Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Sprint & Midget Hall Of Famer" Johnny Thomson Dies In Crash - September 24, 1960

 April 9, 1922 - September 24, 1960
Johnny Thomson
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA.
Thomson was nicknamed "the Flying Scot." He won the 1948 UCOA New England title after winning 32 midget events. He won his second UCOA title in 1950. He won the 1952 AAA Eastern division Midget championship. He won the Eastern Sprint Car championship in 1954. He was the 1958 USAC Sprint Car Series champion.

Thomson drove in the AAA and USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1953-1960 seasons with 69 starts, including the Indianapolis 500 races in each season. He finished in the top ten 43 times, with 7 victories. His best Indy finish was third in 1959, after starting on the pole and setting the fastest lap. Roy Sherman, the first National Midget Champion, was his chief mechanic for several Indy 500s.

He was the first driver to win a 100-mile dirt track race in less than an hour at Langhorne, Pennsylvania. His champ car's average speed was 100.174 miles per hour.

In 1960, Thomson died at a sprint car event at the Great Allentown Fair in Allentown, Pennsylvania when his car crashed through the fence and flipped into the infield.

Thomson was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1997.

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Bob McLean Born In Australia - September 24, 1933

September 24, 1933 - March 26, 1966
Bob McLean
(Photo; www.thecoralsnake.com)
Born:Australia, Home: Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Bob started his driving career in 1957 with an MGA, racing frequently at his home track, the very new Westwood Racing Circuit in Coquitlam, located close to his hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. By all measures, McLean was well liked and respected on the road racing circuits.

In 1965, McLean set out with his 1.6 litre twin-cam powered Lotus 23B to conquer the Canadian Driving Championships, a venture which would see him travel extensively. By air and by ground he travelled to every national event that year, covering nearly 100,000 kilometres. After a season of dominant performances, he was successful at winning the Championship, a remarkable accomplishment considering the eastern Canadian "establishment" drivers and their bigger and faster cars.

Early in 1966, Bob McLean earned a spot with the Comstock Racing Team, a Canadian endurance-racing team. Sharing the driving with fellow Canadian driver Jean Oulette, they piloted one of the team's two Ford GT40s in the 16th Annual Sebring 12 Hour Grand Prix of Endurance for the Alitalia Cup race at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida, United States of America. This was a showdown battle between Ford and Ferrari. Shortly after McLean took over driving duties in the fourth hour of the race, his Ford GT40 crashed into a utility power pole and exploded into flames, killing McLean.

Bob McLean left behind his wife Kathie and their two young children. McLean's death was a huge blow to the motorsport community. The funeral procession to his final resting place in Burnaby included a line of cars that reportedly stretched out some two miles, a testament to the fact that he was well admired.

McLean was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1993. In more recent years, McLean was featured in a Peter Lipskis documentary entitled King of Westwood.

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Kevin Gobrecht Dies In Sprint Car Crash - Sept. 24, 1999

May 2, 1969 - September 24, 1999
Kevin Gobrecht
Born in Hanover, Pennsylvania, USA.
He was a 1987 graduate of New Oxford High School and a 1992 graduate of Millersville University. He was a member of the New Oxford Social and Athletic Club, the York County Racing Club, the Allstar Circuit of Champions, the World of Outlaws, the Checkered Flag Fan Club and the Republican Club of Hanover. He was the driver of the # 93 Amoco Sprint Car owned by Hylton-Blaney Motorsports.

He won over 100 Go Kart races from 1977-1989 and competed throughout Eastern and Southern U.S. He won over 100 Micro-Sprint races from 1990-1999, including the Coors National Open in 1992 and 1994.

He won the 1995 Lincoln Sportsman of the Year by Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown, Pennsylvania and was named the 1995 National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year by National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum.

He was a replacement driver for Jac Haudenshild in the Elden Racing # 22 car, competing on the 1996 World of Outlaws tour. He raced in four events including a 3rd place finish in the Amoco Knoxville Nationals make-up feature.

In 1997 he drove the Stauffer's Apple Chevrolet car and won the Jack Gunn Memorial at Williams Grove Speedway.

On July 31, 1998 he won his first World of Outlaws feature at Williams Grove Speedway and won the Kenny Weld Memorial at Lincoln Speedway on Oct. 10, 1998.

In 1999 he won the All Star Circuit of Champions Feature at Volusia Speedway Park, won three races in less than 24 hours (Williams Grove, Lincoln, Port Royal), was the winner of Williams Grove Speedway's "Early-Bird Championship", debuted in the National Sprint Car Pole with a national ranking of 5th, won the Historical Big One at Eldora Speedway, Rossburg, Ohio and placed 3rd at the Knoxville Nationals in Knoxsville, Iowa.

Gobrecht died on Saturday, Sept. 24, 1999 at age 30, in a sprint car crash at I-80 Speedway near Greenwood, Nebraska.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Peter Revson Wins Canadian Grand Prix - September 23, 1973

September 23, 1973
(Photo; Laurie Button - Own work)
American Peter Revson wins the "Labatt's Canadian Grand Prix" at Mosport Park, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. This Grand Prix saw the first ever use of a safety car in Formula One. Eppie Wietzes drove a yellow Porsche 914. Wietzes stayed in front of Howden Ganley's Iso-Marlboro car by mistake, which allowed several drivers, including eventual winner Peter Revson, to gain a lap on the field. Also this is the first Grand Prix to have a car with the number 0, as driven by Jody Scheckter.

Dale Whittington Born In Orlando, Florida - September 23, 1959

September 23, 1959 - June 14, 2003
Dale Whittington
(Photo;pinterest.com)
Born in Orlando, Florida, USA.
He was the youngest of three Whittington brothers. All three are race car drivers and sons of Dick Whittington, a 1950s race car owner.

Despite having little oval experience, Whittington entered the 1982 Indianapolis 500, joining his brothers Bill and Don to become the only trio of siblings to qualify for the same race at Indy. He qualified 23rd, on the eighth row.

On race day, he found himself caught up in the infamous Kevin Cogan crash. During the final pace lap, just before the green flag was to drop on the front stretch, Kevin Cogan struck A. J. Foyt, and then Mario Andretti. As the field checked up to avoid the carnage, Whittington locked his brakes and spun into Roger Mears, a driver in the sixth row. All four drivers were eliminated from the race. Dale was out of the race having never taken the green flag, and never again managed to qualify at Indy.

Whittington avoided prison time in connection with the 1980s IMSA Camel GT drug smuggling scandal which involved his brothers Bill and Don, as well as Randy Lanier, John Paul Sr., and John Paul, Jr. Both of his brothers received prison time.

Whittington transitioned to endurance racing, competing in the ALMS series, as well as competing at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1999 and 2000. He competed in Grand-Am in 2001 often racing with his brother, Don.

During his final years Whittington was working at World Jet, owned by his brother Don, at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. His death came on June 14, 2003. He was found dead by his oldest son, reportedly from a drug overdose.
(Photo;pinterest.com)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Henry Segrave Born In Baltimore, Maryland - September 22, 1896

September 22, 1896 - June 13, 1930
Sir Henry Segrave
(Photo; en.wikipedia.org)
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Henry Segrave was famous for setting three land speed records and the water speed record. He was the first person to hold both the land and water speed records simultaneously. He was the first person to travel at over 200 mph in a land vehicle. The Segrave Trophy was established in 1930 to commemorate his life.

A British national, Segrave was born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Ireland and attended Eton College in England. He was commissioned into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1914 and served as a fighter pilot with the Royal Flying Corps from January 1916. He was wounded twice, in 1915 and 1916. In July 1916 he became a flight commander as a temporary captain. In 1919 he transferred to the Royal Air Force Administrative Branch, but soon resigned his commission due to his wounds. Segrave bragged that he would drive a car at over 200 miles per hour.

In 1921 the 200-Mile Race at Brooklands was organised by the Junior Car Club, the first long-distance race to be run in Britain. The race, a contest for 1,500cc light cars, was won by Segrave in a Talbot-Darracq.

He was the first Briton to win a Grand Prix in a British car. He won the 1923 French Grand Prix and the 1924 San Sebastian Grand Prix at Circuito Lasarte, Spain, in a Sunbeam automobile. After a further win at Miramas in France, he retired from racing to concentrate on speed records.

On 21 March 1926, he set his first land speed record in his 4-litre Sunbeam Tiger Ladybird on the sands at Southport, England at 152.33 mph (245.149 km/h). This record lasted for just over a month, until broken by J.G. Parry-Thomas driving Babs.

He regained the land speed record in 29 March 1927 in his 1000 HP Sunbeam Mystery (also known as 'the Slug') at the Daytona Beach Road Course at 203.79 mph (327.97 km/h), becoming the first person to travel over 200 mph.

Segrave set his final land speed record at 231.45 mph (372.46 km/h) in his new car, the beautiful Golden Arrow, at Daytona Beach on 11 March 1929. This car had only 18.74 miles (30.16 km) on it, which is the least used car to set the record. After being the first person on the scene of Lee Bible's death, Segrave began concentrating on the water speed record. Golden Arrow has never been used since. The Golden Arrow is on display along with the Sunbeam 350 HP and the Sunbeam 1000HP at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

Golden Arrow 3D
(photo credit: wim hoppenbrouwers via phot)

Sunbeam 1000hp 
(photo credit: Dave Hamster via photopin cc)
Segrave was also an avid motorboat racer. After his 1929 land speed record, he immediately went to Miami for a motorboat race against Garfield Wood, multiple water speed record holder and the first man to travel over 100 miles per hour on water. Segrave won, causing Wood's first defeat in nine years. After Segrave returned to Great Britain, he was knighted for his many accomplishments.

A few months after receiving his knighthood, on Friday 13 June 1930, Sir Henry Segrave unknowingly captured the water speed record driving Miss England II on England's largest natural lake, Windermere. In a follow-up run the boat presumably hit a log and capsized, killing Miss England's mechanic, Victor Halliwell. Segrave's unconscious body was recovered, and taken to a hospital. He regained consciousness for a moment, was informed that he had indeed broken the record, then died a few moments later of lung haemorrhages.

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"1931 Indianapolis 500 Winner" Louis Schneider Dies - September 22, 1942

December 19, 1901 - September 22, 1942
Louis Schneider
(Photo; interactives.wpri.com)
Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
The ex-motorcycle policeman won the race in front of 150,000 fan at an average speed of 96.629 miles per hour. It was his second top 10 finish, as he had a 3rd place finish the year before. Schneider drove in a total of six 500's.

Louis Schneider died on September 22, 1942 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

(photo credit: wplynn via photopin cc)
Borg Warner trophy with Louis Schneider inscription.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

"NASCAR Owner" Richard Childress Born - September 21, 1945

September 21, 1945
Richard Childress
(Photo; alchetron.com)
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.
Childress' career in NASCAR's top levels started auspiciously when a drivers' strike at Talladega Superspeedway left NASCAR President William France Sr. looking for replacement drivers. Childress started his first race as a replacement. By 1971, Childress began racing on the top level as an independent driver, using the number 96. He changed to number 3 in 1976 as a tribute to Junior Johnson's past as a driver. Although he never won as a driver, he proved to be average behind the wheel registering six top-5, seventy-six top-10 finishes, with a career-best of third in 1978.

He retired from driving in 1981 after Rod Osterlund sold his NASCAR team to J.D. Stacy, and Osterlund's driver, Dale Earnhardt, did not want to drive for Stacy. Childress, with recommendations from R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, chose to retire and put Earnhardt behind the wheel of his #3 car, complete with Wrangler Jeans sponsorship. That first alliance lasted for the season. Ricky Rudd was hired in 1982 and drove for two years, giving Childress his first career victory in June 1983 at Riverside. Earnhardt returned for the 1984 season, and together with Childress formed one of the most potent combinations in NASCAR history. They won championships in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1994. In the mid-1990s, Childress began expanding his racing empire, fielding entries in the Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series. The team won the 1995 Craftsman Truck Series championship with driver Mike Skinner in the series' first season. He expanded to a two-car operation in what is now known as the Sprint Cup, with driver Skinner driving the #31. In the first part of the 2000s, he expanded to three cars, with the #30 car driven by Jeff Green.

Earnhardt was killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Childress promoted Busch driver Kevin Harvick to drive the renumbered #29. Harvick would win in only his third start, at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. With Harvick having won the Busch Series championship in 2001 and 2006, RCR became the first team in NASCAR history to win all three of NASCAR's national championship series. RCR also won the Busch Series owners championships in 2003 with Kevin Harvick and Johnny Sauter and in 2007 with Scott Wimmer and Jeff Burton. RCR won the 2011 Camping World Truck Series Championship and the 2013 Nationwide Series Championship, both with Childress' grandson Austin Dillon driving the #3.

As a business entrepreneur, Childress became one of the wealthiest men in North Carolina. He currently resides in one of the largest mansions in northwestern Davidson County, North Carolina. The Richard Childress Racing Museum is located in nearby Welcome, along with numerous racing maintenance shops. The Childress Vineyards winery is located a few miles south of the museum in Lexington at the US 52/US 64 interchange. Childress remains active in his current county of residence, attending fundraisers and supporting local candidates for office.

Childress has a number of racers in his family. His son-in-law is RCR general manager Mike Dillon, long-time Nationwide Series driver who made one Sprint Cup start in an RCR car. His grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon, sons of Mike, are NASCAR drivers.

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Dick Simon Born In Sandy, Utah - September 21, 1933

September 21, 1933
Dick Simon
(Photo; yachtworld.com)
Born in Sandy, Utah, USA.
Dick is one of the oldest men to ever have raced in the Indianapolis 500. He was 55 years old during his final Indy 500 start in 1988.

Simon made his first driving appearance at Pacific Raceways in October 1969. He failed to start the race and failed to qualify for the other two races that he attempted that season. He made his race debut the following spring driving a second-hand Vollstedt chassis at Phoenix International Raceway but was sidelined by magneto failure after only 4 laps. He made his Indianapolis 500 debut that year and finished in the 14th position. At Ontario Motor Speedway that September, Simon captured his career-best finish of 3rd place and he finished 10th in the 1970 USAC National Championship. Simon would continue to be marginally competitive throughout the 1970s, never matching his finishes of the 1970 season. In 1979, Simon sided with USAC during its split with CART. In being one of the few drivers to complete the USAC schedule, Simon finished 8th in the Championship.

In 1980 Simon moved to CART and continued to have little success throughout the 1980s while remaining marginally competitive. He logged his best CART season in 1987 when he made 11 starts and logged two top-tens including a 6th place at the Indy 500, good enough for 20th in the CART Championship. A partial season in 1988 where Simon logged a solid 9th place finish in the Indy 500 was his last as a driver. Simon's driving career includes 183 starts (115 USAC and 78 CART) over 19 seasons spanning from 1970 to 1988. Among those starts is 17 Indy 500 appearances.

Dick fielded his own race team beginning in 1983 and shortly thereafter began fielding cars for pay drivers, Dick Simon Racing being one of the most competitive teams offering race seats to such drivers almost always fielded current-year March and Lola chassis and had a competitive engine package. In 1989 the team fielded two fully funded drivers in Scott Brayton and Arie Luyendyk as the team moved towards the front of the pack. Simon fielded a car in the 1992 Indianapolis 500 for Lyn St. James who became the second woman to drive in the race. Raul Boesel finished 5th in points with 3 runner-up finishes in 1993, the team's best season result. The team had a difficult 1995 and Simon sold the team to Andy Evans who turned it into Team Scandia. Simon returned to ownership in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series in 1999 but saw little success. The team was shut down after the team's driver Stéphan Grégoire failed to qualify for the 2001 Indianapolis 500.

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Arie "The Flying Dutchman" Luyendyk Born - September 21, 1953

September 21, 1953
Arie Luyendyk 
(Photo; Arie Luyendyk 2010 Indy 500 Practice Day - Manningmbd)
Born in Sommelsdijk, Netherlands.
Also known as "The Flying Dutchman"Luyendyk is a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. He started racing in the early 1970s, winning a number of Dutch national titles. In 1977, he won the European Super Vee championship, and switched to Formula Three. Success continued to elude him until he moved to the United States in 1984, where he immediately won the Super Vee championship.

Luyendyk ran his first full Champ Car season in 1985, winning the rookie of the year title both for the season and the Indianapolis 500. His first win in the series came five years later in 1990, at the most important race of the series, with a record average speed of 185.981 mph, Luyendyk won the 1990 Indianapolis 500 for Doug Shierson Racing.

Luyendyk continued to perform well at Indianapolis, scoring pole positions in 1993, 1997 and 1999, and retiring from the race while leading on three occasions. In 1996, he set the qualifying lap record at 237.498 mph (382.216 km/h), although he did not start on the pole because he qualified on the second day of time trials. He won the 1997 Indianapolis 500 from the pole over Treadway Racing teammate Scott Goodyear. It came under severe controversy when on the final restart the white & green flag waved to end a caution but the yellow lights stayed on with Arie Luyendyk pulling away to the win while the other competitors were confused. A similar finish involving a similar mistake almost took away a win from Luyendyk two weeks later. As a result USAC was removed of scoring the races.

Luyendyk also was selected to participate in the 1992, 1993, and 1998 editions of the International Race of Champions. He retired from racing after the 1999 season, and for a short time, joined ABC Sports as a color commentator. He returned to the Indy 500 in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, he entered at Indianapolis for the final time. He suffered a crash during practice, and did not make an attempt to qualify.

Other Luyendyk victories include the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. The last corner of the Zandvoort track in the Netherlands carries his name. In 1999, he was presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash award, reflecting upon his Indy 500 career.

His son, Arie Jr., is an Indy Lights racer. In 2014, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Arie Luyendyk Autographed 8x10 Photo PSA/DNA #U93955
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"2001 NHRA Rookie Of The Year" Darrell Russell Born - September 20, 1968

September 20, 1968 - June 27, 2004
Darrell J. Russell
(Photo;alchetron.com)
Born in Houston, Texas, USA.
He was the 2001 NHRA Rookie Of The Year. At the time, he was the third driver to win in his Professional debut.

Before becoming a driver in NHRA's Professional class of Top Fuel Dragster, he competed for several years in NHRA's Sportsman class of Top Alcohol Dragster; a slower version of Top Fuel. In four seasons of competition in NHRA Top Fuel Dragsters, he compiled a record of 106 round wins versus 75 losses. He won six events and was runner-up at eleven others, out of eighty-one events entered.

In 2004 at the NHRA Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis, he was competing in the second round of eliminations when his dragster went out of control and crashed just past the finish line. When the NHRA safety team got to Russell, he was unconscious, but breathing. Russell was extracted from his dragster by NHRA emergency services officials and transported by air to the St. Louis Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

It was determined one of the rear Goodyear tires blew out, damaging the back part of the race car. Shrapnel caused by the exploding tire entered the drivers cockpit from the rear, fatally injuring Russell. It was flying debris from the explosion, not the impact from the crash, that killed Darrell Russell.

He died of severe head injuries even though he was wearing an approved racing helmet. Russell was the first racer to be killed at an NHRA national event since Blaine Johnson, in 1996. Gateway named one of its grandstands "The Darrell Russell Stand" in his memory.

He was interred in the Klein Cemetery in Pinehurst, Texas in Montgomery County. Over 2,000 people attended his funeral.
(Photo;darrellrussell.com)

Juan Pablo Montoya Born In Bogotá, Colombia - September 20, 1975

September 20, 1975
Juan Pablo Montoya
(Photo: williamsdb via photopin cc)
 Born in Bogotá, Colombia.
Montoya has multiple top ten finishes in the year end standings for Champ Car including the 1999 championship, NASCAR finishing 8th in 2009, IndyCar including 2nd in 2015 and Formula 1 finishing 3rd in 2002 and 2003. He is a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. He currently competes in the Verizon IndyCar Series driving for Team Penske.

The highlights of his career include winning the International F3000 championship in 1998, and the CART FedEx Championship Series in 1999, as well as victories in some of the most prestigious races in the world, including the Indianapolis 500 (2000, 2015), Grand Prix of Monaco (2003), 24 Hours of Daytona (2007, 2008, 2013), British Grand Prix (2005), Italian Grand Prix (2001, 2005) and Grand Prix of Long Beach (1999). He is the only driver to have won the premier North American open-wheel CART title, Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Daytona, Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Italian Grand Prix all at the first attempt. Montoya is one of two drivers to have won the CART title in his rookie year, the first being Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell in 1993. He is the only active driver who has won two legs of the Triple Crown of Motorsport in its original definition.

Montoya has also become a crossover race winner by winning races in Formula One, CART, IRL, IndyCar, Grand-Am and NASCAR equaling in that respect Mario Andretti's caliber of success (except for the F1 World Championship); and shares honors as well with Dan Gurney in being a race winner in IndyCar/F1/NASCAR.

In October 2009, Montoya was ranked 30th on Times Online's list of the Top 50 Formula One drivers of all time.

Montoya and wife Connie have three children; son Sebastian and daughters Paulina and Manuela. He and his family have been living in Miami since the early 2000s, though Montoya had owned residences in London and Madrid during his Formula One years.

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"NASCAR Pioneer" G.C. Spencer Dies At 82 - September 20, 2007

July 9, 1925 - September 20, 2007
Grover Clifton Spencer
Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, USA.
G. C. Spencer was a dominant short-track racer in the 1940s and 1950s. He competed in 415 NASCAR Grand National/Winston Cup races from 1958 to 1977. Despite never winning a race, he had 55 top-5 finishes and 138 top tens, including 7 second-place finishes.

Spencer drove for his own independent team for most of his career, and was one of the most successful independents of the day. His best season came in 1965, when he finished fourth in points with 14 top-5 finishes and 25 top-10s and his only career pole. Although he drove GM and Chrysler cars for most of his career, he drove Fords in 1965, where he found most of his success.

He sold his team and equipment in 1983 and his #49 became the #4 of Morgan-McClure Motorsports. Spencer acted as the team manager to the team for its first three years.

He died September 20, 2007 in Johnson City, Tennessee at the age of 82.
(Photo;timesnews.net)
G.C. Spencer, shown here in his Jonesborough home in 2007.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"2002 CART Champ" Cristiano Da Matta Born - September 19, 1973

September 19, 1973
Cristiano da Matta
(Photo; Cristiano da Matta, Indianapolis, 2004, by Rick Dikeman)
Born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Da Matta's father was Toninho da Matta, a 14-time Brazilian touring car champion. Cristiano began karting at the age of 16, adopting a helmet design nearly identical to his famous father's helmet. He quickly rose to the top by winning numerous karting championships before winning the 1993 Brazilian Formula Ford championship. In 1994, he continued his successful ways, winning the Formula Three Sudamericana championship. In 1995, da Matta participated in the British Formula Three series, winning one race and placing eighth in the standings. He then placed 8th in the following year's Formula 3000 championship, with a best finish of 4th at Pau.

1997 saw da Matta move to the United States for the Indy Lights racing series, in which he won Rookie of the Year honors. The next year (1998), he won the championship by winning 7 races and securing 4 pole positions. In 1999, da Matta raced in the CART series for Team Arciero Wells, which were running Toyota engines; da Matta drove a Toyota-powered car from then until 2004. His first win came in 2000, and despite some sponsor opposition he joined the front-running Newman/Haas Racing team for 2001. He won the CART drivers' championship in 2002 under Toyota power with the Newman/Haas Racing team, dominating the year with 7 race wins and 7 poles.

Da Matta completed his move up the racing ladder in 2003, reaching the pinnacle of motorsport with the Toyota Formula One team. He scored 10 championship points that year, four more than seasoned veteran and teammate Olivier Panis, and soon made a name for himself in Formula One when he spent much of the first half of the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix hounding reigning World Champion Michael Schumacher in the monsoon-hit race. His fortunes took a downturn in 2004, however. Having scored only 3 championship points, da Matta lost his race seat to Ricardo Zonta after the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. This was not only due to performance issues, but also due to Da Matta openly making statements about how uncompetitive the Toyota was.

In 2005, da Matta moved back to the Champ Car World Series, and on August 3, 2006 da Matta's car was involved in a collision with a deer during open testing at Road America.
(photo credit: Paull Young via photopin cc)
The deer ran in front of his car as he was heading towards turn 6. He hit the deer with his right front tire, the deer then flew back and hit da Matta in the cockpit. He was unconscious when the safety crew extricated him from the car and was airlifted via Flight for Life to Theda Clark Medical Center south of Appleton, where he underwent surgery to remove a subdural hematoma.

On March 20, 2008 da Matta climbed back into a race car for the first time since his accident, completing a two-day test in a Riley Daytona Prototype prepared by reigning Rolex Sports Car Series champions GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing.

Da Matta has since tested and raced in the Fórmula Truck series and in 2011 da Matta signed for Rocketsports Racing to race in the American Le Mans Series. He scored 6 points at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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Cruz Pedregon Born In Torrance, California - September 19, 1963

September 19, 1963
Cruz Pedregon
(Photo; competitionplus.com)
Born in Torrance, California, USA.
A 2-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car Champion from Torrance, California. He is the brother of Tony Pedregon also a two-time Funny Car Champion. He currently races for his own team, Cruz Pedregon Racing, Inc.

Pedregon began his career in 1980 behind wheel of a 1953 Kenworth truck. He Raced go-karts in 1986 and was track champion at Ventura California Raceway. In 1987 he joined NHRA Competition racing an Alcohol Dragster. After 3 years in Alcohol Dragsters he decided to move to Alcohol Funny Cars. In 1991 Pedregon moved to Top Fuel Competition racing a partial schedule. In 1992 Pedregon won the Funny Car Championship. He would be the only driver besides fellow racer John Force to win it in the 1990s. In 1994 Pedregon was the only Funny Car driver to defeat John Force in a final round the entire season; Qualified in the top half at 15 of the 18 national events. In 1995 Pedregon won at Indianapolis for the third time in four years also winning in 1992 and 1994. In 1996 Pedregon competed in a limited schedule winning one race and finishing 3rd in the final points standings. In 1997 Pedregon was the only Motorsports Driver to win the "Premio De Oro" an award for outstanding Hispanic Athletes. In 1998 Pedregon Qualified first for a career best 12 races. In 1999 Pedregon formed his own team and raced a partial schedule in Funny Car. Pedregon won his first race as an owner driver at Englishtown in 2000.

In 2001 Pedregon served as a color analyst for ESPN's NHRA coverage. After his year off Pedregon returned to racing qualifying for 18 races as an owner driver. In 2003 Pedregon finished the highest in the funny car standings since 1998. In 2004 he earned first No. 1 qualifying position since 1998 at Columbus. In 2005 Pedregon earned a pair of No. 1 qualifiers at Englishtown and Chicago He set the low E.T. at two events (Englishtown and Chicago), and won $25,000 bonus for having closest margin of victory in Motel 6 Who Got the Light award. In 2006 Pedregon won his first race in 6 years. He qualified for 21 of 23 events and advanced to 3 final rounds. Pedregon had a better than .500 record winning 16 to 18 losses in 2007. He also went to 3 finals and qualified 1st in Houston.

In 2008 Pedregon earned his second career NHRA Full Throttle Series Championship Title (the other being in 1992), when his brother Tony Pedregon defeated the only other driver left in contention at the year’s final race He had an incredible charge in the playoffs, winning three of four final-round appearances, including the final three events of the season. He also won $100,000 NHRA Showdown in Indianapolis.

Pedregon resides in Brownsburg, Indiana. He is fluent in Spanish and frequently works with Hispanic media.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Billy Foster Born In Victoria, British Columbia - September 18, 1937

September 18, 1937 - January 20, 1967
Billy Foster
(Photo; victoriaautoracinghalloffameandmuseum.com)
Born in Victoria, British Columbia.
Besides driving in NASCAR, Foster also drove in the USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1964-1966 seasons, with 28 career starts including the 1965 and 1966 Indianapolis 500 races, making him the first Canadian to race in the "Indy 500". He finished in the top ten 10 times, with his best finish in 2nd position in 1966 at Atlanta.

Foster died in a crash during practice for a NASCAR stock car race at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California. Foster is the only Canadian racing driver to have been fatally injured at a NASCAR event.

He and Mario Andretti became best of friends, building a close relationship which Andretti claimed he would never do again with a fellow racer because Foster's death so significantly affected him.

Foster was cousins with musician, producer, composer, arranger David Foster and with Canadian stock car driver Jim Steen.

He was inducted into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1993.

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"Canadian Motorsport Hall of Famer" Earl Ross Dies - September 18th, 2014

September 4, 1941 - September 18th, 2014 
Earl Ross
(Maritime Motorsport Hall of Fame Photo)
Born in Fortune, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
A Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame and  Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame member, Earl is the only Canadian to have won a NASCAR Cup Series race. Earl started his racing career in the late 1960's, driving hobby cars, then he began racing a late model stock car for the McKichan brothers at Delaware Speedway.

He was known for being one of only four non-American drivers to have won a NASCAR Cup Series race (the others being Juan Pablo Montoya, Mario Andretti, and Marcos Ambrose). Ross' only NASCAR win came at Martinsville Speedway on September 29, 1974 during the Old Dominion 500. His car was owned by the legendary Junior Johnson and sponsored by the Canadian-owned Carling-O’Keefe Breweries. After qualifying 11th, Ross beat Buddy Baker to the line by more than a lap, thus making him the first and still the only Canadian to have ever won a Winston Cup event. Ron Fellows however has wins in the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. At that time, Earl was the first rookie to win a Grand National race since Richard Petty accomplished the feat several years earlier.

The win was the push needed for Ross, who could only afford to run a partial schedule, to win the Winston Cup "Rookie of the Year" in 1974. After competing in only 2 events in '75 and '76, Ross retired from NASCAR racing. He recorded 1 win, 5 top-5's and 10 top 10's in 26 races.

Ross competed in a number of regional racing series throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, including time on the ASA circuit (Bob Senneker, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and Alan Kulwicki were competing at the same time) and CASCAR Super Series (which later became the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series) against Canadian legends like Don Thomson Jr. He also participated in regular Friday night racing at Delaware Speedway before his ultimate retirement in the late 1990s.

Earl Ross died on Thursday, September 18th, 2014, at his home in Ailsa Craig, Ontario, Canada. He was the age of 73.

In a statement released in Daytona Beach, NASCAR paid tribute to the Canadian.
“NASCAR extends its condolences to the family and friends of Earl Ross, a true racer whose considerable on-track success helped grow the sport internationally."

“Ross was the first Canadian driver to win a race in what is today known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and he did it at one of NASCAR’s most historic tracks for one of NASCAR's most historic owners. His 1974 win at Martinsville for Junior Johnson helped lay the foundation for the sport's tremendous growth in Canada, and beyond.”

Earl Ross was inducted into the the P.E.I. Sports Hall Of Fame in 2008, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2011

For more check out; Norris McDonald on Earl Ross at wheels.ca

This Day In Motorsport History - Home Page

Johnny Mantz Born In Hebron, Indiana - September 18, 1918

 September 18, 1918 - October 25, 1972
Johnny Mantz
Born in Hebron, Indiana, USA.
Mantz made two starts in the Indianapolis 500. They were 1948 and 1949. He started 8th in 1948 and finished a black-flagged 13th, completing 185 laps. In 1949 he started 9th and finished 7th, completing all 200 laps. In 1953 he drove relief for Walt Faulkner.

He made 17 starts in the AAA Championship Car series from 1948 to 1952, capturing a victory in his rookie season at the Milwaukee Mile as well as winning the Indianapolis Sweepstakes at Williams Grove Speedway.

He was a member of the Lincoln team in the first Carrera Panamericana in Mexico in 1950. He and Bill Stroppe were able to lead quite a bit of the multi-day race. With the finish line in sight and no more spare tires to run, Mantz was forced to run on rims and limped across the finish line ending up 9th.
(Photo;pinterest.com)
Johnny Mantz Lincoln Capri owned by Bob Estes

Mantz was the first USAC Stock Car national champ in 1956. He also made 12 NASCAR Grand National starts from 1950–1951 and 1955-1956. He won in his third NASCAR race, the first Southern 500 held at Darlington Raceway. This was the first 500-mile race in the history of NASCAR. The newly built Darlington Raceway was also the first "Super Speedway" for NASCAR, even though it was a little under a mile and a half in size. The Southern 500 was also the only paved event for NASCAR in 1950. The classification for Super Speedways would later mean 2 miles and up. Mantz and his Plymouth were the race's slowest qualifier, almost 10 MPH slower than the pole winner, Curtis Turner. But because he qualified on the 9th of 15 days of time trials, he started 43d in the 75 car field. Mantz fitted truck tires which did not wear quickly or blow out, while his competitors had to stop often to pit for new tires. It was his only NASCAR win. He would win by 9 laps over the second-place finisher, Fireball Roberts, with an average speed of 75 MPH. The race took more than 6 hours to run. Other than the car number, Mantz had one lone sponsorship decal on his car which was placed by the Justice Brothers for the product they were distributing.
Mantz was also the first person to try and bring NASCAR sanctioning to the West Coast of the United States. Mantz last stock car race was in Pomona, California in 1958. He won this race.

Mantz was featured in a number of magazine advertisements for Ford cars in the early 1960s.
(Photo;terapeak.com)

Mantz died on October 25, 1972 in a fatal car accident near Ojai, California. He was 54 years old.

As of 2010, the speedway presents the Johnny Mantz trophy to the winner of the Southern 500.