Most readers of Cagle.com will instantly recognize the cartoons of Bob Englehart, the award-winning cartoonist of the Hartford Courant. What you many not know is Bob is also a talented writer, and just released a new book about his life and how he became the bomb-launching cartoonist we all have come to love.
Three words- Short track racing.
Bob has been a fan of a particular brand of racing some call the “real NASCAR” all his life. But his relationship with the sport changed after witnessing a tragic accident at the track.
“In all my life, I’d never seen anyone killed on the track,” Englehart told me. “So when I saw 27 year-old Shane Hammond die in a wreck at Thompson International Speedway in 2008, it was so traumatic I had to make sense of it or give up watching the sport.”
Bob set out on a investigation that lasted three seasons, trying to find out what compels young people to throw heaps of money and risk life and limb to drive a race car 150 miles an hour around a local track for friends and total strangers. During that time, Bob’s wife, Pat, suggested it might be a good idea to write a memoir about his unique childhood and how it led him to his love of the working class heroes that made it to the track every weekend.
“I didn’t have the “All American” childhood,” Bob said. “When I was 6, I spent a year in bed with rheumatic fever drawing and painting racecars, circuses and cowboys and Indians. Later, my parents divorced at a time when divorce was rare. My brother and I came from a “broken home.” We had a stigma in the neighborhood with no dad in the house.”
Bob’s parents eventually re-married and had more children. But through it all, Bob turned to art and his sense of humor to get by. That combination of skills eventually landing Bob into a prolific career as an editorial cartoonist, garnering him tons of awards (including being names a Pulitzer Prize finalist) and the allocates of fans across the country, including myself. But for Bob, it’s all about love of family, in spite of the complexity and confusion if may involve.
He also has a suggestion for all the mom and dads our there with an artistically-inclined kid.
“Parents with children who like to draw might relax a little bit when they see the journey I took.”
“Trackrat: Memoir of a fan” is on sale now