When we hold the grand re-opening of PIR on February 23 of this year, we should have a moment of
silence in honor of Neil Swanson. Or maybe a moment of complete cacophony as hundreds of racing
engines are revved up together to celebrate the life of a man who did as much as anyone to preserve and
protect our race track. Neil would appreciate the subtle humor of the action either way.
Most of us knew Neil as the sound judge at PIR. Some of us have cursed his name unjustly when we
pegged the sound meter and he called us on it. But no one ever said that Neil Swanson didn’t know his
business, or that he wasn’t fair in his judgments - not anyone who actually met him, anyway.
On many occasions, I saw Neil spend his lunch hour conferring with drivers not just about the basic facts
of their car’s noise levels, but also about how to reduce their noise to avoid future black flags. Neil would
meet with neighborhood representatives and City Hall officials and every one of those people came away
with a better understanding of what we’re doing about noise, and with confidence that Neil knew what he
was talking about. It may have felt like he was in our way sometimes, but there never was a more
dedicated guardian of our sport.
Beyond his work at PIR, Neil served as the National Administrator of Sound Control for SCCA. In this
capacity he was the front line of defense not just for our track, but for tracks across America that face the
same challenges. Neil was a dedicated worker at the Runoffs, working under tremendous pressure there.
Neil also gave his time at the NORPAC and SCCA conventions each year, standing up and explaining -
always patiently - the science of sound control. People always finished a conversation with Neil holding
more information than they had at the start.
I worked closely with Neil for years. I saw his commitment to fairness at every event. If Neil said the
equipment was calibrated, you knew it was correct to the last whisper. If he said a car was too loud, it was
because he had three clear readings and no doubt about it. Sound control is a thankless, often tedious,
and completely necessary job. Neil accepted those conditions cheerfully, and so has his wife, Margie.
Together, Neil and Margie have given thousands of hours to Oregon and Northwest Regions, Cascade
Sports Car Club, and virtually every other racing event that has ever come to the Northwest. It’s fair to say
that the tens of thousands of dollars contributed to the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital over the years
would never have benefited so many kids if it weren’t for Margie and Neil’s steadfast work.
As I sat down to write today, I was struck by how little I really know about Neil. I know he used to be a
police officer at one time, I know he loved Margie deeply, and I know he was as reliable as the Earth. I
know he always had a pleasant word for people, and I know he loved his time at the track. This picture
says it all. There’s Neil, with more years of “Race Worker” patches than his jacket will hold, cruising
around at the Runoffs with a friend and a grin. That’s how I plan to remember him.