Paying Respects

The late hydro racer Peddie
remembered by family, friends

He drove Miss Madison in 1977-78 seasons

(April 2015) –The late Jon Peddie was one of those larger-than-life figures you could never forget. A veteran sprint car racer, Peddie was the first Madison, Ind., resident to pilot the community-owned Miss Madison Unlimited hydroplane in competition. He raced during 1977 and 1978.
He owned and operated Peddie’s Body Shop in Madison for many years. Peddie died following a long illness on Nov. 25, 2014. He was 71.

Photo provided

Dave Johnson has the late Jon Peddie's racing uniform among his collection of hydroplane memorabilia.

Peddie’s long-time friend, Dave Johnson of Madison, organized a special tribute to Peddie on March 7, at Johnson’s hydroplane boat shop on West Second Street.
“I wanted to celebrate Jon’s life and also to thank him for making me a member of his family for the past 40 years,” Johnson said.
The walls of Johnson’s boat shop are decked out with racing-related photos, booster buttons and other memorabilia. These include many references to Peddie’s racing career. Johnson even has Peddie’s driving suit on display. 
“In this way,” Johnson explained, “Jon will always be racing in my garage.”
The March gathering attracted a large number of family and friends. These included Peddie’s brother, David Peddie, daughters Traci Peddie and Brandy Peddie, step-daughters Bonnie Hart and Gina Jenkins, and a fleet of grandchildren. The man was truly loved.
Peddie raced Unlimited hydroplanes from 1977 to 1983. He drove two different Miss Madison hulls during 1977-78 and started chauffeuring Bill Cantrell and Graham Heath’s My Gypsy in 1979.

Photo provided

Pictured from left at the March 7 tribute party in Madison, Ind., are David Peddie, the late Jon Peddie's brother, host David Johnson, Traci Peddie, Jon's daughter (in boat), Bonnie Hart, Jon's stepdaughter, Brandy Peddie, Jon's daughter, and Gina Jenkins, Jon's stepdaughter.

All three of the boats that Peddie drove in competition had pretty much seen their better days by the time he got to drive them. Both of the Miss Madison hulls were five years old, and My Gypsy was 13 years old. He nevertheless posted some pretty high finishes during his career, which is a testament to Peddie’s skill as a driver.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, most of the major teams were changing over to cabover or forward-cockpit hulls. Peddie’s boats featured the old-style rear-cockpit and forward engine arrangement. The bigger budget camps used Rolls-Royce Merlin or Lycoming turbine power. Peddie used an Allison.
When signed to pilot Miss Madison, Peddie had never driven a hydroplane in his life. So before the first race of the 1977 season, Peddie test drove Denny Jackson’s Ride-On, a 280 Cubic Inch Class hydro, on the Ohio River.
Peddie went on to win Rookie-of-the-Year honors in the Unlimited Class. Peddie piloted “The Hurryin’ Hoosier” to fourth-place in a field of 20 boats in 1977 National High Points. He finished third overall at San Diego and fourth in six different races: Miami, Detroit, Madison, Ind., Owensboro, Ky.; Dayton, Ohio, and the Tri-Cities, Wash.
His best finish of 1978 – and the best finish of his career – was a second-place in the APBA Gold Cup at Owensboro with a victory in Heat Three.
For Peddie’s first few races with Cantrell and Heath, the venerable My Gypsy was officially renamed the Miss Budweiser. That’s because Bud owner Bernie Little’s new Rolls-Royce Griffon-powered “Beer Wagon” wasn’t ready to start the 1979 season. In order to satisfy his contractual obligation to Anheuser-Busch, Little leased the My Gypsy as a stand-in.
Peddie piloted the substitute Miss Budweiser to fifth-place at Miami and fifth at Evansville, Ind.
Over the next few years, Peddie drove the My Gypsy under various names, including Miss Kentuckiana Paving (sponsored by Madisonian Jim Sedam), Louie’s on the Lake  and Dobson the Mover. He finished third at Detroit in 1979 and 1980, at El Dorado, Kan., in 1980, and at Madison in 1982. Peddie took fourth at Madison in 1980, at Detroit in 1982 and at Houston in 1982.
The My Gypsy years were special years for Peddie because of his close personal friendship with his two mentors, Cantrell and Heath.
Peddie’s last race was the 1983 Detroit Thunderfest. Sponsored by Dobson the Mover, My Gypsy crashed in splinters during a test run. The boat was totaled, but Peddie fortunately was not seriously injured.
Long retired from the motor sports, Peddie still had a soft spot in his heart for Unlimited hydroplane racing and the people in it. When Cantrell died in 1996, Peddie did not forget his old friend. Peddie helped to erect a memorial plaque in the Madison pit area in Cantrell’s honor.

• Fred Farley is a Milton, Ky., resident who serves as the H1 Unlimited Historian.

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