A lifelong resident of Indianapolis and a graduate from Thomas Carr Howe High School Gary attended Vincennes University with a degree in broadcasting
Gary worked in the local Television Market for over 20 years and was hired by ESPN in 1981 and was part of the very first race telecast on ESPN...the Tony Bettenhausen 200 from the Milwaukee Mile.
Public address announcing was a big part of his career. Gary has done PA at more than 300 races including more than 100 Silver Crown races. Gary was on the PA for 30 consecutive years for The Hoosier 100 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 25 years at DuQuoin and 18 at Springfield and has done over 1100 auto racing events including banquets and MCing events
From 1977-1984 Gary was on the PA at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gary spent 9 years on the IMS Radio Network and was the anchor for the first 3 years of the Indy Racing League.
What was to become known as Thursday Night Thunder had it's beginning at the Speedrome with Gary at the mike. He remained on the Thursday show from 1985 until 2000 and will always be linked with Larry Rice for the Larry and Gary racing broadcasts Gary did the the international broadcast for ESPN for 8 years on the IndyCar circuit.
Gary owned Whiteland Raceway Park in Whieland Indiana for over 10 years
Larry Rice Open Wheel Racing Legend*
Larry was an American racing driver in the USAC and CART Championship Car series.He was the 1973 USAC National midget driver's champion and won the USAC Silver Crown series in 1977 and 1981. He was inducted in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1993.]
Larry's father Bob got him started in racing. Bob purchased Larry's first race car, a Kurtis Craft Half Midget from Bob Cunningham in Covington, Indiana prior to turning twelve years old. Larry went to Modified Midget racing at the Logansport, Indiana track from 1965-1967. While in modified midget racing Larry and his father introduced the first car with a suspension system in this type of racing. It was made by Kurtis out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Eventually all cars would have suspension systems on them.
Larry graduated from college with a teaching degree. He taught school briefly while racing the modified midget racing circuit. He was fondly known as "The Flying School Teacher" due to his ability to win races.
Larry's father Bob worked as a pit crew member for various race teams at the Indianapolis 500 in the 1970s.
Rice had a major win when he won the 1970 Hut Hundred. Rice finished third in 1972 USAC National Midget championship, helping his team (Shannon Brothers) win the owner's championship. Rice followed up by winning the 1973 USAC National midget driver's championship himself. Rice was also the 1977 and 1981 USAC Silver Crown Series champion. He won the Silver Crown and sprint car portions of the 4 Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway in 1985. He won his second Silver Crown portion at Eldora in 1987.
He raced in 5 seasons (1974, and 1978–1979, and 1981), with 9 combined career starts, including the 1978 and 1979 Indianapolis 500 and finished in the top ten 3 times. He was co-named the 1978 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, along with Rick Mears, for his 11th place finish.
After he stopped racing in 1991, he became the color analyst on ESPN's Saturday Night Thunder program.The program featured midget, sprint, and Silver Crown racing. He also worked as ESPN's regular analyst on IRL races.
Rice later worked for K&K Insurance, specialising in motorsport insurance, and later formed his own insurance organisation, Short Track Independent Drivers and Associates, underwritten by Nationwide Insurance, with his son Robbie, who operates the racing insurance organisation today.
Rice died from lung cancer on 20 May 2009.
*Jim Hurtubise Open Wheel Legend
Jim Hurtubise (December 5, 1932 – January 6, 1989) was an American race car driver who raced in USAC Champ Cars (including the Indianapolis 500), as well as sprint cars and stock cars (USAC and NASCAR). He was from
North Tonawanda, New York. Despite his limited success, he was a fan favorite throughout much of his career as many characterized him as an "old style" racecar driver
Hurtubise raced in the USAC Championship Car series in the 1959–1968 and 1970–1974 seasons, with 97 career starts. He finished in the top ten 38 times, with 4 victories, in 1959 at Sacramento, 1960 at Langhorne, and 1961 and 1962 at Springfield.] In 1964, after suffering serious burns in an accident during the Rex Mays Classic, in Milwaukee, doctors asked Hurtubise how he wanted his hands shaped permanently. "Just make 'em so I can hold a steering wheel," he replied.
Hurtubise died January 6, 1989 after suffering a heart attack near his home in Port Arthur, Texas. He was 56 years old. He is interred at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
Hurtubise ran in ten Indianapolis 500 races between 1960 and 1974. His best finish was a 13th in 1962. In 1972 he ran out fuel, but was towed through the infield, which resulted in his disqualification. In the 1968 race, he ran the last front engined car to date in the race. He attempted to qualify a front engined car for the Indy 500 every year from 1975 to 1981 but failed to do so in each of those years. On May 21, 1972, on "bump day", he put his Miller Beer sponsored car in line to make a qualification attempt shortly before the closing deadline of 6:00 PM. The time expired before it was his turn to qualify. He then removed the engine cover to reveal that the car had no engine, but five chilled cases of his sponsor's product, which he shared with the other pit crews and race officials. In 1978, he did not meet the certified speed and was denied an attempt to make the race. He sat in Bob Harkey’s car and locked the brakes. He then ran on the track until he was apprehended by the police. But by 1979, was in USAC's good
The Indianapolis 500 was part of the FIA World Championship from 1950 through 1960. Drivers competing at Indy during those years were credited with World Championship points and participation. Hurtubise participated in one World Championship race, finishing eighteenth.
In 1957, Hurtubise started his NASCAR career running two races. Over the next twenty years, he would race 36 races, winning one race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and amassing eleven top ten finishes
He was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1993
Bill Elliott NASCAR National Champion
Bill Elliott was the youngest of three sons born to George and Mildred Elliott of Dawsonville, Georgia. George Elliott owned a home supply center and dabbled with auto racing. In fact he first owned a Grand National car in 1966, driven by Don Tilley at the fall race in Rockingham. Tilley finished 42nd in field of 44 cars after suffering steering problems.
Growing up Bill and his older brothers, Ernie and Dan, started working at the family business at an early age, and perhaps that is one of the reasons Bill still prefers to own his own team rather than work for someone else. By his early teens Bill was driving delivery trucks throughout the twisting roads of Northern Georgia, at rates of speed he smiles and says he would rather not discuss these days. The racing bug had already bitten. Bill and his brothers began in racing selling parts out of a truck to racers at tracks in the area. Ernie would eventually start his own engine business, while Bill specialized in building chassis and setting up suspensions. He also did a little racing and on September 7th, 1974 Bill won his first sportsman race at the Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia. More victories soon followed and the family saw Bill's talents as a God given gift that they should help him develop.
Elliott's first career Winston Cup start was Feb. 29, 1976 at the Carolina 500 in Rockingham, N.C. He started 34th and finished 33rd. His first win (117th start) was on a road course - Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway, Nov. 20, 1983. His first pole (56th start) was at the Rebel 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on April 12, 1981.
Bill Elliott celebrated 25 years driving in the prestigious NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 2000. It was Elliott's sixth season behind the wheel of the McDonald's Ford. He raced on a part-time basis from 1976 - 82. His first full season was in 1983.
Entering the 2000 season, Elliott had 40 career Winston Cup victories, 49 career pole positions and career earnings of $21,107,334. He was tied for 14th (with the late Tim Flock) overall in career wins, fourth overall for career poles and seventh overall for career earnings.
Elliott has won the famed Daytona 500 twice, 1985 and 1987. He won both races from the pole. He also has won two of NASCAR's prestigious, non-points races, the Busch Clash in 1987 and The Winston in 1986.
Elliott won the Most Popular Driver Award in 2000 for a record 15th time. Except for 1989 and 1990, Elliott has won the award every year since 1984. The award is voted by the fans in a contest conducted by the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).
Elliott started his 600th career Winston Cup race at the Diehard 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 16, 2000. He is one of 19 drivers to have more than 500 career starts, reaching that milestone on April 13, 1997 at the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Elliott set the fastest qualifying speed in Winston Cup history with a lap of 212.809 mph at Talladega (Ala.) during the1987 Winston 500.
Elliott was the 1988 Winston Cup Champion. He is only one of three Ford drivers (Dale Jarrett, Alan Kulwicki) to win the championship since 1969. Elliott finished second in the point standings three times - 1985, 1987 and 1992. He lost the series championship to Kulwicki by 10 points in 1992, the narrowest winning margin in Winston Cup history.
Since he started to run a full season schedule in 1983, Elliott has finished in the top 10 every year except 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000.
In 1996 Elliott missed seven races due to an injury (fractured left thighbone) he suffered in a crash in the Winston 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Elliott was the first driver to win The Winston Million, a $1 million bonus from R.J. Reynolds for winning three of four major superspeedway races in a single season. He accomplished this feat in 1985 (the inaugural year of The Winston Million program) with victories at the Daytona 500, Winston 500 (Talladega, Ala.) and the Southern 500 (Darlington, S.C.).
Along with winning the Winston Million, Elliott's 1985 banner year also included a Winston Cup season record of 11 superspeedway wins. For his achievements in 1985, Elliott was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. His two nicknames: "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville" and "Million Dollar Bill" also came as a result of his record-setting 1985 season.
Elliott was named the "American Driver of the Year" in 1985 and 1987 by the nation's motorsports media.
Prior to his first race on the Winston Cup circuit, Elliott raced on the Georgia short tracks with his brothers, Ernie and Dan.
Elliott's hobbies include snow skiing and flying his personal aircraft. He has a multi-engine instrument-rated and helicopter-rated pilot's license.
Johnny Parsons USAC racing driver
Johnny Parsons is the son of Arza and 1950 Indianapolis 500 winner Johnnie Parsons. His parents divorced, and Johnny was raised with half-brothers Dana and Pancho Carter, the product of Arza'a marriage with Duane Carter. The Carters grew up racing quarter-midgets in Indianapolis.
John who was once a police officer in California resigned to move to Indianapolis to become a full time driver in USAC in the early 70s
Parsons started twelve Indianapolis 500 races. His last Indy 500 start was the 1996 Indianapolis 500. His best finish was fifth in 1977 and 1985.
Parsons finished second in the 1977 USAC National points. Parsons has also twice finished second in the USAC championship dirt cars.
Parsons won 29 midget car features (as of 1994), including major wins at: the 4-Crown Nationals midget car feature twice, the 1979 Hut Hundred, and the 1986 Copper Classic midget feature.] He has won two Silver Crown and five sprint car features.
He is listed as #42 in the world as an all-time open wheel race winner.
Racing Hall of Fame member Johnny carries his father's name, with a different spelling.
When Davey Hamilton decided to come out of retirement to run in the 2007 Indy 500, Parsons replaced him as the driver expert for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network's broadcasts of race activities.
Johnny raced way into the 21st century before his retirement he now lives in Indianapolis with his wife and still does does speaking engagements.
Hanks 1957 Indianapolis 500 Winner
Sam Hanks was an American
racecar driver who won the 1957 Indianapolis 500. He was a barnstormer,
and raced midget and Champ cars.
He won his first championship in 1937
on the West Coast in the AMA. He barnstormed the country, racing on the
board tracks at Soldier Field in Chicago and the Los Angeles Coliseum
Motordome. Hanks reportedly won the first two board track races at
Soldier Field in 1939. Hanks won the 1940 VFW Motor City Speedway
championship. After World War II, he captured the 1946 URA Blue Circuit
Championship. He won the 1947 Night before the 500 midget car race. He
was the 1949 AAA National Midget champion. He won the 1953 AAA
Championship in the Bardahl Special. He won the 1956 Pacific
Coast championship in the USAC Stock cars.
He won the 1957 Indianapolis 500 at
his thirteenth attempt at the race, the most tries of any Indy winner,
and announced his retirement from racing in Victory Circle. He drove the
pace car at the Indianapolis 500 from 1958 to 1963 He was inducted in
the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1998. He was inducted in the
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000. Hanks was inducted in the
National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1984.
James Ashbury Allison (11
August 1872 – 1928), born in Marcellus, Michigan, was an American
entrepreneur and businessman. He was the inventor of the Allison
Perfection Fountain Pen and with Carl G. Fisher a founder of
Prest-O-Lite, a manufacturer of automobile headlights. With Carl G.
Fisher, Frank H. Wheeler, and Arthur C. Newby he was a founder of
the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
Allison formed the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company later known as
the Allison Experimental Company, and later as the Allison Engine
Company which was eventually purchased by General Motors after
Allison’s death becoming the Allison Division of General Motors, a
manufacturer of automotive transmissions (Allison Transmission),
aircraft engines (Allison Engine Company), truck engines, and other
products. Allison died of pneumonia in 1928 at the age of 56 and was
buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana. His
Indianapolis home, Riverdale, is now part of Marian College.
James Allison moved to frankfort with
his parents, Noah and Myra, in 1880. He quit school and joined his
father's business, Allison Coupon Company, at age 12 in 1884. Just
six years later, with the untimely death of his father, James
assumed the vice-presidency of the company at age 18 in 1890.
Allison Coupon Company still exists today as Allison Payment
Systems. During the 1890s Allison became intrigued by the bicycle
craze that was sweeping the nation. He joined the Indianapolis-based
bicycle "Zig-Zag Club," where he met future business partners Carl
G. Fisher and Arthur C. Newby. Fisher and Allison would remain
confidants the rest of their lives.
James Allison, just 32 years old
and already an executive at two companies, Allison Coupon and
Allison Perfection Fountain Pens, was drawn into forming yet another
when Carl G. Fisher called in 1904. The new company would prove to
be the biggest yet, the producer of the first viable headlight for
automobiles. Based on compressed acetylene gas as electric
headlights were years from introduction, the new technology utilized
brass canisters of the compressed gas funneled to the headlight
through tubing. Fisher had met Percy "Fred" Avery, the holder of the
patent for the product, and the three of them formed Concentrated
Acetylene Company in September 1904. They called their product "Prest-O-Lite,"
which became the company's name when Avery parted with the firm in
1906. The partners hit the market with perfect timing as the
automobile industry was growing rapidly and the ability to see at
night was naturally a great benefit. Prest-O-Lite brought the
already successful Allison and Fisher wealth well beyond what they
had enjoyed earlier. When they sold the firm to Union Carbide in
1917 Allison reaped several million dollars.
Allison and Fisher continued to
build businesses together throughout their lives. Their styles
complemented each other famously. Fisher was the fountain of ideas,
but impetuous. Allison was the steady hand and an outstanding
manager. Lem Trotter, a mutual business colleague, said of Allison,
"Fisher was the dreamer but Allison had the most brilliant mind of
any man I ever knew. He was the industrialist."
Allison supported Fisher's efforts
to lead the development of transcontinental highways, the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Miami Beach. The two men were the
senior partners in establishing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with
junior partners Arthur C. Newby and Frank H. Wheeler.
James Allison formed the
Indianapolis Speedway Team Company to engineer race cars for the
Indianapolis 500. The machine shop was located on the same grounds
as Prest-O-Lite (directly across the street from the Speedway) until
Prest-O-Lite was sold in 1917. The company engineered the car that
won the 1919 race with driver Howdy Wilcox. The company re-tooled
for World War I, becoming a major defense contractor as Allison
Experimental Company. Re-named as Allison Engineering Company in the
1920s, the company was acquired by General Motors in 1929 after
Allison's death in 1928.
Allison Engineering became two
divisions of GM, one of which was sold to Rolls-Royce Aerospace in
1995. The other division, Allison Transmission, was acquired by a
private equity firm in 2007, but still has a close affiliation with
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway
continues to evolve and expand as it approaches its centennial year
Richard Day Most Respected
Public Relations Person in the sport
Although he had never even seen a sprint car race when National Sprint
Car Hall of Fame inductee Ted Johnson hired him to spread the good word
about the World of Outlaws in 1987, Day immediately fell in love with
the sport and quickly became one of the leading publicists in auto
racing. He tirelessly served sprint car racing’s car owners, drivers,
sponsors, press, promoters and fans for 18 years while helping Johnson
build the World of Outlaws into the sport’s largest series. In recent
years, Day has publicized various sprint car racing teams in addition to
serving as a writer and editor for
one-man public relations department, Day was a behind-the-scenes force
in sprint car racing despite his rare presence at the racetrack. While
working almost exclusively from the World of Outlaws’ Texas offices, he
wrote so descriptively that fans said his reports made them feel like
they had seen the races with their own eyes … and he did it utilizing
only the notes competition directors and announcers on the scene relayed
to him. Many thought the system was Johnson’s way of saving money, but
it was a stroke of genius because it allowed Day to not only write
post-race reports, it also made him available to the press and
promoters. Newspaper editors and publishers, including Chris Economaki
of National SpeedSport News, appreciated the fact that Day never missed
first auto racing series publicist to post press releases on an
electronic media service – CompuServe in 1988 – Day ushered motorsports
into the computer age. He also published press kits – which every
promoter received a month before his or her race – as well as the World
of Outlaws Souvenir Yearbook. While writing more than 1,000 press
releases per year, Day built an immense media network that included more
than 250 outlets around the world.
considered it a treat every time he visited a racetrack. He especially
enjoyed the Knoxville Nationals, which he attended every August from
1988 to 2003. When TNN: The Nashville Network started televising sprint
car racing’s premier event in the mid-1900s, Day was there – behind the
scenes – providing anchor Ralph Sheheen and analyst Brad Doty with
interesting facts. One particular night – August 16, 1997 – was
particularly interesting for the trio. Within seconds after Sheheen
proclaimed to the national television audience, “It’s incredible to be
in a place where the top of the grandstand at the racetrack is the
highest place in town,” a tornado touched down nearby and everybody
headed for cover. Sheheen and Day looked at each other and knew what
they had to do. They each grabbed one side of Doty’s wheelchair and
carried him down 10 flights of stairs, through the crowd and safely into
the press room.
did everything he could to gain more insight into the sport in an effort
to write more exciting race reports. “Smiley” Sitton, owner of the car
Norman Martin drove to victory in the first World of Outlaws preliminary
feature race in March of 1978, gave him the opportunity to actually
drive a sprint car at the Outlaw Driving School in 1996. Day promptly
wrote a two-page article about the experience and submitted it to Open
Richard Day has done a little bit of everything in sprint car racing
while giving his heart and soul to the sport for more than 20 years. The
National Sprint Car Hall of Fame would not be complete without him.
Mari Hulman George CEO
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Mari Hulman George,
born Mary Antonia Hulman on December 26, 1934, in Terre Haute, Indiana,
is the daughter of the late Anton "Tony" Hulman and Mary Fendrich Hulman,
prominent Indiana philanthropists and business owners. She is the
current chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hulman &
was the Hulmans' only child, but from the age of eleven she was often
surrounded by the families of Indianapolis 500 drivers, whom she
befriended. Perhaps it would come as little surprise that she would
marry one such driver, Elmer George, on April 29, 1957. At 22 years of
age, she became stepmother to Elmer's children from his first marriage,
and the couple would go on to have four children together: three
daughters, Nancy, Josie and Kathi; and one son, Anton Hulman George,
who, like his namesake grandfather, would be better known as "Tony."
Elmer George, who met with little
success as a driver, retired from racing in 1963, later becoming a
Speedway vice-president and head of the IMS Radio Network.
For most of the couple's marriage,
they owned a farm outside of Terre Haute, but spent much of their time
at their 1,300-acre (5 km2) ranch in Wyoming.
After the death of Tony Hulman in
1977, his wife, Mary Fendrich Hulman, assumed the chairmanship of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hulman & Co., the family's primary
businesses. When Mrs. Hulman's health began to deteriorate, she retired
and passed the chairmanship of the companies to her daughter in 1988.
Mari Hulman George retains both positions today.
Like her father and mother before her,
since 1997, Mari officially starts the Indianapolis 500 and Allstate 400
at the Brickyard races with the command, "(Lady/Ladies and) gentlemen,
start your engines!"
Like her parents, Mari Hulman George
is well-known throughout Indiana for her generosity to institutions of
higher learning, with her alma mater, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in
West Terre Haute, Indiana among the top recipients of her monetary
gifts. The college maintains the Mari Hulman George School of Equine
Studies, founded in part due to her love of horses.
In 2001, the Indiana Department of
Homeland Security renamed their search-and-rescue training area at Camp
Atterbury the Mari Hulman George Search and Rescue Training Center, in
recognition of her contributions to the care of animals displaced and
otherwise affected by disasters. She has also been active in the rescue
and adoption of racing greyhounds.
Bob Jenkins Premier
Bob Jenkins is an American
television and radio sports announcer with NBC Sports Network, also
known for his work at ABC and ESPN]
calling IndyCar and NASCAR telecasts. He is currently the lead
commentator for the IndyCar Series on NBC Sports Network.
Bob Jenkins was born in Richmond,
Indiana and grew up in the nearby town of Liberty. He was one of the
original cornerstone anchors on ESPN when it debuted in 1979, working
there as one of the most senior members of the network until 2003. His
primary duty was anchoring NASCAR on ESPN from 1979-2000 with Ned
Jarrett and Benny Parsons. The trio was one of the most popular
announcing crews in NASCAR. By the early 1990s, the crew (sans Jarrett,
who was contracted with CBS) would also cover races on ABC Sports.
During the 1980s, Jenkins also occasionally called CART races on ESPN,
prior to the arrival of veteran Paul Page.
Jenkins hosted the weekly racing
magazine show Speedweek during most of his tenure at ESPN. Jenkins was
the television announcer of the Brickyard 400 on ABC from 1994-2000.
Concurrent to his work on ESPN & ABC,
from 1979–1998, Jenkins worked on the IMS Radio Network. He reported
various positions including the backstrech, turn four, and served as
chief announcer of the Indy 500 from 1990-1998.
By 1999, Jenkins quit the radio crew
to focus on television full-time. The ongoing IRL/CART split forced
changes in the announcing crews at ESPN/ABC. In addition, ESPN/ABC would
be losing NASCAR rights at the end of the season. Paul Page was assigned
to the CART series broadcasts, and Jenkins was moved exclusively to the
chief announcing position of the IRL and Indianapolis 500 broadcasts.
The arrangement would continue through 2001.
For 2002, with CART floundering, Page
was moved back to the IRL, and Jenkins was shifted to the lesser host
position. The arrangement created a "crowded" booth with two veteran
announcers. In 2003, on Bump Day at the Indy 500 on ESPN, Jenkins made
an impassioned commentary, defending the event from media
detractors. Many were ridiculing the race and the IRL for struggling to
fill the field to the traditional 33 cars.
At the end of the 2003 season, Jenkins
was released from ABC/ESPN.
Co-anchor for nationally syndicated
farm news show, "AgDay".
being released from ABC/ESPN in 2003, Jenkins joined the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway staff in various roles including public address announcer
and designated emcee of various events and press gatherings (such as the
Victory Banquet, Last Row Party, and press conferences). In 2004, he had
a short stint as an announcer for Champ Car on Spike TV but was soon
fired by the production company. He joined SPEED and was an anchor for
Speed News for a little over one year. Jenkins has also been a
contributor to WIBC radio in Indianapolis.
In June 2006, Jenkins was released
from his contract with SPEED.In early 2006 Jenkins became the communications director for the Premier
In July 2006, he was the chief
announcer of the IMS Radio Network for the U.S. Grand Prix. In 2007, he
was the announcer of Indy Pro Series broadcasts on ESPN2. He anchored
the Allstate 400 on the radio, his first NASCAR race call since November
2000. For 2007-2008, he returned to the IMS Radio Network for the Indy
500, reporting from the turn two position.
In 2008, Jenkins returned to the ESPN
booth for two IndyCar races, the Rexall Edmonton Indy and the Nikon Indy
300 in Surfers Paradise. Regular play-by-play announcer Marty Reid was
unable to broadcast because of prior engagements.
In 2009, the IndyCar Series started a
new television contract with Versus. Jenkins was signed as the chief
announcer, and returned to Indy racing full-time for the first time
since 2001. He opted out of reprising his turn two role on the radio
network, because Versus was hosting a post-race show, and Jenkins would
not have time to arrive at the studio in time. Jenkins, however, did
record segments for air on the radio broadcast, as all three living
"Voices of the 500" (Page, Jenkins, and King) participated in the
In 2011, Jenkins continued at NBC
Sports Group. During the month of May, and on race day at Indianapolis,
he continued his part-time work on the public address announcing team.
Jenkins also has three movie credits,
one of which was an on-camera appearance. In order to be realistic, the
race announcers in the movie Days of Thunder were the actual ESPN crew
of the time, which meant Jenkins was the announcer in several voice-over
scenes. While at Speed Channel in 2005, he was the Speed anchor in
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He also did voice over work
in the movie Kart Racer.
His voice was used in the EA Sports
NASCAR video game series, from NASCAR 98 to NASCAR 2001, the Codemasters
video game IndyCar Series and IndyCar Series 2005 as well as the
Destineer Games video game Indianapolis 500 Evolution.
His most recent work can be heard in
the trailer for the independent film Trifocals (March, 2007).
Howard Augustine "Humpy" Wheeler Track
and Race Promoter
Howard Augustine "Humpy"
Wheeler, Jr. (born October 23, 1938 in
Belmont, North Carolina, U.S.A) is the former President and General
Manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, one of the premier auto racing venues
owned by Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Better known as H.A.
or "Humpy" Wheeler, he has long been known as one of the foremost
promoters of NASCAR auto racing.
During an appearance on the National
Public Radio quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! in July 2006,
Wheeler explained the origin of his nickname. He said that when his
father had played football at the University of Illinois, he was caught
once smoking Camel cigarettes, earning the name "Humpy" for the camel's
hump. His father's friends then began calling him "Humpy Jr." Growing up
through high school, college football, and then racing, the name "Humpy"
has stuck with him.
Wheeler begain his promotional career
at age nine, selling tickets for a bicycle race.He was a defensive lineman for the South Carolina Gamecocks in the late
1950s. Interestingly, his teammates included future NASCAR
communications director Jim Hunter (a running back), and Jim Duncan
(later known as a marketing executive at Lowe's Motor Speedway).
After becoming the president of
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Wheeler earned the reputation for organizing
publicity stunts. A few weeks after driver Cale Yarborough gave the
less-than-complimentary nickname 'Jaws' to rival driver Darrell Waltrip,
Wheeler bought a giant dead shark, placed a dead chicken in the shark's
mouth, and had it driven around the track on a flatbed truck before a
race at Charlotte (Yarborough's sponsor at the time was Holly Farms
Poultry). In 1984, the pre-race show for the World 600 was a reenactment
of Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada the previous year
In 2007, Wheeler announced that the
Bank of America 500 would feature an "all-you-can-eat grandstand," where
fans would pay a set ticket price, and would then get to eat as much as
they wanted of the grandstand's food before, during, and after the race.
The publicity for this event included Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
champion Joey Chestnut at the press conference.
Wheeler has a personal record of
picking the correct winner of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race 10 of the
last 19 years. In 2000, much to the dismay of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
Wheeler correctly picked cup rookie Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to win and
Earnhardt Jr. went on to become the first rookie to win the event. In
2005, he picked Mark Martin and Martin won the race. In 2006, he picked
Carl Edwards to win, but Edwards finished fourth (behind winner Jimmie
Johnson). He picked Johnson to win the 2007 event, but Johnson finished
second to Kevin Harvick. He again chose Edwards to win the 2008 event,
but Edwards finished 10th; Kasey Kahne won the race.
The Coca Cola 600 held on May 25, 2008
was to be Wheeler's last race as President of the Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Steve Byrnes of Speed TV honored Wheeler before the race and Wheeler in
turn gave a speech thanking race fans from all over the United States in
addition to people from foreign countries for coming to the race: "I owe
a tremendous gratitude to you for buying tickets to our facility. If we
meet again may you be in the palm of God."
Although he had announced that he
would step down as President and General Manager of Lowe's Motor
Speedway soon after the race, Wheeler had hopes of staying on as a
part-time consultant especially in light of the upcoming 50th
anniversary of the Speedway in 2009. However, apparently due to a
falling out with Bruton Smith for reasons yet unknown, Wheeler's lengthy
association with Lowe's Motor Speedway was unceremoniously ended. Smith
thereafter wasted no time in appointing his son, Marcus Smith, as the
new President and General Manager of the Speedway.
During an interview on Speed TV's
"Wind Tunnel" on June 1, 2008, Wheeler stated that in addition to
working as a part-time consultant, one of his primary projects during
retirement will be working on a book devoted to his recollections of the
numerous personalities he has known over his many years as a racing
promoter at Lowe's Motor Speedway and prior to that during his years in
Indianapolis and at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Recently, in an off-track but still
automotive related pursuit, Wheeler provided the voice for "Tex," a 1975
Cadillac Coupe de Ville cartoon character, in the 2006 Pixar hit film
On August 18, 2008, Wheeler announced
the formation of The Wheeler Company, a consulting management firm
focusing on general business, professional sports, and motorsports.
Wheeler serves as chairman, with his son Howard III ("Trip") serving as
Wheeler was inducted into the
International Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 27, 2006
and to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on August 12, 2009.
In April 2011, Wheeler appeared on an
episode of The History Channel's American Pickers in which he donated
items to be placed in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
In October 2011, Wheeler was announced
as one of the principles behind the Grand Prix of America, a Formula One
race to be run in New Jersey starting with the 2013 Formula One season.
Wheeler has had a long time interest
in bicycle sports beginning with organizing bicycle races in his early
teens. He continues to be an avid cyclist and can be seen at numerous
cycling trails and tracks around his hometown. Along with this he is a
prized boxer and continues to stay in shape doing so.
Wheeler has also become involved with
flying radio control aircraft. He enjoys the off-track friends and
acquaintances he has made in this hobby and can often be found on sunny
days at a local flying field.
*Charlie Wiggins * Pioneer African American
Race car driver
Back in the Jazz Age, when the Ku
Klux Klan was the law in Indiana, and the heel of Jim Crow's boot lay
squarely on the back of black Hoosiers, there was an Evansville, Indiana
shoeshine boy named Charlie Wiggins, possessing the civil rights of a
stray dog, who would help pave the way for Jackie Robinson to break the
race barrier in baseball, Charlie Sifford in golf, Earl Lloyd in
basketball, and most importantly to this story, Willie T. Ribbs to
become the first black man to race in the Indianapolis 500.
Charlie Wiggins grew up in a
segregated Evansville. The KKK had come to power in Indiana and in 1924
would win every elected office at the state level. D.C. Stephenson, the
head and organizing force of the Klan, was an Evansville resident. There
was even talk of building a city on an Ohio River island for whites
only. The city's newspapers at that time were blatantly racist and even
held a contest to name the new city. Negro League baseball players,
banned from white-only organized baseball, while playing exhibitions
games here, called the attitudes of southern Indiana more racist than
areas in the Deep South.
Charlie Wiggins was a downtown
Evansville shoeshine boy in those days and was fascinated with the
relatively new automobiles that were coming to town. He would entertain
his customers by identifying the make and model of cars by simply
hearing the motors as they drove down the street. With a stroke of luck
he was shining shoes outside an auto repair shop when the owner offered
him a job as an apprentice. Quickly, Charlie rose to chief mechanic and
became recognized as the best mechanic in the city and would often
diagnose the car's problem just by listening to the car engine.
Indiana's heritage was rich and
played a significant role in the development of the automotive industry.
In Indianapolis there were hundreds of makes and models being
manufactured. Charlie realized that greater opportunity lay in
Indianapolis and he and his wife, Roberta, whom the newspapers described
as a 'fetching Evansville model', moved to the state capitol.
Charlie and his wife opened a
garage on Indianapolis' segregated south side and quickly established
himself as the city's top mechanic and was held in high regard by the
city's elite and particularly by white race car drivers who were among
the top contenders for the Indianapolis 500.
Assembling parts from auto
junkyards, Charlie built his first race car, "The Wiggins Special" which
reached speeds on dusty, rutted, dirt tracks as fast as those cars
racing on the smooth surface the Indianapolis Speedway.
Every year Charlie would enter "The
Wiggins Special" in the Indianapolis 500 and every year the governing
body, The American Automobile Association, enforcing unwritten
segregation rules, rejected his application. Charlie and other black
drivers formed a racing association and competed among themselves at
tracks around the Midwest, attracting large crowds who appreciated
exciting racing and Charlie gained a reputation as the top black driver
and became known among fans as "The Negro Speed King".
Donald Davidson, Historian of the
Indianapolis Speedway, said, "A race track would get so dusty that the
only way you could follow your way around, you couldn't see in front of
you or around you, but you could look up and go by the trees and
actually drive and when the trees turned, then you knew you were in a
turn and then just hope that somebody wasn't in front of you."
Charlie caught the attention of
William Rucker, a black, gregarious, cigar-chomping, polite, wealthy,
powerbroker among the black and white leaders on Indiana Street, who had
great confidence in the black man's ability to advance into the Machine
Age. With the backing of several sponsors Rucker established the Gold &
Glory Sweepstakes, an annual 100-mile race of speed and endurance for
black drivers on the one-mile dirt track at the Indiana State
Fairgrounds. To gain national attention, Rucker invited Chicago Defender
journalist Frank Young to cover the race and on the race's inaugural
event he wrote, "This auto race will be recognized throughout the length
and breadth of the land as the single greatest sports event to be staged
annually by colored people. Soon, chocolate jockeys will mount their
gas-snorting, rubber-shod Speedway monsters, as they race at death
defying speeds, The largest purses will be posted here, and the greatest
array of driving talent will be in attendance in hopes of winning gold
for themselves and glory for their Race."
The Gold & Glory Sweepstakes became
a national success, attended by thousands and covered by the national
newspapers and newsreel services. Charlie won three of the first six
races, performing as both driver and mechanic.
As an outspoken critic of the
segregationist practices of the Indianapolis Speedway, Charlie was often
a target of the Ku Klux Klan. This harassment became more chilling when
in 1930 when two teenage black boys were lynched on the Grant County,
Indiana Courthouse lawn. At times the Klan would damage his garage and
on several occasions he was attacked physically but he would always
fight off his attackers, refusing to succumb to their terror.
When Harry MacQuinn, a white Indy
500 driver and friend of Charlie's, asked to use a "Wiggins Special" in
a race at Louisville, Charlie agreed if he could drive the car during
the qualifications to get the engine and car adjusted correctly. When
the fans at the Louisville track realized a black man was driving the
car, they swarmed the pits and threatened to lynch Charlie. For his
safety the Kentucky Militia arrested him for 'speeding'.
In 1934 Bill "Wild Bill" Cummings
was one of the top competitors in the AAA asked Charlie to serve in his
pit crew for the Indianapolis 500. The Raceway had strict rules about
employment and race and the only job Charlie could officially hold was
that of a janitor. During the days he would sweep and clean as a decoy
and then at night would sneak in with the pit crew to help manufacture a
racecar for Cummings. Bill Cummings won the 1934 Indianapolis 500 in
what newsreels described as one of the greatest races in Indianapolis
500 history, and for years after, Bill Cummings publicly recognized and
thanked Charlie for his skill and expertise in the victory.
In 1936, during the Gold & Glory
Sweepstakes, because of poor track conditions Charlie was involved in a
13 car wreck. He escaped death but so severely injured his right leg
that they had to amputate. The racing career of The Negro Speed King was
over. With the loss of its biggest draw, 1936 would mark the end of the
Gold & Glory Sweepstakes, an institution that had remained financially
successful through the height of the Great Depression.
However, Charlie's contribution to
auto racing was far from over. He would champion the rights of black
mechanics and drivers and continue to fight the segregationist practices
of the American Automobile Association. He would train young black
mechanics who would contribute greatly to the development of the
automobile and racing, and he would be visited at his garage by many
important white drivers and mechanics seeking his expertise. Notre Dame
Historian Richard Pierce summed up Charlie by saying, "Charlie Wiggins
was a hell of man. We could talk about Charlie Wiggins as a mechanic,
his ability as a driver. We could say all those things. And without the
pejorative function, without the sexist connotation, we have to say at
the end of the day that he was a man."
Nearly penniless after years of
medical costs due to his injuries received in 1936, Charlie Wiggins died
in 1979 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Crown Hill Cemetery in
*Art Pollard Open Wheel Driver
Art Pollard (May 5, 1927 - May 12, 1973), was an American racecar driver.
Born in Dragon, Utah, Pollard died in Indianapolis, Indiana as a result of injuries sustained in practice for the 1973 Indianapolis 500. The car clipped the wall coming out of turn one and did a half-spin as it headed to the grass on the inside of the short chute.
In 1965 at the age of 39 Art got the call to join the show on the Championship circuit which included the Indianapolis 500. Once again it was Portland's Rolla Vollstedt who provided the car. This period of time was the beginning of the rear engine revolution and Vollstedt had prepared a rear engine Offenhauser for the famous 500 mile race. Art made the field with a qualifying time of 157.985 mph but was bumped from the race on the final day of qualifications. His time turned out to be 35th fastest. He qualified for seven USAC races that summer with the best finish being fourth at the Milwaukee 100, an event he would later win. During the last half of that season he drove a car for Jim Rathman that was jointly owned by two of the original Mercury Seven astronauts Gordon Cooper and Gus Grissom. He finished his rookie season in twenty-third place in National Championship points.
The following year, 25 days after his 40th birthday, Art started his first Indy 500 race. His qualifying time of 163.867 mph in a turbocharged Offenhauser put him in 13th position on the starting grid. He was running fourth place at the midway point in the race when he spun out which required a push to restart the engine which cost him a penalty lap that ultimately dropped him to an eighth place finish.
The year that catapulted Art to fame and fortune was 1968 when he qualified one of the STP-turbocars for the 11th place starting position at "the brickyard". With only a few laps left in the race he was running in fourth place and closing on Mel Kenyon and Dan Gurney who were running in second and third, when a tiny fuel pump drive shaft broke and forced him out of the race. At the Milwaukee 200 that same year he qualified for the pole position at a record speed of 119.245 mph. He lead the race for the first 135 miles until his brakes failed. Mechanical problems plagued him for that entire season. He and Mario Andretti both shared a new track record at Phoenix and Art held the lead in the race for the first 45 laps before a universal joint broke.
He drove for Andy Granatelli's STP team again in 1969 but with a conventional V8 engine this time. During the 1970 season he became involved with the ill-fated Art Pollard Car Wash Systems. In '71 he drove for Gilmore broadcasting then returned to the STP team in 1972. Art was in a car owned by Jim Fletcher from Phoenix in 1973.
Mostly because he was 40 years old before he raced at Indy he was regarded as the "old man" on the USAC circuit. One of his most amazing qualities, however, was how youthful he was in both thought and spirit. Because he was relatively young when he was killed he never really did get old and it's interesting to look through the photo history of his racing career at how little he really did age from the time he started racing until his death.
Perhaps his most admirable quality was his ability to take a moment of his time and make everybody he talked with feel important. He really was an extraordinary individual blessed with many rare qualities and talents. His reflexes, coordination and courage were probably God given but he was a kind and decent guy because thats the kind of guy he wanted to be. He seldom, if ever, used profanity, he almost never got angry and he was cool under pressure.
Art Pollard was a credit to the sport of auto racing, everybody who lives here in Roseburg and particularly the membership of the Pacific Racing Association. He is our most famous son andwhether you were priviledged to know him or not you can take pride in the fact that Art was one of us.
The chassis dug into the grass and flipped upside-down, slid a short distance and then flipped back over as it reached the pavement again in turn two, finally coming to a stop in the middle of the track. The total distance covered was 1,450 feet (440 m). The car was demolished. The impact tore off two wheels immediately, and the wings were also torn off during the slide.
Pollard's lap prior to the crash was timed at a speed of 192+ mph. Pollard was rushed to Methodist Hospital in the new Cardiac ambulance. His injuries were reported to include pulmonary damage due to flame inhalation, burns on both hands, face and neck, and a broken arm. He drove in the USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1965-1973 seasons, with 84 career starts, including the 1967-1971 Indianapolis 500 races. He finished in the top ten 30 times, with 2 victories, both in 1969, at Milwaukee and Dover. He had just turned 46 one week before he died.
* Harry Miller Race Car Designer
Cars built by Miller won the
Indianapolis 500 nine times; three more instances were won by his
engines running in other chassis. Miller cars accounted for no less than
83% of the Indy 500 fields between 1923 and 1928.
If Offenhauser engines, a re-badged
Miller derivative, and the dominant engine at the Indy 500 and on the
Champ car circuit in the 1950s and 1960s (although it kept winning until
the 1970s) are added, the number of wins at Indianapolis alone increases
by 28, with over 200 more elsewhere. It was not until 1981 that an Indy
500 start did not feature a single Miller-derived engine.
Miller started off manufacturing
carburetors for passenger and race cars. His involvement with the racing
side of his carburettor business led to repairing and later building
race cars. After repairing the 1913 Peugeot Grand Prix car which was the
state of the art at the time, Miller and his employees, Leo Goosen and
Fred Offenhauser designed the Miller racing engine from the Peugeot 4
cylinder, double overhead camshaft, 4 valves per cylinder layout. This
began a thoroughbred line of race motors that dominated American racing
well into the 1970s.
Miller went bankrupt in 1933. His
shop foreman and chief machinist Fred Offenhauser purchased the shop and
continued development of the engine as the Offenhauser or "Offy" engine
until the start of World War 2. Fred retired from the business in 1946,
selling out to two of his racing friends: three-time Indianapolis 500
winner Louis Meyer and Meyer's one-time riding mechanic and highly
skilled engine builder Dale Drake.
Meyer and Drake Engineering, with
Leo Goosen as chief engineer, continued to develop the Offy throughout
the 40s, 50s, and into the 60s; often filling the engine bays of all 33
Indy 500 starters with Offy engines or their close cousins the V8 Novi
After Lou Meyer sold out of Meyer
and Drake in the 1960s to form his own company to sell Ford double
overhead-cam V8 racing engines in competition with the Offy, Dale Drake
and Leo Goosen persevered and reorganized Meyer and Drake as Drake
Engineering. After enduring three years of Ford DOHC dominance at Indy,
Drake's company prevailed in 1968 with the first turbocharged engine to
win at Indianapolis behind Bobby Unser.
Descendants of the Offys (and thus
the Millers) in the form of the turbocharged Drake-Goosen-Sparks (DGS)
and Drake-Offy engines battled against descendants of the Ford DOHC
until the Cosworth DFV and DFX engines originally developed as Formula 1
engines by Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth finally became too powerful
at reduced manifold pressure (turbo boost) (artificial limits pushed
through by Ford and Chevy as they could not compete with the Head Design
of the Offy which could run at much higher boost levels. The Offy was
not designed for lower boost levels and by the time they could design an
engine with the short notice given them it was to late) limits mandated
by the race sanctioning bodies for the Offys to overcome. The last Offy
to finish a race at Indianapolis powered Gary Bettenhausen from a
starting position of 32nd to a 3rd place finish in 1980.
Cale Yarborough NASCAR Champion
There are three things Cale Yarborough
never said: 1. I need a relief driver. 2. My car isn't comfortable. 3. I
don't care who wins the pole position.
William Caleb "Cale" Yarborough was
a throwback to the days of Barney Oldfield, Ted Horn, Curtis Turner, and
other immortals who drove by the seat of their pants. He was a
daredevil, but one with brains and talent.
"I never had a relief driver during
my 30 years of racing and that's one record I'm most proud of," says
Yarborough, who retired as a driver following the 1988 season. No other
driver with at least 500 starts on the Winston Cup tour can make that
One of Yarborough's pet peeves is
hearing a driver say the "car isn't comfortable." He has driven more
than one ill-handling car to victory. "My problem was I didn't know if
it was (handling right) or not. So it didn't make any difference," he
said with a laugh. "I know it has to be just right for most of the
(drivers). I was hired to drive a race car and I drove it to the best of
my ability. I didn't care how it felt. It didn't make any difference.
The car had to get the job done whether it was right or wrong. So I just
There was no one who tried harder
than Yarborough to win the pole position. That's the reason he still
ranks third today although he retired following the 1988 season.
"Running for the pole was like running for a win. I always tried to win.
No one remembers who runs second," he says.
Yarborough, who bought a Winston
Cup team in September 1986 is still looking for his first win under the
title "car owner,". In addition to his NASCAR successes he also raced
briefly on the USAC Indy Car circuit because "he wanted to put some
grits and gravy in victory lane at the Indianapolis 500."
The 5'7" tall, 175-pound Yarborough
was a giant in a stock car. He won 83 of 558 races, an impressive 14.87
winning percentage. It's the fourth best percentage in NASCAR for anyone
competing in more than 300 races. His 83 wins are fifth on the all-time
list. He also won 70 poles, third on the all-time list.
While winning more than $5 million
in prize money, Yarborough accomplished some other impressive
statistics. He's the only driver to win the Grand National (now Winston
Cup) championship three years in succession (1976-78), and the only
champion (1977) to be running at the finish of every race.
Of anyone leading at least 7,500
miles of race competition, Yarborough ranks second with 34,079.9 miles
led and first in percentage at 16.0% He's less than 10,000 miles behind
Richard Petty, who entered more than twice as many races as Yarborough.
He's also second to Petty in leading the most laps (101) in a race.
Despite being a charger in every
race, Yarborough failed to finish in only 197 of his 558 races. In 340
races, he led at least one lap; only two drivers have led more races.
Born on March 27, 1939, Yarborough
today is working on building a business empire with his wife of 33
years, Betty Jo, and with his three daughters: Julie, Kelley, and B.J.
He faced adversity in his younger days, but he always managed to face it
and go on to bigger and greater things.
"When I speak to groups, I try to
get people to understand that they can do something to change situations
they don't like," says Yarborough, who was born in Sardis, S.C., and
still lives there.
Paul Page (born November 25,
1945) is an American motorsports broadcaster who was the lead announcer
for ABC Sports' coverage of CART and the IRL from 1988 to 2004. He
currently is the lead announcer for NHRA.
Page was born in Indiana, but grew up
as an "army brat" living in Stuttgart, Germany. Page graduated high
school in Highland Park, Illinois. He is married to fellow broadcaster
Sally Larvick. He studied at the University of Tulsa. He served six
years in the U.S. Army.
Page's broadcasting career began on
WIBC in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1968. On December 1, 1977, while doing
a helicopter traffic report, Page was nearly killed in an accident, as
he crashed near a Speedway, Indiana, high school.
In the 1980s, Paul was also a
commentator for the motorsports show American Sports Cavalcade on the
cable network TNN, The Nashville Network. While working for TNN, he
covered NHRA drag racing, World of Outlaws sprint car racing, AMA
supercross, monster truck racing and truck and tractor pulling from TNT
Motorsports, and swamp buggy racing, among others.
From 1974-1987, Page served on the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. Page served as a pit reporter
from 1974–1976, and as Chief Announcer from 1977–1987. Page served as
anchor of auto racing telecasts on NBC from 1978–1987, covering both
Indycar, NASCAR, and the NHRA. He also worked on NBC's Sportsworld.
Page has many network broadcasting firsts. He called races at the
Formula 1 in Long Beach and Ceasars Palace. He also was the announcer on
NBC for the 1st CART race in 1979 at Phoenix.
In 1988, Page switched to ABC Sports,
and was their lead anchor for CART IndyCar racing, including the Indy
500. During that period, he also worked on NASCAR and IROC broadcasts.
Parallel to his work at ABC, Page also worked at ESPN, primarily as the
anchor for CART IndyCar telecasts. When the IRL was founded in 1996, he
started covering those events as well. His work on the Indianapolis 500
in '88 and '89 garnered Emmy Awards for "Best Sports Special".
Paul gave the opening introduction to
Papyrus's IndyCar Racing & IndyCar Racing II video game, released in
1995. Page also was selected to be the short-phrase commentator for the
Destruction Derby 2 wrecking/racing video game of 1996.
While working for ABC, he was also
their lead AMA Supercross commentator when ABC would cover dirt bike
His place on ABC's IRL coverage was
taken by Todd Harris for the 2005 in a move that proved unpopular. Page
was reassigned to cover other events for the ESPN family of networks,
most notably the X Games, NHRA, and has quietly become a fixture calling
the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. He called both IRL and Champ
Car races. In 2006, Page split announcing duties with Marty Reid on
ESPN's coverage of NHRA Drag Racing, sharing duties with Reid, when Reid
was on assignment, ironically calling the Indy Racing League. Page
became the full-time anchor in 2007.
In 2009, Page returned to the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network coverage of the 2009
Indianapolis 500. It was Page's first Indy 500 race he covered since the
2004. He had also voiced the race between 1988 and 1998. He was back for
the 2010 Indianapolis 500.
Page is currently the lead announcer
for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series (formerly known as NHRA
PowerAde Drag Racing Series) on ESPN and ESPN2.
In 1989 and 1990, his work was awarded
two Emmy's for the coverage of the Indianapolis 500. He also was host /
play by play in shows or series that garnered 13 other Emmy's
Collins The Voice of the 500
Sid Collins (born Sidney Cahn)
(July 17, 1922 – May 2, 1977) was an American broadcaster best known as
the radio voice of the Indianapolis 500 on the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway Radio Network from 1952-1976. He made famous the term "the
greatest spectacle in racing."
Born into a Jewish family who owned a
convenience store in Indianapolis, Indiana, Cahn changed his
professional name to Collins for fear of anti-semitism and
discrimination in his chosen field of broadcasting.
Collins worked for WIBC in
Indianapolis. One year after he started at WIBC, he became the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) track announcer for the south turn.He
became a radio announcer for the track after Bill Slater became ill. He
was named the chief announcer in 1952. That year he introduced his "full
coverage concept", which replaced a five minute rundown each hour He
sent letters to all of the radio stations on their network, but only 26
stations participated The next year 110 stations participated and the
number grew until it became 1200 by 1980.With live television coverage
of the race prohibited until 1986,Collins' radio coverage drew a large
audience every year, and his announcing became synonymous with the race
itself. He told the world the deaths, accidents, incidents and crashes
during the race. Collins received over 30,000 letters asking for a copy
of the eulogy that he gave to Eddie Sachs after Sachs died in a crash on
the second lap of the 1964 Indianapolis 500.
He anchored New York's TVS
Network auto racing network broadcasting from Trenton, Milwaukee,
Langhorne, Castle Rock, and Colorado for two years. He announced
national television coverage of the Indianapolis 500 festival parade
with Garry Moore, Steve Allen and Bob Barker for Hughes Sports Network.
He was the subject of stories in Hot Rod Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post
Collins always signed off by
quoting a serious thought or some poetry.
In April 1977, Collins visited the
Mayo Clinic where he was diagnosed with ALS. On May 2, 1977, at the age
of 54, Collins committed suicide by hanging himself in a closet with a
necktie. After hearing of his diagnosis, Collins had confided to friend
and successor Paul Page that he was planning on taking his own life.
Collins had been scheduled to announce the 1977 Indianapolis 500.
Collins was awarded nine American Auto
Racing Writers and Broadcasters awards as the best auto racing
broadcaster in the nation. He was cited by Indiana University's Radio/TV
School as an outstanding graduate and was named to the Indiana
Journalism Hall of Fame in 1979.
Driver Owner 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner
Rufus Parnell "Parnelli"
Jones (born August 12, 1933 in Texarkana, Arkansas), is a
retired American racing driver and racecar owner. He is most
remembered for his 1963 Indianapolis 500 win, and almost winning
the 1967 Indy 500 in a turbine car. He is also remembered for
bringing the stock block engine to USAC Sprint car racing as one
of the "Chevy Twins" with Jim Hurtubise.
In his career, Parnelli Jones won
races in many types of vehicles: sports cars, IndyCars, sprint
cars, midget cars, off-road vehicles, and stock cars. He is
associated with the famous Boss 302 Mustang with his wins using
the engine in the 1970s. Jones' son P. J. Jones was also a
diverse driver, with IndyCar and NASCAR starts and a
championship in IMSA prototype sports cars. His other son Page
Jones was an up-and-coming driver before suffering career ending
(and life-threatening) injuries in a sprint car at the 4-Crown
Nationals, and has been in rehabilitation, working with his
father-in-law. Following the death of 1960 Indianapolis 500
winner Jim Rathmann, Jones is now the oldest living "500"
Jones' family moved to
Torrance, California, where he grew up (and still lives). He was
nicknamed Parnelli by his boyhood friend Billy Calder, who hoped
that the Jones family would not discover their son was racing
cars as a 17-year-old minor. Jones participated in his first
race in a Jalopy race at Carrell Speedway in Gardena,
California. He developed his racing skills by racing in many
different classes in the 1950s, including 15 stock car racing
wins in the NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model Series.
His first major championship
was the Midwest region Sprint car title in 1960. The title
caught the attention of promoter J. C. Agajanian, who became his
sponsor. He began racing at Indianapolis in 1961.
Jones was named the 1961
Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, an honor that he shared
with Bobby Marshman. Jones led early in the race and ran among
the leaders until being hit in the fact with a stone, bloodying
his face, blurring his vision and slowing him to a 12th-place
In 1962, he was the first
driver to qualify over 150 mph at the Indianapolis 500, winning
the pole position at a speed of 150.370 mph (241.997 km/h).
Jones dominated the first two-thirds of the race until a brake
line failure slowed him, and he settled for a seventh-place
In the 1963 Indianapolis 500,
he started on the pole. This was the year the controversial
Lotus-Ford rear-engined cars made their first appearance, and
had ruffled the Indianapolis establishment. With Scotsman Jim
Clark in a Lotus-Ford closing on Jones in the waning laps,
Jones' car developed a horizontal crack in the external oil
reservoir. At that moment, driver Eddie Sachs crashed on the
oil-slickened racing surface and brought out a yellow caution
flag, slowing the field. Agajanian, Jones' car owner, argued
with chief steward Harlan Fengler not to issue a black flag,
insisting the oil level had dropped below the level of the
crack, and that the leak had stopped. As Agajanian pleaded with
Fengler, Lotus head man Colin Chapman rushed up to join the
conversation and demanded that Fengler follow the rules about
disqualifying cars with oil leaks. With the end of the race just
minutes away, Fengler took no action, and Jones went on to win.
The Lotus-Ford team, while unhappy with the obvious favoritism
displayed by race officials toward Jones and Agajanian, also
acknowledged Jones' clear superiority in the event. In addition,
Ford officials recognized that a victory through
disqualification of Clark's biggest competitor would not be well
received by the public, so they declined to protest.
Also that year, legendary
vehicle fabricator Bill Stroppe built a Mercury Marauder USAC
Stock car for Jones. Jones won the 1963 Pikes Peak International
Hill Climb in the car, and broke the stock car speed record.
In 1964, he won 7 races (and
tied for a win) on his way to the USAC Stock car crown. He won
the Turkey Night Grand Prix midget car event. Mercury decided to
pull out of stock car racing after the season.
He won five of the nine midget
car events that he entered in 1966, including the Turkey Night
Grand Prix. He finished fourteenth in the final points despite
competing in only nine of 65 events.
In 1967, he drove in the
Indianapolis 500 for owner Andy Granatelli in the revolutionary
STP-Paxton Turbocar. Jones dominated the race but dropped out
with three laps to go when a small, inexpensive transmission
bearing broke. After 1968, turbine-powered cars were legislated
out of competitiveness.
Also in 1967, as part of his
stock car contract with the Lincoln-Mercury division of the Ford
Motor Company, Jones drove a Mercury Cougar for Bud Moore in the
second-year Trans Am series. In April, Jones dueled with
teammate, friend and rival Dan Gurney in a brutal 300-mile
(480 km), 4-hour event at Green Valley, Texas in 113-degree
heat, losing by inches to Gurney.
Stroppe suggested that Jones
try his hand at off-road racing in front of a large crowd at a
Christmas party in 1967. Jones at first said no, since he had
enough of dirt. Stroppe suggested that maybe off-road racing was
too hard for Jones, and the challenge started Jones' off-road
career. Jones and Stroppe teamed up for the 711-mile (1,144 km)
Star Dust 7/11 race across the Nevada desert in early 1968.
Jones had never driven or pre-run the Ford Bronco. Jones hit a
dry wash at full speed, which broke the wheels and blew out the
front tires. Jones would later have a guest appearance in the
original film Gone in 60 Seconds featuring him and his Bronco
which was stolen in the plot. Jones had become hooked on
In 1968, Jones headed a
super-roster of seven drivers signed by Andy Granatelli to drive
STP Lotus 56 turbine cars in an unprecedented single-team
assault on the Indianapolis 500. The deaths of Jim Clark and
Mike Spence, plus a serious injury to Jackie Stewart, whittled
the entry to four. Jones, testing his reworked 1967 car in
practice, was dissatisfied with the car's performance compared
to the newer "wedge"-shaped Lotus 56 turbines, and had concluded
the car was unsafe. He stepped out of the car, which was
subsequently assigned to Joe Leonard, who promptly wrecked the
car in practice. Jones retired from driving IndyCars, but later
admitted, "If I hadn't already won Indy, they could never have
kept me out of that car."
Jones entered the 1968 NORRA
Mexican 1000 (now Baja 1000). Jones led until the 150-mile
(240 km) marker. The Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame describes
Jones' racing style: "Jones and Stroppe had to find a way to
keep their vehicles in one piece. During races Jones would push
the vehicles at maximum speeds until they gave way, with Stroppe
telling him at top volume the entire time to take it easier on
Jones had a special car
fabricated that looked like a Bronco, but had racing parts that
could withstand rigorous jarring that off-road vehicles endure.
Jones named the vehicle "Big Oly" after his sponsor Olympia
Jones used the vehicle to lead the Mexican 1000 from start to
finish in a new record time of 14 hours and 59 minutes.
Jones had major wins in the
1973 season. He won his second Mexican 1000 in 16 hours and 42
minutes. He also won the 1973 Baja 500 and Mint 400 off-road
events. Jones had a major accident at SCORE International's 1974
Baja 500, and stepped away from full-time off-road racing to
become a race car owner.
Jones raced SCCA Trans Am
sedans owned by Bud Moore: Mercury Cougar (1967) and Ford
Mustang (1969—1971). Parnelli's dominance of the extremely
competitive 1970 season brought Ford the manufacturer's
Jones retired with six
IndyCar wins and twelve pole positions, four wins in 34 NASCAR
starts, including the 1967 Motor Trend 500 at Riverside, 25
midget car feature wins in occasional races between 1960 and
1967, and 25 career sprint car wins.His fifteen wins is eighth
on the all-time in NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model history.[
Jones started Vel’s Parnelli
Jones Racing, which won the Indianapolis 500 again as an owner
in 1970 and 1971 with driver Al Unser driving the Johnny
Lightning special. The team also won the 1970, 1971, and 1972
USAC National Championships.
Jones owned the Parnelli
Formula One race team from late 1974 to early 1976, although it
achieved little success.
Jones returned to off-road
racing as owner of Walker Evans' 1976 SCORE truck, and Evans won
the championship. They teamed up for the 1977 CORE Class 2
Jones owned vehicles that took
class wins at the Baja 500 and Baja 1000. His USAC Dirt Car won
two championships and the Triple Crown three times.
*Clint Brawner Mechanic Race Car Designer
Clint Brawner was born on December 15,
1916 and survived 71 years before taken by cancer. Married to Kay for 38
years, Brawner's life was focused on racing, especially Indy cars.
He contributed enormously to the
success of the many race car drivers who steered the cars he prepared,
among them Jimmy Bryan, Bobby Ball, Troy Ruttman, Bill Vukovich, Bob
Sweikert, Eddie Sachs, Chuck Hulse, Art Pollard, A.J. Foyt, Roger
McCluskey, Jimmy Caruthers and Mario Andretti (for whom he was crew
chief at Indy in 1969 during Andretti's only win in the 500 mile race).
A great observer of racing talent, Brawner gave some of the greatest
stars of his era their first shot at the big time.
His protoge, Jim McGee, learned his
lessons well and has for many years been one of the top mechanics and
team managers in Indy car racing. "Clint was the greatest mechanic to
come down the road," said McGee. "He could do more with less than any
guy I ever saw. He had a tremendous ability to fix things, forsee
problems and know the limitations of equipment. "
As a kid, Brawner worked on the
mechanical things that were uniquely necessary for life in Phoenix. A
selftaught mechanical genius, he could do it all- build cars, build
engines, set cars up and advise the drivers. "He understood how things
worked," said McGee. "People like A.J. Watson, Jud Phillips and those
guys, whenever there was something they couldn't do or didn't want to
do, they'd leave it front of Clint's garage." Brawner's philosophy of
"man made it, man can fix it" was appropriate to him alone.
In '64, Brawner, working with
McGee, was a major player in the rear engine Hawks which ran through
'69, including the car Andretti won the 500 with that year. Eddie Kuzma
built the tubs and body work while Brawner and McGee did the rest.
A tireless worker, Brawner worked
at racing from early in the morning until late at night seven days per
week. For him, the essence of life was his wife, to whom he was very
devoted, and his racing cars. His skill, work ethic and focus led to 51
Indy car victories and four poles in the Indy 500.
Brawner was so well respected, he
was able to express himself freely without repercussion. McGee
remembered, "He was not a politician at all. Ford sponsored us one year
and he went up and chewed these guys out about what a [terrible]
passenger car they had. They needed to do this, do that to the car. Then
we'd go ask the same guys for three or four engines and they'd just
shake their head at him." But, Brawner got his engines.
Skin cancer plagued Brawner for
much of his life. He wore a bandanna and a straw hat as tools of
survival against the disease. Although he thought he had it beaten in
the early 80s, on December 23, 1987, it snuffed out the life of one of
the greatest mechanical minds in the history of American auto racing.
Mays Race Car Driver
As a racer, Rex Mays was tougher than
his cars; as a person, he enjoyed the reputation of being a fair,
honest, and gracious man. Born in Riverside, California in 1913, Rex
quickly became the driver to beat at legendary Legion Ascot Speedway in
Southern California. He won the AAA Pacific Coast Championship in 1934
and 1935, and his winning ways at Ascot led to his chance to run the big
cars at Indy in 1934. His second race at Indy was typical of his luck.
He won the pole and led until mechanical problems struck shortly after
the half-way point. He was to lead often, but a pair of seconds were his
best reward at the speedway.
Although victory eluded him in the
500, he was the first driver e' win the pole three times, and he broke
his own record with a fourth pole in 1948. It would be 27 years before
AJ. Foyt would finally match that record-41 before Rick Mears would
break it. Mays led nine of the twelve races he entered for a total of
266 laps. This was fifth on the all-time leader board at the time and
the most of anyone without a victory.
Had Mays ventured to Europe he
might have been an early Grand Prix star. He raced in the 1937
Vanderbilt Cup in New York and finished third. Tazio Nuvolari was so
impressed with Mays' talent, he reasoned the outcome might have been
different had he been behind the wheel of a proper Grand Prix car
instead of an old Alfa Romeo. Considering that this was the peak of the
German government-sponsored Auto Union and Mercedes dominance of Grand
Prix racing, May's thirdthe only top three finish of the year for a
non-German car-spoke loudly of his talents.
His America 1 rivals respected his
driving skills just as much as the Europeans. After winning the 1941
Indy 500, Mauri Rose told reporter Russ Catlin, "he [Mays] wouldn't let
up and I knew he never would. I had the faster car, but one of us was
bound to make a mistake. I knew it wouldn't be Mays. I had to let his
car beat him." The record books show that Mays won back-to-back National
Championships in 1940 and 1941. But they don't show that he raced in an
era when money was scarce and good cars even scarcer. Mays raced for the
love of the sport.
Mays' postwar exploits were noted
for fantastic battles and incidents of personal courage and leadership.
At the 1948 Milwaukee race, for example, Mays crashed his own car to
avoid hitting Duke Dinsmore, who had been thrown from his car onto the
track; Mays proceeded to risk his own safety to direct the oncoming
traffic around the helpless driver in the blinding dust. A plaque was
placed on the barrier at the Milwaukee Fairgrounds dedicated to Mays'
heroics. In later years, the race was named in his honor.
In 1949 Mays was signed to partner
Duke Nalon in the Novi Mobil Special at Indy. The pair easily took first
and second in qualifying; it was the seventh time Mays had started from
the front row. The railbirds were ecstatic: Rex Mays was behind the
wheel of the mighty Novi, the fastest driver in the fastest car.
Speedway President Wilbur Shaw was quoted as saying "Rex Mays is the man
who will tame that car. Rex is the complete driver and the only thing
that can keep him from winning this race is the car. If that car is
worthy of him then it is the first one." Sadly, both Mays and Nalon were
out by the 50th lap as a result of mechanical failures.
'The 1949 race was Mays' last trip
around the Brickyard. later that year, he was battling for position on
the 13th lap at a Del Mar event when a wheel caught a rut and flipped,
throwing him from the car. His tragic death, just over a year after that
of good friend, and fellow Hall of Famer, Ted Horn, convinced his fellow
drivers that seatbelts were a vital safety feature. Mays left behind
Dorothy, his wife of 16 years, and two small children.
At the time of his death, Mays had
been looking forward to the return of big time racing to his California
home. His spirit saw that come to pass, as his legacy was carried on in
the Rex Mays 300 held at Riverside International Raceway in the late
1960's, just a few miles from his old neighborhood. Big time racing in
the form of Indy cars had returned to Southern California and Rex Mays
was a leader once again.
* Wally Parks The father of drag racing
Wally Parks is the father of drag
racing. Those eight words fall far short of describing the contributions
this incredibly active octogenarian has made to American motorsports.
His foresight and determination have helped make what was once
considered racing's outcast into one of its most successful forms of
entertainment. Arguably the largest participant form of motorsports in
the country, Parks had the guts to fight local opposition to a
standstill during the sport's formative years, and has since overseen
the introduction of everything from television to prominent series
sponsorships as what was once little more than a backwater activity
blossomed into a very professional undertaking.
A born hot rodder, Parks returned
home after serving in the Pacific campaign in World War II to be elected
president of the Southern California Timing Association, the
organization that sanctioned racing on California's dry lake beds.
Shortly thereafter he went to work with another lakes racer, Robert E.
Petersen, on a new publication entitled Hot Rod Magazine. While Petersen
managed the growing company's business affairs, Parks used his
journalistic skills to help make the fledgling publication grow into a
substantial venture. At the same time he watched with growing concern as
hot rodders began to race on the streets of Southern California, knowing
it was only a matter of time before everything he and other serious
rodders were working toward would be buried beneath an avalanche of
public displeasure. The result was the formation of the National Hot Rod
Association, which today, with almost 80,000 members, is the largest
motorsports association in the world.
In this very limited space it's
impossible to list the contribution Parks has made to motorsports. After
leaving Petersen Publishing in 1963 to take over the NHRA operation full
time, Parks was soon named a director of ACCUS-FIA, of which he's still
a vice-chairman. Parks was the first Ollie Award winner on the Car Craft
Magazine All-Star Drag Racing Team, which recognizes an individual's
career-long contributions to drag racing. The SEMA Man of the Year in
1973, Parks was also enshrined in the International Motorsports Hall of
Fame in Talladega in 1992.
Unlike many others in important
positions, Parks has never shied away from admitting his mistakes, but
in his case those mistakes have been few and far between. His ability to
see coming trends in motorsports almost before they've broached the
horizon line has helped keep the NHRA a viable and constantly growing
organization. During his tenure the NHRA has become the owner of three
of the nation's most influential race tracks, while "National Dragster"
has become the most polished and widely circulated house organ
publication in motorsports. Parks was, of course, its first editor.
Under Park's leadership NHRA drag
racing has become an activity professional enough to attract the
nation's most forward-thinking marketing executives, while at the same
time remaining "down home" enough to encourage literally thousands of
participants to race at their local tracks week after week. From a few
temporary drag strips located on abandoned airports the sport has grown
to include almost 200 tracks from coast to coast, many of them
multi-million dollar facilities purpose-built to efficiently handle the
almost 1,000 entries and as many as 100,00-plus spectators who assemble
for one of today's 19 NHRA National events.
Donald Davidson Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian
Donald Davidson is the current
historian of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the only person to hold
such a position on a full-time basis for any motorsports facility in the
British born, Davidson first learned
of the Speedway when he became passionately interested in Grand Prix
motor racing in the mid-1950s. It didn't take long for his interest to
transfer over to the Indianapolis 500, plus other forms of American oval
track racing. He came to the Speedway in 1964 after writing to radio
announcer Sid Collins and amazed the crowd by being able to recite the
record of every driver who had ever competed in the "500." He came back
in 1965 and was hired by the United States Auto Club as statistician, a
position he held for 31 years. As of January 1998 he officially became
the historian of the Speedway. He is also now the longest-serving
commentator on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network staff,
having served in at least some capacity on every radio broadcast of the
Indianapolis 500 since 1965.
Davidson returned to the Speedway to
attend the race in 1965. He reunited with Sid Collins and the Radio
Network staff. He joined the staff as a popular fixture, and sought
permanent employment in Indianapolis.
A few days after the 1965 race, he
secured a job as a full-time statistician at USAC.
In 1966, Sid Collins arranged for
Davidson to host a 15-minute daily semi-radio program on 1070 WIBC
during the month of May. The program was called "Dial Davidson," and
allowed phone-in callers to ask Davidson questions about the
In 1967, Davidson was unable to
continue the program because he was going through basic training in the
National Guard. He missed a considerable part of the month of May at
Indy in 1967, but was able to attend the race and serve on the radio
After management changes at 1070 WIBC
in 1970, the station vastly increased their coverage of the Indianapolis
500 for 1971. Davidson was invited back to host a one-hour nightly quiz
show about the Indy 500. The show was unnamed for the first two to three
years, although Lou Palmer called it "Do it to Donald" and Chuck Riley
called it "Stymie the Limey." Callers won prizes if Donald did not know
After a few seasons, the show evolved
from a call-in quiz show to a caller-based question & answer talk show.
Davidson began fielding the callers' questions, preferably of a
nostalgic nature, about the history of the Indianapolis 500. By the
late-1970s, the program adopted the name The Talk of Gasoline Alley
(in reference to the nickname of the garage area at the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway). Davidson was often invited (most often by now-deceased
team owner Jonathan Byrd) to broadcast the program from one of the
garages, and mechanics were usually heard in the background working on
Eventually, the show was expanded to
two hours, with the second hour carried on Network Indiana.
Starting in 1994, the program began to be added to the station's evening
programming when events other than the 500 began to be held at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including the week in July/August for the
Brickyard 400, the weekend involving the F1 U.S. Grand Prix, from
2000-2007, as well as the Moto G.P. beginning in 2008. Starting in 2006,
the program has also been available as a podcast.
In 2008, after 37 years on 1070 WIBC,
the station was reorganized, and the program moved to 1070 The Fan.
On May 27th, 2010, Davidson was
inducted as a member of the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis
As chief historian for USAC and the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Davidson has written, or contributed to
numerous books about auto racing and the Indianapolis 500. His earlier
contributions include the annual Carl Hungness 500 Yearbooks and
magazine articles. In 1974 and 1975, he wrote a short-lived series of
Indianapolis 500 yearbooks entitled "Donald Davidson's 500 Annuals."
During the month of May for numerous years, Davidson penned a daily
column in the Indianapolis Star about Indianapolis 500 history.
After many years of helping others
with their books on the Indianapolis 500, Davidson wrote his own, put
out through the publishers of Autocourse, entitled Autocourse
Official History of the Indianapolis 500, co-authored by Rick
Davidson has appeared on numerous
television programs, including SportsCentury, and Indy 500 The
Classics on Speedvision.
Davidson is a lecturer at IUPUI and
offers a regular class in motorsports history in the fall.
*Ernest Schlausky A.K.A. CROCKY WRIGHT* Motorsports Pioneer
Ernest Schlausky, A.K.A. “Crocky” Wright, one of midget car racing’s most respected historians and a widely beloved icon within the sport
A passionate devotee of midget car racing for more than three quarters of a century, the New Jersey-born Crocky probably did more that any other individual to chronicle the history of midget racing on the East Coast. A prolific writer, even into his late 70s, he wrote literally hundreds upon hundreds of articles for a variety of weekly racing papers over a period of several decades (typically, merely in return for credentials at the pit gate) in addition to a number of books. He authored an ambitious six-volume history of East Coast midgets; a stats-filled hard-cover history of the fabulous short-lived late-1930s high-banked Nutley (New Jersey) Velodrome; a 1961 tribute to the life and career of the then recently fatally injured Johnny Thomson (for which Crocky turned all of the proceeds over to Thomson’s widow); a similar effort shortly thereafter praising injured driver Rex Easton (turning all of the proceeds over to Easton’s family), in addition to a variety of midget racing yearbooks, biographies on other drivers, a history of East Coast three-quarter midget racing, some fiction work, and even his own fascinating and sometimes amusingly irreverent memoirs, which nevertheless contained some surprisingly haunting and tender passages.
Crocky, who was honorably discharged after four years with the 762nd Tank Battalion in the Pacific theater during WWII, aspired to be a driver himself, dabbling with it off and on over a period of more than 20 years, mostly with the American Racing Drivers Club. He never achieved much success, but he could still say that, yes, he did indeed race against Len Duncan, Dutch Schaefer, Ernie McCoy and even a very young Mario Andretti.
When Crocky first became enamored of midget racing in the late 1930s, he was actually an even bigger devotee of “night” motorcycle speedway racing on cinder tracks. His hero was Emerson “Crocky” Rawding, an East Coast standout who briefly raced in England before having to leave his equipment behind in the rush to jump on a States-bound ship when war was declared in September, 1939. Not only did Ernie Schlausky assume his hero’s nickname, but he also copied the black and white checkered paint job of Rawding’s helmet, turning it into a trademark of his own.
While motorcycle speedway was never successful in returning after WWII, Crocky did take part in some of the futile attempts to revive it. He had better luck as a stunt man, performing as a member of a troupe formed by another leading speedway rider, “Putt” Mossman. Under Mossman’s guidance, Crocky perfected the stunt of crashing a motorcycle through flaming boards, something he introduced to a whole new audience at the Indianapolis Speedrome at age 70, and again at what was then Indianapolis Raceway Park at age 77. Crocky was very proud that some of his accomplishments were documented along with those of Evel Knievel in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In 2004 Crocky was presented the prestigious “Jim Blunk Award” at the USAC National Awards Banquet in recognition of his contributions to USAC Midget racing.
Crocky championed the cause of numerous drivers over the years, most famously Tony Stewart, who Crocky discovered as a 16-year-old three-quarter midget driver in Rushville, Ind. in 1987. He soon became Stewart’s volunteer “PR” person, a fact the eventual multi-USAC, IRL and NASCAR champion never forgot. When Crocky himself was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in a 2005 ceremony at Sun Prairie, Wisc., who should walk into the room just as the induction was taking place but Stewart himself, having gone out of his way to fly a considerable distance from a NASCAR engagement for the purpose of surprising his longtime friend.
A.J. WATSON CAR DESIGNER
A. J. Watson was a
car builder and chief mechanic from 1949 through 1984 in the
Indianapolis 500, winning the race seven times, which leaves him tied
for the record for most wins by a builder.
A native of southern
California, Watson came to Indianapolis in 1948 but missed the race. He
returned the following year with a home-built car that failed to
qualify. For the next 11 years, his cars not only qualified but were
leaders in many years. From 1955 to 1958 he was associated with the John
Zink team, and from 1959 on with Bob Wilkes. His cars dominated the race
through 1964. Although he continued entering cars for another two
decades, he was never able to regain the commanding position of his
In 1964, with many
teams following Lotus's example and moving to rear engined "funny cars",
Watson built a pair of cars based on Rolla Vollstedt's successful car.
These worked reasonably well but could not reproduce the success he had
with his front-engined "roadsters". He built monocoque rear-engined cars
in 1966 and 1967 with ever-decreasing success.
From 1969 until 1977,
Watson ran Eagles and then built a small series of highly derivative new
'Watson' cars in 1977, 1978 and again in 1982 based on Lightning and
March designs before retiring. He is frequently listed on the Indy 500
entry sheet as the "race strategist" for PDM Racing, though his role
with the team is largely honorary.
*Fred Offenhauser Automotive Engineer
Fred Offenhauser was
an automotive engineer and mechanic who designed the Offenhauser racing
engine, nicknamed the "Offy", which dominated competition in the
Indianapolis 500 race for decades.
began working in the shop of Harry Arminius Miller in 1913 at age 25,
when the state of the art double overhead cam, four valve per cylinder
Peugeot Grand Prix car, an engine design which would be contemporary
even today, won the Indianapolis 500. Miller named Offenhauser the head
of Miller's engine department in 1914. Bob Burma was campaigning the
engine that year, but when World War I made it impossible to get parts,
Miller's shop got the job of maintaining it. The design so impressed
Miller and Offenhauser that they designed an engine on largely similar
In 1917, Offenhauser
designed and built Barney Oldfield's famous "Golden Submarine".
In 1919, Leo Goossen
joined Miller’s shop and Offenhauser became plant manager. Miller's
company went bankrupt in 1933. Offenhauser bought the patterns and
equipment from Miller, and began developing the engine with Goossen.[
The engine experienced great success at the Indianapolis 500, with 24
victories in 27 years. Offenhauser himself was not frequently seen in
In 1934, Offenhauser
built his first 97 cubic inch engine for midget car racing. The car won
its first race in Curly Mills' car.
Offenhauser sold the
business in 1946 to Louis Meyer and Dale Drake. Meyer and Drake
continued producing the motor using the Offenhauser name.
INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER WORLD DRIVING CHAMPION
Norman Graham Hill was
a British racing driver and two-time Formula One World Champion. He was
born in Hampstead, London.
Graham Hill is the
only driver to win the so-called Triple Crown of Motorsport.
After serving in the
Royal Navy as an Engine Room Artificer, Hill re-joined Smiths
Instruments. He had been interested in motorcycles but in 1954 he saw an
advert for the Universal Motor Racing Club at Brands Hatch offering laps
for 5 shillings. He made his debut in a Cooper 500 Formula 3 car and was
committed to racing thereafter. Graham joined Team Lotus as a mechanic
soon after but quickly talked his way into the cockpit. The Lotus
presence in Formula One allowed him to make his debut at the 1958 Monaco
Grand Prix, retiring with a halfshaft failure.
In 1960, Hill joined
BRM, and won the world championship with them in 1962. Hill was also
part of the so-called 'British invasion' of drivers and cars in the
Indianapolis 500 during the mid-1960s, triumphing there in 1966 in a
In 1967, back at
Lotus, Hill helped to develop the Lotus 49 with the new Cosworth-V8
engine. After team mates Jim Clark and Mike Spence were killed in early
1968, Hill led the team, and won his second world championship in 1968 .
The Lotus had a reputation of being very fragile and dangerous at that
time, especially with the new aerodynamic aids which caused similar
crashes of Hill and Jochen Rindt at the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix. A crash
at the 1969 United States Grand Prix broke his legs and interrupted his
Upon recovery Hill
continued to race in F1 for several more years, but never again with the
same level of success. Colin Chapman, believing Hill was a spent force,
placed him in Rob Walker's team for 1970, sweetening the deal with one
of the brand-new Lotus 72 cars. Although Hill scored points in 1970 he
started the season far from fully fit and the 72 was not fully developed
until late in the season. Hill moved to Brabham for 1971-2; his last win
in Formula One was in the non-Championship International Trophy at
Silverstone in 1971 with the "lobster claw" Brabham BT34. But the team
was in flux after the retirements of Sir Jack Brabham and then Ron
Tauranac's sale to Bernie Ecclestone; Hill did not settle there.
Hill was known during
the latter part of his career for his wit and became a popular
personality - he was a regular guest on television and wrote a notably
frank and witty autobiography when recovering from his 1969 accident,
Life At The Limit. Hill was also irreverently immortalized on a Monty
Python episode ("It's the Arts (or: Intermission)" sketch called
"Historical Impersonations"), in which a Gumby appears asking to "see
John the Baptist's impersonation of Graham Hill." The head of St. John
the Baptist appears on a silver platter, which runs around the floor
making putt-putt noises of a race car engine.
Hill was involved with
four films between 1966 and 1974, including appearances in Grand Prix
and Caravan to Vaccarès, in which he appeared as a helicopter pilot.
Although Hill had
concentrated on F1 he also maintained a presence in sports car racing
throughout his career (including two runs in the Rover-BRM gas turbine
car at Le Mans). As his F1 career drew to a close he became part of the
Matra sports car team, taking a victory in the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans
with Henri Pescarolo. This victory completed the so-called Triple Crown
of motorsport which is alternatively defined as winning either:
*JOHN "JACK" BRABHAM WORLD DRIVING CHAMPION
"Jack" Brabham, racing driver who was Formula One champion in 1959,
1960 and 1966. He was a founder of the Brabham racing team and race car
constructor that bore his name.
Brabham was a Royal
Australian Air Force flight mechanic and ran a small engineering
workshop before he started racing midget cars in 1948. His successes in
midgets and Australian and New Zealand road racing events led to him
going to the United Kingdom to further his racing career. There he
became part of the Cooper Car Company's racing team, building as well as
racing cars. He contributed to the design of the mid-engined cars that
Cooper introduced to Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and won the
Formula One world championship in 1959 and 1960. In 1962 he established
his own Brabham marque with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac, which became
the largest manufacturer of customer racing cars in the world in the
1960s. In 1966 Brabham became the only man to win the Formula One world
championship driving one of his own cars.
Brabham retired to
Australia after the 1970 Formula One season, where he bought a farm and
maintained various business interests, which included the Engine
Developments racing engine manufacturer and several garages. As of 2008,
he is the oldest surviving Formula One world champion.
HENRY " SMOKEY" YUNICK*
NECHANIC CAR DESIGNER
Yunick was a mechanic and car designer associated with motorsports in
the United States.
deeply involved in the early years of the NASCAR, and he is probably
most associated with that racing genre. He participated as a racer,
designer, and other jobs relating to the sport but was best-known as a
mechanic, builder, and crew chief. He was renowned as a crotchety,
crusty, opinionated character who "was about as good as there ever was
on engines," according to Marvin Panch, who drove stock cars for Yunick
and won the 1961 Daytona 500. His trademark white uniform and battered
cowboy hat, together with a cigar or corncob pipe, were a familiar sight
in the pits of almost every NASCAR or Indianapolis 500 race for over
twenty years. In 1990 he was inducted into the International Motorsports
Hall of Fame.
MARION "MICKEY" THOMPSON * DRAG RACER OFF ROAD
Marion Lee "Mickey"
Thompson was an American off-road racing legend. He won many
championships as a racer, and later formed sanctioning bodies SCORE
International and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group (MTEG). He also
raced in dragsters and land speed record automobiles.
Thompson was born in
Alhambra, California. He was known universally as "Mickey." In his early
twenties, he worked for the Los Angeles Times newspaper while becoming
involved in the new sport of drag racing. He developed a brilliant
career as both a driver and an innovative automotive technician; later
as a designer, manufacturer and seller of racing and performance
equipment. In addition to being a drag racing champion, Mickey Thompson
set more speed and endurance records than any other man in automotive
history. He is credited with designing and building the first slingshot
dragster and for creating the signal starting and foul light systems
used in drag racing. In 1968, he redesigned the Funny Car, and his
vehicle went on to win the 1969 NHRA Springnationals and Nationals for
driver Danny Ongais.
1960, at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Thompson achieved international fame
when he became the first American to break the 400mph barrier hitting
406.60 mph surpassing John Cobb's one-way Land speed record of 402mph.
In his long career, Thompson raced everything from stock cars to
off-road vehicles and engineered numerous competition engines. He went
into the performance aftermarket business in the early 1960's and then,
in 1963 he created "Mickey Thompson Performance Tires" that developed
special tires for racing including for Indianapolis 500 competitors. In
1965 he published "Challenger: Mickey Thompson's own story of his life
SCORE International in 1973, a sanctioning body to oversee off-road
racing across North America. He and his wife Trudy formed the "Mickey
Thompson Entertainment Group" (MTEG) which ran an indoor motocross and
off-road vehicle racing show and competition that brought the sport from
the back-country terrain to stadiums in the heavily populated
Thompson also was
noted for being the first manager of Lions Drag Strip near Long Beach,
California in 1955.
* Bill France Jr. NASCAR EXECUTIVE AND PROMOTER
William H.G. “Big
Bill” France yanked stock car racing from liquored-up, backwoods brawls,
cleaned it up and turned it into a legitimate sport. Then he handed the
baton to his oldest son who took the sport to unimaginable heights.
For 32 years or so,
starting in January of 1972, William C. France, known to all as Bill
France Jr., was the “go-to’’ guy at the National Association of Stock
Car Auto Racing.
When you look at
France’s reign, you can gain a greater appreciation for what the man did
for the sport of stock car racing.
He took a sport
popular only in the Southeast and turned it into a national phenomenon.
Now NASCAR, with a fan base of 75 million folks, is nipping at the heels
of the NFL in terms of national popularity.
When France was
appointed president by his father, NASCAR racing was a regional sport.
The majority of Winston Cup Series events were not on television and
those that did get air time were mixed into sports anthology shows such
as ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
In a groundbreaking
live, flag-to-flag broadcast, France had a breakthrough when he signed a
deal with CBS Sports in 1978 to televise the 1979 Daytona 500.
The race produced
astronomical ratings due in part to winter weather conditions in the
Midwest and Northeast (keeping people in front of their TVs) and a
spectacular finish on the track in Florida. Richard Petty won when
Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough crashed each other out on the final
lap, then exchanged punches at the scene of the accident.
Soon after, Winston
Cup and Busch Series broadcast rights started selling like crazy to
sports-minded cable networks such as ESPN, TNN and TBS. Under France’s
direction, NASCAR got its first taste of big-league attention when it
signed an NFL-like $2.4 billion television contract with FOX, NBC, and
Turner in 1999. The contract took effect in 2001.
manufacturers’ wars of the 1950s and 1960s, Detroit had cooled to NASCAR
racing in the 1970s and that led France to look for new money outside
the automotive corporate sector.
Beginning with R. J.
Reynolds, Bill France Jr. brought a host of non-automotive related
corporations into sponsorship positions with NASCAR, which boasts some
of the most brand loyal fans on the planet.
Race cars, which once
plugged only spark plugs, oil and gas companies, have now become high
speed billboards for wireless phones, home improvement centers and
France’s three top
priorities on the competition side of the company were always safety,
close finishes and holding the line on expense.
The $20 million NASCAR
Research and Development Center officially opened last spring in
Concord, N.C., to help pursue France’s three goals, with safety a
While other forms of
racing have advanced technology, NASCAR uses the same simple engine
components that were available in the 1950s. You won’t find fuel
injection or turbo systems in stock car racing.
France believes low
tech keeps the competition close and saves race teams vast amounts of
France also has guided
NASCAR through several patches of troubled waters.
At the height of the
energy crisis in the mid-1970s, France shortened the 1974 Daytona 500 to
450 miles to show its concern for the country’s gas predicament.
In the 1980s France
again battled Capitol Hill on a tax bill that would have done away with
most business leisure expense deductions, which would have been
disastrous for NASCAR’s corporate clients.
Presently, France has
stepped out of the limelight at NASCAR and turned the day-to-day
management of the sanctioning body over to his son and his lieutenants.
Nevertheless, he still
figures to shape auto racing as chairman of International Speedway
Corp., which boasts 12 major racing facilities.
Did France achieve all
he set out to do as NASCAR czar all those years?
what I was supposed to do with a lot of help from a lot of people," he
continued. "I got some recognition for it and some credit for it, which
quite frankly should slide on down the line to the people who came up
with the idea.
*Carl Fisher American entrepreneur Founder
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Carl Graham Fisher)
was an American entrepreneur. Despite having severe astigmatism, he
became a seemingly tireless pioneer and promoter of the automotive, auto
racing, and real estate development industries.
Regarded as a
promotional genius for most of his life, in the late 19th century, he
became a bicycle enthusiast and became involved in bicycle racing and
later auto racing. After being injured in stunts, he helped develop
paved racetracks and roadways. An Indiana native, Fisher operated what
is believed to be the first automobile dealership in the United States
and he helped organize the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In 1913, Fisher
conceived and helped develop the Lincoln Highway, the first paved road
planned across the entire United States. A convoy trip a few year later
by the U.S. Army along Fisher's Lincoln Highway was a major influence
upon then Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower years later in championing the
Interstate Highway System during his presidency in the 1950s.
Carl Fisher followed
the east-west Lincoln Highway in 1914 with the conception of the
north-south Dixie Highway, which first led from Indianapolis, and
eventually extended in several northern branches from the Mid-West U.S.
at the Canadian borders to southern mainland Florida. Under his
leadership, the initial portion was completed within a single year, and
he led an automobile caravan to Florida from Indiana.
At the south end of
the Dixie Highway in Miami, Florida, Fisher became involved in the
successful real estate development of the new resort city of Miami
Beach, built on a largely unpopulated barrier island and reached by the
new Collins Bridge across Biscayne Bay directly at the terminus of the
Dixie Highway. Fisher was one of the best known and active promoters of
the Florida land boom of the 1920s. By 1926, he was worth an estimated
$100 million, and redirected his promotional efforts when the Florida
real estate market bubble burst after 1925. His final major project, cut
short by the Great Depression, was a "Miami Beach of the north" at
Montauk, located at the eastern tip of Long Island, New York.
His fortune was lost
in the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression in the United
States which followed shortly thereafter. He found himself living in a
small cottage in Miami Beach, doing minor work for old friends.
Nevertheless, years after his fortune had been lost, at the end of his
career, he took on one more project, albeit more modest than many of his
past ventures, and built the famous Caribbean Club on Key Largo,
intended as a "poor man's retreat."
Although he had lost
his fortune and late in life considered himself a failure, Fisher is
widely regarded as a very successful man in the long view of his life.
He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1971. In a 1998
study judged by a panel of 56 historians, writers, and others, Carl G.
Fisher was named one of the 50 Most Influential People in the history of
the State of Florida by The Ledger newspaper. PBS labeled him "Mr. Miami
Beach." Fisher Island, one of the wealthiest and most exclusive
residential areas in the United States, just south of Miami Beach, is
named for him.
Carnegie Chief announcer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 60
Few of us can honestly
say we’ve contributed to the lexicon of a sport, but one man certainly
has: Phrases like: “Heeeezzzzzz ON IT!” Or, “It's a newwwww track
rrrrecord!” Or, “Mario is slowing on the backstretch!”
All courtesy of Tom
Carnegie, the announcer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 60 years.
“He is one of those
rare individuals who created a persona that can be imitated, but can
never be duplicated,” says the subject of one of those trademark
phrases, Mario Andretti. “He represents so many exciting moments in
Through the myriad
changes in motorsports, Carnegie's voice is one of the few constants.
After a couple of artificial hips and artificial knees, he shows no
signs of slowing.
Carnegie, a native of
the Kansas City area, had hoped to play professional sports until a
viral fever hospitalized him for months and weakened his legs to the
point where he knew he'd never play with the pros. But even as a young
man, Carnegie had those pipes, and it led him to broadcasting. He ended
up in Indiana, and his narration of a car parade caught the ear of Indy
500 officials. He called his first Indy 500 in 1946. Until then, he'd
seen only one race, and that was in Illinois while on vacation. It took
10 years, he says, before he was comfortable with the job.
Throughout the years,
Carnegie has had a front-row seat for triumph and tragedy. In the early
days, injuries and fatalities occurred on a regular basis. After losing
many friends in racing, perhaps most notably one of his best friends,
racer Jim Clark, Carnegie learned why many people in motorsports try not
to get too attached to drivers.
Carnegie considers the
advances in safety to be the most positive change he's witnessed. “We
didn't know anything about safety then. Danger was just a fact of life.”
dramatic has been Carnegie’s challenge—and his forte. And not only on
race day. For decades, his descriptions of the relentless quest to break
speed barriers built main event sized crowds—for time trials!
Still, the last Sunday
in May was Carnegie’s Main Gate to immortality.
For 61 Memorial Day
Weekends, Tom Carnegie’s calendar was full. As were the calendars of
hundreds of thousands of fans, for whom it just wasn’t Indy until they
heard those phrases, those Carnegie-isms.
Phrases that, Carnegie
says, “just happened. I never intended to patent any of them.” Maybe he
After the 2006 race,
Tom Carnegie put down the Indianapolis Motor Speedway microphone for the
last time. The Indy 500 will never be the same
“When he is no longer
in the announcer’s booth, there will be a huge void,” says Mario
Andretti. “You cannot say that about too many individuals in life. He is
an intricate, exciting part of our sport and of the biggest spectacle in
racing, the Indianapolis 500.”
*Henry Ford Race Car innovator
Few automakers are
more closely associated with motorsport than Ford Motor Company.
That commitment began
with the entrepreneurial zeal of its founder, Henry Ford. In the
earliest days of the automobile, many people worked on motor carriages,
and a variety of trials, tests and races were held that attracted
widespread attention. Ford noted the acclaim and enthusiasm automobiles
brought, so he built his first cars to establish his name through
motorsports. He also noted the prize money, sometimes as large as
Oliver Barthel and
Ford built a racer for the October 10, 1901, races sponsored by the
Detroit Driving Club. When it came time for the feature, preliminary
races had taken so much time that the main 25-lap race was shortened to
just ten laps. To the starting line came three entrants: Henry Ford
aboard his racer, the famed Alexander Winton on his and another driver
who discovered a mechanical problem and withdrew. Ford had never raced
before, but fortune was in his favor after Winton's machine began
leaving a trail of smoke after three laps. Racing had indeed brought
what he wanted-acclaim. But the experience was such that Ford retired as
a competitive driver, saying, "Once is enough."
That success led to
the formation of the Henry Ford Co. on November 30, 1901. The company
didn't go in the direction Ford wanted, so he left to join forces with
Tom Cooper, the foremost cyclist of the time, in building a much more
aggressive racer, the 999. Because of its potential speed, Ford became
concerned about his driver's safety. But he need not have been too
concerned: his driver, 23-year-old Barney Oldfield, had already proven
himself in bicycle racing. Oldfield practiced at Grosse Pointe the week
before the occasion of the next race, the Manufacturer's Challenge Cup
held October 25, 1902.
Four drivers started;
again, the main opposition was Winton. Oldfield led from the start, as
he opened up 999 and didn't let off. His lead grew to the point of
lapping the two lagging cars, and Oldfield soundly beat Winton, who
dropped out on the fourth lap. Ford's 999, with its 70, perhaps 80
horsepower, was described as "low, rakish, and makes more noise than a
freight train." It was in that machine that two things happened:
Oldfield made Ford famous and Ford made Oldfield famous. Both went on to
become the most recognized figures in early motoring-Ford as a builder,
Oldfield as a driver.
The excitement that
Henry Ford's products generated became the source of explosive growth in
motorsport throughout the 20th century. Today, Ford is the only
automaker that can claim victory in the Indy 500, Daytona 500, 24 hours
of LeMans and Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, the Monte Carlo Rallye and
the Baja 1000. That commitment is certain to continue in the future,
given Ford's ongoing, global support of virtually all forms of
motorsport. Henry would certainly have been proud.
* Ralph Depalma Indianapolis 500 winner and
Ralph DePalma was an
Italian-American racecar driving champion, most notably winner of the
1915 Indianapolis 500.
Born in Troia Apulia,
Italy, DePalma's family emigrated to the United States when he was eight
years old. As a young man of twenty-two, he began racing motorcycles
before switching to the automobile dirt track racing circuit in 1909,
the year that the American Automobile Association established the
national driving championship.
immediately successful in car racing. In 1911, DePalma won the first
Milwaukee Mile Championship Car race. However, he is still remembered
for the dramatic manner in which he lost the 1912 Indianapolis 500.
After leading for nearly 196 of the 200 laps, his Mercedes cracked a
piston and with only 2 laps remaining, he and his mechanic had to push
the car across the finish line to take twelfth place. He went on to earn
the U.S. national driving championship that year, but was almost killed
in an accident at on October 5th at the Milwaukee Mile during the
400-mile Vanderbilt Cup. Hospitalized for a considerable time, he
recovered and was back to racing the following spring.
In 1912 and again in
1914, DePalma won the Elgin National Trophy at Elgin, Illinois and in
1914 he scored what he called his greatest victory when he beat Barney
Oldfield to capture the Vanderbilt Cup in Santa Monica, California.
DePalma had been let go by the Mercer Automobile Co. racing team in
favor of the great Barney Oldfield and in a Mercedes "Gray Ghost,"
DePalma showed he was a master tactician in beating Oldfield's much
faster car. Things got even better that year when he again won his
second U.S. national driving championship. The following year, 1915, he
drove to long-awaited victory at Indianapolis.
Ralph DePalma was an
intense competitor but one of the most popular racers with his fellow
drivers and the fans because of his good sportsmanship, a quality he
displayed on and off the track. In June 1917 he lost to Barney Oldfield
in a series of 10 to 25 mile match races ath the Milwaukee Mile. On
February 12, 1919 at Daytona Beach, Florida, he drove a Packard to a
world speed record of 149.875 mph over a measured mile. International
competition began following the adoption of the three liter engine limit
in the U.S. and Europe in 1920. DePalma began the year driving for the
French manufacturer, Ballot. His Ballot vehicle was one of the fastest
qualifiers at the 1920 Indy but bad luck dogged him in the race.
However, DePalma traveled with other Americans to Le Mans to compete in
the French Grand Prix. There, he finished second to the Dusenberg
driven by fellow American, Jimmy Murphy.
Ralph DePalma had a
small role in the 1920 Hollywood film, High Speed and in 1924 played the
part of the Champion in an action/drama written by Wilfred Lucas titled
Racing for Life. In 1923, he established the DePalma Manufacturing
Company in Detroit to build race cars and engines for automobiles and
Ralph DePalma retired
from racing after a career in which he competed in 2,889 races, winning
an astonishing 2,557. He died in South Pasadena, California in 1956 and
was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. The
Mercedes in which he narrowly lost the 1912 Indianapolis 500 remains on
display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
DePalma was the
brother of 500 competitor John DePalma and the uncle of 1925 Indy
winner Pete DePaolo.
* Benny Parsons NASCAR Winston Cup Champion
clouds boiled ominously over Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 25, 1980 as
In the press box,
gallows humor prevailed.
"I imagine this is
what the End Of Time sky will look like," someone said.
Lightning bolts blazed
in the distance.
There also was great
electricity on the track.
Benny Parsons and
Darrell Waltrip were locked in an exciting, tense battle for victory in
a race then known as the World 600.
The lead see-sawed, it
seemed, almost every time around the 1.5-mile layout between the two
drivers, who were two laps ahead of their nearest challenger.
They swapped the front
spot eight times in the final 26 laps, four times in the final 10.
Parsons managed to
pull ahead on the 399th of the 400 laps and then held off Waltrip by
half a car-length to triumph in what many observers rate the most
thrilling finish in the history of the Charlotte track, which dates to
That victory, plus the
20 others he scored at NASCAR's top level in a two-decade career, have
earned 1973 Winston Cup Series champion Benny Parsons induction into the
Motorsports Hall Of Fame of America.
His 12 superspeedway
wins include the 1975 Daytona 500, the 1978 Rebel 500 at Darlington, the
1984 Gabriel 400 at Michigan International Speedway and the '84
Coca-Cola 500 at Atlanta.
NASCAR's roster of
drivers is replete with relative rags-to-riches stories. Few are more
compelling than that of Benny Parsons.
Benny grew up far back
in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in a beautiful, remote
cove known as Parsonsville.
He lived in a log home
with his great-grandmother, helping the elderly lady with her chores.
Benny's parents had moved to Detroit for work following World War II,
but he stayed behind to attend Millers Creek High School, where he
Another sport he loved
was stock car racing, and Benny seldom missed watching from the
grandstand when the NASCAR stars competed at the local track, North
After graduating from
high school, Benny joined his parents in Detroit, where his father
operated a cab company. Benny began working at a service station. One
night some fellows towing a race car behind a pickup truck stopped at
the station for fuel en route to an area short track. They invited
Benny to come along and he climbed into the bed of the pickup. When the
regular driver didn't show up, Benny took the wheel of the race car that
Thus began a driving
career that was to produce that Winston Cup championship in '73, one of
the sport's most memorable.
Parsons crashed early
in the season-finale at N.C. Motor Speedway at Rockingham, much to the
dismay of a very partisan crowd. At that time Benny lived at nearby
Ellerbe, N.C., where he was president of the local school's
In a remarkable
development, members of other teams rallied to help make repairs and get
Parsons' badly damaged car rolling again so that he could amass enough
points to win the title. He was able to complete 308 of the race's 500
laps, finished 25th and edged Cale Yarborough by 67 points.
That rivals came to
his rescue is a measure of the respect that the personable Parsons, now
64, has commanded throughout his racing career.
Benny never rated
himself a strong qualifier, but he was fastest in time trials 20 times.
And among his notable achievments is becoming the first NASCAR driver to
officially qualify in excess of 200 mph when he hit 200.176 at Talladega
Superspeedway in 1982, taking the pole for the Winston 500.
After his retirement
as a driver in 1989, Benny became a member of ESPN's NASCAR telecast
team and won an Emmy for his prowess as an analyst. He now provides
expert commentary on NBC's NASCAR telecasts.
In looking back on a
wonderful driving career, Benny Parsons touchingly rates among his
favorite accomplishments a short track triumph in 1979. That win came
in the Holly Farms 400 at little North Wilkesboro Speedway, only 15
miles or so from that old log home at Parsonsville.
ECONOMAKI SPEED SPORT NEWS FOUNDER AND PUBLISHER
CHRIS ECONOMAKI is a
legendary American motorsports commentator, pit road reporter, and
journalist. Chris Economaki has been given the title "The Dean of
Economaki was born in
Brooklyn, New York. Economaki’s father was a Greek immigrant and his
mother a great-niece of Robert E. Lee. He saw his first race at age 9 at
the board track in Atlantic City. He was immediately hooked on the
sport. He once attempted driving a midget car at a cinder track in
Pennsylvania. "It wasn’t for me," says Economaki. "It was a really
frightening experience. That was the first and last time I drove in
He started his career
at age 13 selling copies of National Speed Sport News newspapers. He
wrote his first column at age 14 for the National Auto Racing News.
Economaki became the editor of the National Speed Sport News in 1950. He
began writing a column called "The Editor’s Notebook", which he
continues to write over fifty years later. He eventually became owner,
publisher, and editor of the National Speed Sport News. His daughter
Corinne Economaki is the current publisher. The newspaper is considered
"America’s Weekly Motorsports Authority".
He has co-written an
autobiography called Let 'Em All Go: The Story of Auto Racing by the Man
who was there.
MULDOWNEY NHRA LEGEND 1ST WOMAN TO WIN MAJOR EVENT
SHIRLEY MULDOWNEY the
"First Lady of Drag Racing" was the first woman to receive a licence to
drive a top fuel dragster by the NHRA. She won the NHRA Top Fuel
championship in 1977 in 1980 and 1982. After a crash in 1984 she was
sidelined for a long period but returned to the circuit in the late
1980s. She continued to race, mostly without major sponsorship,
throughout the 1990s in IHRA competition as well as match-racing events.
She returned to the NHRA towards the end of her career, running select
events until her retirement at the end of 2003.
came in the face of enormous opposition from those who felt drag racing
was no place for women. Don Garlits, the "Big Daddy" of drag racing, has
said about her:
described by longtime drag racer Fred Farndon as the "best 'natural'
driver (top fuel or funny car), no question".
She was nicknamed
"Cha-Cha" - a name chosen by car owner and then boyfriend Connie
Kalitta. She later dropped the moniker, stating: "There is no room for
bimbosim in drag racing."
Shirley Muldowney is
married to Rahn Tobler, who was her crew chief. After Muldowney's
retirement, Tobler became crew chief for the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster
of Doug Kalitta Connie Kalitta's nephew.
PRUDHOMME NHRA DRIVER
Don 'Snake' Prudhomme
is an American dragster racer, who won the NHRA funny car championship
four times in a thirty-five-year career. He was the first funny car
driver to exceed 250 mph. He retired in 1994 to manage his own racing
team. With driver Larry Dixon, Prudhomme's team won the top fuel
championship in 2002 and 2003. Known for his yellow 1970 Plymouth
Barracuda in which he raced rival driver Tom " Mongoose" McEwen in his
red 1970 Plymouth Duster, later both drivers gained more attention from
the Hot Wheels versions that were released in 1970. Hot Wheel celebrated
their 35th anniversery in 2003 with a two day event.
KINSER 17 TIME WoO CHAMPION " KING OF THE SPRINTS"
Steve is a
professional sprint car racer. He has won 20 championships in the World
of Outlaws (WoO) series, and currently drives the #11 Quaker State car.
Kinser left the World of Outlaws in 2006 to compete with the new
National Sprint Tour series.
Steve also finished
14th in the 1997 Indianapolis 500. He has been a perennial competitor in
IROC winning a race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1994. He also finished
a career best 6th in IROC points in 1994.
He began the 1995
season as a full-time NASCAR Winston Cup driver for Kenny Bernstein, but
he was released after only five starts after a best finish of 27th and
average finish of 35th.
BIGNOTTI 7 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER CHIEF MECHANIC
A. J. Foyt won 27
races in cars prepared by Bignotti while other drivers who scored wins
for him included Al Unser, Gordon Johncock, Tom Sneva, Joe Leonard,
Wally Dallenbach, Rodger Ward, Graham Hill and Jud Larson.
George also holds the
record for most victories for a chief mechanic in the Indianapolis
500-Mile Race - seven! His cars won in 1961, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1971,
1973, and 1983 driven by Foyt, Hill, Unser, Johncock and Sneva.
He started as a race
car owner in the San Francisco area and in 1954 made his debut as a crew
member at Indianapolis.
In 1956, teaming with
co-car owner Bob Bowes, he scored his first Indy Car win in the
100-miler at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix. I he driver was
A. J. Foyt joined the
team in 1960 and USAC National Championships ensued, both in 1960 and
1961. A. J. also grabbed the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, but in the summer
of 1962 they decided to part company. Reforming as a team before the end
of the year, they immediately stormed back to the winners circle and
ended up second in the point standings. Piling up 27 victories in just
five seasons, they again claimed the USA National Championship in 1963
Following a final
split with Foyt in 1965, Bignotti collaborated with John Mecom on what
evolved into the Vel s Parnelli Jones superteam , comprised of drivers
Al Unser, Mario Andretti and Joe Leonard. George subsequently led a
heavily revamped Patrick Racing Team starting in 1973 and the Dan Cotter
team beginning in 1981, enjoying a measure of success with each.
CHAPMAN INFLUENTIAL DESIGNER, INVENTOR AND CAR BUILDER
Colin was an
influential designer, inventor, and builder in the automotive industry.
In 1952 he founded the sports car company Lotus Cars. He studied
structural engineering at University College, London where he joined the
University Air Squadron and learned to fly. After graduating in 1948, he
briefly joined the Royal Air Force. His knowledge of the latest
aeronautical engineering techniques would prove vital towards achieving
the major automotive technical advances he is remembered for. His
Formula One Team Lotus won seven World Championships and the
Indianapolis 500 between 1962 and 1978. The production side of Lotus
Cars has built tens of thousands of relatively affordable, cutting edge
sports cars. Lotus is one of but a handful of British performance car
builders still in business after the industrial decline of the 1970s
PETTY LEGENDARY NASCAR DRIVER
Lee Petty was one of
the pioneers of NASCAR and one of its first superstars.
Lee Petty was
thirty-five years old before he began racing. He began his NASCAR career
at NASCAR's first race at Charlotte Speedway (not Charlotte Motor
Speedway). He finished in the Top 5 in season points for NASCAR's first
eleven seasons. He won the NASCAR Championship on three occasions and
the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959.
In that inaugural
Daytona 500 race, Petty locked horns with Johnny Beaucamp during the
final laps of the race. The finish was so close that evne though Johnny
was declared the unofficial winner, it took 3 days to decide the winner.
In the end, with the help of the national newsreel, Petty was officially
declared the winner and cemented his place as one of stock-car racing's
all time greats.
UNSER 3 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Bobby is the brother
of Al Unser and Jerry Unser, the father of Robby Unser, and the uncle of
Al Unser, Jr. and Johnny Unser. Often under-rated, he was an astute and
occasionally very rapid exponent of the subtle art of oval racing. He is
one of seven drivers to win the Indy 500 three times and one of only two
to have won the 500 in three different decades (1968, 75, 81).
Bobby was apart of one
of the most controversial finishes in Indy 500 history. In lap 149,
during a caution period, Bobby and Mario Andretti made their pit stop
and headed back to the race, the problem was Bobby passed 8 cars during
the caution, while Mario passed 2 cars himself, a subject that was
heatily debated on ESPN Classic's Big Ticket episode in 2000. Unser won
the race, but was stripped the next morning to the 2nd place finisher
Mario Andretti, but Unser got his win back in October 1981.
Bobby was the 1975
Bobby Unser won the
USAC Indy car championships in 1968 and 1974. He also competed in the
1968 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International, driving for
the BRM team.
He also drove in 3
NASCAR Grand National races from 1969 to 1973 with a best finish of
BRYAN USAC NATIONAL CHAMPION
Jimmy was born in
Phoenix, Arizona, Bryan died in Langhorne, Pennsylvania as a result of
injuries sustained in a champ car race. He drove in the AAA and USAC
Championship Car series, racing in the 1952-1960 seasons with 72 starts,
including each year's Indianapolis 500 race. He finished in the top ten
54 times, with 23 victories.
Bryan won the 1958
Indianapolis 500 and the 1954(AAA), 1956 and 1957(USAC) National
As the Indianapolis
500 counted as a round of the Formula One World championship from 1950
to 1960 his career is credited with participation in 9 grands prix, with
1 win, 3 podiums and 18 championship points scored. (Note that drivers
who won the Indy 500 only are often not listed in totals of Grand Prix
winners, as the race's inclusion in the World Championship was largely
symbolic, with very few F1 drivers taking part.)
He died after a crash
in a Champ car race at Langhorne Speedway in 1960, on the same day that
two drivers were killed in the Belgian Grand Prix, making the day one of
the most tragic in racing history.
SACHS SPRINT MIDGET DRIVER
Eddie Sachs was a
United States Auto Club driver who was known as the "Caped Crusader of
Auto Racing" and "Clown Prince of Auto Racing" for his personality at
the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
His career included
eight USAC Championship Trail wins, 25 top-five finishes in 65 career
AAA and USAC starts, including the 1958 USAC Midwest Sprint Car
Championship, in a career which included consecutive pole positions
(1960-1961) in the Indianapolis 500, coming closest to winning the race
in 1961 but falling short by one position.
Sachs and sports car
driver and Indy rookie Dave MacDonald were killed on the second lap of
the 1964 Indianapolis 500 in a fiery crash involving seven cars, which
resulted in the USAC ban on gasoline and the switch to methanol-alcohol
*TONY BETTENHAUSEN AAA NATIONAL CHAMPION
Tony won the National
Championship in 1951 and 1958. He is a member of numerous Halls of Fame.
He was born in Tinley
Park, Illinois. He was nicknamed the "Tinley Park Express" in honor of
his hometown.He was nicknamed "Tunney" after heavyweight boxing champion
Gene Tunney. "Tunney" later became "Tony."
Bettenhausen was part
of the "Chicago Gang" with Duke Nalon. They toured tracks in the Midwest
and East Coast of the United States.
He drove in the AAA
and USCAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1941 and 1946-1961
seasons with 121 starts, including 14 in the Indianapolis 500. He
finished in the top ten 74 times, with 21 victories.
He won the track
championship at the Milwaukee Mile in 1942, 1946, and 1947. He was the
Chicago Raceway Park champion in 1941, 1942, and 1947.
He won the 1959 Turkey
Night Classic, and the Hut Hundred in 1955 and 1956.
He won the National
Championship in 1951 after recording eight victories and two second
place finishes in fourteen events. He announced his retirement from all
racing but the Indianapolis 500 after the season. He decided to return
full-time for the 1954 season. He was involved in a midget car wreck in
Chicago. He suffered head injuries after striking a concrete wall. He
was in critical condition for several days.
In 1958 he became the
only driver to win the national championship without a win. He was
assured the title with a second place finish at Phoenix. He finished
second in the national championship to Rodger Ward in 1959.
killed in 1961 in a crash at Indianapolis while testing a car for Paul
As the Indianapolis
500 counted as a round of the Formula One World championship from 1950
to 1960 his career is credited with participation in 11 grands prix,
with 1 podium and 10 championship points scored.
ROSE 3 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Mauri was born in
He started from the
pole position driving a Maserati in the 1941 Indianapolis 500, but
spark plug problems put him out of the race after sixty laps. He then
took over the Wetteroth/Offenhauser
driven by Floyd Davis that had started in 17th place and won the race.
In 1947 and 1948, Rose captured back-to-back Indy 500's driving a
Mauri Rose made his
fifteenth and final Indianapolis 500 start in the 1951 race which that
year was part of the Formula One circuit. Knocked out from an accident
after 126 laps, the forty-five-year-old Rose retired to a home in
California. For the 1967 race, officials of the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway invited him to drive the Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car.
While his career in
racing was filled with success, Rose considered his most important
accomplishment to be his invention of a device that made it possible for
amputees to drive an automobile.
HARROUN 1ST WINNER INDIANAPOLIS 500
He was born on January 12, 1879 in
He participated in the original setting of
the record from Chicago to New York in 1903, and the re-taking of that
record in 1904. He and four others drove in shifts non-stop to establish
the record of 76 hours at the end of September, 1903. That time was
bested by another team nearly a year later, and in October 1904, the
Columbia team re-set the record at 58 hrs, 35 min. That record stood for
nearly two years. Other drivers in both years included Bert Holcomb (who
was in charge of the runs), Lawrence Duffie (Demonstrator of the
Gasoline Dept of
Electric Vehicle Company, which
Columbia cars), and Harry Sandol. In
1903, the fifth driver was David R. Adams; in 1904 it was
Nicknamed the "Little Professor" for his
hand in creating the Marmon Wasp. Harroun is best known for winning the
first running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 30, 1911. He is
known to have started at least 60
AAA-sanctioned races, during the years
1905-1911. (Statistics on some of the shorter races document only the
top three finishers, so some starts resulting in lower finishes may not
be known.) From 1909 to 1911, Harroun drove primarily for the team
Indianapolis-based auto maker,
Marmon. However, at least one 1909 race
result shows him driving a
Buick. And, statistics from 1905
through 1908 show him driving cars described as "Harroun Custom" and "Harroun
Harroun's race wins included: a 1910
100-mile race at the
Atlanta Motordrome; the 1910 200-mile
Wheeler-Schebler Trophy Race (at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway); the May,
Remy Grand Brassard Race (also at
IMS); three races at
Churchill Downs (home of the
Kentucky Derby); three races at the
Latonia Race Track; and races at tracks
Long Island and
Memphis. He is best known for winning
Indianapolis 500, driving a
Harroun won a total of 8 races at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the
second-most of any driver in the 100-year history of the track. (The
only driver with more victories at IMS is
Johnny Aitken, with 15 wins in
During the years that Harroun was driving,
AAA designated some races each year as
"championship" events. However, there was no actual year-long
championship, and no points were awarded. In 1927, points were assigned
retroactively, and champions were designated for those years. At that
time, Harroun was designated the champion for the 1910 season.
Indianapolis 500 in 1911, his use of
what would now be called a
rear-view mirror, rather than the
riding mechanic specified in the rules, created controversy, but was
ultimately allowed. Harroun went on to win at an average speed of 74.602
miles per hour (120.060 km/h). Harroun, who came out of retirement to
race in the first 500, would not race after 1911. Harroun's historic
Firestone-shod yellow #32
Marmon "Wasp," in which he won the
Indianapolis 500, is on display at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
After retiring from racing, Harroun
continued engineering work for
Marmon, and later for the Maxwell
racing team.In 1917, Harroun started his own automobile company in
Wayne, Michigan, where a street is now
named for him. In 1927 he
He continued to work in the
automotive industry until his retirement at age 79. He died on January
" THE SILVER FOX" PEARSON 3 TIME NEXTEL CUP CHAMPION
David was Known as
the "Silver Fox", he debuted on the Grand National racing circuit in
1960 and earned Rookie of the Year honors that same season. He went on
to win the NASCAR Championship in 1966, 1968 and 1969. Pearson ranks as
one of the greatest of all NASCAR drivers and his duels with Richard
Petty are legendary. Between August 8, 1963 and June 12, 1977, they
finished one/two on sixty-three occasions, with Pearson coming out on
top with thirty-three victories. Their most famous encounter came at the
1976 Daytona 500 when the two were running bumper-to-bumper on the final
lap. They slammed hard against each other's front fender and both hit
the wall. Petty's damaged car spun off the track just twenty-five yards
from the finish line and the engine quit running and he could not get it
to restart. All Petty could do was sit in his famous #43 and watch as
Pearson's wrecked #21 limped across the finish line to claim victory.
Pearson won the "Most
Popular Driver" award in 1979 and 1980. After twenty-six seasons in
racing, he retired in 1986. He finished his career in second place
behind Richard Petty on NASCAR's all-time win list with 105, and second
in all-time pole positions.
Pearson is one of
eight drivers in NASCAR history to win a Career Grand Slam, by winning
the sport's four majors; Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip,
Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Buddy Baker are the
other six to have accomplished the feat.
DONOHUE SPORTS CAR DRIVER
Mark was an racecar
driver known for his ability to set up his own race car and drive it
consistently on the absolute limit. Donohue is probably best-known as
the driver of the 1000+ bhp “Can-Am Killer” Porsche 917-30.
Donohue met an
experienced race driver named Walt Hansgen while running in SCCA events
around the country. Hansgen quickly realized that Donohue had
unbelievable talent as a driver, but more importantly, had an incredible
working knowledge of vehicle mechanics and dynamics thanks to his
engineering background. Hansgen befriended Donohue, and even provided an
MGB for Donohue to race at the 1964 Bridgehampton 500-mile SCCA
endurance event, which Donohue won. In 1965, Hansgen invited him to
co-drive a Ferrari 275 at the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race. This
would be Donohue's big break into international sports car racing.
Hansgen and Donohue combined to finish 11th in that race.
Mark paricipated in
The Indianapolis 500 for several years and won the 1972 Indianapolis
500 driving for Roger Penske
Midway through the
1975 F1 season, Penske abandoned the troublesome PC1 and started using
the March 751. Donohue had recently arrived in Austria for the Austrian
Grand Prix following the successful closed-course speed record attempt
in Alabama just a few days earlier. During a practice session for the
race, Donohue lost control of his March after a tire failed sending him
careening into the catch fencing. A track marshal was killed by debris
from the accident, but Donohue didn't appear to be injured
significantly. However, a resulting headache worsened and after going to
the hospital of Graz the next day, Donohue lapsed into a coma from a
brain hemorrhage and died.
" BIG DADDY" GARLITS NHRA CHAMPION
Don is considered the
father of drag racing. He is known as "Big Daddy" to drag racing fans
around the world. A pioneer, with the help of T.C. Lemmons, and after he
lost a portion of his foot in a drag racing accident, he perfected the
design rear-engine "top fuel" dragster (notable because it put the most
explosive parts of the dragster behind the driver) and was an early
endorser of a full-body, fire-resistant suit. He was the first drag
racer to officially surpass 170, 180, 200, 240, 250, 260, and 270 miles
per hour; he was also the first to top 200 in the 1/8 mile.
Drag Racing was a
California-based sport. Don Garlits, being from Florida, was the
outsider who came in and beat them at their own game. He was sometimes
referred to as the Floridian, before permanently adopting the nickname,
"Swamp Rat," which also became the theme for each generation of his
innovative dragster designs. Such is his uniqueness.
Garlits was the first
driver to win three National Hot Rod Association national titles and
three world championships, the last coming at the age of 54. He won a
total of 144 national events. On October 20, 1987, His home-built Top
Fuel dragster, Swamp Rat XXX, the sport's only successful streamlined
car, was enshrined in The Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C., which
also houses The Spirit of St. Louis and NASA's first manned space
"Big Daddy" was
compelled to retire due to separated retina, a product of the 4g
deceleration produced by a Top Fuel Dragster's chutes.
UNSER SR. DIRT TRACK MASTER 4 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Al is a former
American automobile racing driver, the younger brother of Bobby Unser
and father of Al Unser, Jr.. He is the second of three men to have won
the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race four times, the fourth of five to have
won the race in consecutive years, and is the only person to have both a
sibling (Bobby) and child (Al Jr.) as fellow winners. Al's brother Jerry
and nephews Johnny and Robby have also competed in the 500.
His father Jerry Unser
and two uncles, Louis and Joe, were also drivers. Beginning in 1926 they
competed in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, an annual road race
held in Colorado.
Joe Unser became the
first member of the Unser clan to lose his life to the sport, killed
while test-driving a FWD Coleman Special on the Denver highway in 1929.
Al's oldest brother
Jerry became the first Unser to drive at the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway, qualifying 23rd and finishing 31st in the 1958 Indianapolis
500. However, tragedy struck the next year when he was killed from
injuries sustained in a fiery crash during a practice session.
Middle brother Bobby
drove in his first Indianapolis 500 in 1963, becoming in 1968 the first
member of the family to win, and in 1983 son Al Unser Jr. drove in his
While driving the
Johnny Lightning Special and winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1970 and
1971 for Vel's Parnelli Racing, a team owned by Vel Melatich and
Parnelli Jones, he had Mario Andretti and Joe Leonard as his team mates.
He began racing in
1957, at age 18, initially competing primarily in modified roadsters,
sprint cars and midgets. In 1965 he raced in the Indianapolis 500 for
the first time and finished ninth.
He won the Indy 500 in
1970, two years after his brother, Bobby. During the race, he led for
all but 10 of the 200 laps and averaged 155.749 miles per hour. His
quick pit stops were a factor in the victory. That season he won a
record 10 times on oval, road and dirt tracks to capture the United
States Auto Club national championship.
In 1971 he won the
Indy 500 again, starting from the fifth position with an average speed
of 157.735 mph.
Unser's bid to become
the first three-time consecutive Indy 500 champion was thwarted when he
finished second to Mark Donohue in the 1972 Indianapolis 500.
Indianapolis 500 from 5th position in an FNCTC Chaparral Lola, he was
considered a long shot. He took the lead on lap 75 and won following the
fortuitous engine failure of challenger Danny Ongais, averaging 161.363
VUKOVICH SR. 2 INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Bill was of Serbian
descent, known variously as "Vuky", "The Silent Serb" and "The Mad
Russian" for his intense driving style, and called by several of his
generation the greatest driver ever encountered
Before he began Indy
racing, Vukovich drove midget cars for the Edelbrock dirt track racing
team. In 1952, his sophomore year in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's
500-Mile Race, he quickly moved up from his starting position in the
middle of the third row to take the lead, and led 150 laps in dominant
fashion before suffering steering failure on the 192nd of the 200 laps.
He returned to win the race in consecutive years, 1953 and 1954, but was
killed in a chain-reaction crash while holding a 17-second lead on the
57th lap of the 1955 event.
Vukovich was exiting
the second turn, trailing three slower cars — driven by Rodger Ward, Al
Keller, and Johnny Boyd — when Ward's car swerved as the result of a
strong gust of wind. Keller, swerving into the infield to avoid Ward,
lost control and slid back onto the track, striking Boyd's car and
pushing it into Vukovich's oncoming path. Vukovich's car struck Boyd's,
became airborne, and landed upside down after going over the outside
backstretch retaining wall, killing him. Vukovich was the second of two
not only former winners but also defending champions of the race to have
died in competition, following Floyd Roberts in 1939, and the only
former winner to have been killed while leading. Coincidently, Robert's
car was also hurdled over the backstretch fence during his fatal
As the Indianapolis
500 counted as a round of the Formula One World championship from 1950
to 1960, his career is credited with participation in 5 grands prix,
with 2 wins, 19 championship points and 1 pole position scored. However,
it should be noted that Indianapolis' inclusion in the championship was
largely symbolic and the Indy drivers rarely entered any other Formula
One races. Because of this Indy winners are often not listed in totals
of Grand Prix winners and especially in statistics tables. As an
example, Vukovich has an F1 winning percentage of 40%, which puts him
just behind the 5-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio (47%). In percentage
of lap-leader statistics in the history of Indianapolis, Vukovich holds
for multiple-500-mile-race competitors a decisive record 485 laps led
out of a possible 685 (70.8%).
His son, Bill Vukovich
II, and his grandson, Bill Vukovich III, also competed in the
Indianapolis 500, with Vukovich II taking second in 1973, and Vukovich
III being named Rookie of the Year in 1988.
CLARK 2 TIME F-1 CHAMPION AND INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Jimmy was a Scottish
Formula One (F1) racing driver. Twice World Champion, he was the
dominant driver of his era.
He was born James
Clark Jr. into a farming family at Kilmany House Farm, Fife, the
youngest child of five, and the only boy. In 1942 the family moved to
Edington Mains Farm near the town of Duns in Berwickshire in the
Scottish Borders. He was educated at primary schools, first in Kilmany
and then in Chirnside, and then following three years of preparatory
schooling at Clifton Hall near Edinburgh he was sent to Loretto School
in Musselburgh, near Edinburgh.
Although his parents
were opposed to the idea, Clark started his racing career driving in
local road rallies and hill climb events driving his own Sunbeam-Talbot,
and proved to be a fearsome competitor right from the off. By 1958 Clark
was racing for the local Border Reivers team, racing Jaguar D-Types and
Porsches in national events, and winning 18 races.
Then on Boxing Day
1958, Clark met the man who would launch him to superstardom. Driving a
Lotus Elite, he finished second to Colin Chapman. Chapman was
sufficiently impressed to give Clark a run in one of his Formula Junior
cars, and the rest, as they say is history.
After Aston Martin's
F1 programme fell through, Clark was a free agent. Colin Chapman snapped
him up for his F1 squad, and Clark made his debut in the 1960 Dutch
Grand Prix. Throughout his F1 career from 1960 to 1968 Clark drove only
for the Lotus team. He developed a near telepathic relationship with
Chapman, which contributed to their outstanding success together.
Chapman's innovative and nimble designs combined with Clark's skills at
the wheel made for a nearly unbeatable force. 1962 saw Clark battling
Graham Hill who drove for BRM for the World Championship in Chapman's
brilliant Lotus 25, but in the final race an oil leak caused him to drop
out just as victory seemed a formality.
His first Drivers'
World Championship came driving the Lotus 25 in 1963, winning seven out
of the ten races and Lotus its first Constructors' World Championship.
That year he also competed in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time,
and only the oil on the track from winner Parnelli Jones' car prevented
him from winning, as he finished in second position and won Rookie of
the Year honours. In 1964 Clark came within just a few laps of retaining
his crown, but just as in 1962, an oil leak from the engine robbed him
of the title, this time conceding to John Surtees. Tyre failure put paid
to that year's attempt at the Indianapolis 500. He made amends and won
the Championship again in 1965 and also the Indianapolis 500 in the
Lotus 38. He had to miss the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix in order to
compete at Indianapolis, but made history by driving the first
mid-engined car to win at the fabled "Brickyard," as well as becoming
the only driver to date to win both that race and the F1 title in the
At the same time,
Clark was competing in the Australbasia based Tasman series, run for
older F1 cars, and was series champion in 1965, 1967 and 1968 driving
for Lotus. He won 14 races in all, a record for the series.
The FIA decreed from
1966, new 3-litre engine regulations would come into force. Lotus were
less competitive. Starting with a 2-litre Coventry-Climax engine in the
Lotus 33, Clark did not score points until the British Grand Prix and a
third-place at the following Dutch Grand Prix. From the Italian Grand
Prix onward Lotus used the more complex BRM H16 engine in the Lotus 43
car, with which Clark won the United States Grand Prix. He also picked
up another second-place finish at the Indianapolis 500, this time behind
During 1967 Lotus and
Clark used three completely different cars and engines. The Lotus 43
performed poorly at the opening South African Grand Prix, so Clark used
an old Lotus 33 at the following Monaco Grand Prix, retiring with
suspension failure. Lotus then began its fruitful association with
Ford-Cosworth. Their first car, the Lotus 49 featuring the most
successful F1 engine in history, the Ford-Cosworth DFV, won its first
race at the Dutch Grand Prix, driven by Clark. He won with it again at
the British, United States and Mexican Grands Prix; and, in January
1968, at the South African Grand Prix. He had established himself as the
dominant driver in the dominant car, save for its reliability.
Jim Clark's 1967
Italian Grand Prix drive in Monza is regarded one of the greatest drives
ever in F1. After starting from pole, he was leading in his Lotus 49
(chassis R2), when a tyre punctured. He lost an entire lap while having
the wheel changed in the pits. After rejoining 16th, Clark then showed
his genius by driving at his own limit, something which is not required
when leading. He ripped back through the field, progressively lowered
the lap record, eventually equalling his pole time of 1m 28.5s (233.9
km/h), to regain the lost lap and the lead. He was narrowly ahead of
Brabham and Surtees starting the last lap, but his car had not been
filled with enough fuel for such a performance - it faltered, and
finally coasted across the finish line in third place. This performance
is considered unmatched in the long history of F1.
Other examples for his
skills are his drive in a Lotus 23 sportscar during the 1962 1000km
Nürburgring race or the qualifying for the 1967 German Grand Prix, when
he took pole position by nine seconds and more.
Nürburgring-Nordschleife circuit brought out the very best in Clark. In
the 1962 1000km he drove the small Lotus 23, fitted with a 1500 cc
Lotus-Ford twin-cam engine. On a patchily damp track, he outperformed
the similar-powered Porsche 718 and the more powerful cars from Ferrari,
with drivers like Phil Hill, Dan Gurney and Willy Mairesse at the wheel,
and led with nearly 2 minutes outright until, affected by fumes from a
broken exhaust, he went off course into the bushes.
Jim Clark also raced
at Crimond in the North East of Scotland on 16th June 1956 in his very
first car race he was behind the wheel of a DKW "sonderklasse".
despite his mercurial talent, Clark never won at Monaco. He came close
once in 1963 only to be stopped with 22 laps to go with a broken
On 7 April 1968,
however, Jim Clark's life and driving career was brought to a premature
and tragic end. He was originally slated to drive in the BOAC 1000km
sportscar race at Brands Hatch but instead chose to drive in a minor
Formula 2 race for Lotus at the Hockenheimring in Germany, mostly due to
contractual obligations with Firestone. On the fifth lap, his Lotus 48
veered off the track and crashed into the trees, killing him instantly.
The cause of the crash was never definitively identified, but
investigators concluded it was most likely due to a deflating rear tire.
Colin Chapman was devastated and publicly stated that he had lost his
best friend. As a sign of respect, Chapman ordered the traditional green
and yellow badge found on the nose of all Lotus road cars to be replaced
with a black badge for a month following Clark's death. The 1968 F1
Drivers' Championship was subsequently won by his Lotus team-mate Graham
Hill, who pulled the heartbroken team together and held off Jackie
Stewart for the crown, which he later dedicated to Clark.
Clark achieved 33 pole
positions and won 25 races from his 72 Grands Prix starts in
championship races. He is remembered for his ability to drive and win in
all types of cars and series, including a Lotus-Cortina, with which he
won the 1964 British Touring Car Championship, IndyCar, NASCAR, driving
a Ford Galaxie for the Holman Moody team, Rallying, where he took part
in the 1966 RAC Rally of Great Britain in a Lotus Cortina, and nearly
won the event before crashing, and sports cars. He competed in the Le
Mans 24 Hour race in 1959, 1960 and 1961, finishing 2nd in class in 1959
driving a Lotus Elite, and finishing 3rd overall in 1960, driving an
Aston Martin DBR1.
He was also able to
master difficult Lotus sportscar prototypes such as the Lotus 30 and 40.
Clark had an uncanny ability to adapt to whichever car he was driving.
Whilst other drivers would struggle to find a good car setup, Clark
would usually set competitive lap times with whatever setup was provided
and ask for the car to be left as it was.
He apparently had
difficulty understanding why other drivers were not as quick as himself.
After his death, Clark's father told Dan Gurney that he was the only
driver his son ever feared. When Clark died, fellow driver Chris Amon
was quoted as saying, "If it could happen to him, what chance do the
rest of us have?"
Jim Clark is buried in
the village of Chirnside in Berwickshire. A memorial stone can be found
at the Hockenheimring circuit, moved from the site of his crash to a
location closer to the current track.
CHEVROLET DRIVER INVENTOR
Gaston was a
French-born racecar champion driver and automobile manufacturer.
Born near Beaune, in
the Côte-d'Or département of France where his Swiss parents had
emigrated to a few years earlier, he was the younger brother of Louis
(1878-1941) and Arthur Chevrolet (1884-1946). After brother Louis
emigrated to the United States and earned enough money, he sent for
Gaston and Arthur to join him. Once there, Gaston worked as an
automotive mechanic and joined his brother in auto racing.
In 1916, Gaston
Chevrolet became a partner with his brothers in the Frontenac Motor
Corporation. Driving a Frontenac race car, he competed in the 1919
Indianapolis 500, finishing in tenth place while brother Louis finished
seventh. The following year, Gaston Chevrolet broke the European
dominance at the Indianapolis Speedway, winning the race in a redesigned
Monroe-Frontenac. In the process, he became the first driver in the
history of the 500 mile race to go the distance without making a tire
change. Following his victory at Indianapolis, he competed in several
more events, winning a 100-mile match race against Tommy Milton and
Ralph Mulford. With winter, racing moved to the West Coast and at the
Los Angeles Speedway board track in Beverly Hills, California Gaston
Chevrolet was killed when his racecar crashed on lap 146.
Gaston Chevrolet is
interred next to his brothers in the Roman Catholic Holy Cross and Saint
Joseph Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana.
BERNSTEIN NHRA CHAMPION
Bernstein won two NHRA
top fuel championship and was NHRA funny car champion four times. He was
the first driver to win the NHRA championship in both divisions. In 1992
he was the first drag racer to exceed 300 mph in competition. He was an
innovator of corporate sponsorship in drag racing, and his team's deal
with Budweiser, which earned his cars the name of 'Budweiser King', is
the longest running sponsorship deal in motorsports history.
He retired in 2002 and
currently runs a car for his son Brandon Bernstein. However, he has
announced that he will return to racing in the Monster Energy Dodge
Charger funny car in 2007.
Bernstein owned King
Racing, a NASCAR team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He is also the
only owner to record victories in NASCAR, the NHRA, and Indy Car racing.
WARD 2 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Rodger won the 1959
and 1962 Indianapolis 500. He also was the 1959 and 1962 USAC
Championship Car champion.
Born in Beloit,
Kansas, Ward died in Anaheim, California. He drove in the AAA and USAC
Championship Car series, racing in the 1950-1966 seasons with over 150
starts, including the 1951-1964 and 1966 Indianapolis 500 races. He
finished in the top ten in more than half his starts, with 26 victories.
Ward was the oldest
living winner of the Indy 500, and, at the time of his retirement, was
the only driver to be in the top 10 of all Indianapolis 500 statistics.
Before Indy racing,
Ward drove midget cars for the Edelbrock dirt track racing team. He was
also the 1951 AAA Stock Car champion.
Ward raced in the 1959
United States Grand Prix and the 1963 United States Grand Prix and, as
the Indy 500 was a Formula One race from 1950-1960, is credited with
participating in 12 grands prix with 1 victory, 2 podiums and 14
ANDRETTI F-1 DAYTONA 500 AND INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Mario was born in
Montona d'Istria, Italy (now Motovun, Croatia) is an Italian American
racing driver, and one of the most successful Americans in the history
of auto racing.
During his career,
Andretti won four Champ Car titles, the 1978 Formula One World
Championship, and the 1979 IROC championship. To date, he remains the
only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, and the
Formula One World Championship.
In the USA, the name
Mario Andretti has become synonymous with speed, similar to Stirling
Moss in the UK and Barney Oldfield in the early twentieth century in the
Andretti began racing
cars in 1959, just after his family had moved to the United States, on
dirt oval tracks near Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in an old Hudson. His twin
brother, Aldo Andretti, raced on the same tracks in the same car (at
different times), but quit after an accident. Andretti placed 3rd in the
Indianapolis 500 in his first year.
Mario made his debut
in the U SAC series in 1964, and won the championship the very next
season. He took part in many different categories of racing including
drag racing, and by 1969, he had won the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona
500 and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Andretti also started
driving in Formula One, taking the pole for his first race at Watkins
Glen in 1968, and winning his first race in 1971 for Ferrari. By the
mid-1970s, Andretti started to focus on Formula One, driving for
Parnelli Jones's fledgling Parnelli Formula One team and Colin Chapman's
famous Lotus outfit. In 1977, at Long Beach, he became the only American
to win the United States Grand Prix West, in the Lotus 78 "wing car".
With the revolutionary "ground effect" Lotus 79 of 1978, Andretti won
six races in 1978, and took the title—a bitter-sweet victory in the
light of the death of his teammate Ronnie Peterson, whom Andretti had
grown to regard as a close friend. However, Andretti would find little
success after 1978 in Formula One, failing to win another race in that
series. In the following year, 1979, he was summarily outclassed by his
Argentinian teammate Carlos Reutemann. In 1980, he was paired with
Italian ace Elio de Angelis. Again, Mario was usually beaten by his
team-mate. Nearly two years later, hired by Ferrari to enter the final
two races of the 1982 season, he took an impressive pole position at the
Italian Grand Prix at Monza (the Italian-born Andretti's success causing
what Nigel Roebuck said was the loudest roar the famous circuit had ever
seen), just as he did at Watkins Glen in his debut race in 1968.
He returned to Champ
Cars in the 1980's, and won his fourth title in 1984, the first series
title for Champ Car owner, sports car driver, and actor Paul Newman. His
last victory in that class came in 1993. Andretti kept racing to try to
win the only important missing award—the 24 hours of Le Mans, but failed
to do so. His best finish is 2nd in 1995, and 3rd in 1983 (Porsche 956),
both with his son Michael.
Mario ran only a few
NASCAR races, but he captured the crown jewel in the series by winning
the 1967 Daytona 500 for legendary car owners Holman-Moody.
Andretti also made the
saying "Mario is slowing down!" famous at the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway. While no one doubts his credentials as one of the greatest
drivers in the history of motorsports, Andretti's futility at Indy is
also, unfortunately, legendary.
In the 1985
Indianapolis 500, he was passed by Danny Sullivan who then spun in front
of him, pitted on his own caution, and then passed Mario again to go on
for the win. His frustration came to a head in the 1987 Indianapolis 500
when he dominated the month of May and led most of the race but was
taken out by an electrical problem.
Mario finished all 500
miles just five times with the 1969 Indianapolis 500 victory included.
Andretti suffered broken ankles in the 1992 Indianapolis 500 crashing
hard in turn four during the race. His last race at Indy was the 1994
While shaking down a
car for his son in tire testing at Indianapolis before the month of May
in 2003, Andretti survived a horrifying accident. His car hit a piece of
debris left on the track by another car and went flying end over end
between turns one and two. The crash was captured by a local television
station helicopter. Luckily, the car landed right side up and Andretti
walked away from the crash with very minor injuries.
For all his greatness
and legendary skill, Andretti, and, by extension, the Andretti family,
will long be associated with what many consider to be simply bad luck at
the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500.
Both of Mario
Andretti's sons, Michael and Jeff, are also involved in auto racing, and
Michael has won the Champ Car title as well. As of 2003, he was Champ
Cars' winningest driver. Mario's nephew, John, has had success in both
Champ Cars and NASCAR, winning races in both series. His grandson,
Marco, won a championship in Champ Cars' "Stars of Tomorrow" kart racing
series, before moving into the Star Mazda single-seater series. Marco is
currently running his first full season in the Indy Racing League (IRL),
driving for his father Michael's Andretti-Green Racing Team, and upon
finishing second in the 2006 Indianapolis 500, became the first
third-generation-recipient of the race's Rookie of the Year Award,
following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather.
Mario Andretti and son
Michael Andretti both reside today in their respective close sitting
mansions overlooking the town of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, from the north
side of the town, home to Mario Andretti and his family since the
1950's. Andretti continues day-to-day work as a spokesman for Texaco and
Firestone (his longtime sponsors). He is also something of a spokesman
for CART, although he has been spotted at IndyCar races recently as he
watches over his grandson Marco.
PARSONS SR AAA NATIONAL CHAMPION AND INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Johnnie won the
Indianapolis 500 in 1950.
As the Indianapolis
500 was included in the Formula One World Championship from 1950 to
1960, he is credited with participation in 9 grands prix, debuting on
May 30, 1950, with 1 race victory, 1 podium, and a total of 12
Parsons had the
dubious distinction of being the only Indianapolis 500 winner to have
his name misspelled on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Silversmiths carved
"Johnny" instead of "Johnnie." The error was corrected posthumously when
the trophy was restored in 1991. Ironically, he had a son named Johnny
who competed at Indy a dozen times.
KENYON " KING OF THE MIDGETS "
Mel began his racing
career in 1954 racing Chevy Coupes. Then, in 1958, Mel began his
historic career in the midgets that continues today (as of June 2006).
In that span, he has
raced to unprecedented accompishments in the series, which includes:
seven USAC Midget Championships standings, eight runner ups in the USAC
Midget season points standings, 111 USAC Midget Feature wins, three
NAMARS midget championships, and over 380 midget feature wins in all.
Mel's first career
race came in a USAC Champ Car race in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. The
engine in Mel's car blew up, and sent oil all over his car and his
firesuit. After losing control of the car, Mel hit the wall, and was
knocked unconscious while two cars slid in the oil and ran straight into
Mel's fuel tank.
As a result of the
accident, Mel lost all of his fingers on his left hand. Along with his
brother and father, Mel designed a special glove that would fit on to
his hand and hook on to the steering wheel.
In addition to his
midget racing exploits, Mel captured four top-5 finishes in his eight
career starts in the Indianapolis 500. Kenyon finished 5th in 1966, 3rd
in 1968, 4th in 1969, and 4th in 1973.
SHAW 1ST 3 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 SAVED INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Wilbur Shaw won the
Indianapolis 500 race three times, in 1937, 1939 and 1940. In the 1941
race, Shaw was injured when his car crashed; it was later discovered
that a defective wheel had been placed on his car.
During World War II,
Shaw was hired by the tire manufacturer Firestone to test a synthetic
rubber automobile tire at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which had
been closed due to the war. He was dismayed at the dilapidated condition
of the already-historic racetrack. Then-owner Eddie Rickenbacker, the
famed World War I flying ace and president of Eastern Air Lines, was not
exactly sentimental about the track, of course. When the United States
entered World War II, ending racing at Indianapolis and elsewhere for
the duration, Rickenbacker essentially padlocked the gates and let the
great race course slowly begin to disintegrate.
During a meeting soon
after the tire test, Rickenbacker informed Shaw that what was left of
the track would be demolished and the land turned into a housing
subdivision ... unless Shaw could find someone else who might have other
ideas. Little did Rickenbacker know that he had presented a challenge to
a man who relished challenges.
Shaw immediately began
looking for a "savior" for his beloved Speedway, and in short order was
introduced to a man who lived not too far from Indianapolis; a man who
had the resources to do virtually anything. In Terre Haute, Indiana,
Tony Hulman had inherited his family's business, Hulman & Company, a
wholesale grocer and producer of coffee and baking powder, and he made a
fortune by raising the country's level of consciousness about the
company's mainstay baking powder -- Clabber Girl.
A lifelong fan of
automobile racing in general and the "500" in particular, Hulman
listened with great interest to what Shaw had to say. Despite what
Hulman saw amongst the weeds and deterioration when Shaw took him to
Indianapolis, he purchased the Speedway from Rickenbacker in November
1945 for the sum of $750,000.
As a reward for his
efforts to revive the Speedway, Shaw was anointed as its president,
where he would have complete day-to-day control over the track. To this
job, Shaw brought his extensive knowledge of the business of auto
racing, something Hulman would admit that he himself didn't have, and
Shaw's hard work only cemented the reputation of the "500" as the
"Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
It seemed as though
Shaw and Hulman had a "Midas touch" at the Speedway. Hulman poured money
into improvements, and Shaw delivered the world's greatest automobile
race to enthusiastic crowds, which grew in number by the year. The
Indianapolis "500" of the late Forties and early Fifties was a very
special event through the work of Hulman and Shaw, although Hulman was
always sure to point out that it was Wilbur putting it all together.
Sadly, at the height
of his power in the racing world, Shaw was killed in an airplane crash
near Decatur, Indiana on October 30, 1954, one day before his
fifty-second birthday. The pilot, Ray Grimes, and artist Ernest Roose
were also killed.
GLIDDEN ONE OF top NHRA Winning DRIVERS
Bob Glidden is an American drag racer. He was retired from Pro Stock racing in 1997 and returned in 2010. Glidden retired as the driver with the most wins in National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) history at that time (a feat recently topped by 15 time Funny Car champion John Force), and he is currently the third most successful drag racer (85 National Event wins) in the history of the NHRA behind Warren Johnson (97) and John Force (132). Glidden's ten Pro Stock championships included five in a row beginning in 1985.[ Among his numerous accomplishments, Glidden won nine straight NHRA national races in 1979 and was the No. 1 qualifier 23 times in a row, including the entire 1987 season. At one point, he won 50 eliminations rounds in a row.
Glidden almost became the first driver in a doorslammer to reach 200 miles per hour when he ran 199.11 miles per hour at an International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) race in Darlington, South Carolina. However, a Top Sportsman car driven by Bill Kuhlmann ran 202 miles per hour later that evening. He has won several IHRA races and won one IHRA championship.
Glidden began his drag racing career in the 1960s in a Ford 427 Fairlane. He is most closely associated with Ford cars, a manufacturer that used throughout his career. In 1968 he changed to a 428 Cobra Jet Mustang. He started out in Stock and moved up to Super Stock. He was sponsored by Ed Martin Ford, where he worked as a mechanic. He was a frequent winner in Division 3 before turning Pro in 1972. In those days, the series included participation in both national and divisional races.
He sold his two Super Stock Mustangs late in the season 1972, and purchased a Pinto Pro Stock from Jack Roush and Wayne Gapp. He quit his job at Ed Martin Ford to race full-time. In his first Pro race, he finished second to Bill Jenkins at the final Supernationals of the 1972 season. Glidden had his first national win the following season at the U.S. Nationals. His 9.03 second run at a national record 152.54 miles per hour (mph) was fastest qualifying time in the fastest Pro Stock field. He beat Gapp in the event finals. 1974 was his second full season in Pro Stock. He won three events including the Springnationals and U.S. Nationals. That season he set the record for the lowest elapsed time (e.t.) and the highest speed (8.83 seconds and 154.90 mph respectively) at a Division 3 event at Bowling Green,
Kentucky. The feat earned him 400 bonus points towards the championship. He had a 8.81 second qualifying run at the U.S. Nationals to lower his e.t. record, and he beat Gapp in the event finals. These wins contributed to his come-from-behind win to beat rivals Gapp and Wally Booth for the season championship.
Glidden followed with a banner year in 1975. He had five top qualifier runs and eight top speeds during the season. He used three cars during the season. While in a midseason slump, he reacquired his 1974 Pinto. His seven events wins (including the Winternationals, World Finals, Gatornationals, and Fallnationals) helped propel him to his second straight Winston title. He set low e.t. six times.Glidden had an off year in 1976, finishing sixth in the points.He finished second in 1977 behind Don Nicholson.
Glidden returned for his third Winston title in 1978. He started the season in his Ford Pinto, winning at the season opening Winternationals and at the Cajun Nationals. The end of the season was in his Ford Fairmont, which took event wins at races including the Summernationals. The car finished the season undefeated in five national competitions. He had seven national victories that season, tying Don Prudhomme for the most that year. The seven wins broke the previous Pro Stock single season record of six wins set by Jenkins. He earned a record 16,035 points and lower the national e.t. record time to 8.59 seconds.
Glidden retired his undefeated Ford Fairmont in 1979 in favor of a Plymouth Arrow. He opened the season with a victory at the Winternationals, and did not lose a round until June. The streak ended 14 races races and 50 rounds when he fouled in the second round at the Mile-Hile Nationals. He won seven national events, earning the maximum points at four events by setting low e.t., qualifying number one, and setting the top speed at each event. He also earned maximum points in his four divisional events.
Glidden chased Lee Shepherd for the 1980 Winston title all season, leading the points standing only after the final race. He won his fifth overall and third straight championship at the final event. He caught a break when Shepherd broke his transmission in the second round. Glidden set the low e.t. and top speed in his final round win to earn the maximum points and the season championship. Shepherd won the 1981 to 1984 Pro Stock championships. Glidden received a new Ford Thunderbird in the middle of the 1984 season, and it quickly became the dominant car on the Pro Stock circuit.Glidden led the 1985 points standings from start to finish, winning five national events. It was his sixth Pro Stock championship.
Glidden started the 1986 season out slowly. His Winternationals and Gatornationals ended in early round loses.After winning the semifinals of the Southern Nationals in April, his parachute was caught by a gust of wind. His Thunderbird spun, hitting the opposite guardrail. The car did six barrel rolls as it was destroyed. Glidden was unhurt. He returned at the Cajun Nationals with a different car. His first victory of the season came in July at the Mile-High Nationals. It was the first of his three straight victories. He won six of the last seven events to win his seventh Winston title.
In 1987 Glidden won eight races including his 60th national win. He ended his season with five straight wins and his eighth Pro Stock championshipHe reached the finals ten times that season, winning a record 42 rounds of competition. He qualified number one in all 14 events. His two season streak ended at the 1988 Gator Nationals with 22 straight top qualifiers. His 1988 season was similar to 1987. After struggling early in the season, he won five of the last seven races en route to his fourth straight title. He retired his Thunderbird after 19 national victories in favor of a Ford Probe at the Supernationals.The cars set a national e.t. record at 7.277 seconds, the quickest Pro Stock run in NHRA history. He used the Probe to win at the Fallnationals, which was his 67th career victory.
Glidden dominated to win his tenth and final championship in 1989. He started the season on a strong note, winning five of the first seven events and seven out of the first eleven.He won nine times that season, ending the 1980s with 49 wins
Glidden won three events in 1990, one event in 1991, two events in 1992, and two events in 1993. He won his 85th and final national event at the Mopar Nationals in 1995, after missing most of the 1995 season due to open heart surgery during the off season. Glidden retired after two events in the 1997 season. He was dissatisfied with his sponsorship arrangement.After retiring, he worked on Ford's motor program for its Winston Cup program He has been the crew chief for numerous drivers since his retirement. He returned to the driver's seat for Steve Schmidt's team at the 1998 U.S. Nationals, but he failed to qualify for the event that he won nine times.
He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2001, a panel ranked him fourth in the National Hot Rod Association Top 50 Drivers, 1951-2000. The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America inducted Glidden in 1994
PENSKE 14 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNING CAR OWNER
Roger is the owner of
a very successful automobile racing team Penske Racing, the Penske
Corporation, and other automotive related businesses.
He also is one of the
corporate directors at General Electric and was chairman of Super Bowl
XL in Detroit, Michigan. He is a 1959 graduate of Lehigh University in
Starting in 1958,
Penske purchased, raced and sold race cars, and was very successful both
financially and on the track.
By 1960, he was a well
known race car driver (Sports Illustrated SCCA Driver of the Year),
winning prestigious races until 1965, when he retired as a driver, to
concentrate on the business of owning and running a successful race car
team. Interestingly enough, although Penske competed in two Formula One
Grand Prix, and won a NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model race at Riverside
in 1963, he never ran the Indy 500.
His team first
competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, winning that event 14 times
between 1972 and 2006, and their first NASCAR win was in 1973. His teams
have won many races in the subsequent years. He closed his
European-based Formula One business in 1977. In 1982, he became the
Chairman of the Penske Truck Leasing business.
Penske Racing now
operates a NASCAR team comprising Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, and his
development driver Billy Wease. They also operate an Indy Racing League
team composed of Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish, Jr. Previously, they
ran cars in the CART series that included some of the best drivers of
the time, including Gary Bettenhausen, Tom Sneva, Mario Andretti, Bobby
Unser, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears, Danny
Sullivan, Paul Tracy and Gil de Ferran.
GRANATELLI STP FOUNDER DRIVER
Anthony "Andy" Granatelli (born March 18, 1923; Dallas, Texas) was the CEO of STP (motor oil company) and a major figure in automobile racing events.
Along with brothers Vince and Joe, Andy first worked as an auto mechanic and 'speed-shop' entrepreneur, modifying engines such as the 'flathead' Ford into racing-quality equipment. During World War II, he became a promoter of automobile racing events, such as the "Hurricane Racing Association," which combined racing opportunities for up-and-coming drivers with crowd-pleasing theatrics. Hurricane events, according to Granatelli in his autobiography They Call Me Mister 500, included drivers who were experts at executing—and surviving—roll-over and end-over-end crashes, and also an ambulance that not only got caught up into the race but also ejected a stretcher (with a dummy on it) into the way of the racers.
In 1946, the three brothers entered the first of several Indianapolis 500's, as the Grancor racing team. They did their own mechanical work, and brought innovations like fully independent suspension, yet never made it to "Victory Lane." In 1948, Andy decided to try to qualify as a driver, and nearly did so, but a horrendous crash during his qualifying run ended that part of his career.
Granatelli eventually became very visible in the racing world in the 1960s as the spokesman for STP oil and gasoline treatment products, appearing on its television and radio advertisements as well as sponsoring racecars. He clad his pit crews in white coveralls with the oval STP logo scattered all over them, and once wore a suit jacket with the same STP-laden design.
His cars became a significant presence at the Indianapolis 500. While he first gained notoriety by re-introducing the legendary Novi, his most famous entries were his turbine-powered cars in 1967 and 1968. In both years, he endured the excruciating frustration of seeing probable race-winners fail near the end; Joe Leonard's breakdown in the Lotus 56 with 10 laps remaining in 1968 had been topped the previous year when Parnelli Jones, leading comfortably with just three laps to go, suffered the failure of a six dollar transmission bearing in the STP-Paxton Turbocar and retired, handing a sure victory to
He was finally rewarded with an Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969. After his innovative Lotus 4-wheel-drive car was destroyed in practice upon establishing itself as one of the most dominants cars to date, his driver Mario Andretti, nursing the burns from the Lotus crash, won at the wheel of a year-old backup car. Before Andretti could be traditionally kissed in 'Victory Lane' by the Queen of the "500 Festival," Granatelli got there first, and his joyful kiss on Andretti's cheek is one of the 500's most memorable images.
He fielded cars in the Indy 500 until 1991.
He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001. Granatelli was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2011.
One of the last things Rocky Marciano did before his death was a car commercial. The world heavyweight champion (1952–1956) was on a visit to Chicago. He was coming from a dinner at Granatelli's home where he reportedly gave Granatelli's son boxing lessons after he was being picked on in school. Marciano died hours later in a plane crash.
Andy Granatelli was famous for purchasing the small automotive repair chain Tuneup Masters. He renamed the company "Andy Granatelli's Tuneup Masters" and opened locations in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. This was done largely through the acquisition of other small automotive chains. The company was never franchised and remained privately held until the late 1980s, when it was sold to Cardis (Carquest Autoparts). Cardis, a Cerritos-based distributor and retailer of automotive parts, bought TuneUp Masters from Granatelli's group in a cash and stock deal then valued at up to $53 million, with at least $40 million paid in cash. At the time of sale they had approximately 150 stores. Andy followed the marketing success of his STP decal branding by affixing the TM decal to every car serviced. The chain was famous for offering complete automotive tune-ups for $49.95, flat rate, with no extra charges for parts. This was a popular price and led to tremendous growth throughout the 1980s. Eventually the chain was sold, probably due to the increasing complexity of cars, and the difficulty of offering comprehensive service for such a low price. The business model was changed from flat-rate to a base flat-rate, with additional charges for a list of add-ons such as air filters. This business model was much less effective, because the cost to customers rapidly increased.
STP, the engine oil additive which Granatelli made famous, stands for "Scientifically Treated Petroleum", according to Granatelli's autobiography, They Call Me Mister 500. A common STP slogan has been, "STP, The Racer's Edge".
Granatelli was the man responsible for the STP sponsorship of racecar driver Richard Petty. The 30-plus-year sponsorship almost did not happen because Granatelli wanted the car painted solid red. Petty was adamant that they team would use the Petty Blue they were known for. An agreement was reached that the car would be half red and half blue. When Petty was given the contract there was a line that said Petty would receive an extra $50,000 on top of the $250,000 if he would paint the entire car red. Petty crossed out the line and put RP beside of it, saying he was not going to stop using his signature blue. After having much success sponsoring Petty, Granatelli made a deal with Petty that as long as he drove a race car STP would sponsor him, the longest sponsorship in the history of NASCAR.
MEARS 4 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
Rick is the third of
three men to have won the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race four times (1979,
1984, 1988, 1991), and the current record-holder for pole positions in
the race with six (1979, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991). Mears is also a
3-time Champcar national champion (1979, 1981 and 1982).
Mears was raised in
Bakersfield, California, and began his racing career in off-road racing.
He switched to Champcar racing in the late 1970s, making his debut for
the small Art Sugai team, driving an obsolete Eagle-Offenhauser. His
speed attracted the attention of Roger Penske. Although at the time
Penske Racing had the services of Tom Sneva and Mario Andretti, Andretti
was also racing in Formula One with Lotus at the time and Penske wanted
another young driver who would focus exclusively on American racing. For
1978 Mears was offered a drive in nine of the eighteen championship
races, including the Indianapolis 500.
Mears qualified on the
front row at Indy, but did not lead a lap and retired at half-distance
with a blown engine. Two weeks later, at the Rex Mays 150 at Milwaukee,
he bounced back to win his first race. He added another win another
month later at Atlanta and rounded off the year with his first road
course win at Brands Hatch as the USAC cars made their first, and last,
visit to England.
In 1979 the National
Championship sanction changed from the USAC to Championship Auto Racing
Teams (CART), and Mears emerged as the driver to beat. At Indianapolis
he won his first "500" by virtue of staying at the front of the field
and taking the lead as other drivers dropped out with mechanical
problems. This intelligent and patient approach was to become Mears
Three wins and four
seconds in the eleven CART-eligible races was easily enough to wrap up
his first championship. Mears worst finish in 1979 was fifth. 1980 the
revolutionary ground effect Chaparral put every other team on the back
foot and Mears had to be content with 4th place overall and only one
win, scored at Mexico City.
1981 and 1982 saw
Mears at the top of his game, both in terms of speed and consistency.
Ten wins in two years were enough for another two championship titles.
At the 1982 Indy 500 he came within .16 of a second of adding a second
Indy win. In a rare mistake the team loaded too much fuel during Mears'
final pit-stop and the delay put him behind Gordon Johncock. The
photo-finish would stand for ten years as the closest finish to an Indy
For 1983 the Penske
team would acquire the famous yellow colours of Pennzoil but a
recalcitrant chassis meant the team had to rely on consistency over
speed. Although teammate Al Unser took the title, the team switched to
the March chassis for 1984. This would prove a blessing and a curse as
Mears scored his second Indy win that May but suffered severe leg
injuries later in the year in a crash at Sanair. The March chassis, like
most contemporary open-wheel racing cars, sat the driver far forward in
the nose, with little protection for the legs and feet.
In 1980 Mears had
tested a Formula One Brabham. However, as he was expected to bring money
to the team, rather than receive a salary, he declined the offer. After
1984 his F1-level of speed on road-courses was blunted by the injuries
to his right foot and the 1985, 1986 and 1987 years were relatively
quiet seasons by Mears' standards, with only two wins, both scored at
Pocono, a tri-oval track.
In 1988, after several
years using the March chassis, the Penske team were ready to unleash
their new car, the PC-17, and a potent new Chevrolet racing engine. The
new car powered Mears into an exclusive club; the three-time Indy
winners. Like his previous wins it was a triumph of speed and patience.
Mears eventually won by a clear two laps as he was the only front-runner
who hadn't run into problems. A year later he took a record-setting
fifth pole position at Indy, but retired from the race with mechanical
gremlins. Emerson Fittipaldi took the 500 and also beat Mears to the
Championship in the last race at Laguna Seca, despite Mears winning that
Mears at Penske for 1990, but the year belonged to Al Unser, Jr., who
scored six wins. 1990 would be Mears' last in the Pennzoil livery as
Marlboro stepped-up their sponsorship of the team.
Twenty laps from the
end of the 1991 Indianapolis 500 it looked like Mears was set to be the
runner-up behind Michael Andretti. However, when a subsequent yellow
flag period erased Andretti's 15 second lead, Mears gained the lead as
Andretti opted to pit for new tyres. It would be a short-lived lead as
Andretti passed Mears around the outside into the first turn.
But Mears was not
beaten. A lap later he returned the favour with his own breathtaking
outside pass and shot back into the lead. Turning up his turbo-boost he
then pulled away to win a fourth Indy 500, making him one of only three
individuals to win the event four times. In August 1991 at Michigan he
won his last race. At the 1992 Indy 500 Mears broke a wrist in a crash
during practice and then crashed out of the race for the first time in
his career. He raced only another four times in 1992 and announced his
retirement from driving at the Penske team's Christmas party.
As of 2005 Rick Mears
continues to work as a consultant to Penske racing, the team with which
he won all of his Champcar races.
He is the brother of
Roger Mears and the uncle of Casey Mears.
*Louie Meyer first three-time
winner of the
July 21, 1904 – October 7, 1995)
Hall of Fame
race car driver who was a three-time
winner of the
He was born in lower
Manhattan, New York on July 21, 1904.
He was the son of
French immigrants, Meyer was raised in
Los Angeles, where he began automobile
racing at various
He went on to become the
first-ever driver to win the Indianapolis 500 three times, capturing the
prestigious race as a rookie starter in 1928 (though having driven as a
relief driver for
Wilbur Shaw the year before), then
again in 1933 and 1936.
Louis Meyer started the tradition of drinking
at the time) in victory lane at the
1933 Indianapolis 500 race, when he
drank a glass of milk. Following his
1936 Indianapolis 500 victory, he drank
from a glass
milk bottle instead, as most race
winners have done since.
Following the suggestion of former race winner,
Tommy Milton, that year he became the
first driver to receive the
Pace Car as part of the race winnings.
Louis Meyer won the
United States National Driving Championship
in 1928, 1929 and 1933.
Meyer's wife June did not even
know he was racing in the
1928 Indianapolis 500. Earlier in the
day she was in
Pennsylvania picking up a wrecked car
and after that went to see her brother-in-law Eddie Meyer race in
Reading. She found out about her
husbands victory after the track announcer in Reading asked the crowd to
give a big hand to Eddie Meyer, the brother of the Indianapolis 500
He died on October 7, 1995 in
Searchlight, Nevada, aged 91, where he
had been living in retirement since 1972. He was interred at
Inglewood Park Cemetery in
Meyer's son Louis (Sonny) Meyer,
Jr. assisted him in engine work at his race shops, and worked on the
various DOHC Ford engines in USAC racing, including building 15
Indianapolis 500-winning engines. Grandson Louis III (Butch) built
Oldsmobile Aurora engines for Team Menard in
Indy Racing League IndyCar Series
competition, winning the 1996-97 (18-month season) and 1999
championships before becoming the current
Indy Pro Series director. When he was
90, after he retired racing from being thrown out of his car, he would
drive jet skies and motorcycles and eventually died in 1975. He was not
related to fellow driver
" TONY" HULMAN OWNER INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Anton " Tony" Hulman
was a businessman from Terre Haute, Indiana and graduated from Yale
University in 1924. His business, Hulman & Company, produces Clabber
Girl Baking Powder, which Tony made popular through the use of clever
advertising in the 1930s.
Born into one of Terre
Haute's wealthiest families, young Tony was raised in one of the city's
finest homes and seemed destined to enter the family business. He was
educated at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and Worcester Academy
in Massachusetts. A stellar athlete with a trim physique, Tony excelled
in the high hurdles and the pole vault at Worcester.
Upon his graduation
from Yale in 1924, the young Hulman returned to Terre Haute to take his
place in the family business, a place he would have to earn. His father,
Anton Hulman, Sr., instructed the people of Hulman & Co., "Don't give
Tony a place in the business. Let him work for it."
By 1926, Tony was the
company's sales manager, and by 1931, at the age of 30, management of
the whole company passed from father to son.
Hulman is probably
best known for buying the dilapidated Indianapolis Motor Speedway from a
group led by World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker immediately after
World War II. Influenced by three-time Indy 500 winner Wilbur Shaw (who
became the track's president in the early years of the Hulman regime),
Hulman made numerous improvements to the track in time for the race to
be held in 1946.
Following Shaw's death
in a plane crash on October 30, 1954, Hulman stepped into his
soon-to-be-familiar role as the "face" of the Speedway. Ever popular
with drivers and fans alike, the normally shy Tony relished the job.
He is famous for
starting the tradition of launching the Indianapolis 500 with the
command, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" Into the 1970s, despite the
fact he'd given the command so many times before, he would always
practice it extensively beforehand, and on race day, he would invariably
pull a card from the pocket of his suit as he stepped to the microphone.
Over the years, many have wondered what was written on that card. On it
were the words of the starting command written in the following manner:
"GENNNNNTLEMENNNNN, STARRRRRT YOURRRRRR ENNNNNNNGINES!" Luke Walton, who
was the Speedway's announcer during Hulman's early years at the helm,
had previously been a radio announcer and worked extensively with Tony
to make sure he got it "just right," thus the card with its "stretches"
to ensure each word was delivered with the proper emphasis!
" BILL " FRANCE SR. FOUNDER NASCAR
Bill was the
co-founder of NASCAR, the sanctioning body of United States-based stock
France was familiar
with Daytona Beach's land speed record history when he moved his family
from Washington D.C. to Daytona in 1935 to escape the Great Depression.
He had less than $100 (US) in his pocket when they left D.C.. He set up
a car repair shop in Daytona.
On March 8, 1936, the
first stock car race was held on the Daytona Beach Road Course, promoted
by local racer Sig Haugdahl . The race was marred by controversial
scoring and huge financial losses to the city. France finished fifth.
Haugdahl talked with
France, and they talked the Daytona Beach Elks Club to host another
event in 1937. The event was more successful, but still lost money.
Haugdahl didn't promote any more events.
France took over the
job of running the course in 1938. There were two events in 1938. Danny
Murphy beat France in the July event. France beat Lloyd Moody and Pig
Ridings to win the Labor Day weekend event.
There were three races
in 1939. There were three races in 1940. France finished fourth in
March, first in July, and sixth in September.
France was busy
planning the 1942 event, until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. France
spent the World War II working at the Daytona Boat Works. Most racing
stopped until after the war. Car racing returned to the track in 1946.
France knew that
promoters needed to organize their efforts. Drivers were frequently
victimized by unscrupulous promoters who would leave events with all the
money before drivers were paid. On December 14, 1947 France began talks
at the Ebony Bar at the Streamline Hotel at Daytona Beach, Florida that
ended with the formation of NASCAR on February 21, 1948. He built the
Occoneechee Speedway in 1947.
By 1953, France knew
it was time for a permanent track to hold the large crowds that were
gathering for races at Daytona and elsewhere. Hotels were popping up all
along the beachfront. On April 4, 1953, France proposed a new
superspeedway called Daytona International Speedway. France began
building a new 2.5 mile superspeedway in 1956 to host what would become
the new premiere event of the series – the Daytona 500. The event
debuted in 1959, and has been the premiere event since.
He later built the
Talladega Superspeedway which opened in 1969.
He served as Chairman
and CEO of NASCAR. R.J. Reynolds became the title sponsor in 1970, a
moved that changed the name of the series from "Grand National" to
"Winston Cup". Reynolds convinced France to drop all dirt tracks and
races under 100 miles from the NASCAR schedule in 1972, a move that
defined the "modern era" of the sport. Big Bill then turned the reigns
of NASCAR over to his son Bill France Jr. France kept an office at the
headquarters until the late 1980s
" THE KING" PETTY 7 TIME NASCAR CUP CHAMPION
Richard is a renowned
former NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver. He is most well-known for
winning the NASCAR Championship seven times (Dale Earnhardt is the only
other driver to accomplish this feat, but with 76 victories and a lone
Daytona 500), winning a record 200 races during his career, winning the
Daytona 500 a record seven times, and winning a record 27 races (ten of
them consecutively) in the 1967 season alone. (A 1972 rule change
eliminated races under 250 miles in length, reducing the schedule to 30
[now 36] races.) Petty is arguably the greatest NASCAR driver of all
time. He also collected a record number of poles (127) and over 700
top-ten finishes in his 1,185 starts, including 513 consecutive starts
from 1971-1989. He also won seven Daytona 500s and nine Most Popular
Petty is a second
generation driver. His father, Lee Petty, won the first Daytona 500 in
1959 and was also a NASCAR champion. Richard's son, Kyle Petty, is also
a well-known NASCAR driver. Tragically, Richard's grandson, Adam Petty,
was killed in an accident at New Hampshire International Speedway on May
12, 2000. Meanwhile, Adam's brother Austin works on day-to-day
operations of the Victory Junction Gang camp, a Hole in the Wall Gang
camp established by the Pettys after Adam's death.
JOSEPH " A.J." FOYT FIRST 4 TIME INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINNER
A.J. is considered by
many as the greatest American automobile racing driver of all time.
He joined USAC
Championship Car series racing in 1957, and, in 1961, he became the
first driver to successfully defend his points championship and win the
Indianapolis 500 race. He raced in each season from 1957-1992, starting
in 374 races and finishing in the top ten 201 times, with 67 victories.
Ford engines were
widely expected to dominate the 1964 Indianapolis 500. Foyt hoped his
Offenhauser engine would be able to keep up with the Fords. Foyt lapped
the field to win the race. The race is known for a lap 2 crash that
claimed the lives of Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs.
The track doctor at a
1965 Riverside International Raceway race pronounced Foyt dead at the
scene of a severe crash, but fellow driver Parnelli Jones revived him
after seeing movement. Foyt suffered severe chest injuries, a broken
back, and a fractured ankle.
In the 1967
Indianapolis 500, Parnelli Jones' turbine car was expected to easily
defeat the field of piston engines. Jones lapped the field, but his car
expired with a few laps left in the race. Foyt had to weave through five
wrecked cars down the final front stretch to win the race, a race that
took two days to complete.
In the 1977
Indianapolis 500, Foyt ran out of fuel, and had to make up around 32
seconds on Gordon Johncock. Foyt made up 1.5 to 2 seconds per lap by
turning up his boost, which risks blowing up the motor. Johncock's motor
broke just as Foyt had caught him, and Foyt passed for the win.
He won at the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway 4 times. In 1961, 1964, 1967, 1977
Foyt only needed 10
races to get his first NASCAR victory. Richard Petty dominated the 1964
Firecracker 400 until he went out with engine problems. Foyt swapped the
lead with Bobby Isaac for the final 50 laps of the summer event at the
Daytona International Speedway. Foyt passed Isaac on the final lap to
win the race.
Foyt ran out of gas
near the end of the 1971 Daytona 500, and Petty passed him for the win.
Foyt again had the car to beat in the 1972 Daytona 500, but this time he
succeeded. Only three drivers led during the race.
Foyt won the 1971 and
1972 races at the Ontario Motor Speedway for Wood Brothers Racing. The
track was shaped like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 1972 race was
his last NASCAR win.
GURNEY F-1 NASCAR AND INDY CAR DRIVER
Dan Gurney is one of
the most important figures in the history of American auto racing. He
was born in Port Jefferson, New York, but moved to California as a
teenager. He has been a driver, a car manufacturer and a team owner at
racing's highest levels since 1958. He is one of only four US-born
drivers to win a Formula One Grand Prix other than the Indianapolis 500,
and the only one to win in a car of his own manufacture. (The other
three are Richie Ginther, Phil Hill and Peter Revson)
Gurney also won races in the Indy Car, NASCAR, Can-Am and Trans-Am
Series. In 1967, after winning the 24 hours of Le Mans together with
A.J. Foyt, he spontaneously sprayed champagne while celebrating on the
podium. Apart from starting this tradition, he also was the first to put
a simple extension on the upper end of the rear wing. This device,
called Gurney flap (or wickerbill), increases downforce with minimal
After driving a
Ferrari at Le Mans in 1958, Gurney was invited to take a test run in a
works Ferrari, and his Formula One career began with the team in 1959.
In just four races that first year, he earned two podium finishes, but
the team's strict management style did not suit him. In 1960 he had six
non-finishes in seven races behind the wheel of a privately-entered BRM.
After rules changes
came in effect in 1961, he teamed with Jo Bonnier for the first full
season of the factory Porsche team, scoring three second places. After
Porsche introduced a better car in 1962 with an 8 cylinder engine,
Gurney broke through at the French Grand Prix at Rouen-Les-Essarts with
his first World Championship victory - the only GP win for Porsche as an
F1 constructor. One week later, he repeated the success in a
non-Championship F1 race in front of Porsche's home crowd at Stuttgart's
Solitude race track. Due to the high costs of racing in F1, Porsche did
not continue after the 1962 season, though. While with Porsche, Gurney
met a team public relations executive named Evi Butz, and they married
several years later.
Gurney was the first
driver hired by Jack Brabham to drive with him for the Brabham Racing
Organisation. While Brabham himself scored the maiden victory for his
car at the 1963 Solitude race, it was Gurney again who took the team's
first win in a championship race, in 1964, again at Rouen. In all, he
earned two wins (in 1964) and ten podiums (including five consecutive in
1965) for Brabham before leaving to start his own team.
In 1962, Gurney and
Carroll Shelby began dreaming of building an American racing car to
compete with the best European makes. Shelby convinced Goodyear, who
wanted to challenge Firestone's domination of American racing at the
time, to sponsor the team, and Goodyear's president Victor Holt
suggested the name, "All American Racers", and the team was formed in
1965. Gurney was not comfortable with the name at first, fearing it
sounded somewhat jingoistic, but felt compelled to agree to his
Their initial focus
was Indianapolis and Goodyear's battle with Firestone, but Gurney's
first love was road racing, especially in Europe, and he wanted to win
the Formula One World Championship while driving an American Grand Prix
Eagle. Partnered with British engine maker Westlake, the Formula One
effort was called "Anglo-American Racers." The Weslake V12 engine was
not ready for the 1966 Grand Prix season, so the team used outdated
four-cylinder 2.7-liter Coventry-Climax engines and made their first
appearance in the second race of the year in Belgium. Gurney scored the
team's first Championship points by finishing fifth in the French Grand
Prix at Reims.
The next season, the
team failed to finish any of the first three races, but on June 18,
1967, Gurney took a historic victory in the Belgian Grand Prix. Starting
in the middle of the first row, Gurney initially followed Jim Clark's
Lotus and the BRM of Jackie Stewart. Clark encountered problems on Lap
12 that dropped him down to ninth position. Having moved up to second
spot, Gurney set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 19. Two laps later,
he and his Eagle took the lead and came home over a minute ahead of
This win came just a
week after his surprise victory with A.J. Foyt at 24 hours of Le Mans,
where Gurney spontaneously began the now-familiar winner's tradition of
spraying champagne from the podium to celebrate the unexpected win
against the other Ford GT40 teams.
victory in Belgium was the high point for AAR as engine problems
continued to plague the Eagle. He led the 1967 German GP at the
Nurburging when a driveshaft failed two laps from the end with a
42-second lead in hand. After a third place finish in Canada that year,
the car would finish only one more race. By the end of the 1968 season,
Gurney was driving a McLaren -Ford. His last Formula One
EARNHARDT 7 TIME NASCAR CUP CHAMPION
Dale Earnhardt was
best known for his career driving stock cars in NASCAR's top division.
He was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, to Ralph Lee Earnhardt and
Martha Coleman. Earnhardt had four children, Kelley King, Taylor, Kerry,
and Dale Jr. His widow, Teresa Earnhardt (whom he married in 1982) is
the owner of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., the race team and merchandising
corporation Earnhardt founded with her in the 1990s.
Earnhardt is best
known for his success in the Winston Cup Series. He won seventy-six
races, and his seven championships are tied for most all-time with
Richard Petty. His highly aggressive driving style made him a fan
favorite and earned him the nickname "The Intimidator."
Earnhardt died in a
last-lap crash during the 2001 Daytona 500, the fourth NASCAR driver to
die in the nine months since Adam Petty's death in May 2000. Due in
large part to overwhelming fan outcry, NASCAR began an intensive focus
on safety that has seen the organization mandate the use of
head-and-neck restraints (currently, only the HANS device is approved
for competition), oversee the installation of SAFER barriers at all oval
tracks, set rigorous new rules for seat-belt and seat inspection,
develop a roof-hatch escape system, and develop a next-generation race
car built with extra driver safety in mind, dubbed the Car of Tomorrow.
Dale Earnhardt began
his Winston Cup career in 1975, making his first start at the Charlotte
in the longest race on the Cup circuit, the World 600. Earnhardt drove
an Ed Negre car and finished 22nd in the race. Earnhardt would compete
in 8 more races until 1979, when he would join Rod Osterlund Racing, in
a season that would see a rookie class of future stars - Earnhardt, Bill
Elliott and Terry Labonte.
In his rookie season,
Earnhardt would win four poles, one race (at Bristol), 11 Top 5
finishes, 17 Top 10 finish, and finish 7th in the points standings, in
spite of missing four races because of a broken collarbone, winning
Rookie of the Year honors.
In his sophomore
season, Earnhardt, now with a 20-year old Doug Richert as his crew
chief, would begin the season winning the Busch Clash. With wins at
Atlanta, Bristol, Nashville, Martinsville, and Charlotte, Earnhardt
easily won his first Winston Cup championship.
In 1981, after
Osterlund sold his team to J. D. Stacy during the season, Earnhardt left
for Richard Childress Racing, where he would finish 7th in the points
standings, despite not winning. The following year, under Childress'
suggestion, he joined car owner Bud Moore for the 1982 and 1983 seasons.
During the 1982 season, Earnhardt would struggle; while winning
Darlington, he failed to finish 15 races, finishing 12th in the points
standings, which would tie a career worst finish. In 1983, Earnhardt
would rebound, winning his first of 13 Twin 125 Daytona 500 qualifying
races. Earnhardt would record wins at Nashville and at Talladega,
finishing eighth in the points standings.
After the 1983 season,
Earnhardt would return to Richard Childress Racing. During the 1984 and
1985 seasons, Earnhardt would visit victory lane six times, at
Talladega, Atlanta, Richmond, Bristol (twice), and Martinsville,
finishing fourth and eighth, respectively.
The 1986 season would
see Earnhardt win his second career Winston Cup Championship and the
first owner's championship for RCR, winning five races, ten Top 5
finishes, and sixteen Top 10 finishes. Earnhardt would successfully
defend his championship the following year, visiting victory lane eleven
times and winning the championship by 288 points over Bill Elliott. In
the process, Earnhardt would set a NASCAR modern era record of four
consecutive wins and won five of the first seven races. The 1987 season
also would see Earnhardt earn his nickname "The Intimidator" after
spinning out Elliott in the final segment of The Winston.
The 1988 season would
see Earnhardt racing with a new sponsor, GM Goodwrench, replacing
Wrangler. It would be during this season that Earnhardt would garner a
second nickname, "The Man in Black", owing to the black paint scheme in
which the #3 car was painted. He would win three times in 1988,
finishing third in the points standings behind Bill Elliott and Rusty
Wallace. The following year, Earnhardt would win five times, but a late
spinout at North Wilkesboro arguably cost him the 1989 championship, as
Rusty Wallace would edge Earnhardt for the championship.
The 1990 season
started with another disappointing result in the Daytona 500. Speed Week
started auspiciously with victories in the Busch Clash and his heat of
the Gatorade Twin 125's. Near the end of the 500, he had a 4 second lead
when the final caution flag came out with a handful of laps to go. When
the green flag came out, Earnhardt was leading Derrike Cope. On the last
lap, Earnhardt ran over a piece of metal at the final turn, cutting a
tire. Cope, in an upset, won the race while Earnhardt finished 5th. The
#3 Goodwrench Chevy team took the flat tire that cost them the win and
hung it on the shop wall. Apparently, this strategy worked, because
Earnhardt won nine races. He also won his 4th Winston Cup title, beating
out Mark Martin by just 26 points.
The 1991 season saw
Earnhardt win his 5th Winston Cup championship. He scored just 4 wins,
but took the title by 195 points over Ricky Rudd. One of the biggest
highlights of the season for Earnhardt was scoring the win at North
Wilkesboro. Harry Gant, who had tied Earnhardt's mark of 4 consecutive
wins and was going for a 5th, lost the brakes late in the race, giving
Earnhardt the chance he needed to make the pass for the win.
After winning his
second set of consecutive titles, Dale Earnhardt was determined to make
it 3 in a row, but Ford's new engine and aerodynamic package for the
Thunderbird dominated, winning 13 consecutive races from the end of the
1991 season into the first nine races of 1992. Earnhardt's only win in
1992 came at Charlotte, in the prestigious Coca-Cola 600, ending the
13-race win streak for the Ford teams. Earnhardt would finish a
career-low 12th in the points for the 2nd time in his career, and the
only time he had finished that low since going to RCR. At the end of the
year, longtime crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine left to become a driver. Andy
Petree took over as crew chief.
Hiring Petree turned
out to be beneficial, as the #3 GM Goodwrench Chevy returned to the
front in 1993. Earnhardt once again came close to a win at the Daytona
500, dominating throughout Speedweeks before finishing 2nd to Dale
Jarrett on a last-lap pass. Earnhardt would score 6 wins en route to his
6th Winston Cup title, including wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and The
Winston at Charlotte, and the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Earnhardt beat Rusty
Wallace for the championship by 80 points.
In 1994, Earnhardt
achieved a feat that he himself had believed to be impossible - he
scored his seventh Winston Cup championship, tying the legendary Richard
Petty. Earnhardt was very consistent, scoring 4 wins, and winning the
title by over 400 points over Mark Martin. Although Earnhardt would
continue to dominate in the seasons ahead, this would prove to be the
last Winston Cup title of his career.
Earnhardt started off
the 1995 season by finishing second in the Daytona 500 to Sterling
Marlin. He would win 5 races in 1995, including his first road course
victory at Sears Point and the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis
Motor Speedway, a win he called the biggest of his career in 1995. But
in the end, Earnhardt lost the title to Jeff Gordon by just 34 points.
Earnhardt began 1996
with a repeat of 1993 - he dominated Speedweeks only to finish second in
the Daytona 500 to Dale Jarrett for a 2nd time. Earnhardt won early in
the year, scoring consecutive victories at Rockingham and Atlanta. In
late July at Talladega, he was in the points lead and looking for his
eighth title despite the departure of crew chief Andy Petree. Late in
the race, Ernie Irvan lost control of his #28 Havoline Ford Thunderbird,
igniting a frightening crash that saw Earnhardt's #3 Chevrolet hit the
tri-oval wall head-on at nearly 200 miles per hour. After hitting the
wall, Earnhardt's car flipped and slid across the track, in front of
race-traffic. His car was hit in the roof and windshield, and the
accident led NASCAR to mandate the "Earnhardt Bar", a metal brace
located in the center of the windshield that reinforces the roof in case
of a similar crash.
cancelled the live telecast of the race and most fans first learned of
the accident during the night's sports newscasts. Video of the crash
showed what appeared to be a fatal incident, but once medical workers
arrived at the car, Earnhardt climbed out and waved to the crowd,
refusing the be loaded onto a stretcher despite a broken collarbone,
sternum, and shoulderblade. Many thought the incident would end his
season early, but Earnhardt refused to give up. The next week at
Indianapolis, he started the race but exited the car on the first pit
stop, allowing Mike Skinner to take the wheel. When asked, Earnhardt
said that vacating the #3 car was the hardest thing he'd ever done. The
following weekend at Watkins Glen, he drove the #3 Goodwrench Chevrolet
to the fastest time in qualifying, earning the "True Grit" pole.
T-shirts emblazoned with Earnhardt's face were quickly printed up,
brandishing the caption, "It Hurt So Good." Earnhardt led most of the
race and looked to have victory in hand, but fatigue finally took its
toll and Earnhardt ending up 6th, behind race winner Geoff Bodine.
Earnhardt would not win again in 1996, but he still finished 4th in the
standings behind Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett. David
Smith would leave as crew chief of the #3 team at the end of the year to
become team manager of the new #31 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse RCR
entry of Mike Skinner (NASCAR) as a teammate to Earnhardt and Larry
McReynolds would replace him.
In the 1997 season,
Earnhardt went winless for only the 2nd time in his career. The only
(non-points) win came during speedweeks at Daytona in the Twin 125-mile
qualifying race, his record 8th straight win in the event. Once again in
the hunt for the Daytona 500 with 10 laps to go, Earnhardt was taken out
of the Daytona 500 by a late crash which sent his car upside down the
backstretch. Earnhardt would hit the low point of his year when he would
black out early in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 in Darlington, causing
him to hit the wall. He would go to the hospital and be cleared to race,
but had no idea what caused it. Despite no wins (all of Chevrolet's wins
were by Hendrick Motorsports -- Ford won all other races in 1997,
Pontiac won once) the RCR team finished the season 5th in the final
standings, with no DNF's.
After 20 years of
disappointment in the Daytona 500 Earnhardt finally won the race in
1998. He started Speedweeks by winning his Twin 125-mile qualifier race
for the ninth straight year. On race day, Dale showed himself to be a
contender early. But at halfway, it seemed that Jeff Gordon had the
upper hand. But by lap 138, Earnhardt had taken the lead, and thanks to
a push by teammate Mike Skinner, he would not lose it. Earnhardt beat
Bobby Labonte to the checkered flag in the race. Afterwards, there was a
large show of respect for Earnhardt, in which every crew member of every
team lined pit road to shake his hand as he made his way to Victory
Lane. Earnhardt then drove his #3 into the infield grass, starting a
trend of post-race celebrations. He spun the car twice, throwing grass
and leaving tire tracks in the shape of a #3 in the grass. Earnhardt
then spoke about the victory, saying "I have had a lot of great fans and
people behind me all through the years and I just can't thank them
enough. The Daytona 500 is over. And we won it! We won it!"
Unfortunately, the rest of the season would not go as well. He slipped
to 12th in the standings halfway in the season, and Richard Childress
decided to make a crew chief change, taking Mike Skinner's crew chief
Kevin Hamlin and putting him with Earnhardt while giving Skinner Larry
McReynolds. Earnhardt was able to climb back to 8th in the final
Before the 1999
season, fans had started talking about Earnhardt's age and thinking that
with his son Dale Jr. getting into racing that Earnhardt might be
contemplating retirement. Earnhardt swept both races for the year at
Talladega, leading most observers to conclude that Earnhardt's talent
was limited to the restrictor plate tracks, which requires a unique
skill set and an exceptionally powerful car to win. But half-way through
the year, Earnhardt began to show some of the old spark. In the August
race at Michigan International Speedway, Earnhardt led laps late in the
race and nearly pulled off his first win on a non-restrictor plate track
One week later, he
provided the sport with one of its most controversial moments.
At the August Bristol
race, Earnhardt found himself in contention to win his first short track
race since Martinsville in 1995. When a caution came out with 15 laps to
go, leader Terry Labonte got hit from behind by the lapped car of
Darrell Waltrip. His spin put Earnhardt in the lead with 5 cars between
he and Labonte with 5 laps to go. Labonte had four fresh tires and
Earnhardt was driving on old tires, which made Earnhardt's car
considerably slower. Labonte caught Earnhardt and passed him coming to
the white flag, but Earnhardt drove hard into turn two, bumping Labonte
and spinning him around. Dale went on to collect the win while
spectators booed and made obscene gestures. "I didn't try to turn him
around, I just wanted to rattle his cage", Earnhardt said of the
incident. Earnhardt would finish 7th in the standings that year, and
looked like a contender again.
In the 2000 season,
Earnhardt had a resurgence, which some attributed to neck surgury he
underwent to correct a lingering injury from his 1996 Talladega crash.
He scored what many considered the 2 most exciting wins of the year -
winning by .006 seconds over Bobby Labonte at Atlanta, then gaining
seventeen positions in four laps to win at Talladega, claiming his first
No Bull 5 million dollar bonus. Earnhardt also enjoyed strong
second-place runs at Richmond and Martinsville, tracks where he'd
struggled at through the late '90s. On the strength of these
performances, Earnhardt took the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte
Carlo to 2nd in the standings. However, poor performances at the road
course of Watkins Glen, where he wrecked coming out of the innerloop,
and mid-pack runs at intermediate tracks like Lowe's and Dover denied
Earnhardt of the coveted eighth championship title.
Always a media
favorite, in the weeks before the 2001 Daytona 500, Earnhardt stirred up
controversy by skipping the annual fan and media preview event, drawing
ire from fellow driver Jimmy Spencer. Two weeks before the Daytona 500,
Earnhardt kicked off the annual Speedweeks at Daytona by competing with
his son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in the Rolex 24, a twenty-four hour sports
car race which utilizes the Daytona International Speedway's infield
roadcourse. The father-son duo were part of a four-man driving team,
each taking turns driving the #3 Chevrolet Corvette in two-hour shifts.
Earnhardt seemed to enjoy this new style of racing immensely, and the
involvement of the Earnhardts brought a surge of publicity to the event
and to American sports car racing in general.
Despite the early
start, Speedweeks would be a disappointment for Earnhardt, who had a
long-running tradition of winning at least one race during the two-week
season kick-off. Earnhardt finished second to Tony Stewart in the
Budweiser Shootout, a seventy-lap exhibition race for drivers and teams
who won a pole position during the previous year, and also for any
previous winner of the Shootout. Earnhardt was also denied victory in
the Gatorade Twin 125 qualifying race in which he participated; the
finishing order of the Twin 125s determine the starting order for the
Daytona 500. Earnhardt had won every Twin 125 event he competed in
during the 1990s, and was leading on the final lap in 2001 when Sterling
Marlin pulled off a slingshot pass going down the backstretch, denying
Earnhardt victory. In the IROC event held prior to the Daytona 500,
Earnhardt was leading late in the race when he was accidentally spun
out. He managed to control the IROC car in spectacular fashion, driving
through the track's infield grass at speeds well over 150 miles per
hour, but victory was again stolen from the 49 year old Earnhardt.
Taking it in stride,
Earnhardt appeared relaxed and confident in television interviews on the
morning of the 2001 Daytona 500.
When the Daytona 500
started, Earnhardt showed early promise, leading the race and running up
front for most of the event. During a pit stop, Earnhardt made contact
with the #36 car of Ken Schrader. Though the incident didn't cause any
damage, it would later prove ironic.
A multicar wreck late
in the race eliminated several cars in spectacular fashion. Tony
Stewart, who had beaten Earnhardt in the Budweiser Shootout, found his
car tumbling wildly down the backstretch. As it tumbled, Earnhardt
managed to weave his way through wrecked cars and come out unscathed.
The race was stalled to facilitate cleanup of the track, and when the
race resumed, it was Earnhardt and DEI drivers Earnhardt, Jr. and
Michael Waltrip who were running up front. As the laps wound down,
Waltrip was leading Junior and Earnhardt.
Going into the final
turn during the last lap, Earnhardt's car seemed to slow. There was
contact between the back bumper of Earnhardt's car and the nose of
Sterling Marlin's. Earnhardt’s car spun off the track's steep banking,
onto the flat apron, and then turned sharply up the track, toward the
outside retaining wall. For a moment, it looked like Earnhardt would
hang onto the car and drive to a top-five finish, but another car - the
#36 Pontiac driven by Ken Schrader - rammed Earnhardt's Chevrolet in the
passenger door and spun the car nose-first into the wall. Earnhardt's #3
hit at a critical angle at nearly 150 miles per hour. The left-rear
wheel assembly broke off the car on impact. The hood pins severed and
the hood flapped open, slamming against the windshield as the car slid
slowly down the track. To most observers, the crash looked minor, and
certainly not as dramatic as his famous 1996 wreck at Talladega, when
Earnhardt's car was pelted several times in the roof and windshield as
it rolled across the track.
While Michael Waltrip
raced toward the checkered flag to claim his first victory, with Junior,
close behind, the cars of Earnhardt and Schrader slid off the track's
asphalt banking toward in the infield grass just inside of turn four.
After climbing from the wreck of his car, Schrader was the first person
to approach Earnhardt's car post-crash. As medical crews converged upon
the crash scene, a Fox reporter asked Schrader about Earnhardt's
condition. "I'm not a doctor," Schrader said solemnly. Hours later, at a
NASCAR press conference, it was announced to the world what millions
already feared from Schrader's somber reply - Dale Earnhardt was dead.