United Heroes

SportsCar Spotlight: Joe DeLuca
By Rocky Entriken

This profile of Joe DeLuca was written for the July 2001 issue of SportsCar Magazine. It is republished here with the permission of the author.

Joe DeLuca "Every newsletter looks better with a comic strip in it," says Joe DeLuca, who avoids even the New York Times because it is devoid of cartoon humor.

Such fate does not befall Pole Position, the Northern New Jersey Region's newsletter, nor several other Regional publications in NEDiv. Brightening their pages are The Adventures of Raymond the Cat, drawn by DeLuca.

Raymond, like Snoopy, has evolved through the years from an animal walking on all fours to a character up on two legs and about the same size as the humans around him. But in personality, Raymond is more Charlie Brown, ever the optimist but seldom getting the better of the situation.

"Back when he started -- 1986? -- our solo program was just a shadow of our racing effort," DeLuca said. "To help promote it, I combined that with the fact that I always wanted to do a comic strip."

So Raymond, inspired by and named after a friend's gray tabby, made his first appearances in an autocross context. In fact, in the very first Raymond cartoon, he was a pylon because an event chair was one cone short. Later he ran away from home to be a flagger at the races.

"That was when he was still on four legs, so at that point I got him up on two. One day Snoopy just started walking around on two legs. No fanfare, no explanation. Same thing. But there was one problem with that. Cats standing on two legs look kinda naked, so I gave him the black windbreaker."

Eventually, of course, Raymond went racing, with predictable results. As in the brakes failing at Lime Rock. "Wow, bet you lost a lot of fluids," said a race worker. "Heck, who wouldn't?" replied Raymond.

Like his creator, Raymond found himself involved with British cars, which made him a perfect medium for every Britcar gag that ever was.

"I've found why it won't run," says the mechanic. "Shorts in the ignition," as he pulls a string of boxer shorts out of the distributor.

"This is a cartoon with a purpose," DeLuca said. "The one thing I try to avoid is 'in' jokes where you have to be a member of the Region to understand it. I wanted to make it generic enough anyone in SCCA could understand it. Anyone outside of SCCA is on their own.

"He gets around. Any SCCA Region has permission to reproduce him."

Raymond raced a Sunbeam Tiger, but his daily driver is a Morgan 4/4, largely because DeLuca also drives a Morgan and he knows how to draw one.

"I usually work with a little model of the Morgan at hand to be sure I don't screw up the perspective that much," DeLuca said. "The steering wheel goes from one side to the other just like Igor's hump in 'Young Frankenstein.'"

What side it is on usually depends on what works best in that particular cartoon.

"The SCCA nature of him was destined to change when I became more active in the Morgan club. He gave up racing and now just putters with his Morgan, which ironically has happened to me as well although it happened to him first. So it is not so much autobiographical as life imitating art."

DeLuca, 49, was a racer for some 15 years, and before that an ardent rallyist in a Sunbeam Alpine. Eventually he began doing Pro Rally with a Mazda RX2 and later a Dodge Colt.

"The reason I went rallying was because I never dreamed I could go racing. That was for rich people. It wasn't until I started flagging and saw what they were doing out there that I thought I could do that. It also occurred to me I could do it a lot cheaper and safer than what I was doing (Pro Rally).

"A 24-hour rally would devastate a car even if you didn't hit anything. If you go in an SCCA race and you manage not to hit anything, the car is perfectly useable in the next race."

DeLuca ran Showroom Stock, and later Improved Touring, winning the ITC championship in the NARRC series in 1986.

By day, DeLuca works for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals as a Data Warehouse Manager, which seems to have more to do with data than with warehouses.

"I am a business systems specialist," he explained. "I started out as a programmer here 24 years ago, worked my way up to senior analyst, project leader, project manager. At this point I have a title that is meaningless.

"It's mostly financial applications. Like I said: boring. That's why I need an outlet like cartooning."

DATA BANK -- Joe DeLuca

SCCA Region: Northern New Jersey

Member Since: 1980

Favorite Authors: Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov

Last Book Read: Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy

Favorite Entertainer: Red Skelton; Living: George Carlin

Favorite Movie: Star Wars

Favorite TV Show: Babylon 5

Favorite Food: Anything! (sad to say)

Favorite Non-SCCA Activity: Morgan automobile restoration and collecting things.

First Car Owned: 1961 Sunbeam Alpine

Favorite Car Owned: 1957 Morgan 4/4

Current Daily Driver: 1998 Toyota Celica convertible

Favorite Race Driver: Malcolm Campbell (for personal reasons)

Most Influential Person In My Life: My father. He taught me good values: Be honest and helpful, take care of small animals, eat fruit (he was a fruit-seller), and follow your heart to do what you want to do.

DATA BANK -- Raymond the Cat

SCCA Region: Northern New Jersey

Member Since: 1985

Favorite Author: Robert Heinlein (he's better than Asimov)

Last Book Read: The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (thought it was a horror story)

Favorite Entertainer: Anyone with a piece of string

Favorite Movie: An Officer and a Gentlemen (thought it was a double feature)

Favorite TV Show: Garfield

Favorite Food: Anything! (sad to say)

Favorite Non-SCCA Activity: Following the patch of sun around the living room floor

First Car Owned: 1967 Sunbeam Tiger (race car)

Favorite Car Owned: 1962 Morgan 4/4

Current Daily Driver: 1962 Morgan 4/4

Favorite Race Driver: Brian Redman (for personal reasons)

Most Influential Person In My Life: My artist. He taught me good values: Walk on two legs, be funny, don't let a computer get the better of you (he is a programmer), and follow your heart to do what you're drawn to.

© 2001 Rocky Entriken