Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rubens Barrichello Born in São Paulo, Brazil - May 23, 1972

May 23, 1972
Rubens Barrichello
(Photo: FrenchGP05 061sharpc via photopin (license)
Born in São Paulo, Brazil.
Barrichello won five karting titles in Brazil before going to Europe to race in the Formula Vauxhall Lotus series in 1990. In his first year, he won the championship, a feat he replicated the following year in the British Formula 3 Championship, beating David Coulthard. He very nearly joined Formula One, the highest category of single seater racing, at just 19 years of age. Instead he competed in Formula 3000 in 1992. He finished third in the championship, and joined the Jordan Formula One team for the 1993 Formula One season. He competed in Formula One between 1993 and 2011. After losing his seat at the Williams F1 team, Barrichello moved to the IndyCar Series in 2012 with KV Racing Technology. After only one year and being unable to find a ride for the 2013 season, Barrichello moved back to Brazil to participate in the Brazilian Stock Car V8 Series, winning the championship in 2014 while driving for Full Time Sports.

Barrichello has won eleven Formula One Grands Prix. He has scored the tenth highest points total in Formula One history. Barrichello drove for Ferrari from 2000 to 2005, as Michael Schumacher's teammate, enjoying considerable success including finishing as championship runner-up in 2002 and 2004. He also finished third in 2001 and 2009. During his six years with Ferrari, Barrichello was involved in winning five constructors' titles, as Schumacher won five drivers' titles in a row between 2000 and 2004. At the end of 2005 Barrichello left Ferrari to sign a contract with Honda. Schumacher's retirement at the end of 2006 made Barrichello the most experienced driver on the grid, and at the 2008 Turkish Grand Prix he became the most experienced driver in F1 history. In 2009, he finished third in the drivers' championship for Brawn GP, as his team mate Jenson Button won the title. This meant Barrichello was involved in a sixth constructors' title. He became the first driver to reach 300 Grand Prix entries and 300 starts, doing so in 2010. He was also appointed chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association in 2010, but after losing his seat in Formula One, he was replaced by Pedro de la Rosa. In 2013 he started covering F1 race weekends for Brazil's TV Globo, interviewing drivers and team members on the grid and commenting during qualifying and race coverages.

Wally Dallenbach Jr Born In Basalt, Colorado - May 23, 1963

May 23, 1963
Wally Dallenbach Jr
Born in Basalt, Colorado, USA.
He competed in 226 Winston Cup races from 1991 to 2001 and had 23 top 10 finishes. The son of open wheel racer and former CART chief steward, Wally Dallenbach Sr., Wally Jr. is also a road racer. Aside from NASCAR, Dallenbach has raced in IMSA Camel GT, CART, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and was the SCCA Trans-Am series champion in 1985 & 1986. He has four class wins at 24 Hours of Daytona and three class wins at 12 Hours of Sebring.

Largely retired from full-time driving, Dallenbach was a race commentator for NBC Sports and Turner Sports. His primary responsibilities are for TNT's NASCAR coverage, a position he had held since 2001, and NBC Sports Network's IndyCar Series coverage, which he has been a part of since NBC was bought by Comcast in 2010 until 2014. Dallenbach worked with Adam Alexander and Kyle Petty on TNT and with Leigh Diffey and Jon Beekhuis on NBC Sports Network. In 2015 Dallenbach joined Fox NASCAR on NASCAR Race Hub.

Bryan Herta Born In Warren, Michigan - May 23, 1970

May 23, 1970
Bryan Herta
(Photo;"Bryan Herta 2004 Indianapolis 500 Third Qual Day" by Manningmbd)
Born in Warren, Michigan, USA.
He is a former Sports car, CART and IRL IndyCar Series driver. He currently runs his own team, Bryan Herta Autosport in the Verizon IndyCar Series. His team won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with driver Dan Wheldon and the 2016 Indianapolis 500 with driver Alexander Rossi. Herta's son, Colton, is also a racing driver and is currently competing in the Indy Lights Series.

Herta enjoyed considerable success in the lower formulae, winning the Barber Formula Ford and Barber Saab Pro Series, and dominating the 1993 Indy Lights championship with Tasman Motorsports.

He graduated to IndyCar racing in 1994 with team owner A. J. Foyt, where he had several promising races before suffering a season-ending injury at Toronto.

In 1995, Herta was hired to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing. Despite a pole at Phoenix, the association was unsuccessful, with Herta managing only a 20th place in the series standings while his teammate Jimmy Vasser finished 8th. Even so, Herta landed a top ride with Team Rahal for the 1996 season.

During the next few years, Herta developed a reputation for his prowess on road courses, especially at Laguna Seca Raceway. In 1996, he was the leader until the last lap, when Alex Zanardi made the spectacular pass through the "Corkscrew" chicane and took the victory. Herta, who rarely qualified below the first row at Laguna Seca, finally won two events on the twisty road course in 1998 and 1999. At the height of Herta's career, fan interest in the Shell-sponsored driver was dubbed by team owner David Letterman as "Hertamania."

In the opening laps of the 1998 event at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin's Road America circuit, Herta was involved in one of the scariest incidents in the history of North American motor racing. In the 4-mile (6.4 km) road course's fifth turn, Herta got too close to the back of the car of co-owner Rahal, and spun out into a paved runoff area, facing oncoming traffic. A few seconds later, an ESPN camera that had zoomed in on Herta's head pulled back when Herta clenched his fists and put them against the sides of his head. As course workers scattered, Alex Barron slid into the front of Herta's car and rode up on top of it. Both drivers were okay. Herta reported that Barron's car had actually hit his hands, only inches from his face.

From 2000 to 2003, Herta drove for a variety of Champ Car teams including Forsythe Championship Racing, Mo Nunn Racing, and PK Racing, but never quite regained his form from the late 1990s. In 2002 Herta drove an F1 car for the first time, piloting a Minardi at the "Thunder in the Park" event held at Donington Park. This led to speculation that he would test and even race for Minardi in F1, however this never happened.

After dabbling in sports cars, he revitalized his open-wheel racing career by substituting for an injured Dario Franchitti halfway through the 2003 IRL season.

In just his third IRL start, Herta picked up his first IndyCar Series win at Kansas Speedway for Andretti Green Racing. He was retained in an expanded four-car squad in 2004, usually running development engines. On July 31, 2005, Herta took his second IndyCar Series win, defeating AGR teammate Dan Wheldon in a close finish in the Firestone Indy 400 at the Michigan International Speedway.

In early 2006, he drove at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Fundidora Park for A1 Team USA in the A1 Grand Prix series before returning to Andretti Green for the IRL season.

As of 2006, Herta has started in the Indianapolis 500 five times (1994–1995, 2004–2006) with three top ten finishes, including a best of 3rd in 2005.

On October 31, 2006, Herta was confirmed as a driver for Andretti Green Racing's new Acura Le Mans prototype program for the 2007 American Le Mans Series season. He shared the car with Marino Franchitti, brother of his former teammate Dario Franchitti. On January 3, 2007, it was announced that Dario would also drive a limited ALMS programme with both Marino and Herta. Herta finished the season 7th in driver points with 1 class win. He also drove for A1 Team USA. At the event in Australia, Herta scored a 10th-place finish.

 Since retiring from racing, Herta served as a driver coach for Vision Racing and founded a Firestone Indy Lights Series team named Bryan Herta Autosport, which has a technical alliance with Vision Racing's Indy Lights team. In 2009, the team fielded a full-time entry for Daniel Herrington. The team campaigned Sebastian Saavedra for eleven races of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season and the Indianapolis 500. In 2011 the team fielded a car for Dan Wheldon in the 2011 Indianapolis 500 which resulted in a stunning victory, and a full-time entry in Indy Lights for Duarte Ferreira. For the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season, Alex Tagliani ran the 500. The team switched to a Honda powered DW12 in May 2012 for the remainder of the season.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Blaine Johnson Born In Santa Maria California - May 22, 1962

May 22, 1962 - August 31, 1996
Blaine Johnson
Born in Santa Maria California USA.
Blaine, along with his lifelong crew chief and brother, Alan, were competitors in the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster Series, a series which they entered in 1988. Johnson won four championships in that series from 1990–1993. At the time of his death, Johnson held a record 26 NHRA titles in the Alcohol Division, until he was later surpassed by Rick Santos.

He entered the Top Fuel class in 1994. However, on August 31, 1996 Johnson died from injuries sustained in a crash at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Johnson's engine exploded right as he reached the finish line. Debris from the engine cut down the rear tires; the thick rubber from the tires in turn sheared off the rear wing, causing a loss in aerodynamic downforce at the rear of the dragster, which caused Blaine to lose control. His out-of-control race car then slammed into a guardrail apex at around 300 m.p.h. Johnson's car was heavily damaged as a result of the incident. He was sent to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Johnson was the first Top Fuel driver to die on track since Pete Robinson at the 1971 Winternationals, and would remain as such until 2004, when Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell was killed during an event in Madison, Illinois.

Johnson's final pass was a track-record run of 4.61 seconds, which remained for two years before Gary Scelzi, who succeeded Blaine Johnson as the driver of Alan Johnson's dragster would beat it. Johnson was also the Top Fuel national record holder at the time of his death with a 4.59 second elapsed-time, a record that would stand until 1999 when Larry Dixon would beat it.

Though Blaine did not get to compete in the last quarter of the season, he had amassed enough points to finish fifth in the season ending points standings. At the awards ceremony after the end of the season, Top Fuel Champion Kenny Bernstein gave his championship trophy to Blaine's brother Alan. According to Alan, that particular trophy is in "a place of honor" at his home in Santa Maria.

The day after his death, on the first day of Eliminations, his opponent Tony Schumacher, performed drag racing's version of a "missing man" formation, idling down the track out of respect to Johnson. During the final round, event winner Cory McClenethan, who was in the lane opposite Johnson during his last ride down the track, stated very clearly, "And I'll tell you something else, when I get up there and get that trophy, it's going to Alan Johnson. Blaine, we love you, buddy."

Memoria plaque for Blaine Johnson at entrance of Midway at IRP.

Throughout the rest of the 1996 and deep into the 1997 seasons, the drivers in Top Fuel, and even some in Funny Car, sported stickers on their cars that read "In Memory of Blaine Johnson". Many drivers continued to have black tape across their car numbers in mourning, and 1996 Top Fuel points Champion Kenny Bernstein dedicated the remainder of the season to the memory of Blaine. After Alan Johnson picked Gary Scelzi to replace Blaine, he designed the new Winston No Bull dragster, which carried on the windscreen "In Memory of Blaine Johnson" for the remainder of the car's life. Blaine's brother, and crew chief, Alan Johnson, went on to be the crew chief for both of Gary Scelzi's championships in Top Fuel, and was the crew chief for seven time Top Fuel Champion Tony Schumacher for six of his seven championships, amassing 9 championships as a crew chief. He is currently part-owner of Awesome Al-Anabi Racing, and has designed the top fuel cars of both Khalid Al-Balooshi, and Shawn Langdon.

On the National Hot Rod Association Top 50 Drivers, 1951–2000, Blaine Johnson was ranked No. 36.

(photo credit: twm1340 via photopin cc)
Blaine Johnson's last appearance at Denver.

In 1996, the NHRA established the Blaine Johnson Memorial Award, which is awarded annually to the person or group that best exemplifies the qualities of Blaine. The award is a small bronze bust of Blaine atop a wooden base, with a brass plaque etched with the winner's name and the words NHRA Blaine Johnson Memorial Trophy.

Since 1997, following the NHRA Finals in Pomona, the Johnson Family has hosted the Blaine Johnson Memorial Golf Tournament in which the race community and the public participate to earn funds for the Blaine Johnson Memorial Foundation. The Foundation was created by Blaine's family to provide funds for scholarships to students in the Automotive Technology Lab at Allan Hancock College that exemplify the drive and determination that Blaine exhibited on the track and in life. The foundation also provides material support to the department such as machines and tooling.

Paul Newman Makes Onscreen Racing Debut In "Winning" - May 22, 1969

May 22, 1969

Paul Newman the legendary actor, philanthropist and automobile enthusiast makes his onscreen racing debut in the action-drama film "Winning."

In "Winning," Newman played Frank Capua, a struggling race car driver who must turn around his fortunes by winning the biggest race of them all, the Indianapolis 500 and in the process avoid losing his wife played by Newman's real life spouse, Joanne Woodward to his biggest rival, Luther Erding (Robert Wagner). Newman and Wagner attended racing school to prepare for their action scenes, and Newman reportedly performed many of the racing scenes himself, without a stunt driver.

Three years after making the film, Newman launched a racing career of his own, driving a Lotus Elan in his first Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) race in 1972. In the mid 1970s, he joined a racing team, and they finished in fifth place in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1977. Newman's personal best finish was second place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979; he drove a Porsche 935. In 1980, Newman talked to Sports Illustrated about his entry into racing after "Winning": "I found I had enjoyed the precision of it, of controlling those cars, I could see it would be a gas to do something like that really well." For more: Paul Newman - Tribute Page

Luigi Fagioli "First To Lead Monaco Flag To Flag" - May 22, 1935

May 22, 1935
Luigi Fagioli
Born in Osimo, Ancona, Italy.
For the 1935 racing season, his factory Mercedes was upgraded to a W25B model with which he captured the Monaco Grand Prix. He became the first driver to lead at Monaco from flag to flag.

Motorcycle Racer Nicky Hayden Dies From Bicycle Injuries - May 22, 2017

July 30, 1981 - May 22, 2017
Nicholas "Nicky" Hayden
Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, USA.
Nicknamed "The Kentucky Kid",  he was an American professional motorcycle racer who won the MotoGP World Championship in 2006. Hayden had two brothers, Tommy and Roger Lee, both professional motorcycle racers, and two sisters, Jenny and Kathleen. In 2010 Tommy raced in the AMA, and Roger Lee competed in the Superbike World Championship.

On May 17, 2017, Hayden was hit by a car while riding his bicycle near Rimini, Italy. The driver of the car stated that he was on his way to work when Hayden passed through a Stop sign and suddenly appeared in front of him. He was unable to avoid a collision. The speed of the driver is not yet known but the impact of Hayden slamming into the windshield was strong enough to completely shatter it and dent down the roof of the car. Hayden's bicycle was found in the nearby ditch with its frame snapped in half.

Hayden was taken to Rimini hospital with severe injuries. At 6:00 p.m., four hours after the accident, Rimini hospital staff announced that he had been moved to the major trauma unit at the Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena for possible surgery. It was widely reported by mainstream media that Hayden was put into a medically-induced coma for surgery, which is not the case according to Hayden's father Earl. "Nicky was never placed into a coma nor has he received any surgery as his condition is too severe to operate." Hayden sustained a traumatic brain injury as well as a broken femur, broken pelvis, and multiple fractured vertebrae. Five days after the accident, Hayden died in the hospital on May  22, 2017.

Hayden started road racing with the CMRA, often against racers many times older. He would often start races from the back of the grid because a family or crew member would have to hold his bike upright as his feet would not yet touch the ground. Later, at age 17, he was racing factory Honda RC45 superbikes while still in high school. In 1999, he won the AMA Supersport championship on board a privateer Honda. In 2001, his first full season as an AMA superbike racer, he came within 40 points of winning the championship, finishing behind only champion Mat Mladin and runner-up Eric Bostrom. The 2002 season, however, would see Hayden answering the bell: he won the Daytona 200 on a Honda Superbike en route to becoming the youngest ever AMA Superbike Champion, defeating reigning triple champion Mat Mladin, among others. He also entered the World Superbike round at Laguna Seca, making a solid 4th in the first race before colliding with Noriyuki Haga in race two.

Hayden was one of a long line of American road racers to come from the American dirt-track scene. In 1999, Hayden won his first Grand National Championship race and took Rookie of the Year honors. He was also declared the AMA's athlete of the Year. In 2000, Nicky Hayden won the Springfield Short Track. In 2002, despite racing in just a handful of dirt-track events, Hayden was able to win four races. At the Springfield TT race, the three Hayden brothers took the first three places (Nicky 1st, Tommy 2nd, and Roger Lee 3rd). The win at the 2002 Peoria TT came after beating thirteen-time Peoria winner, Chris Carr, despite starting from the penalty line. Hayden only lacked a win at a mile track to join Dick Mann, Kenny Roberts Sr., Bubba Shobert, and Doug Chandler in the prestigious "Grand Slam Club." The FIM named him a Legend in November 2015 prior to the Valencian Grand Prix.

His traditional racing number, 69, was the same number his father used.
Nicky Hayden beat Valentino Rossi for the 2006 MotoGP world title.

Monday, May 21, 2018

"USAC and Champ Car Driver" Jim McElreath Dies - May 18, 2017

February 18, 1928 - May 18, 2017
Jim McElreath
Born in Arlington, Texas, USA.
He was a driver in the USAC and CART Championship Car series. The gritty racer who worked on his own cars, overcame by personal tragedy on a number of occasions. Jim's son, James Jr., was killed in a sprint car crash at Winchester in October 1977. James Jr. had attempted to qualify for the 1977 Indy 500 earlier that year. Alongside his father, they were attempting to become the first father and son combination to qualify for the same race. However, James Jr. was too slow to make the field. Jim's daughter, Shirley, married racing driver Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. The couple died when their private plane crashed in Kentucky in February 2000. Shortly afterward, his wife Shirley would suffer a stroke that has confined her to a wheelchair ever since.

Jim began his racing career in 1945 at the age of 17. He raced stock cars in Dallas, Texas. Jim would race in the local Texas bullrings for the next fifteen years while working as a bricklayer. It was in 1960 when he and fellow Texan racer Johnny Rutherford decided to race in the Midwest. Both would eventually find super-modified rides in the International Motor Contest Association. Jim did well enough that by late-summer 1961 that he was offered a ride by fame car owner Lindsey Hopkins in the Hoosier Hundred, a race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on the United States Auto Club National Championship Trail. He finished third in this race, an impressive start to his Indy Car career.

He raced in the 1961–1983 seasons, with 178 combined career starts, including 15 in the Indianapolis 500 in 1962–1970, 1973–1974, and 1977–1980. In 1962 he was named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, a result of his 6th-place finish. He finished 48 times in the top 5, with five victories. This helped him finish in the top three in the title race four times between 1963 and 1970, the highlight being ’66 when he was runner-up in the USAC championship to Mario Andretti.
Jim won the inaugural California 500 at Ontario, California on September 6, 1970, driving A.J. Foyt's team car. He battled with Art Pollard for the last 10 laps after Al Unser and Cale Yarborough retired with mechanical issues.

McElreath was a 2002 inductee to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Everett "Cotton" Owens Born In Union, South Carolina - May 21, 1924

May 21, 1924 - June 7, 2012
Everett "Cotton" Owens
Born in Union, South Carolina, USA.
 Owens was known as the "King of the Modifieds" for his successes in modified stock car racing in the 1950s. His career began in the 1950s in what is now known as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He earned over 100 feature wins. He was the 1953 and 1954 champion. For five straight years (1957–61), Owens captured at least one Grand National (now Sprint Cup) series win.

Seven years after being diagnosed with lung cancer, Owens died on June 7, 2012 at the age of 88, just a few weeks after it was announced he would be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame's 2013 class.

Among his many awards and achievements; Announced as a member of the 2013 Inductee Class at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23, 2012. Inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. 2008 inductee in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Historic Speedway Group - Occoneechee-Orange Speedway Hall of Fame Inductee in 2008. In 1970 inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame at Darlington Speedway. Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers during NASCAR's 50th Anniversary celebration in 1998. Recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor awarded by the Governor of South Carolina, created in 1971 to recognize lifetime achievement and service to the State of South Carolina on September 16, 2006. Member Darlington Records Club. Member NASCAR Mechanics Hall of Fame. Member NASCAR Legends. Pioneer of Racing Award, Living Legends of Auto Racing, February 15, 2006. Presented with the Smokey Yunick Award for “Lifetime Achievement in Auto Racing” on May 28, 2000. Honored by the Vance County Tourism Dept., Henderson, NC with the “East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame Motorsports Pioneer Award” on October 16, 2005. Recipient of the “Car Owner’s of the 1960s” award by the Old Timer’s Racing Club, 1996.

Other notable achievements; Won NASCAR's first live televised race. Gave Dodge its last NASCAR victory in a wing car. Earned Pontiac its first NASCAR win, on the old beach course at Daytona in 1957 driving a '57 Pontiac prepared by Ray Nichels.

For more see; "Cotton" Owens - Tribute Page

The "Flyin'-Hawaiian" Danny Ongais Born - May 21, 1942

May 21, 1942 
Danny Ongais
Born in Kahului, Maui Island, Hawai.
When he was aged 14, he tested out motorbike racing with some success. In the late 1950s, Ongais enlisted in the United States Army as a paratrooper stationed in Europe. He was later discharged and returned to Hawaii for motor racing. Ongais became the Hawaiian motorcycle champion in 1960 and was in the top three positions in the expert class from 1960 to 1962.

In 1963 and 1964 Ongais won the American Hot Rod Association AA Gas Dragster Championship, and in 1965 he added the National Hot Rod Association AA Dragster championship title. A flamboyant figure on the racing circuit, Danny's nickname was "On-Gas" for his 'balls to the wall' driving style. He was also known as the "Flyin'-Hawaiian".

He was a Formula One driver who participated in six Grands Prix, debuting on October 2, 1977, and recorded a best result of seventh.

Ongais made his CART debut during the 1979 season. At the Indianapolis 500 Ongais qualified 27th and finished 4th. In a two-year-old car, Ongais scored another 4th place finish at the Kent Oil 150, at Watkins Glen International, and finished in 6th place in points.

For the 1980 season, at his first race the Indianapolis 500, Ongais started 16th and finished 7th. Ongais endured a tough season highlighted by a 3rd place finish at Watkins Glen and ended the season 15th in points.

In 1981 at the Indianapolis 500, Danny Ongais was involved in a very serious accident on lap 63. Ongais came into the pits, as the leader of the race, but problems during the stop caused it to drag on for a disastrous 46 seconds. After finally leaving the pits, Ongais approached a slower car at the end of the backstretch. He made a late pass going into turn 3. Carrying too much speed out of the turn, the car drifted out into the grey and the back end began to slide. Ongais tried to correct the slide by turning right, and the car hooked to the right and crashed nearly head-on into the wall. He was knocked unconscious by the heavy impact. Officials had to cut open the car to help Ongais out. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital in a critical condition. By the time the broadcasting of the race ended at 11:30 PM, Ongais' condition improved heavily and his condition was updated to stable. He suffered a concussion and 2 leg compound fractures. He missed the rest of the CART year to recover in rehabilitation.

Ongais next drove in CART during the 1983 CART/PPG World Series season, first driving at the 1983 Indianapolis 500, where he started in 21st place and retired with mechanical problems. Later in the season Ongais scored a best finish of 5th place at the Escort Warning Radars 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He finished in 20th place in points.

For the 1984 season Ongais took over as owner of Interscope Racing, fielding the #25 Interscope Racing March 84C-Cosworth DFX. Ongais finished 3rd in the Detroit News Grand Prix, at Michigan International Speedway. He finished 10th in points. In 1985, Ongais scored a season best of 6th in the Beatrice Indy Challenge, at Tamiami Park and finished 24th in points. For 1986, Ongais only ran the Indianapolis 500, dropping out with a mechanical failure.

For the 1987 season, Interscope Racing teamed up with Team Penske, with Ongais in the #25 Panavision Penske PC-16-Ilmor-Chevrolet Indy V8, for the Indianapolis 500 however, Ongais crashed in practice and suffered a concussion. The car was driven by Al Unser Sr, who went on to win a record-tying 4th Indianapolis 500. Ongais later attempted to race at the Marlboro 500, at Michigan International Speedway, the Nissan Indy Challenge at Tamiami Park and the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix at Nazareth Speedway. He would retire at Michigan and Miami and fail to qualify at Nazareth.

In 1996 at the age of 54, Ongais agreed to be the substitute driver for Scott Brayton in the Indy 500 who had died in a practice crash shortly before the race. Starting last, Danny finished 7th in what was his final 500.

He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000, in the drag racing category. On the National Hot Rod Association Top 50 Drivers, 1951-2000, he was ranked 39th.

Canada's Alex Tagliani Takes "Indianapolis 500" Pole - May 21, 2011

May 21, 2011
After acquiring the FAZZT Race Team in 2011, Sam Schmidt Motorsports returned full-time to the IZOD IndyCar Series, and on May 21, 2011, driver Alex Tagliani of Montreal, won the pole position for the 95th Indianapolis 500, the first pole for the team. In the race, Tagliani finished 28th after making slight contact with the wall on lap 148.

The race was won by Dan Wheldon and this was the last win of his racing career.  Four months later, Wheldon was killed in a crash in the IZOD IndyCar World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, driving the same car Tagliani had qualified on the pole in.
(Photo; "Schmidt & Tagliani 20110521" by Chuck Carroll - Own work)
Sam Schmidt with 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole winner Alex Tagliani.

The race was the culmination of the three-year-long Centennial era, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the track (1909) and the 100th anniversary of the inaugural race in 1911. Throughout May, the race was advertised as the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 and the Centennial Indianapolis 500. Since the race was suspended during World Wars I and II, the 100th running of the 500 would not be held until 2016.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tony Stewart Born In Columbus, Ohio - May 20, 1971

May 20, 1971
Tony Stewart
Born in Columbus, Indiana, USA.
He is a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion as a driver, winning titles in 2002, 2005 and 2011. In 2011 Stewart had an ownership interest in the team. He won again as an owner with Kevin Harvick's title in 2014. Throughout his racing career, Stewart has won racing titles in Indy, midget, sprint, and USAC Silver Crown cars. He is the only driver in history to win a championship in both IndyCar and NASCAR. Stewart has raced in a few sports car races, including the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

He last competed full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 14 Chevrolet SS for his own team, Stewart-Haas Racing, under crew chief Mike Bugarewicz. From 1999 to 2008, he drove the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing car, under crew chief Greg Zipadelli with The Home Depot as the primary sponsor. While driving for car owner Joe Gibbs, Stewart won two Cup Series championships in 2002 and 2005. In 2011, Stewart became the first owner-driver since Alan Kulwicki to win the Cup Series championship, which ended Jimmie Johnson's streak of consecutive championships at five. Stewart is the only driver to win the Cup Series championship under the old points system and the chase playoff format, and is the only driver to win the title under three different sponsorships; Winston in 2002, Nextel in 2005, and Sprint in 2011.

Prior to the 23rd running of the Brickyard 400, Stewart was inducted into the USAC Hall of Fame in recognition of his sterling United State Auto Club (USAC) career. He was the 1994 USAC National Midget champion; in 1995, Stewart became the first driver ever to claim all three of United States Auto Club National championships in a single season and is one of only six USAC “Triple Crown Champions.” To date, Stewart racing has also won seven USAC Silver Crown Series titles.

Awards and honors
1995, 2002 Hoosier Auto Racing Fans Driver of the Year
2001 National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductee
2002 Hoosier Auto Racing Fans Hall of Fame inductee
2002, 2005, 2011 Richard Petty Driver of the Year
2003, 2006, 2012 Best Driver ESPY Award recipient
2008 Legends of The Glen inductee
2008 NASCAR Illustrated Person of the Year Award recipient
2013 Myers Brothers Award recipient

2016 Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame inductee

Saturday, May 19, 2018

"Lotus Founder" Colin Chapman Born - May 19, 1928

May 19, 1928 - December 16, 1982
Colin Chapman 
In 1952 he founded the sports car company. Under his direction, Team Lotus won seven Formula One Constructors' titles, six Drivers 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 English performance car builders still in business after the industrial decline of the 1970s.

The influential English design engineer, inventor, and builder in the automotive industry, and founder of Lotus Cars, died from a heart attack at the age of 54. He died on the same day active suspension is tested for the first time on a Formula One car, when Dave Scott drove the Lotus 92 at Snetterton, England.

He was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1997.

"3-time Formula One Champion" Jack Brabham Dies - May 19, 2014

April 2, 1926 - May 19, 2014
Jack Brabham
Born in Hurstville, New South Wales, Australia.
He was a founder of the Brabham racing team and race car constructor that bore his name. He was Formula One champion in 1959, 1960, and 1966.

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 with midgets in Australian and New Zealand road racing events led to his 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 first – and still 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 business interests, which included the Engine Developments racing engine manufacturer and several garages.

Brabham was the father of three sons, Geoff, Gary, and David. All three became involved in motorsport, with support from Brabham in their early years. Between them, they have won sportscar and single-seater races and championships. Geoff was an Indycar and sportscar racer who won five North American sportscar championships as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while David competed in Formula One for the Brabham team and has also won the Le Mans race as well as three Japanese and North American sportscar titles. Gary also drove briefly in Formula One, although his F1 career consisted of two DNPQ's for the Life team. Brabham's grandson Matthew (son of Geoff) graduated from karts in 2010 and races in the Victorian Formula Ford Championship. Another grandson, David's son Sam Brabham, stepped up to car racing from karts in 2013 when he made his debut in the British Formula Ford Championship.

Brabham died at his home on the Gold Coast on May 19, 2014, aged 88, following a lengthy battle with kidney or liver disease. In a statement on the family's website, Brabham's son David confirmed his father's death.

"It's a very sad day for all of us," David Brabham stated. "My father passed away peacefully at home at the age of 88 this morning. He lived an incredible life, achieving more than anyone would ever dream of and he will continue to live on through the astounding legacy he leaves behind."

Among his honours and awards; Officer of the Order of the British Empire (1966), Australian of the Year (1966), Knight Bachelor (1979), Inductee, Sport Australia Hall of Fame (1985, elevated to Legend status in 2003), Australian Sports Medal (2000), Centenary Medal (2001), Officer of the Order of Australia (2008), Inductee, Australian Speedway Hall of Fame (2011) and named a National Living Treasure (2012).

"1949 Indianapolis 500 Winner" Bill Holland Dies - May 19, 1984

December 18, 1907 - May 19, 1984
Bill Holland
From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Holland won the Indianapolis 500 in 1949 and finished second in 1947, 1948 and 1950. He also was runner up in the 1947 AAA National Championship.

He nearly won the 1947 Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, but slowed and allowed teammate Mauri Rose to pass him seven laps from the end, mistakenly believing that Rose was a lap down.

On November 14, 1951, Holland was suspended from AAA Indy Car racing for one year after competing in a three-lap Lion's Charity race at Opa-locka, Florida which was a NASCAR event. The American Automobile Association, at the time the sanctioning body for Indycar races, had a strict rule forbidding its drivers from participating in any races other than their own, and would blacklist violators.

Holland is believed to have got over 40 sprint car feature wins and 150 podiums. He won the first ever automobile race at Selinsgrove Speedway on July 20, 1946.

Holland died from complications of Alzheimer's disease, and was survived by his wife Myra.

He was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2005.

"3-time Indy 500" Winner Dario Franchitti Born - May 19, 1973

May 19, 1973
Dario Franchitti
(Photo: Chess REO via photopin cc)
Born in Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland.
He is a four time IndyCar Series champion, a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 as well as a winner of the 2008 24 Hours of Daytona.

Franchitti started his career in his native United Kingdom in the early 1990s, competing in Formula Vauxhall and Formula Three and was also the winner of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 1992. After Franchitti did not secure a single-seater drive in 1995, he was contracted by the AMG team to compete in touring cars in the DTM and its successor , the International Touring Car Championship. Despite 2 seasons with relative success, the series folded at the end of the 1996 season, again leaving Franchitti without a drive.

Mercedes placed Franchitti in CART in 1997 with the Hogan Racing team. Franchitti spent 6 seasons in CART, where he won 10 races with the Team Green squad that he joined in 1998. He failed to win a championship title, with a best final position of 2nd-place in 1999, behind Juan Pablo Montoya in a tie-breaker.

Team Green moved to the IndyCar Series for the 2003 campaign, with Franchitti remaining in the team. Franchitti's first season for IndyCar was disrupted by an injury, but won his first races the following season. His breakout year came in 2007, when he won the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500 as one of 4 victories in his route to a first career championship title in a final-race title decider with Scott Dixon. At the end of the season, Franchitti was named as BBC Scotland's Sports Personality of the Year.

After an ill-fated move to NASCAR in 2008, Franchitti returned to IndyCar in 2009 driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. Franchitti won on his 2nd start back in the series, and eventually took 5 wins as he won a 2nd championship, again in a final race championship decider against Dixon and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe. He retained the title in 2010, again with a final race championship win over Penske's Will Power. Franchitti's strong form on ovals, including a 2nd Indianapolis 500 victory, allowed him to overhaul Power by 5 points at the final race. His 3rd consecutive and 4th overall title came in 2011, in which he battled Power for the championship the second time but the championship win ultimately was decided in favour of Franchitti, after the season's final race was abandoned due to a serious crash that resulted in the death of his close friend and former teammate Dan Wheldon. A new car was introduced for the 2012 season, in which Franchitti only scored 1 victory – in the Indianapolis 500 – to become the 10th driver to win at least 3 Indianapolis 500's during a career.

On October 6, 2013 Franchitti was involved in a serious crash in the Grand Prix of Houston, when his car flew into catch-fencing after contact with the car of Takuma Sato. Franchitti suffered 2 fractured vertebrae, a broken ankle, and a concussion in the crash. Later he would learn that he had forgotten some of his past. A month later, on November 14, Franchitti announced his immediate retirement from motor racing on medical advice. He retired with 31 victories from 265 starts in his American open-wheel racing career, a tally which put him in a tie for ninth on the all-time wins list with Paul Tracy.

Franchitti married American actress Ashley Judd in December 2001. They divorced in 2013. Franchitti has since married, he and wife Eleanor have a daughter Sofia. He is the older brother of Scottish racing driver Marino Franchitti. He is the cousin of former Formula One driver Paul di Resta.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Team Lotus Makes Its Formula One Debut At Monaco - May 18, 1958

May 18, 1958
Team Lotus, one of the most successful teams in history, makes its Formula One debut at the Monaco Grand Prix with Cliff Allison finishing in fifth place. The other team car of Graham Hill retired on lap 69 with a broken half-shaft.

The Lotus Engineering Company was founded by Colin Chapman in 1952 as a result of Chapman's great success in building and racing trial cars. Located in Norfolk, England, Lotus has become over the last few decades one of racing's most dominant teams. Currently limited to Formula One competition, Lotus was initially a diverse racing team. Lotus dominated Le Mans in the '50s. The mid-1960s saw the Golden Age of Lotus racing as its British drivers Jim Clark and Graham Hill enjoyed great success. Jim Clark won the first World Driver's Championship for Lotus in 1963. Lotus has in recent years been represented by virtuoso drivers as Emmerson Fittipaldi and Alessandro Zanardi.

Simon Pagenaud Born In Poitiers, France - May 18, 1984

May 18, 1984
Simon Pagenaud
(Photo: Simon Pagenaud via photopin (license)
Born in Poitiers, France.
He currently races in the IndyCar Series with Team Penske. He was the 2016 IndyCar champion. In 2006 he won the Champ Car Atlantic Championship with Team Australia in his rookie season. He was the 2012 Indycar "Rookie of the Year". He won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10, 2014.

He has competed in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, Le Mans Series, American Le Mans Series, Champ Car World Series, Atlantic Championship, Formula Renault 3.5 Series, Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup, and French Formula Renault.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen Born In West Germany - May 18, 1967

May 18, 1967
Heinz-Harald Frentzen
(Photo;Ger1axg at the German language Wikipedia Commons)
Born in Mönchengladbach, West Germany.
Also known as 'HHF', he was the runner-up in the 1997 Formula One World Drivers' Championship, driving for Williams. A veteran of 156 Formula one starts, Frentzen also drove for Sauber, Jordan, Prost and Arrows. He had a total of 3 wins, 18 podiums and 174 world championship points from 1994-2003.

 For 2004, Frentzen moved to the German Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters saloon car series to drive for Opel, encouraged by the success achieved in the series by fellow F1 refugee Jean Alesi. Unfortunately his Opel Vectra was not a competitive car, and he was regularly outpaced by not only the Audi and Mercedes drivers but also by his Opel teammates, eventually finishing the season 14th in the championship standings. However he remained in the DTM with Opel for the 2005 season and finished the year in 8th as best-placed Opel driver, with his best result a 3rd place from pole position at Brno in the Czech Republic.

After Opel withdrew after the 2005 season, Frentzen joined Audi for 2006. He would finish 3rd at the first race of the season at Hockenheim and again at the 8th race of the season at Barcelona. Frentzen finished the season 7th in the final standings and quit the team stating he had "no support from the team".

In April 2008, Frentzen drove the Bahrain race in the Speedcar Series of the 2007/2008 season and later on joined the Speedcar Series for the complete 2008/2009 season.

He competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Aston Martin Racing driving one of the two factory Aston Martin DBR9s with Karl Wendlinger and Andrea Piccini in the GT1 class. His team finished 4th in class and 16th overall.

Also in 2008, Frentzen built the HHF Hybrid Concept Car which he entered in the 24 Hours Nürburgring with his own Team. The chassis was a bought Gumpert Apollo road car with a 3.3 litre V8 bi-turbo with 520 hp and an electric motor with approximately 136 hp. Frentzen finished the race but was not classified due to two conventional gearbox failures.

In 2011, Frentzen won a special one-off 'ROC Legends' race against Hans-Joachim Stuck, Marc Duez and Stig Blomqvist as part of the 2011 Race of Champions.

In 2012, Frentzen competed in the ADAC GT Masters season with a Callaway Competition Corvette Z06, and returned to the series in 2014 with a HTP Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3.

Hiro Matsushita First Japanese Driver To Qualify For "Indy 500" - May 18, 1991

May 18, 1991
Hiro Matsushita
Becomes the first Japanese driver to qualify for the "Indianapolis 500". He qualified 24th.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Scott Brayton Killed In Indy 500 Practice - May 17, 1996

February 20, 1959 – May 17, 1996
Scott Brayton
Born in Coldwater, Michigan, USA.
In 1996, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George established the Indy Racing League, and Team Menard signed up to compete in their first full season of IndyCar racing. Because the majority of the established teams and drivers of open-wheel racing competed in the rival CART series, Brayton, and rookie teammate Tony Stewart, were considered legitimate contenders for the IRL title. After a bad start to the season, Brayton asserted his competitiveness by winning his second Indy pole after a dramatic qualifying session in which he withdrew an already-qualified car to get a second chance at taking the top spot.

Brayton was making a practice run on May 17 in his backup car when it blew a tire going into turn two, spun and hit the outside retaining wall at more than 230 mph. Brayton's car scrubbed off virtually no speed as it spun, and as the car impacted the wall on its left side, the force was such that Brayton's head also impacted the wall. Brayton was killed instantly by the severe impact. Teammate Tony Stewart, who qualified second, took over the pole starting position. A substitute driver, Danny Ongais, took over the car that Brayton had qualified for the pole and finished seventh.

His funeral, held in his hometown of Coldwater, Michigan, was attended by a large contingent of drivers and racing personalities.

Following Brayton's death, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced a new trophy for the Indianapolis 500 dedicated to the driver who best exemplifies the attitude, spirit and competitive drive of Brayton. A driver could only be awarded the trophy once in his/her Indy career. It was awarded through 2009.

A street course in Grand Rapids, Michigan, used for SCCA racing was known as the Scott Brayton Memorial course. It was used for the West Michigan Grand Prix in 1998 and 1999.

His wife Becky eventually married another IRL driver, Robbie Buhl on Easter Sunday 1999, later a partner in Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

Scott Brayton, Laguna Seca 1991
(Photo: scott brayton RIP via photopin (license))

Jerry Unser Jr. Dies Following Indy Crash - May 17, 1959

November 15, 1932 - May 17, 1959
Jerry Unser Jr
Born In Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.
Jerry was the driver and twin brother Louie was his chief mechanic. The family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico when the boys were four. However, in 1955, Jerry Unser Sr took his sons back to Colorado for the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb, and it was there that the boys' interest really took off.

But Louie had greater skills as a mechanic and, in 1956, went to work for Bill Stroppe's factory team that was based next door to brother's Jerry's DePaolo Engineering USAC racing team. Both teams folded in 1957 when factories withdrew their support, but the brothers purchased the equipment and went racing together.

Jerry was the 1957 USAC Stock Car champion and presented his diamond ring to Louie, who wore it the rest of his life. Louie also was named mechanic of the year that season.

Jerry and Louie showed up at Indy in 1958, starting a family tradition at the famed Brickyard that would see youngest brother Al the win the Indianapolis 500 four times, brother Bobby three times, while nephew Al Unser Jr was a two-time winner. Jerry's son Johnny and Bobby's son Robby have also competed in the race.

When the twins arrived at Indy, Jerry jumped from car to car until he qualified the McKay Special in 24th place. In his only start, he was caught up in a 13-car pileup on the first lap and flew over the turn three wall, miraculously emerging unhurt.

(Photo credit;
The following year on May 17th, Jerry died of serious burns following a practice crash before the 1959 Indianapolis 500, leaving behind a widow, Jeanne Unser, and two sons, Jerry and Johnny Unser.

Richmond Racing Legend "Sonny" Hutchins Born - May 17, 1929

May 17, 1929 - November 22, 2005
Ernest "Sonny" Hutchins
Born in Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Ernest Lloyd "Sonny" Hutchins, was one of the greatest drivers in Richmond history and a member of the famed "Strawberry Hill Mod Squad". He was well known as a local restaurateur and up and down the east coast as a NASCAR driver. A champion on short tracks, he competed with flair and success for more than 30 years. It is estimated that Hutchins won more than 300 races despite a nine-year retirement in the prime of his career.

A charismatic competitor with a lead foot and a clever tongue, Hutchins competing in Late Models, Modifieds and Winston Cup. Though he made only 38 starts in NASCAR's premier series, he had many fierce battles with Cup champions such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.

In an interview, Hutchins recalled his favorite part of racing was "showing up at someone else's racetrack and beating them." He said with a devilish grin that Waltrip called him "the dirtiest driver he ever knew" after trumping the three-time champion at a Tennessee short track.

Even the late Dale Earnhardt, the seven-time Winston Cup champion who was long known for his aggressive driving style, came fender-to-fender and lost to Hutchins. He had a few run-ins in the mid-1970s with Earnhardt, infuriating "The Intimidator" by bumping him into the wall at back-to-back Late Model races at Richmond and Martinsville. The seven-time champion hadn't forgotten when they crossed paths again in 1990. Earnhardt told Hutchins that he taught him everything he knew about being an aggressive driver.

Hutchins, who made his Modified debut with a sixth-place finish at the old Fairgrounds track known as Strawberry Hill in 1950, also was a boyhood hero to NASCAR car owner Rick Hendrick.

"Guys like Sonny Hutchins and Ray Hendrick are the ones who put the bug in me to get into racing" said Hendrick, a Virginia native who watched Mr. Hutchins at South Boston Speedway and Southside Speedway. "Sonny was fearless. He wore glasses thicker than a Coke bottle, and I don't think he could see. But he was unbelievable. To watch him run those Modified cars with all that power and actually spin the tires all the way down the straightaway. He was quite a talent."

Hutchins was one of the "4-H Boys" along with Ray Hendrick, Runt Harris and Ted Hairfield. The foursome was a promoter's dream, drawing crowds wherever they entered together.

Hutchins built a large fan following in Virginia and was a four-time season champion at Southside Speedway. In his last full season in 1980, he won Late Model titles at Southside and South Boston. In 1981, after a race at Southside, Hutchins suffered a heart attack and promptly retired from racing, ending a 31-year racing career.

Hutchins once said he "never made never a nickel in my life racing, I gave the money back to the car owners and said give me a better car. I just loved automobiles. I spent my whole life in racing, and I don't know anything I'd trade for it."

"I never played baseball, football, basketball, golf. I couldn't tell you who is a football player or a baseball player," Hutchins says. "I just love racing."

On November 22, 2005 "Sonny" Hutchins died from heart failure. He was 76.