Dayton Daily News - Hamilton artist intertwined with Indy 500 history

Dayton Daily News - Hamilton artist intertwined with Indy 500 history


Archdeacon: Hamilton artist intertwined with Indy 500 history

By Tom Archdeacon

May 26, 2024

HAMILTON — One way or another, they’ll all be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today for the 108th running of the Indy 500:

  • Lee Anne Patterson — one of the first women to be the promotions director for a national racetrack (Sonoma), the first to be a race series director (Shelby Can-Am Series) and the owner and manager of an IndyCar team in 1996 — will be on hand to promote her new children’s book: “The Trouble with Howard.”
  • Roger Warrick — the gifted Hamilton artist, will be sitting in Turn One alongside his wife Whitney. For the 100th anniversary of the 500, he did a four-page pull out in the race program depicting the top 100 people in the history of the storied event.

Over the years he’s done artwork for tracks and big-time races across North America, has done caricatures of many of the top names in the sport, and just did the delightful illustrations for Patterson’s book, which was just published this month.

  • Then there is Anita Millican. Although today she’ll be back home in Costa Rica, where she helps a local veterinarian rescue and care for injured and discarded dogs and cats, her presence will be felt at the Brickyard.

She’s in the Indy 500 history book and some of her legacy will be on full display today. According to Lizzie Todd, the systems engineer for driver Pato O’Ward, 20 women will be working on pit road, and driver Katherine Legge will start in Row 11 for Dale Coyne Racing.

Anita and her late husband, Howard, are the subject of Patterson’s book.

Until 1971, women were banned from the garages and pits of the Indianapolis 500.

Although by then she was on her way to becoming an exceptional machinist and fabricator of race cars, Anita was prevented from doing her work at the track until 1980, when she became the first woman to be a licensed IndyCar mechanic.

She was also the first woman to go over the pit wall as a member of an Indy 500 crew when she worked the vent hose for driver Larry Dixon’s Machinist Union team in 1981 and 1982.

She and Howard were big contributors to the Galles Racing team that won the 1992 Indy 500 with Al Unser Jr. After her husband died of cancer in 1995, she worked for Roger Penske and was a part of the 500 wins of Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran.

By the end of her nearly 40years in racing, she was a much sought-after shock absorber and suspension specialist.

Those are all triumphs in Anita’s career, but there also was Trouble … with a capital T.

That’s what the book is about.

Patterson learned about it when Anita left the racing world in 2012 and was getting ready to retire to the Alajuela Province in Costa Rica.

“She gave me an entire crate of memorabilia from her and Howard’s life,” Patterson said by phone from Indianapolis the other day. “Along with autograph cards and press clippings and pit reports, there were several scrapbooks of personal photos. It was a treasure trove of information.

“When I started to go through it, I came across these Polaroids of Howard with a skunk. And Anita with it, too.

“I said, ‘Anita, what’s with these pictures?’

“She got real excited and said, ‘Oh, that’s Trouble!”

“I said, ‘Yeah, I know it’s trouble. It’s a skunk.’ “And she said, ‘No ... No … That’s our skunk. Howard named him Trouble.’”

Before she left her Costa Rica home for the rescue job the other morning — later they were going to have to amputate the leg of an abandoned dog that had been hit by a car — Anita spoke by phone about a life-saving effort long ago:

“We were on our way to the IndyCar race at Pocono when Howard saw a dead skunk in the middle of the road. And then he saw some movement next to it.

“He stopped and there was this little, bitty guy next to his mother. He wasn’t more than three inches long, including his tail.

“We had a difficult time finding a baby doll bottle to feed him, but we did, and I fed him every two hours.”

The little critter became especially attached to Howard and as it grew, the Millicans took it along to races, where it often would hide in a tool box or mischievously rummage through an ice cooler.

Patterson said when she first heard the story, she blurted out:

“‘The Trouble with Howard’ — what a great children’s book. That’s what planted the seed.”

She eventually penned her wondrous tale — based on the true story — and along with some of Trouble’s antics and the racing adventures of Anita and Howard, the book offers great lessons for children.

It promotes equal opportunity for women and encourages young girls to consider diverse future careers. It gives examples of good sportsmanship and coping with bullies, and it underscores a compassion and love for all animals.

Patterson needed an illustrator and contacted auto racing reporter and podcaster Marshall Pruett, who suggested Warrick, who often works with him.

Growing up in Belmont, in eastern Ohio, Warrick was introduced to racing as a 6-year-old when his dad, Harley, took him to the St. Clairsville dirt track a few miles from their home.

In his career, Harley painted thousands of Mail Pouch Tobacco barns and on the side he also lettered and numbered some of the local race cars that he and his son then watched kick up the dirt.

After high school, Warrick graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration and eventually moved to the Cincinnati area to find freelance work.

Over the years he’s done a lot of work in the auto racing world.

“It connects me to my childhood,” he said as he sat in front of an easel in the basement studio of his Hamilton home the other afternoon.

When he read Patterson’s story, his imagination was piqued, and he immersed himself in making the tale more vibrant and embraceable and fun.

Designer Alex Voyatiz then turned the book into the page-after-page delight that it is. (To order it or find out more, visit

Patterson saluted both of her partners in the venture, especially Warrick: “Oh my gosh, Roger bringing it to life was everything.”

Anita amplified that praise:

“I’m happy as I can be to say how incredibly wonderful Roger Warrick’s artwork is in the book. I’ve looked at it again and again and again, and each time I see more details. He was very accurate.

“I’m just incredibly, incredibly impressed. I’m over the moon.”


‘There are a lot of ponytails in the pits’

Patterson said she’s thought about how she could make this into a series:

“I’ve thought of encompassing all the different jobs there are in racing, but if I do a second book it would be “The Trouble with Anita.” and it would be a mechanic’s tale.”

“All of Anita’s exploits would be quite a story,” offered Warrick.

Anita grew up in Portland, Oregon, and left home for Southern California when she was 15. She lived for a year with her half-sister, who took her to Ascot Park, a now-defunct, half-mile dirt track in Los Angeles.

Howard Millican raced sprint cars there — he always was in the orange No. 71 — and later she met him when she helped a friend work a racing party.

They married in June of 1966 at the little church on 15th Street in Speedway, Indiana.

Howard became a widely-respected IndyCar mechanic, crew chief and fabricator and he taught Anita the jobs.

“This was B.W. as I call it,” she said. “Before women were allowed at Indy.”

 Instead, chauvinism and discrimination of women was prevalent.

“I was tolerated because Howard was so talented and admired,” Anita said. “He was also crazy wild, so people were a little afraid of him.

“They used to say to me, ‘Look at him! Aren’t you afraid of him?’

“And I’d say, ‘Look at him. Isn’t he cute!’

“He was wild and extremely masculine, but at the same time he was so generous. So, kind. He was always willing to help teach and learn. And he was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.”

Although initially banned from the Indy pits and garages, she worked in their shop in Danville, Indiana, 18 miles west of the Speedway.

In those early days on the sprint car circuit, Anita often faced catcalls and snide comments.

“It was brutal at times,” she admitted. “But to me, if you responded, you just added fuel to the fire.

“Howard would always say, ‘Keep your head down; your elbows out; your mouth shut and move forward. Your work has to be perfect because you’re a woman.’”

Sometimes though, even minding her own business and doing superb work drew an adverse reaction.

“I was working on the lathe in our shop one day when Howard had gone into town for a part,” she said. “One of another team’s crew members walked through the door, stopped when he saw me and said, ‘What are YOU doing? I’m going to tell Howard!’

“It just so happened that Howard had just come back and was standing right behind him.”

She recounted another story that made her laugh. It involved their friend Bobby Unser, the three-time Indy 500 winner, who’d gone to the same Albuquerque high school as Howard. The trio worked together for years, and Howard was Bobby’s crew chief for a while.

“We were working with Josele Garza and Bobby was the manager then,” she said. “He and Howard were dear, dear friends and he was a marvelous, incredible driver, but not a people person, to say it kindly.

“Anyway, he got the crew together (at the start of what would be the month of May at Indy) and he said, ‘There will be absolutely no women in the garage area or pits!’

“After the meeting I came up and said, ‘What would you like me to do?’

“And he said, ‘Oh, I didn’t mean you, Son.’”

Anita and Howard are credited with many innovations and advancements in IndyCar preparations.

They were the first to put an IndyCar on a flow bench (wind tunnel concept) that helped them discover the best leading edge of the front wing.

They invented the first shock dynameter, and Anita created computer programs that allowed data to be analyzed.

When Howard died at age 59, Anita worked for Penske and later returned to Indianapolis and ran a successful shock absorber business before moving to Costa Rica.

She and Howard had started visiting there in 1973 and eventually bought a quinta. They made some close friends, like Don Jose Guzman, who managed farms, was involved in the export of orange juice and bonded with Howard.

Today Anita is still friends with him, his wife, and their children. “The family of my heart,” she calls them.

As for her daily life, she said: “I work with this brilliant, incredible veterinarian. She and I rescue and rehab and save abandoned dogs and cats that have been run over, have been in dog fights, are diseased or have endured anything else you can imagine with the jungle right there.

“Where I live, I have hummingbirds all year long, flowers, birds, iguanas, geckos. It’s just beautiful.”

Although Anita said she no longer has a connection to the Indy 500 — “when you’re away from it as long as I’ve been, with all the changes, you become obsolete,” — Patterson begs to differ.

She said the path Anita — and a few other pioneering women like her paved long ago — is paying dividends now:

“There are a lot of ponytails in the pits.”

An uplifting project

While talking about his work on the children’s book, Warrick remembered his own introduction to the sport as a kid:

“On Friday nights, when everybody else was at the football games, my dad and I went to the racetrack and sat in the stands. There was live racing and local heroes like Bob Moskey, whose cars dad lettered for years. It was great.”

As a freelance artist — along with work for Proctor & Gamble, General Electric Aviation, Macy’s, and the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pedriatric Cancer — he has been commissioned by racing entities like the Toronto Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, the 12 Hours of Sebring and Autoweek.

To see more of Warrick’s work, visit:

Two years ago wife Whitney was in a near-fatal auto accident when a dump truck hit her Toyota RAV4 head on. She suffered multiple broken bones but survived, Roger said, “thanks to good air bags.”

It was a long struggle for her to regain her mobility, and for a while the couple worried about staying financially afloat.

She’s now mobile again, and Roger has kept busy working with an IMSA team out of Canada and illustrating the book. He found the project uplifting, as did Patterson, as is evidenced by her dedication in the front of the book which reads:

“For Howard and Anita –

“Anita, you were the first woman to be licensed as an IndyCar mechanic and the first to go over the pit wall as part of a pit crew.

“Thank you for opening the gate for all women. Howard, thank you for holding that gate open for Anita.

“They were both talented and innovative racers. They loved each other and they loved racing.”

Anita feels the same about Patterson and Warrick.

“Lee Anne came up with the idea, did all the research and made a beautiful, wonderful book. And Roger’s artwork is incredible.

“Little kids who can’t read will love the book; and old people like me will love the book.”

And that is a triumph worthy of a capital T.