Friday, December 14, 2018

'NASCAR Legend" Hershel McGriff Born - December 14, 1927

December 14, 1927
Hershel McGriff
(Photo; racesonoma.com)
Born in Bridal Veil, Oregon, USA.
A long-time competitor in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, formerly known as the Winston West Series, he won the series' 1986 championship, and is also a four-time winner in Grand National competition. He has competed in the SCCA Trans-Am Series and finished 19th in the 1982 Endurance Le Mans race, but the majority of his seat time has been in a NASCAR stock car.

McGriff first raced on September 16, 1945, right after racing resumed in the United States after World War II. He was the winner of the first Carrera Panamericana in 1950, where he met NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. France convinced McGriff to come south and race in NASCAR races at Daytona Beach, the first Southern 500 race at Darlington Raceway, Detroit, and Raleigh.

France convinced McGriff to race full-time in NASCAR in 1954. He had his four wins that year in the Grand National series, the first coming at Bay Meadows Speedway. He had 17 top-10 finishes in 24 events, and finished sixth in the final points standings. McGriff's average finishing position was higher than points champion Lee Petty.

McGriff had two options to choose from for the 1955 season. He was offered a ride in NASCAR to race for millionaire Carl Kiekhaefer's newly formed team. McGriff decided to return home to the West Coast to be closer to his family, and to tend to his growing timber and mill business. Tim Flock drove Kiekhaefer's Chrysler 300 to 18 victories that season and the season championship.

McGriff returned to racing after not racing for around ten years. He started 41st at Riverside in 1967, and had moved up to second place by the sixth lap. He beat Ron Grable in a photo finish that day.

He became the oldest driver to win a NASCAR feature race when he won an AutoZone West Series race in 1989 at the age of 61. His 14 wins at the defunct Riverside International Raceway is the most at NASCAR-sanctioned events, and he was chosen as the grand marshal for the final race at the track in 1988.

In November 1996, McGriff made the trip with several NASCAR champions, current Winston Cup, Busch Grand National and Craftsman Truck Series drivers to Japan's Suzuka Raceway for an exhibition race. He started 26th and finished 25th in what was called the NASCAR Suzuka Thunder Special.

McGriff was named Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Winston West Series for 12 consecutive years from 1981-1992. In 1994, McGriff was presented with NASCAR’s prestigious Award of Excellence at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. In 2001, McGriff was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in Portland. He was inducted in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in its first class in 2002.

He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2006. McGriff, who retired from driving at age 74 said, "This is fantastic, getting in the Hall of Fame, but, hey, I might not be through yet. When I turn 80, I just might go out to a short track and show the young guys that I can still do it." In 2009, McGriff broke his own record by racing at Portland International Raceway as oldest driver to win or race NASCAR.

His most recent start in the West Series came on May 5, 2018. At 90 years old, McGriff made history at the Tucson Speedway, becoming the oldest driver ever to race in a NASCAR sanctioned event.

On February 20, 2015 it was announced Hershel McGriff has been included in NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

"Oldest NASCAR Driver" James Hylton Calls It Quits At 79 - October 4, 2013

October 4, 2013
The oldest driver to race in each of NASCAR's three highest divisions, Hylton called it a career at Kansas Speedway after an ARCA race. The Cup rookie of the year in 1966, Hylton spent the last several years of his career racing in the ARCA series.

Hylton's friends put together a car they believed could compete at Kansas, and it even sported a gold paint scheme that honors the early years of his racing career. Hylton finished 18th.

"I'm retiring at the end of the day, but my heart is wanting to keep going," he said. "But it's a done deal. I won't be back as a driver."

Born on his family's farm in Virginia in 1934, Hylton's family had to work hard to make ends meet during the Depression. Hylton remembers toiling in the fields all day to help out.

He started driving in his father's Ford Model T, his brother taught him how to work the pedals. And from that humble beginning, Hylton embarked on a winding career in motor sports. He served as a mechanic for Rex White and then as crew chief for Ned Jarrett in the early days of NASCAR, then got back behind the wheel and placed second in the Cup standings in 1966.

Hylton also finished second in points to Richard Petty in 1967 and 1971, and won twice in more than 600 Cup starts, at Richmond in 1970 and Talladega in 1972. In all, the good-natured Hylton racked up 140 top-five finishes and 321 top-10s in the Cup series.

On April 28, 2018, James, his son James "Tweet" Hylton Jr., and the team's crew chief Terry Strange were driving home from the ARCA race at Talladega, and the team's hauler was in a traffic accident going northbound on Interstate 85 near Carnesville, Georgia. Both Hyltons died in the accident, while Strange survived with severe injuries. It is unclear how the accident occurred.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

"Legendary Top Fuel Rider" Elmer Trett Killed - September 1st, 1996

March 14, 1943 - September 1st, 1996
 Elmer Trett
(Photo; oocities.org)
The motorcycle drag racing legend and perhaps the greatest Top Fuel rider in the sport’s history, was killed on September 1st, 1996, when he came off his motorcycle at the top end of Indianapolis Raceway Park while making an exhibition run, one of his numerous endeavors to bring more attention to motorcycle drag racing. He was 53. Trett's crash came one day after the fatal crash of Blaine Johnson at the same track. A sad weekend for the motor sport community.

Trett's death came when he was well on his way to a ninth title, and on the verge of becoming the first rider to break into the magical five-second bracket. “He had made several record runs in the low sixes and most people believe he would have broken into the fives by the end of that year.” said Keith Kizer, president of AMA Prostar.

In addition to his induction into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, Trett also became the first motorcycle racer to be inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
  
(Photo; motorcyclemuseum.org)
For his influence and impact on the sport the NHRA recognized Trett as number 50 on its list of the greatest 50 drivers of all time, highly impressive considering the NHRA is an organization showcasing primarily four-wheeled vehicles.

For more see our; Tribute To Elmer Trett

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Marcos Ambrose Born In Launceston, Australia - September 1, 1976

September 1, 1976
Marcos Ambrose

(Photo: alchetron.com)
Born in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
He won the Australian V8 Supercar series' championship in 2003 and 2004.

In 2006, Ambrose relocated to the United States to pursue racing in NASCAR, starting with the Camping World Truck Series. He moved up to the Nationwide Series in 2007, and later the Sprint Cup Series in 2008. In 2011, he earned his first Cup Series win at Watkins Glen International, becoming the first Australian driver to win in the highest level of NASCAR, and repeated that win in the following year.

He is known in NASCAR for having won a total of 6 races at Watkins Glen. In the Sprint Cup Series he won at the Glen in 2011 and 2012. In the Nationwide Series he won 3 races at the Glen in 3 years 2008, 2009 and 2010. He won his last race During 2014 NASCAR Nationwide series at the Glen. It was the only race he ran during that season.

He has a total of 7 wins in NASCAR. 6 at Watkins Glenn and 1 at Montreal.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Drag Racer Blaine Johnson Killed In Crash - August 31st, 1996

May 22, 1962 - August 31, 1996
Blaine Johnson
(Photo; spokeo.com)
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."


(Photo; competitionplus.com)
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: 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.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Oldest Driver In NASCAR History" James Hylton Born

August 26, 1934 – April 28, 2018
(Photo; dodgecharger.com)
He was a two-time winner in NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition and was a long-time competitor in the ARCA Racing Series. Hylton finished second in points in NASCAR's top series three times.

He has 2 wins in the NASCAR Cup Series. Although he only had two wins, he collected 140 top 5s and 301 top 10s in 601 races. Hylton was in the championship hunt several times in the 1960s and 1970s, finishing second in points in 1966, 1967, and 1971. Hylton also holds the record as the oldest driver to start a race in NASCAR's top 3 series when he raced at Pocono in the Camping World Truck Series in 2011 at the age of 76.The oldest driver to race in each of NASCAR's three highest divisions, Hylton called it a career at Kansas Speedway after an ARCA race. The 1966 Grand National Series Rookie of the Year, Hylton spent the last several years of his career racing in the ARCA series.

Born on his family's farm in Virginia in 1934, Hylton's family had to work hard to make ends meet during the Depression. Hylton remembers toiling in the fields all day to help out.

He started driving in his father's Ford Model T, his brother taught him how to work the pedals. And from that humble beginning, Hylton embarked on a winding career in motor sports. He served as a mechanic for Rex White and then as crew chief for Ned Jarrett in the early days of NASCAR, then got back behind the wheel and placed second in the Cup standings in 1966.

Hylton also finished second in points to Richard Petty in 1967 and 1971, and won twice in more than 600 Cup starts, at Richmond in 1970 and Talladega in 1972. In all, the good-natured Hylton racked up 140 top-five finishes and 321 top-10s in the Cup series.

On April 28, 2018, James, his son James "Tweet" Hylton Jr., and the team's crew chief Terry Strange were driving home from the ARCA race at Talladega, and the team's hauler was in a traffic accident going northbound on Interstate 85 near Carnesville, Georgia. Both Hyltons died in the accident, while Strange survived with severe injuries. It is unclear how the accident occurred

Final Motorsport Event Held At Old Donington Park - August 26, 1939

August 26, 1939
The final motor sport event held at Donington Park, England, before the start of WWII was a motorcycle race. Motor racing would not return to Donington until 1977.

Donington Park motor racing circuit was the first permanent park circuit in England, which also ended the race circuit monopoly that Brooklands had held since 1907.

Fred Craner was a former motorcycle rider who had taken part in seven Isle of Man TT races,  and was by 1931 a Derby garage owner and secretary of the Derby & District Motor Club.  Craner approached the then owner of the Donington Hall estate, Alderman John Gillies Shields JP, to use the extensive roads on his land for racing.
(photo credit: BigTallGuy via photopin cc)
The circuit at Donington Park was closed in 1939 due to World War II, when it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and was converted into a military vehicle depot.

The motor racing circuit re-opened on 27 May 1977, the first postwar race meeting was organised by the Nottingham Sports Car Club, but that nearly didn't happen, as the local ramblers tried to assert their rights to retain access to footpaths at the eleventh hour. The meeting went ahead as a "Motor Trial", a legal loophole that curtailed the use of single seater racing cars for that opening meeting. The NSCC continued to run race meetings at Donington until the Donington Racing Club was formed and a licence to run race meetings obtained.

The Melbourne Loop was built in 1985 to increase the lap distance to 2.5 miles (4.02 km) and allow the track to host Grand Prix motorcycle races – at 1.957 miles (3.149 km) without the loop, the circuit was deemed too short. This shorter layout remains as the National circuit, which is used for most non-Grand Prix events.

In recent times Donington has held meetings of MotoGP, the British Touring Car Championship and British Superbike Championship, as well as the 1993 European Grand Prix.

(photo: BigTallGuy via photopin cc)
Plaque to commemorate Ayrton Senna's greatest win, The European Grand Prix 11th April 1993.

Other events taking place at the track include a 1000 km endurance race for the Le Mans Series in 2006, the World Series by Renault and the Great and British Motorsport Festival. On 26 August 26, 2007, the circuit hosted the British Motocross Grand Prix, with a purpose-built motocross circuit constructed on the infield of the road circuit.

Beside motorsports many other events are held at Donington including Music Festivals like the Download Festival, the Donington Park Sunday Market and the Donington Grand Prix Museum exhibition.

The Donington Grand Prix Exhibition first opened to the public in March 1973. Five halls, with over 130 exhibits, illustrate the history of motor sport from the turn of the 20th Century. Cars include examples driven by such famous names as Nuvolari, Mansell, Prost, Moss, Senna, Fangio, Clark and Stewart. 

(photo credit: BigTallGuy via photopin cc)
Kieth Sutton's tribute to Ayrton Senna in the Mclaren Hall at the Donington Park Grand Prix Collection.

The Donington Grand Prix Exhibition houses a collection of McLaren and Vanwalls racing cars.

(photo credit: BigTallGuy via photopin cc)
 Notable exhibits include the 1936 twin engined 500 bhp (373 kW) Alfa Romeo Bimotore which has a top speed of 200 mph (320 km/h), Jim Clark's World Championship winning Lotus 25, the 'howling' flat 12 Ferrari 312B, and Stirling Moss's Lotus, in which he defeated the Ferrari works team in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix.

The Collection also features the World's largest collection of Driver's Helmets.
(photo credit: BigTallGuy via photopin cc)

 There are several different type of simulators that allow users to experience the thrills of racing at speed.

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"National Sprint Car Hall Of Famer" Jimmy Wilburn Dies - August 26, 1984

November 25, 1908 - August 26, 1984
Jimmy Wilburn
Home:Los Angeles, California, USA.
Jimmy won a non-points Championship Car race at Lakewood Speedway in March 1946 which is the first known Champ Car race to be held after the end of World War II. Later that year he drove in the 1946 Indianapolis 500 driving an Alfa Romeo and started 16th and retired after 52 laps with engine trouble, credited with the 19th finishing position. He was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1994.

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

"The First Woman Of NASCAR" Sara Christian Born - August 25, 1918

August 25, 1918 - March 7, 1980
Sara Christian
(Photo;racetimecollectibles.com)
Born in Dahlonega, Georgia, USA.
Christian competed in NASCAR's first race on June 19, 1949 at Charlotte Speedway. She qualified 13th in the #71 Ford owned by her husband Frank Christian. During the race, Bob Flock took over her car after his engine expired on the 38th lap. He drove the car until it overheated, and finished 14th.

Christian competed in the second race at the Daytona Beach Road Course on July 10, 1949, and finished 18th. The 28 car field also included Flock's sister Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith, which made it the first race to include three woman drivers. Frank also competed in the race and finished sixth in his only career start. They became the only married couple to compete in a NASCAR race until 1986 when Patty Moise and Elton Sawyer competed for the first time together in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series. Patty and Elton were married in 1990 and continued to compete against one another for years.

Christian finished sixth at the fourth race at Langhorne Speedway, and became the first woman to earn a Top 10 finish. Race winner Curtis Turner invited Christian to join him in victory lane. Mobley and Smith again competed against Christian in the race, and it was the last NASCAR race to have three woman drivers until July 4, 1977 when Janet Guthrie, Christine Beckers and Lella Lombardi all competed in the Firecracker 400.

Christian finished fifth at the ninth race at Heidelberg Raceway in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The finish was the best-ever and only Top 5 finish by a woman in NASCAR series history, until her record was broken by Danica Patrick in 2011. Patrick finished fourth in the Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, ending Christian's 62-year record.

Christian raced in six of the eight events in the 1949 season, and finished 13th in the final points standings. Christian competed in one event in 1950, finishing 14th at the 12th race at the Hamburg Speedway before she retired.

She received the 1949 United States Drivers Association Woman Driver of the Year award.

Sara Christian passed away on March 7, 1980. She was inducted into the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

"5-time CASCAR Super Series Champ" Don Thomson Jr Born - August 24, 1962

August 24, 1962
Don Thomson Jr
(photo credit: CaféFroid via photopin cc)
Born in Ayr, Ontario, Canada.
Don is a former driver in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. He drove the #4 Home Hardware Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS for Fitzpatrick Motorsports for more than two decades before moving over in 2011 to the drive the #8 Dodge becoming teammates with Jason Hathaway. He retired after the 2011 season after winning multiple championships.

Among his many achievements he was 5-time CASCAR Super Series Champion from 2001-2005, the premiere stock-car series in Canada. He moved to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series when CASCAR was purchased by NASCAR in 2007. He won the first race in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series history at Cayuga International Speedway on May 26, 2007. He also finished second in points in 2008 finishing 24 points behind Scott Steckly.

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Justin Wilson Dies Following Ponoco Crash - August 24, 2015

July 31, 1978 - August 24, 2015
Justin Wilson
(Photo: f1.wikia.com)
Born in Sheffield, England.
Just before his death, he was competing part-time in the IndyCar Series, driving the No. 25 Honda for Andretti Autosport. Earlier, he competed in the Champ Car series from 2004–07, scoring four wins. He also competed in Formula One in the 2003 season with Minardi and Jaguar and was the winner of the 2001 International Formula 3000 championship. He was also a winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona. To date, he is the tallest person to have raced in Formula One.

Wilson was fatally injured in an accident during the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 23, 2015. Race leader Sage Karam crashed late in the race, sending debris airborne. The nose cone from Karam's crashed car hit Wilson's helmet as he drove through the accident scene, and Wilson's car immediately veered left into the inside wall. Wilson was extricated from his car and airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown. He was subsequently reported to be in a coma, and died the following day.

Wilson married girlfriend Julia in Sheffield, England on December 29, 2006. The couple resided in Northampton, England and in Longmont, Colorado. They had two daughters, named Jane Louise and Jessica Lynne. Wilson's younger brother, Stefan, is also a racing driver. Stefan made his first IndyCar start in the 2013 Grand Prix of Baltimore driving alongside Justin for Dale Coyne Racing. It was the first time brothers had raced in IndyCar as teammates since Gary Bettenhausen and Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. in 1983.

"National Sprint & Midget Hall Of Famer" Shorty Templeman Dies - August 24, 1962

August 12, 1919 - August 24, 1962
Clark "Shorty" Templeman
(Photo;onedirt.com)
Born in Pueblo, Colorado, USA.
He drove in the AAA and USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1954-1962 seasons with 42 starts, including the Indianapolis 500 races in 1955, 1958, and 1960-1962. He finished in the top ten 16 times, with his best finish in 2nd position, in 1961 at both DuQuoin and Syracuse. His best Indy finish was 4th in 1961.

He won five Washington State and three Oregon midget state championships. Templeman won all three Night Before the 500 midget car features at the 16th Street Speedway in Indianapolis in 1956. Templeman won the first three USAC National Midget Series champions when he won titles in 1956, 1957, and 1958.

Templeman died as a result of injuries sustained in a midget car crash at the Marion County, Ohio Fairgrounds track.

He was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1984 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 1984.

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