Tuesday, January 21, 2020

"NHRA Top 50 Drivers" Gary Beck Born - January 21, 1941

January 21, 1941
Gary Beck
(Photo; competitionplus.com)
Born: Seattle - Home:Edmonton.
Gary is a two-time World champion drag racing driver. Born and raised in the United States, Beck married a Canadian and they made their home in her native Edmonton, Alberta. He competed in stock cars before switching to drag racing.

A virtual unknown, in 1972 he abruptly came to international prominence when he won the National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel dragster title at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. His win marked the first of a number of important championships and in 1974, he drove his nitro-fueled dragster to a record setting three NHRA and two American Hot Rod Association titles and earned the first of his two World Championships. Beck was named driver of the year by Drag News and top fuel driver of the year by Car Craft. Among his 1975 victories, he took the Canadian Open Top Fuel championship.

In 1983 Gary Beck dominated the Top Fuel class in drag racing, scoring 17 of the fastest 18 runs in Top Fuel history and capping off the multi-win season with his second World Championship.

He retired from the NHRA tour in 1986, having won 19 Top Fuel titles plus multiple events on the IHRA and AHRA circuits. Inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1999, on the National Hot Rod Association Top 50 Drivers, 1951–2000, Beck was ranked 24th.

(Photo: twm1340 via photopin cc)
Gary Beck's 1986 dragster

Friday, January 17, 2020

"Legendary NASCAR Crew Cheif" Harry Hyde Born - January 17, 1925

January 17, 1925 - May 13, 1996
Harry Hyde
Born in Brownsville, Kentucky, USA.
He was a leading crew chief in NASCAR stock car racing in the 1960s through the 1980s, winning 56 races and 88 pole positions. He learned to be a mechanic in the Army during WWII. Upon returning home he worked as an auto mechanic and drove race cars for a couple years, then continued racing as a car builder for local competitions in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.

In 1965 he was hired by Nord Krauskopf to be the crew chief of the K&K Insurance team. By 1969 the team began to see considerable success with driver Bobby Isaac, winning 17 races. In 1970 the team won the NASCAR championship and Hyde was named Mechanic of the Year.
The K&K team was one of the leaders through most of the 1970s, but in 1977 Krauskopf sold the team to J. D. Stacy. The team continued to win some races, but in 1978 the relationship between Stacy and Hyde deteriorated and Hyde left the team in mid-June. Late in 1978 Hyde would sue Stacy, and eventually would win.

In 1979 Amelio Scott hired Harry Hyde to be the crew chief for his family team in 1979 with his son Tighe Scott as the driver. Their first race together was the 1979 Daytona 500. Scott finished sixth in the race. At the following race at Rockingham Speedway, Scott recorded his best NASCAR result when he finished fourth. They competed in 15 more events that season and ten more in 1980 before parting ways.

In 1980 Hyde opened his own racing engine shop and supplied engines to various teams. In 1984, he was hired by Rick Hendrick to be crew chief for a team he was partner in, All Star Racing. The partnership did not work out, and Hendrick bought the team out forming Hendrick Motorsports. The team won three races in 1984 with Geoff Bodine driving.

Hyde was then paired with new driver Tim Richmond, a young open-wheel racer from Ashland, Ohio, as Hendrick went to a two-car operation. The brashness of the new driver from outside the southern stock car circuit did not initially sit well with the notably irascible Hyde. However, after a few races they developed a relationship and began to win races. This season was the source of much of the story line for the motion picture Days of Thunder. Hyde's character was portrayed by Robert Duvall.

The team was very successful in 1986. Richmond won 7 races and finished third in points behind legends Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.
Tim Richmond & Crew chief Harry Hyde after winning the 1986 Southern 500.

Richmond, who was noted for womanizing, was diagnosed with AIDS during 1987 and missed most of the season with illness which he explained to the public as pneumonia. Veteran Benny Parsons and owner Rick Hendrick filled in for the #25 team. Richmond still managed to win 2 races in 8 starts but resigned from the team late that year. The combined performance of the three drivers would have been good enough for second in points in the driver standings.

Ken Schrader became the driver for the #25 team in 1988 but Hendrick had become a three car operation, and Hyde sometimes felt ignored. He left after the season to become crew chief for Stavola Brothers Racing where he worked through the first half of the 1991 season, before moving to Chad Little's #19 Bullseye BBQ/Tyson Foods Ford.

Hyde had 48 career victories. His forte was setting up cars for specific tracks. Hyde's race shop is still part of the Hendrick Motorsports facility, and a road within the complex is known as Hyde's Way.

Hyde died in 1996 of a heart attack brought on by a blood clot. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

"NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers" Benny Parsons Dies - January 16, 2007

July 12, 1941 - January 16, 2007
Benny Parsons
(Photo; fantasynascarracin.yolasite.com)
Born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, USA.
He became famous as the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup champion. He was the older brother of former NASCAR driver car owner and broadcaster Phil Parsons of Phil Parsons Racing.

Parsons spent his childhood years in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and played football for Millers Creek High School in Wilkes County. Following high school, he moved to Detroit, Michigan where his father operated a taxicab company. Parsons worked at a gas station and drove cabs in Detroit before beginning his racing career. While working at the gas station one day, a couple of customers towing a race car invited him to a local race track. The driver of the car never showed up for that evening's race, and Parsons drove the car in a race for the first time later that night.

Parsons began his NASCAR career by running a single race in 1964 for Holman-Moody with a young Cale Yarborough. Parsons won the 1968 and 1969 ARCA championships. Parsons had three top-10 finishes in four NASCAR races in 1969.

Benny joined the NASCAR circuit full-time in 1970 with crew chief, John Hill. He had 23 top-10 finishes in 45 races, a pole at Langley Field Speedway, and finished eighth in the final point standings. He would go on to a 21 year NASCAR Cup Series career that would see him run a total of 526 races with 21 wins, 283 top tens finishes and 20 pole positions.

He was nicknamed BP and The Professor, the latter in part because of his popular remarks and relaxed demeanor. He began announcing as a pit reporter in the 1980s on ESPN and TBS while he was still racing part-time. After permanently retiring from racing in 1988, Parsons became a broadcaster – first on ESPN, and then with NBC and TNT in 2001. He received an ESPN Emmy in 1996, and the ACE Award in 1989. He appears in the videogame NASCAR '99, NASCAR 2000 & NASCAR 2001 as a commentator as well as an unlockable legend. He later appeared in NASCAR Rumble as a legend in the game as well as NASCAR Thunder 2002, NASCAR Thunder 2003 & NASCAR Thunder 2004 as an unlockable driver and featured the game in NBC and TNT telecasts where Parsons did EA Sports Thunder Motion where he took viewers on a virtual ride of each track.

Parsons co-hosted coverage of Winston Cup Qualifying on North Carolina radio station WFMX with Mark Garrow in the early '90s. He continued to co-host a radio program called "Fast Talk" on Performance Racing Network (PRN) with Doug Rice until his death. He also had a podcast available on iTunes, in conjunction with CNN called "The CNN Radio Racing Report with Benny Parsons," who talks about NASCAR with CNNRadio's Michael Jones.

In 2005, Parsons made a cameo appearance as himself in the movie Herbie: Fully Loaded. In 2006, he again appeared as himself in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Parsons began having trouble breathing in the summer of 2006. He was diagnosed with lung cancer. He announced later that the treatment had been successful, and that he had a clean bill of health. Parsons had stopped smoking in 1978. His health prevented him from attending a ceremony in November 2006 where he was to be presented with the Myers Brothers Award, honoring his contributions to racing. On December 26, 2006, Parsons was readmitted to the hospital and placed in intensive care because of complications relating to lung cancer.

On January 16, 2007, Parsons died of complications from lung cancer treatment in the intensive care unit of the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is buried near his childhood home in Purlear, North Carolina, which is now the site of Benny Parsons' Rendezvous Ridge, a winery which is also his wife Terri's residence in addition to a racing museum and winery.

1973 Winston Cup Series Champion
1968 ARCA Racing Series Champion
1969 ARCA Racing Series Champion
1975 Daytona 500 Winner
1980 World 600 Winner
Daytona ARCA 300 Winner
1982 Daytona 500 Pole Sitter

1965 ARCA Racing Series Rookie of the Year
Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998
International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994
Court of Legends at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1994
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2005
received an ESPN Emmy in 1996 an the ACE Award in 1989

A.J. Foyt "Super Tex" Born In Houston, Texas - January 16, 1935

January 16, 1935
A.J. Foyt
(Photo: worldstreetphotos.com via photopin cc)
Born in Houston, Texas.
He attended Pershing and Hamilton middle schools and Lamar and San Jacinto high schools, but he dropped out to become a mechanic.

Foyt raced in numerous genres of motorsports. His open wheel racing includes United States Automobile Club Champ cars and midget cars.
(Photo: Peter.Hamer via photopin cc)
JLM-Racing-1961-A J Foyt midget car race.

He raced stock cars in NASCAR and USAC. He won several major sports car racing events. He holds the USAC career wins record with 159 victories, and the American championship racing career wins record with 67. Foyt has numerous career records at the Indianapolis 500. He was the first of to win a record four times, the most consecutive and career starts (35), most races led (13), most times led during the career (39), and most competitive laps and miles during a career (4,909 laps, 12,272.5 miles).
(Photo: wplynn via photopin cc)
He is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Foyt won the International Race of Champions all-star racing series in 1976 and 1977. 

In the NASCAR stock car circuit, he won the 1964 Firecracker 400 and the 1972 Daytona 500. 
(Photo: Racing In America via photopin cc)
A.J. Foyt, on his way to winning the Firecracker 400

Foyt's success has led to induction in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1988, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1989, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1990, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000. Foyt was also named to NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers list in 1998.

Since his retirement from active racing, he has owned A. J. Foyt Enterprises, which has fielded teams in the CART, IRL, and NASCAR.
(Photo: Dee Johnson via photopin cc)
Foyt is the grandfather of A. J. Foyt IV. Foyt is the grandfather and adoptive father of Larry Foyt. He is also the godfather of driver John Andretti. When not busy with the racing season, A.J. Foyt likes to spend time at the family Ranches, The Foyt Ranch located in Hockley, Texas and Brackettville, Texas. The Foyts are also, via marriage, part of the ownership group of the Indianapolis Colts. A. J. Foyt IV is married to the daughter of Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Career summary;
Foyt drove in the Indianapolis 500 for 35 consecutive years, winning it four times.

Foyt is the only driver to win the Indy 500 in both front and rear-engined cars.

Foyt is the only driver to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 the same year, achieved in 1967.

He is the only person to record victories in the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as the 12 Hours of Sebring.

He is one of only 12 drivers to have completed the Triple Crown of endurance racing, having victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring, 24 Hours of Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

He has 41 USAC Stock Car wins and 50 Sprint Car, Midget, and Dirt Champ Car wins.

He won the 1975 and 1976 Australian Speedcar Grand Prix at the Liverpool International Speedway in Sydney.

He has won 12 total major driving championships in various categories.

His USAC wins tally is a record 138.

Foyt won the 1976 and 1977 IROC championships.

Foyt won seven NASCAR races.

Foyt, along with Mario Andretti, are the only men to win both the Indianapolis and Daytona 500s.

Foyt holds the closed course speed record driving the Oldsmobile Aerotech at an average speed of 257.123 miles per hour. He set the record on 27 August 1987 at a 7.712-mile test track near Fort Stockton, Texas.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

"Old Yeller" Creator Max Balchowsky Born - January 15, 1924

January 15, 1924 - 1998
Max Balchowsky
(Photo; doretti.co.uk)
Born in Fairmont, West Virginia, USA.
During WWII he was a belly gunner in a B-24 bomber. Following WWII, Max headed west and worked his older brother Casper, who had a Filling Station and transmission repair shop in Southgate California. There they became a well know street racing duo. Driving past a local High School in a Roadster, Max noticed a beautiful young girl named Ina Wilson. Ina's father had an auto repair shop nearby. In 1949, after Ina left High School, they married and opened Hollywood Motors in Hollywood. As his business became more and more successful, movie stars such as James Dean could be found hanging out there. Balchowsky also did stunt work in films and had many show business friends. Actor James Coburn had his Ferrari California Spyder V-12 street model looked after by Balchowsky.

Max was known as the "master" of engine "transplants", which were very popular with Hot Rodders. Max would routinely replace any motor with a Cadillac or Buick motor. One of the original letterheads of Hollywood Motors had the slogan "We can replace anything with anything". There were several Hot Rod magazines that ran feature stories about Max on the "swapping of motors" as a routine job for Hollywood Motors.

Max Balchowsky built various Old Yeller race cars in the 1950s and early 1960s, pitting them against exotic Ferraris, Maseratis and other foreign sports-race cars that cost a fortune and often winning.

Balchowsky had no elaborate tractor-trailer and drove Old Yeller cars to races. He was a mechanical genius who could take old parts and come up with a brilliantly engineered sports-race car. Balchowsky used Goodyear tires that had been recalled because they were too soft for highway use. Accused of being too cheap to buy the Dunlop or Pirelli race tires, he especially liked the fact they were whitewall tires, because you never saw whitewalls on race cars.

With Balchowsky at the wheel, his cars beat Ferraris and other top European machinery during the late 1950s. He built nine Old Yeller race cars before rear engine sports cars began dominating the scene in the 1960s.

One of the most famous was Old Yeller II, made in 1959. Visiting Southern California junkyards, the Balchowskys found such items for the car as steering from a Morris Minor, Jaguar gearbox, Buick brakes, Pontiac suspension, Studebaker rear end and 1951 Lincoln radiator.

Old Yeller II cost one-tenth the price of a glamorous Ferrari Testa Rossa race car. But it racked up so many victories against exotic foreign sports-race cars it became a legend. Road & Track called Old Yeller II "a masterpiece of ingenuity." Even the top drivers hired by the West Coast moguls ended up at the wheel of Old Yeller race cars and were impressed.

(Photo credit: Dave Hamster via photopin cc)
1959 Balchowsky Buick "Ol Yeller" II

In 1960 Old Yeller II was driven by by many legendary drivers such as Carroll Shelby (Road America & Santa Barbara), Dan Gurney (Riverside International Raceway & Laguna Seca), Bob Bondurant, Billy Krause, Bobby Drake, Paul O'Shea, and Max Balchowsky.

(Photo: Andrew and Annemarie via photopin cc)
The Old Yeller II is currently vintage raced by owner driver Ernie Nagamatsu and occassionally by featured guest drivers. Old Yeller II races at events including: Elkhart Lake Road America, Coronado Speed Week, Palm Springs Revival, Phoenix International Raceway, Willow Springs, Monterey Historic Races and the Old Yeller II has been featured at five Goodwood Racing events (Festival of Speed and the Revival Meeting Races) in England.

Balchowsky died in 1998, but his cars are still out there on the track, competing with old Ferraris and Maseratis in classic car races.
(Photo; tamsoldracecarsite.net)

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

"Remembering 10-Time NHRA Champ" Bob Glidden

August 18, 1944 - December 17, 2017
Bob Glidden
Born in Whiteland, Indiana,USA.
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 history at that time, a feat recently topped by 16-time Funny Car champion John Force. He was the third-most successful drag racer of the professional class drivers at the time of his death. Glidden won 85 NHRA National Events. In the Professional classes, he was behind Force (147) and Warren Johnson (97). Currently, Glidden ranks fourth behind Greg Anderson (90). 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 race in Darlington, South Carolina. However, a Top Sportsman car driven by Bill Kuhlmann ran 202 miles per hour later that evening. He won several IHRA races and won one IHRA championship.

Bob Glidden married to Etta Glidden and the couple had sons Rusty and Billy.

 Etta was Bob's long-time crew chief and all three were part of his team. Members of the family have made numerous appearances on the Car Craft Magazine All-Star Drag Racing Team. Etta and their sons were named to the Team six times. Bob appeared on the team eleven times, including two times as Person of the Year and once as the Ollie Award winner for his career-long contributions to the sport. Glidden's son, Billy, once raced against his father in a race in 1996, with the son beating the father.

Bob 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.

Bob Glidden died on December 17, 2017, at age 73, after being hospitalized for an undisclosed illness.

Carl Hogan Dies At Home In New Hampshire - January 14, 2001

January 14, 2001
Carl Hogan 
(Photo; hogan1.com)
The racing community lost one of its most ardent supporters in Carl. The 71-year-old Hogan, a successful trucking magnate, was involved in the motorsports community for 31 years as a team owner and sponsor. Participating in Formula 5000, Can Am, Toyota Atlantic and CART.

Hogan Racing began in the early 1970s racing in the Formula 5000 series out of a shop in Lime Rock, Connecticut across the street from Lime Rock Park. It moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1973. The team began racing full-time in the Formula 5000 and Can-Am series in 1974, with David Hobbs driving. The car was later driven by Al Holbert. However as the 1980s dawned Hogan drifted away from the sport, only to return at the end of the decade when Hogan began working with Chip Ganassi.

In 1991, he and then-driver Bobby Rahal purchased Patrick Racing, and under the banner of Rahal/Hogan racing, the team took home the CART championship in its inaugural season with Rahal behind the wheel. During the 1996 season, Hogan partnered with Roger Penske, campaigning with driver Emerson Fittipaldi.

(Photo; hogan1.com)
The team joined the world of open-wheel racing in December 1991 as Hogan and Bobby Rahal purchased the distressed Patrick Racing CART IndyCar World Series team. The team won the championship in its first try in 1992 with driver Bobby Rahal on the back of four race wins. In late 1992 the team absorbed TrueSports and moved into TrueSports' facility in Ohio and began using TrueSports' proprietary chassis in 1993. However this proved disastrous as Rahal and teammate Mike Groff both failed to qualify for the 1993 Indianapolis 500 in the car. Rahal switched to a Lola chassis for the next race while Groff soldiered on with the RH01 until August.

In 1994, the team was the first to sign on with new engine manufacturer Honda. The team again struggled at Indianapolis and Rahal borrowed cars from Team Penske to get himself and Groff into the field. Rahal finished 3rd and Groff crashed 28 laps into the race.

In 1996, Rahal and Hogan split and Hogan formed Hogan Racing and Rahal led Team Rahal. For 1996 Hogan partnered with Penske Racing to field Emerson Fittipaldi's entry. Fittipaldi was injured in a crash at the Michigan International Speedway and retired from the sport and Jan Magnussen replaced him for the rest of the season. Fittipaldi finished 19th in points and Magnussen 24th in their partial seasons.
(Photo; hogan1.com)
For 1997 Hogan went off on his own and signed rookie Dario Franchitti and selected Reynard chassis with Mercedes-Benz-Ilmor power. Franchitti finished 22nd in points with a best finish of 9th and signed with Team KOOL Green before the season's end, prompting Hogan to bench Franchitti and put Robby Gordon in his car for the final race of the season at California Speedway.

For 1998 Hogan signed ex-F1 driver J. J. Lehto. Lehto, despite his credentials, only managed 20th in points with a best finish of fifth at Surfers Paradise.

1999 brought in second-year driver Helio Castroneves full-time and pay driver Luiz Garcia, Jr. for a handful of late-season road races. Castroneves finished second at Gateway International Raceway and won the pole the following week at the Milwaukee Mile as the highlights of a season where he finished 15th in points. Hogan signed Castroneves under the condition that Castroneves' management team led by Emerson Fittipaldi would generate $3 Million USD in sponsorship for the team. However, the sponsorship did not materialize and Castroneves and Hogan began to be forced to pay for operations out-of-pocket. Due to the mounting losses and little prospects for sponsorship, Hogan decided to shut the team down at the end of the season.

Hogan passed away at his New Hampshire home on January 14, 2001, the victim of a suspected heart attack. Carl is survived by his wife, Lolly, and seven children.
(Photo; hogan1.com)

"Driver & MOMO Founder" Giampiero Moretti Dies - January 14, 2012

March 20, 1940 - January 14, 2012
Giampiero Moretti
Born in Milan, Italy.
He was an Italian racing driver and the founder of the MOMO company in the 1960s. As a racer, Moretti drove sports cars and made multiple attempts at winning both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Daytona 24 hour race, driving mostly Ferraris, but also the occasional Porsche. He is reported to have strongly encouraged Ferrari’s return to prototype racing with the Dallara-built 333SP that debuted in 1994. He came oh-so-close at Daytona in 1996, losing by just over a minute to an Oldsmobile-powered Riley & Scott team.

But in 1998, teamed with Mauro Baldi, Arie Luyendyk and Didier Theys, he was part of the winning team at Daytona in his 15th attempt, driving the last laps himself to personally take the checkered flag.
With the 333SP, Moretti also tasted victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring that year, along with other sports car victories in the mid-1990s.

While in his 20s, he created Momo, initially to make steering wheels but later adding such equipment as racing suits, helmets, shift knobs, shoes, fireproof underwear and even seats and wheels.

His first big break came when Ferrari factory driver John Surtees discovered Moretti’s steering wheel and had one installed in his Ferrari 158 F1 car in 1964, the year he claimed his sole F1 title. In 1966, Moretti opened a factory in Verona to produce steering wheels. For three decades, he ran the company before selling it to a larger OEM supplier in 1996. The company has been shuffled among different corporate owners since, with an Italian private equity group currently controlling the brand and still selling Momo’s mix of safety and style.
Momo’s presence is nearly ubiquitous at road racing venues around the world, where plenty of drivers suit up in Momo fireproof suits, shoes and helmets. While the suits need not be red, Momo’s signature yellow and red logo can still be found on all of their products.

The gentleman racer and businessman, Giampiero Moretti died on January 14, 2012 at his home in Milan, following a long illness of cancer. He was 71.

A popular driver, Moretti might be gone, but he won’t be forgotten. When the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona ran, the NGT Motorsport Porsche GT3 was festooned in Momo’s classic red and yellow livery. They finished 29th overall and 18th in a deep GT class.

Giancarlo Fisichella Born In Rome, Italy - January 14, 1973

January 14, 1973
Giancarlo Fisichella
Born in Rome, Italy.
Giancarlo is also known as Fisico, Giano or Fisi. Like most Formula One drivers, he began kart racing as a youngster in the Guidonia's Kart circuit. In 1992, he competed in the Italian Formula Three Championship, racing for the RC Motorsport team. He finished runner up in 1993, and in 1994 he won the championship, following race victories in Monaco and Macau. He left open-wheel racing briefly in 1995, driving for Alfa Romeo in the International Touring Car Championship.

He has driven in Formula One for Minardi, Jordan, Benetton, Sauber, Renault, Force India and Ferrari. Since then he has driven for AF Corse in their Ferrari 458 GTE at various sportscar events, becoming twice a Le Mans 24 Hour class winner, and a GT class winner of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. He was also Ferrari's F1 reserve driver for 2010.

Fisichella won three races in his Formula One career, the first of which was at the chaotic 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix, a race abandoned for safety reasons with 15 laps remaining. After several days of confusion regarding rules and technicalities, Fisichella was eventually declared the winner in the following week, and collected his trophy in an unofficial ceremony at the following race. He was brought into the Renault team to replace fellow Italian Jarno Trulli, and won his first race with the team in Australia in 2005. However, after that race it was his team-mate, the Spanish driver Fernando Alonso, that would win the greater share of races for Renault. Although highly rated as a driver, Fisichella was unable to keep pace with eventual champion Alonso, managing just one further race win following his debut. Outside of driving, he has backed his own GP2 team, FMS International.

Since 2011, he has been racing in GT at the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia GT, with the AF Corse team, at first in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and then in the WEC. On June 17, 2012 Fisichella won the GTE Pro division of the Le Mans 24 Hours for AF Corse and followed this up with the Manufacturers' title in the WEC at the end of the season. He is currently with the American Risi Competizione team in the United Sports Car Championship.

Monday, January 13, 2020

"West Coast Hall Of Famer" Tim Williamson Born - January 13, 1956

January 13, 1956 - January 12, 1980
Tim Williamson
(Photo; http://racing-reference.info/)
Home: Seaside, California, USA.
He competed in three NASCAR Cup Series events in his career, earning one top-ten. All of those races came in 1979, when Williamson debuted at Riverside. Starting 26th in the thirty-five car field, Williamson completed all but three laps in route to a solid 9th place effort. He was not able to improve in his other two races, however, finishing with midpack efforts of 26th at another Riverside race and 22nd at Ontario.

Williamson was killed at Riverside International Raceway during the companion NASCAR Grand American event the day prior to the 1980 Cup Series opener. In an attempt to pass competitor Glen Steurer through the esses early in the race, one side of Williamson's car left the track surface which then caused the car to slide out of control back across the track, as well as an additional run-off area before hitting a retaining wall. The driver's-side of the car hit the retaining wall broadside with enough force to careen the car back across the run-off area and onto the track surface where it came to rest just before turn six.

Since his death, there has been a Tim Williamson Classic memorial race held each year at Ocean Speedway (formerly Watsonville Speedway) in Watsonville, California.

Tim was elected to the West Coast Hall Of Fame in 2011.

Ron Hornaday Sr Born In San Fernando, California - January 13, 1931

January 13, 1931 - December 21, 2008
Ron Hornaday Sr.
(Photo; findagrave.com)
Born San Fernando, California, USA.
He began racing at Saugus Speedway and later Ascot Park, driving the #97 Galpin Motors Ford. His weekly occupation was working as the parts and service manager for Galpin Motors, and he received sponsorship from his employer throughout his career. Hornaday made his first NASCAR Grand National start in 1955 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. He finished 14th in a 29 car field to earn $25. He started racing in the Pacific Coast Late Model series in 1956, and finished second in the 1962 season championship behind Eddie Gray. He won the season points championship in 1963, and he repeated as champion in 1964. In his Pacific Coast Late Model career he had 13 victories.

He made 17 NASCAR Cup Series starts between 1955 and 1973, mainly on the West Coast. Hornaday Sr. was inducted in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in its first class in 2002.

Hornaday died at the age of 77, from cancer on December 21, 2008. He was the father of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. and the grandfather of former NASCAR driver Ronnie Hornaday.

Bob Earl Born In Great Bend, Kansas - January 13, 1950

January 13, 1950
Bob Earl
(Photo; bobearl.net)
Born in Great Bend, Kansas, USA.
He began racing in Formula Ford in 1972 and was the 1973 national champion. In 1979 he made his professional debut in Formula Atlantic and won the 1981 Macau Grand Prix, becoming the only American to do so.

He moved to sports cars in 1985 and drove a Pontiac Fiero for Huffaker Racing in the IMSA GTU series for two years. He moved up to the GTP cars in 1986 driving for a prototype for Spice Engineering. Earl and the Spice team earned a class victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1987. He continued with Spice in GTP class in 1988, but in 1989 moved to Roush Racing's Lincoln-Mercury effort in the GTO class, capturing class honors at Daytona. He moved to the Nissan GTP factory team in 1990 and captured victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring, Miami and Watkins Glen. He stayed with Nissan until they left the series in 1993. For the 1993 season he competed in the Camel Lights prototype class in an Acura powered Spice with 2 wins.

He retired as a competitor after the 1993 season to become a driver coach. In 1996 he was hired to start the Derek Daly Academy at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In 2000 he returned home to the Marin County to resume freelance driver coaching. From 2002 to 2009 Bob was the Technical Director and overlooked the Mechanics Training Program at the Jim Russell Racing School at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma California.

He has also developed and sells the "Virtual Racing Chassis", an advanced racing sim for use with Racing video games.

Currently Bob is still doing freelance driver coaching, selling the Virtual Racing Chassis, spreading the word about Alkaline Water Ionizers for improving your health.
(Photo; bobearl.net)

Ernie Irvan Born In Salinas, California - January 13, 1959

January 13, 1959
Ernie Irvan
(Photo; "ErnieIrvan1997" by Darryl Moran. Flicker)
Born in Salinas, California, USA.
A former competitor in NASCAR, he is best remembered for his comeback after a serious head injury at Michigan International Speedway. He is inducted in numerous halls of fame and was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. After a series of concussions in the late 1990s, Irvan retired from racing in 1999.

Irvan began his racing career driving karts in California in 1968 at the age of nine. He won the California Championship at the age of 15. In 1974, Irvan finished second in the country in his class at the national kart championship races. In 1975, Irvan moved up to stock cars at the age of 16 at Stockton 99 Speedway and was victorious in his first race on asphalt in a semi-main event. From then until 1981 Irvan raced every weekend at Madera and Stockton, CA, winning numerous feature events.

In 1982, Irvan left California with $700 in his pocket and everything he owned loaded into his pickup truck and a homemade trailer, and he headed east to North Carolina. Worried about running out of money, Irvan stopped in Las Vegas and managed to leave with an additional $200.

Irvan supported himself in Charlotte, North Carolina by welding grandstand seats at Charlotte Motor Speedway, unloaded Ken Schrader's moving van, built racecars, and other odd jobs. During that time, he won nine races driving in the Late Model Series at Concord Speedway. Driving a Firebird, Irvan won two races his first year and eleven races the next year.

Irvan met car-builder Marc Reno and they became partners in their racing ventures. Before long, Irvan made his Winston Cup debut on September 13 at Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway driving the No.56 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The car, built and prepared by Irvan and Reno, was sponsored by Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet. Irvan qualified 20th but was sidelined after 35 laps after the car's engine overheated. He finished 29th and won $860.

And from there the rest is history, a start of a career that followed with 313 NASCAR Cup Series starts, run over 12 years, with 15 wins, 124 top-ten finishes and 22 poles.

Among his many Awards;
NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998)
Super Ford Magazine Driver of the Year (1993)
True Value Hard Charger (1994)
Mike Rich Memorial Award (1994)
Maxwell House Spirit Award (1994, 1995)
Winston Cup Scene Top Story of the Year (1995)
Arete Award for Courage in Sports - Professional Division (1995)
Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award (1996)
AP Parts Meet the Challenge Award (1996)
Selected as a torchbearer for the 2002 Olympics (2001)
Inductee into the Stock Car Hall of Fame (2002)
Voted by MSNBC Top Ten Greatest Sport Comebacks of All Time (2002)
Inductee in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame (2005)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Tim Williamson Killed At Riverside - January 12, 1980

January 13, 1956 - January 12, 1980
Tim Williamson
(Photo; http://racing-reference.info/)
Home: Seaside, California, USA.
He competed in three NASCAR Cup Series events in his career, earning one top-ten. All of those races came in 1979, when Williamson debuted at Riverside. Starting 26th in the thirty-five car field, Williamson completed all but three laps in route to a solid 9th place effort. He was not able to improve in his other two races, however, finishing with midpack efforts of 26th at another Riverside race and 22nd at Ontario.

Williamson was killed at Riverside International Raceway during the companion NASCAR Grand American event the day prior to the 1980 Cup Series opener. In an attempt to pass competitor Glen Steurer through the esses early in the race, one side of Williamson's car left the track surface which then caused the car to slide out of control back across the track, as well as an additional run-off area before hitting a retaining wall. The driver's-side of the car hit the retaining wall broadside with enough force to careen the car back across the run-off area and onto the track surface where it came to rest just before turn six.

Since his death, there has been a Tim Williamson Classic memorial race held each year at Ocean Speedway (formerly Watsonville Speedway) in Watsonville, California.

Tim was elected to the West Coast Hall Of Fame in 2011.

"5-Time Le Mans Winner" Emanuele Pirro Born - January 12, 1962

January 12, 1962
Emanuele Pirro
(photo; wikiwand.com)
Born in Rome, Italy.
Pirro started his racing career in karts at the age of 11. At 18, he raced with the Formula Fiat Abarth, then moving on to European Formula Three, Formula Two and Formula 3000. In 1988, he was the official test driver for the all-conquering McLaren Formula One team. He seemed set to make his Formula One debut at the 1989 French Grand Prix for Larrousse in place of Philippe Alliot but instead was hired by Benetton in place of the unfit Johnny Herbert. While he ran 3rd at Hockenheim before crashing out, his season was generally something of a disappointment, only scoring a single points finish.

He then signed a two-year deal with the Scuderia Italia team to drive their Dallara chassis. His pre-season was affected by a bout of hepatitis and he missed the first two races of 1990, with Gianni Morbidelli taking his place. As it turned out the car wasn't competitive or reliable, though he often spun of his own accord too. Pirro finished only three times from 14 starts, with 10th place in Hungary his best result. 1991 was more promising with Judd V10 engines added to the package. Despite scoring a point at Monaco Pirro was largely outpaced by team-mate JJ Lehto and still had a habit of getting involved in accidents. He was unable to find another Formula One drive for 1992.

After leaving Formula One, Pirro returned to touring car racing, having spent 1986-88 as part of the Schnitzer BMW team in the European Touring Car Championship, as well as the inaugural World Touring Car Championship in 1987. Pirro won the Macau Guia race in 1991 and 1992 at the wheel of a BMW M3 Evolution, and the Italian Touring car championship in 1994 and 1995 driving for Audi.

Further success followed in sports car racing, with three wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in three consecutive years partnered with Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen for Audi Sport Team Joest. Pirro, Frank Biela and Marco Werner made history by becoming the first drivers to win the Le Mans 24-hour race in a diesel-powered car.
(Photo credit: Dave Hamster via photopin cc)
Pirro was driving the Audi R10 Diesel when it completed a record 380 laps of the La Sarthe circuit. The team repeated the feat the following year. Alongside teammates Dindo Capello and Allan McNish he won a historic race at Petit Le Mans in 2008, driving for Audi Sport North America.

Pirro retired from racing at the end of the 2008 season, having finished second in the American Le Mans series, and took an ambassadorial role with Audi in 2009. In 2010 he returned to racing as a third driver for private LMP1 Drayson Racing team. He has since competed in races like the V8 Supercar in Australia and the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
(Photo credit: Dave Hamster via photopin cc)
Drayson Racing's Lola B09/60 Driven by Paul Drayson, Jonny Cocker and Emanuele Pirro at the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours

Ray Harroun Born In Spartansburg, Pennsylvania - January 12, 1879

January 12, 1879 - January 19, 1968
Ray Harroun
(Photo; en.wikipedia.org)
Born in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
 He was a racecar driver and pioneering constructor most famous for winning the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

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.

Nicknamed the "Little Professor" for his pioneering work of creating the Marmon Wasp, which was a revolutionary design being the first open-wheel single-seater racecar.

Harroun's original Marmon "Wasp".
(Photo; "MarmonWasp" by The359 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons)
On display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

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. From 1909 to 1911, Harroun drove primarily for the team operated by Indianapolis-based auto maker, Marmon. However, at least one 1909 race result shows him driving a Buick. Also, statistics from 1905 through 1908 show him driving cars described as "Harroun Custom" and "Harroun Sneezer."

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 1910, 50-mile Remy Grand Brassard Race also at IMS; three races at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby; three races at the original Latonia Race Track; and races at tracks in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Long Island and Memphis. He is best known for winning the first Indianapolis 500, driving a Marmon.

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 1909–1916.

During the years that Harroun was driving, the 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.

At the first 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. Harroun, who came out of retirement to race in the first 500, would not race after 1911.

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 joined Lincoln Products. He continued to work in the automotive industry until his retirement at age 79.

Ray Harroun died on January 19, 1968 in Anderson, Indiana at the age of 89. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000.

Olivier Gendebien Born In Brussels, Belgium - January 12, 1924

January 12, 1924 - October 2, 1998
Olivier Gendebien
(Photo; statsf1.com)
Born in Brussels, Belgium.
During his career he competed in only 15 Formula One races as most of the time he was Ferrari's spare driver, filling in only occasionally. He nonetheless scored points in five races, and was only one place away from a points-scoring finish on a further two occasions.

However, it was in sports car racing, particularly the long distance and endurance events, where Gendebien excelled. He was often called "one of the greatest sportscar racers of all time", winning the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans 4-times.

He entered a Veritas sports car in the 1955 Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay. However, following this race he switched his focus, and teamed up with Charles Fraikin to compete in rally racing using a Jaguar sports car. Together with Pierre Stasse, Gendebien won the sixth running of the Tulip Rally in Zandvoort in April 1954. Their car was an Alfa Romeo 1900 TI. The Gendebien and Fraiken partnership gained the nickname "the eternal bridesmaids", owing to their number of second-place finishes, but after two previous attempts they triumphed in the Liège-Rome-Liège Rally, the Coppa d'Oro delle Dolomiti and Rally Stella Alpina in 1955, driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SL.

Gendebien's success in rally competitions brought him to the attention of Enzo Ferrari, who offered him a contract to drive a Ferrari in sports car events and selected Grands Prix. Much respected as a true gentleman by everyone who knew him, he remained a member of the Ferrari team until he retired from racing. Enzo Ferrari summed him up as "a gentleman who never forgets that noblesse oblige and, when he is at the wheel, he translates this code of behaviour into an elegant and discerning forcefulness."

In 1958 he partnered Hill and won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. Their victory came in a 3-litre Ferrari and secured the World Sportscar Championship for the Ferrari factory. They covered 2,511 miles with an average speed of 107 miles per hour. Hill became the first American to win the event and their Ferrari was the sole factory-sponsored car running at the end. Ferrari drivers took the first three positions at the conclusion of the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans and, as they were to be again the following year, Hill and Gendebien were first, averaging 115.89 miles per hour, and establishing a race record. The duo were a natural fit and together they won the Le Mans race three times in total, with Gendebien winning it a fourth time, partnered by fellow Belgian Paul Frère in 1960. Gendebien's record number of Le Mans victories was not exceeded until 1981, when fellow-Belgian Jacky Ickx won for the fifth time.

He also won the Dolomites Cup, a one-lap sportscar race that took place on a 188 mile circuit in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy, the Tour of Sicily in 1957, the Tour de France Automobile in 1957, 1958, 1959, the Reims 12 Hours in 1957, 1958, the Targa Florio in 1958, 1961, 1962, the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1959, 1960, 1961 and the 1000km at the Nürburgring in 1962.

Married with three children, Gendebien’s wife pressured him to get out of the dangerous sport of automobile racing where more than two dozen of his competitors had died at the wheel. At 38 years of age, in 1962 Olivier Gendebien retired following his fourth victory at Le Mans. Independently wealthy, and an avid skier, tennis player, and equestrian rider, he devoted the rest of his life to running a variety of businesses. In 1998 King Albert II awarded him the Belgian Order of the Crown.

Olivier Gendebien died in 1998 at his home in Les Baux-de-Provence in southern France. He was 74 years old.

Robby Unser Born In New Mexico - January 12, 1968

January 12, 1968
Robby Unser
Born in New Mexico, USA.
Robby is the son of Bobby Unser. He is a former CART and Indy Racing League driver and eight time winner of the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. He was the IRL rookie of the year in 1998. Robby made two starts in the Indianapolis 500 with a best finish of 5th in 1998. He also finished second twice in the 1998 season, his best IRL finish. His last IRL start came in 2000, his 21st IRL race.

Walter Ballard Born In Foley, Alabama - January 12, 1933

January 12, 1933
Walter Ballard
(Photo; comc.com)
Born in Foley, Alabama, USA.
Walter is a former NASCAR Winston Cup driver and son of former stock car owner, Vic Ballard. His family moved to Houston, Texas when he was seventeen years old and it was here that he first saw A. J. Foyt driving at Playland Park and Walter became fascinated with the sport.

After two years in the army Walter returned to Houston and he began racing. At first he tried drag racing before going on to stock cars. He made a single Grand National start in 1966 and did not return to the series until 1971, when he ran a nearly full season in a car owned by his father. He captured 11 top tens on his way to Rookie of the Year honors, and a tenth-place finish in points. The next season was even better, capturing 7 top tens to a 6th-place finish in points. He continued full-time with the team until 1975. He then participated part-time in the 1976 and 1977 seasons and then retired from NASCAR. His best Cup finish was a 3rd at Meyer Speedway in Houston Speedway in 1971.

In 1979 Ballard started an automotive repair business with his sons Daniel, Stanley and Clint. In November 2005 he retired and currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife Katie.