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IndyCar race engineer tracks down his Newfoundland roots

IndyCar race engineer Brad Goldberg in Long Beach, California (2013)

Michael Levitt/LAT Photo/Courtesy of Chip Ganassi Racing

IndyCar race engineer Brad Goldberg may be the only person with a Midwest U.S. accent who isn't considered "from away" in Newfoundland.

Goldberg, 34, had always been family in the small town of Torbay, which lies just a few kilometres north of the capital St. John's, even long before the first time he visited three years ago. He just didn't know it.

His father David grew up in the small town following the Second World War after his mother gave him up for adoption. She was from Newfoundland and his father was a U.S. serviceman from Boston.

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Unknown to Brad, there were several foster family relatives in Newfoundland wondering what had happened to the Goldbergs who lost touch with their Canadian roots soon after David died 25 years ago after a short battle with lung cancer, two weeks before Brad's 10th birthday.

Losing his dad at such a young age had a huge impact on the young boy and was one of the reasons he was eager to find his Canadian relatives later in life.

"That I don't wish upon anybody because it was tough. It still is tough and wears heavily on me," he said.

"I had always wanted to get back in touch with my family up there, because there was this whole side of me that was just a big hole," he said. "It was driving me crazy. It was just hard to deal with."

The nagging feeling in the back of Goldberg's mind only got stronger as he grew older, so the Ganassi engineer began to search for his father's Canadian foster family about a decade ago, just after he turned 25.

He began to gather information , but finding 60 year-old records wasn't easy.

"There weren't many answers or a paper trail," he said. "He had a foster brother at the house he grew up in and my middle name (Wilfred) is his name and I knew his last name (Cole), so I had a name but that was it."

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Ironically, the guy who spends most of his time trying to figure out how to get Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi driver Charlie Kimball from A to B as fast as possible didn't even consider a direct route with his Canadian family until his future wife's own sleuthing turned on a light bulb. Knowing her betrothed's connection to The Rock and that his birth father was dyslexic, Julia Goldberg decided to make a donation to a literacy centre in St. John's in David's name as a wedding present. To find the right one, she jumped on the Web and began firing off emails to Newfoundland.

That led to Goldberg sending an email to the Torbay mayor at the time, Bob Codner, asking if he could help. Just to hedge his bets — and to show Codner that he wasn't some kook pulling a prank — Goldberg sent the note from his email account at Chip Ganassi Racing, so it would look more official.

Little did he know that Codner recognized the name immediately, but wanted to make sure he had the family's permission before sharing their contact information with him.

"Goldberg is not a common name in Newfoundland," he said. "It wasn't uncommon for people to take children in back then. He hoped I could connect him with somebody and luckily I did know his father. He was here but then he disappeared — I never knew what happened to him."

Meanwhile back in Indianapolis, Goldberg's hopes sagged when almost two weeks went by without a reply, as he thought he had hit another dead end. A few days later, an email appeared in his inbox from Codner.

"He emailed back and said that he knew my father and went to school with him and here's all the information about him and the people I was asking about were still alive and here is their phone number," Goldberg said, his eyes getting moist as he recalled the moment.

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"I called that night and I think we were on the phone for three or four hours. It turned out they had been doing the same thing and were finding dead ends. So, they were ecstatic."

Goldberg filled them in on his dad's story. He left Newfoundland following his 18th birthday to search for his birth family. The journey took him to Indianapolis, Indiana, where his mother, Audrey, lived. He stayed with her for a short period but things did not go well. He remained in the U.S. for another 18 months before becoming a citizen and enlisting in the Navy. Six months later, he shipped out for duty in the Vietnam War.

After two years in Southeast Asia, David Goldberg returned to the U.S. and spent a year in a Boston veteran's hospital . He chose Boston because he had discovered that his father, Joseph Goldberg, was stationed there in the Navy. That didn't work out either, with David heading to Bloomington to go to Indiana University. That's where he met Goldberg's mother, Susanne. Brad was born in 1980.

Goldberg made his first trip to Torbay to meet his family a few months after they began communicating regularly by telephone and email in 2011. The foster family still owns the same house where his father grew up and he visited the room where David spent his childhood.

"Brad looks like his father and he's a lot like a Newfoundlander in many ways," said Carol Langmead, the granddaughter of Brad's father's foster mother, Lucy Cole.

"He part of our family for sure — always was and always will be. His father was always considered a brother to my father. His father was in our house from the time he was nine months old until he was raised up."

One thing that Brad certainly got from his father was a love of racing. David Goldberg always loved going to the Indianapolis 500 and now a couple of decades later his race engineer son is helping to build a fan base for IndyCar in Newfoundland.

"I never knew much about it before," Langmead said. "We would sometimes watch a race or bits and pieces of a race but we never miss a race now. We hope to go to Indianapolis for a race. I want to go and visit them, see his mother and visit his father's grave."

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Motorsports columnist

There's an old saying about timing being everything in racing and Jeff Pappone's career as a motorsport correspondent shows that it also applies to journalists covering the sport too. More


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