carlo November 1st at Phoenix International Raceway.

    Hamlin completed the 2000 season in the Raybestos Brakes Northwest Touring Series with a top-ten in the standings, four top-fives and fourteen top-ten finishes.

    note.............. the american dream motorsports mentioned has nothing to do with the hamlin brothers and american dream motorsports that is the sole property of its partners tom brown and donald scriver and any similarities ar only coincadence

  13. Anonymous // April 04, 2009 3:35 PM  

    Tony Turco is a thief I had money stolen from me by him, Eric and Penny Zimmerman are crooks who try to get into the IRL paddock and prey on up and comming Teams that are hungry and listen to this thief he is associated with the likes of Jim Guthrie another crook, and Steve eppart SWE parts stay away or you will lose all really bad people....CC