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Jeff Krosnoff: Stay Hungry, Part 6

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Back in 2011, a lot of amazing people helped me to celebrated the life of Jeff Krosnoff, the American IndyCar driver who was killed at the Molson Indy Toronto race on July 14, 1996. That six-part legacy series originally ran on the former SPEED.com site, and with the 20-year anniversary of Jeff’s death upon us, I’ve gone through and done a fresh edit on the Jeff Krosnoff: Stay Hungry series.

If needed, start with Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5, then follow with the finale below.

I also have a new audio feature for 7.14.2016 to enjoy, if desired: MP PODCAST: Remembering Jeff Krosnoff, 20 Years Later

The tale of the athlete or entertainer cut down in their prime is nothing new, and we’ve certainly said goodbye to far too many friends, heroes, and loved ones in motor racing. We wish they had more time to speak with us, sign autographs, share their talents, and more races to create cherished memories.

You might have been fortunate to meet Jeff Krosnoff during his brief career, or had the pleasure of witnessing his supreme skills in action. Or you might have come to know him after the events of July 14, 1996. I suspect that wherever you fall on Jeff’s timeline, the enormity of all he achieved in 31 years, the long and inspiring journey he followed to achieve his dreams, and the sobering end that ruined the fairytale, have reached in and connected on a personal level. That’s what Jeff did.

Young Jeff with his kart. (Image: Courtesy of the Krosnoff family)
Young Jeff with his kart. (Image: Courtesy of the Krosnoff family)

Like the late Dan Wheldon, Krosnoff had an army of friends who felt like the center of his universe. 20 years after Toronto, and in a testament to the tight bonds he forged, many still struggle to reconcile his loss. A giant of a person to those who loved him, Jeff’s absence still feels recent and raw.

The cruelest outcome from that day in 1996 was to see the driver who defined persistence and self-belief cut down before his goals could be fully realized. At the time of his death, Krosnoff was being courted by three of the top teams in the CART IndyCar series—evidence of how great an impact he made in just over a half-season of competition.

Although Krosnoff is gone, it’s easy to see his fighting spirit, his “Stay Hungry” mantra, alive in some of today’s finest drivers.

Tony Kanaan, who lost his father as a boy, traveled with empty pockets from Brazil to race in Italy, slept on the shop floor, then turned his talent and determination into opportunities that led to America, an IndyCar championship, and an Indy 500 win…he’s Jeff Krosnoff. Marino Franchitti is Jeff Krosnoff. Romain Grosjean is Jeff Krosnoff. Ryan Hunter-Reay, a driver whose career collapsed more times than any other over the last decade, willed himself through the dark times and is now an IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner. Of all the modern drivers that come to mind, RHR is the living embodiment of Jeff Krosnoff.

If you’ve ever been locked in a fight to make something thing you love become a reality–had more than your fair share of blown tires and broken engines while pursuing that passion—and refused to give up, you’ve also lived by Krosnoff’s “Stay Hungry” creed.

As we say farewell to Jeff in the final part of our series, many who knew and were influenced by Krosnoff helped paint a picture of the man through a series of remembrances.

Late IndyCar team owner Frank Arciero, IndyCar driver and southern California contemporary Bryan Herta, Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull, Jeff’s childhood friend and sports car champion Tommy Kendall, “Gaijin Racers Club” member and Formula 1 race winner Eddie Irvine, racing legend Stefan Johansson, who was involved in Jeff’s fatal crash, fellow “Gaijin Racers Club” member and all-time Le Mans great Tom Kristensen, IndyCar driver and SoCal friend Dave Kudrave, IndyCar driver Max Papis who was hired to replace Jeff in the No. 25 Arciero-Wells car, RACER Magazine founder Paul Pfanner, CART PR director Adam Saal, and team owner Cal Wells added to the first five-parts of Jeff Krosnoff: Stay Hungry in Part 6 below.

And for the first time (when the feature was first published), Jeff’s sister Tonya shared some insights as to what made him such an unforgettable person.

An incredible tribute to Gary Avrin, the corner worker killed in Krosnoff’s crash, was provided by his parents in their 1996 farewell found in Part 5.

TOMMY KENDALL ON JEFF’S LOSS AND POTENTIAL: “It’s ironic that so few people knew who he was here but he made such an impression on the larger motorsports world.  Jan Lammers had said he was never more upset or shaken by a racer’s passing.  That’s pretty significant for a guy that’s been around for such a long time.  And then I remember when he finished second at Le Mans in ’94.  They led and led and led and led, and then had a gearbox problem and ended up finishing second.  I remember in On Track, I think there was a picture on the podium with a circle saying, ‘Who is this guy? Who are these guys?’ They were all unknowns at that point, but he was on the rise so quickly after that.  I was as big a fan of his… I was kind of in awe of Jeff.  And even though my racing career was taking off and I was doing well, I was still in awe of Jeff because of just, he had this confidence… it’s just like… I had no doubt that the guy was going to make it, big time.”

(Image: Krosnoff family)
(Image: Krosnoff family)

PAUL PFANNER ON JEFF’s UNYIELDING DRIVE: “I think that the ultimate legacy that Jeff leaves behind– he didn’t set his sights low, he actually still wanted to be a Formula 1 driver when he was sitting in that Indy car, and he was very proud to be in Indy car, but everything he did was going to turn whatever happened into getting into that Formula 1 car. Even with such an amazing opportunity presented to him in IndyCar, he was still looking ahead to the next challenge, a bigger challenge of making it to Formula 1. That was Jeff…Stay Hungry.”

MIKE HULL ON WHERE JEFF MIGHT RANK AMONG TODAY’S INDYCAR DRIVERS: “I think, quite honestly, if he was in a solid program, if we use that as the denominator, if he were in the Target car, he would be competitive, he would be at-speed. I would have no doubt in my mind that he would be able to settle himself to drive the car well without making mistakes. He wasn’t a guy that typically made mistakes on the racetrack either, which I thought was pretty important. If you look back at his career, through his entire driving career, he wasn’t that kind of guy. So I would consider him to be a top-five guy in the proper car. If he was driving presently in IndyCar racing, without trying to alienate anybody by this statement, if he was driving for Andretti’s team or Ganassi’s team or Penske’s team, he would run at the front. I firmly believe that.”

ADAM SAAL ON A REVEALING ENCOUNTER WITH KROSNOFF: “The best memory I have of Jeff was at the [1996] U.S. 500. That was a surreal enough experience due to the political climate of the day; but to make matters worse, it was absolutely freezing. We even had snow flurries. So we were not even running, and I was standing in the back of one of the CART tech trailers and looking out at the paddock and who do I see bouncing down through the paddock, wearing a big parka coat, in his typical demeanor, happily moving along, real quick, smiling, looking like the happy guy he was? Jeff Krosnoff. And he’s making a beeline right for the tech truck. Most of the other guys there would’ve come up and been like: ‘What the hell’s going on? Are we going to pull the plug on this? I just want to go back to my hotel. Come on, this is ridiculous. We shouldn’t be here anyway…’ I was kind of expecting that. And instead the man walks in, he’s like ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ All smiles and he goes, ‘You got any stickers?’ I want some stickers for my niece. I like to give them to her. I put them on her forehead. We just have fun.’

“And we went through the sticker bin and I gave him a couple of every single sticker we had. ‘Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.’ All smiles, walks back out into the cold and snow. And as I see him walking away, I see him shuffling through the stack of stickers that he already got to bring back to his family. And that’s when I knew we had a special guy. I mean, it was just incredible. And, again, to this day, that was the one and only time in my over 20-year career, that a driver of any caliber, at any level, from go-karts on up to factory drivers or whatever category, has ever come up to me and said, ‘Hey, can I have some stickers for my niece?’ In the middle of a race weekend. Thinking of his family instead of himself. It’s just how he was. He loved life. He loved the experience of doing what he was doing. And we all should, if we’re all fortunate enough to make it in this business. But for him, it was front and center all the time and that’s something you don’t see every day in any walk of life. That was definitely my clearest memory of him.”

MIKE HULL, ON WHY HE WANTED TO HIRE JEFF IN 1996: “You know, the thing was, it had nothing to do with nationality–all of us have a soft spot in our hearts for the drivers in the United States–I just thought he was a talented guy, period. To me, I got to know him so that made a difference for me. But at the same time, in my position you have to maintain some amount of distance between that and what goes on in the cockpit. You can become attached but you have to be careful what the attachment–how the attachment affects the judgments that you make. That’s pretty important in this position. It’s maybe not a surprise that when I go to Toronto now, I think about Jeff Krosnoff when I get there.”

CAL WELLS ON WHAT JEFF LEFT BEHIND: “It’s a shame Jeff was never able to experience all the real specialness of what he helped to create for us and for Toyota, it but he just did a great job and he was a fierce competitor.”

Robby Gordon, Paul Tracy, Jeff, and Bryan Herta in 1996. (Image: LAT Photographic)
Robby Gordon, Paul Tracy, Jeff, and Bryan Herta in 1996. (Image: LAT Photographic)

TOMMY KENDALL ON HOW JEFF’S ON-TRACK DETERMINATION WAS MATCHED IN HIS PRIVATE LIFE: “The story of when he met his [wife] Tracy…she was a hostess at one of the restaurants and they went in there and saw her and he just kept going back and could never work up the nerve to ask her out.  And then he finally asked her out and he was so nervous, I think he ran into the front of it and asked her out and stumbled out of the place and tripped.  He was not too cool.  He was just a normal dude but fun and goofy.”

TONYA KROSNOFF ON JEFF’S ASPIRATIONAL CHILDHOOD: “He just had that dream. He has a little sticker on his bathroom window still that he put on there, “Formula 1”. So every day that he would be getting ready [and] he would see that. And that was his goal.”

BRYAN HERTA ON JEFF’S UNEXPECTEDLY BRIEF TIME IN CART: “You can certainly see the different power and handling people are dealing, and you could see he was hustling it the entire time he was out there. At the time, you don’t think that he’s just going to have a handful of races to be judged by after all these years, you think that he’s working with a new team, a good team, but one that was still developing, and a new engine that needs developing, and when it’s all done, then he’ll be able to reap the benefits of that work they all put in. You just didn’t really dwell on what he had right then because you expected a lot more to be right around the corner for him to show what he could really do. Unfortunately, that never happened for him.”

MAX PAPIS ON HIS FIRST RACE AS JEFF’S REPLACEMENT: “I remember showing up at Mid-Ohio and meeting a lot of people that…they say Jeff touched everybody in that team. And I felt that when I arrived there they never made me feel for a second that I was in an awkward position.  I talked to them in the beginning; I remember having a meeting when I was on the track with all the team, explaining the situation and they were all very much saying, ‘We understand the situation and we appreciate your honesty.’  We spoke about how everything went about and why I was there.  Because I felt very uncomfortable in the beginning, to tell you the truth.  I’m a very sensitive person.  I saw what happened and I just wanted to really make sure that the people knew that this was… if it had not been me, it would have been someone else, but they choose me even I think because they saw that there was a certain connection, I think, with Jeff as well.  I clicked immediately with the guys because I wasn’t afraid of talking about who Jeff was and asking them how he was, what he did; just reminding them about the good things of how special he was to them.  Because in one way, I always felt – and that’s what I told them all the time – that every single success, every single thing we did was a continuation of him.  His motto, ‘Stay Hungry, was the motto I always keep in my mind.”

Jeff with his sister Tonya and niece on the gird in 1996. (Image: Krosnoff family)
Jeff with his sister Tonya and niece on the gird in 1996. (Image: Krosnoff family)

EDDIE IRVINE ON JEFF’S LOSS AND LEGACY: “It’s incredible.  You know, the things he’s missed. I don’t think there was a doubt at all.  It was just pure, bad luck.  Just the wrong place at the wrong time.  And Jeff never gave up.  He would always, it wouldn’t matter if he was last, he’d be pushing.  Same as Roland Ratzenberger [who died, along with Ayrton Senna, at the Imola F1 weekend in 1994].  Ratz was another one of our gang – he got into Formula 1 and no sooner did he get in then he was dead. I kind of felt I was one of the guys left carrying the flag for the Japanese boys.”

PAUL PFANNER ON JEFF’S ETERNAL OPTIMISM: “I think the thing that got me the most was during some very difficult times, especially when we launched RACER. The struggle; it was an all-new business, it was a daunting, difficult, very challenging time, he would call me and use the pressroom phone in Suzuka because it was free and he would call me while he was tire testing or whatever, and we’d talk. And if I tried to feel sorry for myself, tried to get his sympathy, he would remind me I was being a wanker. And tell me to buck up. And he was very firm about trying to make sure that you kept the positive, self-assured attitude; he would never let you linger very long in self-pity and the dumps because he didn’t do it. He would never do it.”

PAUL PFANNER ON JEFF’S GREGARIOUS NATURE, AND THE STRAIN BEING HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD–BEFORE THE INTERNET AGE–HAD ON HIS RELATIONSHIPS:  “And I want to point out that he would choose to call me at 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning just to remind me I was alive… And he was alive. You’d get a sense of how far away he was when there was a time he had a throttle stick in a Group C Nissan and went off straight at the end of the front straightaway at Fuji. And he was unconscious and they called me because they didn’t have any other numbers on him, apparently, and they couldn’t find anybody and they had to take him to the hospital and I was one of the only numbers they had – and I don’t know how that could be possible, but it was. And I remember just being panic-stricken, and being struck–it was like someone being on the surface of the moon–he was so far out of touch and nobody spoke the language. And he turned out to be fine. It was a very serious accident, but you realize this leap of faith he took to keep his dream alive.”

TONYA KROSNOFF ON A VARIETY OF TOPICS ABOUT HER BROTHER: “I talk about him a lot to my daughter, who’s now 17 (at the time of this article’s original publication). And, actually, we still have his ’85 Camaro. And she’s starting to drive and she really, really wants it. She’s a lot like him; he was very self-disciplined with schooling and with everything. Everything. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke. And I pass that on to her–because she’s very self-disciplined like he was–and I’m trying to instill in her to go for your dreams. Put up a dream board in the way that he did. He didn’t let the small things stop him. It’s just everything about him I’d pass on. He would go beyond what was expected of him.

“When he drove for [Cal Wells and the late] Frank Arciero, he learned to speak and greet him in Italian, his native language. He just took everybody’s personal, certain personal traits of someone’s life and he would incorporate them and talk to you and make you feel like he was really into who you are. He wanted to make you feel special about who you were. He got down into who you were and he wanted to know everybody. And going to Japan, he learned how to speak Japanese, he taught himself and got into their culture and he never, ever thought he was more than somebody else. Nobody was a stranger to him, he would just make them feel comfortable and welcome, whether it be at his home, out on the track, he was very grateful for everything that he had, that he was given. He didn’t take things for granted at all. He was an IndyCar driver and still cut my parent’s lawn…”

FRANK ARCIERO, FROM JEFF’S MEMORIAL SERVICE IN 1996: “Every time I would see Jeff in the morning at the race track, he would say to me, ‘Good morning, teacher,’ in Italian. It would mean a lot because I always enjoy when an American speaks to me in Italian. He was the nicest guy I have ever been associated with. He was gentle, honest, clean cut and on top of it all, a great driver. In my 40-plus years of being involved with motor sports, I have never had this happen. I feel like I have lost one of my own.”

Flowers from the CART IndyCar series at Jeff's memorial. (Image: Krosnoff family)
Flowers from the CART IndyCar series at Jeff’s memorial. (Image: Krosnoff family)

MAX PAPIS ON HIS ENDURING RITUAL: “I keep a picture of Jeff–almost like flying–on top of the wheel of his Indy car.  I’ve kept this picture with me on my wall every time I come out of my office.  And I say hi to Jeff almost every day.”

TOMMY KENDALL ON JEFF SETTING THE BAR FOR THE CALIFORNIA OPEN-WHEEL DRIVERS: “Those early Russell days, before the Pro Series, the School Series, you’d be out there, there’d be six races a day, you’d be in one of them, and other than the race right before yours, when you were getting your equipment and getting on, you basically worked the corners, you were the corner workers for all the other races.  So you really worked a different corner each day at Riverside and Laguna Seca, and so you’d be right out there and that’s when you’d see who was getting after it.  And Jeff was the benchmark.  There were a lot of guys that came out of there, Johnny O’Connell, myself, Dave Kudrave, Scott Atchison, Mike Groff.  There was a lot of talent that came out of that class; they all went on to drive Indy cars. It was always like Turn 2 at Riverside and Turn 2 or 3 at Laguna Seca were the real tough ones, flat out, it was always just real borderline.  And Jeff was always the guy, when he went out, you knew what the times were going to be like for that weekend; he was your benchmark.”

STEFAN JOHANSSON ON JEFF: “He was a great human being, really nice guy.  Obviously, very talented.  And he was one of the few Americans that sort of took the risk of leaving America to go and cut his teeth internationally and I think he had a great career ahead of him, no question about it. He did a great job out there.  Like everybody who went out there, he raced everything he could get his hands on, from Formula Atlantic to sports cars and everything.  He definitely cut his teeth that determined kind of way, there’s no question about that.”

TONYA KROSNOFF ON HER BROTHER’S ABSENCE: “I just always tell my kids, ‘I wish you would have met Uncle Jeffrey, he just would have loved you. And you would’ve loved him.’ Everything that he was is everything that we’re missing out on. He just was an exception to this world. He’ll never, ever be gone. You wish he was just here to experience life with you. Or experience life with him; I wish he was here so I could experience life with him.”

Jeff's passions extended well beyond the cockpit of a racecar. Photography--seen here at a Long Beach F1 race--was just one of his interests. (Image: Krosnoff family)
Jeff’s passions extended well beyond the cockpit of a racecar. Photography–seen here at a Long Beach F1 race–was just one of his interests. (Image: Krosnoff family)

TOMMY KENDALL ON HIS FRIEND’S FUNNY AND ENDEARING WAYS: “This is another story I told at his service.  He was so focused and organized but also goofy.  And in his house everything is labeled.  He got a labeler and just went cuckoo with it.  And so even the light switch just said, ‘Lights.’  And the people that knew him knew he just had this quirky side.  He was also totally into death metal music; that was the only music he would listen to.  He was a drummer, really, really good drummer.  We used to give him a hard time because he always wore his hair a little longer when that was sort of going away.  But he was Mr. Rock ‘n Roll.  He was just a real force of nature.  There was energy and charisma about him that followed him wherever he went. He just had that effect on people.  You just felt lucky to know him.”

ADAM SAAL ON AN UNEXPECTED GIFT THE YEAR AFTER JEFF’S DEATH: “The very next year at Long Beach, ’97, I’m back to doing Indy Lights, and let’s just say those were some of the biggest Long Beach races ever. We were packing them in there. So, to get through the crowd, to get back and forth to the media center and various places I needed to be, I learned how to navigate through all the underground service hallways used for the convention center. It’s pretty handy to be able to walk underneath the convention center when there’s thousands of people at the Expo, it really saves you some time. So I was doing that in ’97. Took the service elevator down, was hustling through and then there’s the typical stuff in there, catering equipment, service trays, bins, silverware carts, everything you’d think you’d see at a convention center.

“But out of the corner of my eye, amongst everything else, was a couple of grid signs, the signs to fix the big driver name cards that the grid girls would hold for every race. And I looked down and I go through them and nothing really impressed me. And whose did I see there but Jeff’s. It was the grid sign that was used in 1996, I believe the one and only Toyota Grand Prix Long Beach grid sign for his hometown race, sat for more than a year or exactly a year in that service hallway through any number of events, any number of cleanings, and any number of organizations, and for some reason, probably because the Grand Prix is so respected at Long Beach, nobody ever threw it out.

“They probably thought, ‘oh, we’re going to need this again for Long Beach.’ Needless to say, I grabbed it. I grabbed it in a heartbeat and threw it on the Indy Lights truck. And Gary Donahoe, who was with AAR, and well-entrenched in the whole Southern California Toyota community and, of course, knew the PPI guys well, he brought it down to the team at one of the next races and gave it to them and said they were touched to have it. I hope somebody on the team, if not Cal Wells himself, has that as a memento of what was definitely a landmark achievement for Jeff, running in his hometown race in the headline event.”

Mike Hull was responsible for bringing Jeff back to America where he vied for a drive with Chip Ganassi Racing. (Image: IndyCar Series)
Mike Hull was responsible for bringing Jeff back to America where he vied for a drive with Chip Ganassi Racing. (Image: IndyCar Series)

PAUL PFANNER ON JEFF’S STRUGGLES IN CART WITH AN UNDER-POWERED ENGINE: “It didn’t allow Jeff to shine, save for the few places that they were, the segment times were showing that he was doing an amazing job, and people began to notice. There were several of the top teams that engaged Jeff in some conversation about where an opportunity might be ahead for him. It was exciting. It was clear he was doing a lot with a disadvantaged situation and that it was down to driving abilities. Had he not had that moment that day [in Toronto], I have every confidence he would have been with a top three team and won a championship and Indy 500, probably much more. Again, there was that air of inevitability, confidence.”

TOMMY KENDALL ON JEFF’S FIT WITH A SMALL CART TEAM THAT HAD EVERYTHING TO PROVE: “For a guy that had been at it as long as he had, he was 31 years old, his motivation was more like a 21-year-old, in terms of that was the only thing he had going in his life.  The experience made him really the perfect guy for a program like that.  It’s like a lot of guys there, they’re doing the work but they also, maybe they have family or achieved some level of success and so they’re just not quite as available.  Whereas if they said, ‘Hey, you need to sleep in the truck,’ he’d be, ‘Okay, okay, absolutely, whatever it takes’ attitude.”

MIKE HULL ON JEFF SETTING A STANDARD FOR DRIVERS TO EMULATE: “What Jeff represented to me was a guy that went out every day and got the most from what was given to him. And I think he was a success, very much a success, and showed the way that race drivers should represent themselves, because if he was having a good day he was getting the most out of it; if his day wasn’t as successful he was still getting the most from it. That’s what I truly enjoyed about him was that positive attitude makes such a difference when you’re working within a team environment. That’s huge. Because people have a tendency sometimes to follow the lead of the driver, and as an organization, you want a driver influencing people the right way. It doesn’t matter what sport it is but in our case it’s the driver, and you want somebody that’s out there trying their darndest to get the most out of it in a very positive manner and that was Jeff Krosnoff.”

CAL WELLS ON THE ANNUAL JULY 14 REMEMBRANCES OF JEFF: “I still put myself through it every year.  I call [Jeff’s wife] Tracy [Krosnoff] and talk with her every year. And my office, which is very understated, very small, I have a big picture of Jeff on the wall, two of them. It’s not something I want to forget, it’s something that’s very important to me that’s part of my DNA.”

TOMMY KENDALL ON THE LASTING LESSONS HE TOOK FROM JEFF: “The people that are that determined and focused aren’t a lot of fun.  And people who are a lot of fun, they don’t care that much about the craft.  He was just the perfect balance of the two.”

Tom Kristensen, Jeff's friend from racing in Japan. (Image: LAT Photographic)
Tom Kristensen, Jeff’s friend from racing in Japan. (Image: LAT Photographic)

DAVE KUDRAVE FROM HIS MEMORIAL SERVICE IN 1996: “He was much more than a driver to me. He was a good friend, a very dedicated person. The sad part is that things were going pretty well for him. When I saw him last week, he was saying how happy he was and how much he loved Cal and the team. His goal of driving an Indy car was achieved, but it was just starting to take off. We’ve just got to remember the good times.”

PAUL PFANNER ON LOSING JEFF: “He just lit up the room. He came to all of our RACER Christmas parties; he was part of our family, basically. I’ll tell you, the Monday after, that was the most solemn, sad day in the history of that company when he was lost.”

TOM KRISTENSEN ON THE RESPECT JEFF EARNED: “To have success in Japan with a different culture is, for me, you need to be a humble person with a passion for what you’re doing.  I think for an American to go via Japan, that’s not really a natural way and I think a lot of people respected him for that.”

TOMMY KENDALL ON LOSING HIS FRIEND AND MENTOR PREMATURELY: “I think we finally realized the world’s finally going to see this talent, and then to have it not happen, it’s just so cruel.  Like I said, he was the guy that taught me really what it meant to be serious about racing and I had this great long career here and it just didn’t seem fair that he didn’t.  It didn’t seem fair when he lost his life. There was so much excitement for him to finally make it back here. And you could see the way the season was unfolding, it was going to be a bit of a long road, Toyota’s development and so forth, but he was pretty consistently the brightest light of the Toyota guys. It seems really, really unfair.  Just no other way to say it.  He’s like a big brother. And then you saw the serious side and how focused he was, which was who he was as a racer, but he was just such like a little kid all the time.  Just fun, fun, fun.  I’m of the opinion there’s a sort of order to things and those are the hard things to figure out.  Really, really hard to figure out.”

MAX PAPIS ON HIS INTERTWINED HISTORY WITH JEFF: “Emerson Fittipaldi was kind of part the accident, and Emerson, who is the father of my wife Tatiana, told me the story that when he went back home from Toronto after the race was stopped, they kept making him go back to testify many times about the death of Jeff because he was involved with that. It had a big impact on him personally. And my wife then, she didn’t know me then, but Emerson became very close with Jeff’s family, and that is one more sentimental attachment between me and her because of the things that happened with her father as well, that her father was very touched with what happened with Jeff.  Very touched.

“The Fittipaldis were part of things when Jeff crashed, I was hired to drive for Jeff, and now Tati Fittipaldi is my wife. That’s why I think there are certain things that happen for a reason.  I really believe so. But, I know, in the end, the things that I feel the greatest about is I was able to make [Jeff’s] wife smile when I saw her at Long Beach and told her this story. Things coming full circle. I was sincerely pleased to see that she really knew what I meant when I told her that I was really proud of being able to carry his dream.”

Jeff with his parents and sisters at Christmas. (Image: Krosnoff family)
Jeff with his parents and sisters at Christmas. (Image: Krosnoff family)

TONYA KROSNOFF ON JEFF’S LEGACY: “He was the epitome of goodness and strength and honor. He was the good guy. He would have been a champion, there’s no doubt in my mind. And that’s what kills me is that he didn’t have a chance to prove who he really was. He would have been… I mean, it’s just amazing how the people that I talk to that have heard of him… His legacy is just the whole person that he was. He would be the person you wanted your daughter to marry. He would be a person you’d definitely want in your life. Someone that you could count on. He was the star of the family. He saw a dream and he went for it. And whatever he put his mind to, he really did accomplish it.”

TOMMY KENDALL ON THE TOTALITY OF JEFF KROSNOFF: “He was literally the perfect package. He was a serious race driver who wasn’t given a thing, and said, ‘I’m just going to take this through pure desire and will.’  But he also was really fun, he was a sponsor’s dream, he was smart, he was a psychology major, that’s what he graduated from UCLA with.  He was literally the whole package.  He was the prototype of the modern driver, in terms of what they all evolved into.  He’d train in his garage in the summer, with the doors closed in 100-degree weather to take his fitness to a level no one had even considered, Even though he’s just a blip on the screen in terms of Indy car’s history, I think he definitely cast a pretty big shadow.  It’s a biased opinion because I was close to him, but I have no doubt he would have gone on and been one of, if not the preeminent guy, for the next decade.”

BRYAN HERTA ON JEFF’S INFLUENCE: “He was a guy I looked up to. When I was looking to get into racing, he got a deal to go race cars in Japanese F3000. I just thought it was so amazing that a guy I knew from southern California had a ride racing open-wheel cars in Japan and was getting paid to do it. He was absolutely in love with what he was doing, and as a young guy, he was such an inspiration. He gave me the confidence that I could do it. There’s no shortage of people that tell you ‘you can’t do it’ because you don’t have a checkbook that’s big enough, or whatever, but he wouldn’t hear any of it. That was a huge inspiration for me. He was a beacon. He did it on hard work and that told me it was possible.”

MAX PAPIS ON JEFF’S LEGACY: “What was Jeff’s legacy in this sport? Me. I am his legacy. He touched so many lives, including mine. When my kid grows up and looks at pictures of me driving Jeff’s car after he died, I’ll tell him, ‘Poppy was able to continue the dream of this man like I continue the dream of my father, and then you will continue my dreams one day.’ That’s how I look at what Jeff did for me.”

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PERSONAL DEBTS OF GRATITUDE ARE OWED TO: All of the people who gave their time, work, emotions, and memories to make Jeff Krosnoff: Stay Hungry possible.

It took the better part of a year to conduct the interviews and turn countless hours of conversations and research into nearly 27,000 words on “Kroz,” and throughout the process, a dozen or more angels contributed along the way. To start, the reporting done throughout Jeff’s career by Jeremy Shaw and many others in the pages of On Track, Indy Car Racing, and RACER Magazine served as the backbone for information that can only be found in print.

Jeff’s sister Tonya and her husband went to great lengths to scan and send pictures from Jeff’s personal photo albums that revealed his early childhood and those seven long years in Japan. Beloved racing photographer Dan R. Boyd digitized and provided the majority of the images from 1996, Jeff’s lone season in CART. LAT Photographic’s Michael Levitt helped in the same regard with shots that were needed to tell other parts of the story. Andy Blackmore recreated and updated the famous “Stay Hungry” memorial stickers from 1996, Jeff’s fans reached out on social media to help with missing photos or details…and many more volunteered in some way. Simply incredible.

I don’t have many words left to pen on the life of Jeff Krosnoff, but do know I’m incredibly proud of the group effort that produced Stay Hungry as a lasting tribute.

~MP, 7.14.2016

Stay Hungry. (Image: Krosnoff family)
Stay Hungry. (Image: Krosnoff family)
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Marshall Pruett