Thursday, March 23, 2017

Nascar Pioneer Sammy Packard Passes Away - March 23, 2003

October 4, 1919 - March 23, 2003
Sammy Packard
(Photo; legendsofnascar.com)
Home: Barrington, Rhode Island, USA.
Packard began racing midgets in 1937, in the Bay State Racing Association. He quickly found himself supporting his family by racing seven nights a week.  He tried his hand at stock cars, too, competing in the first stock car race at the Thompson Speedway, in 1939.

Sammy was also instrumental in staging the first stock car race at Lonsdale, held October 27, 1947. In an effort to draw more fans to that first event, he and Buddy Shuman, who came up from North Carolina, went to the Lonsdale Sports Arena and staged an exhibition race for fans during the halftime break at a football game.

Although he called Rhode Island home, Sammy raced all over the country, in midgets, stock cars, motorcycles, and even boats. When D. Anthony Venditti flooded the infield at the Seekonk Speedway, Packard became a two time Class D New England champion. Sammy also competed in the New York Outboard Marathon, where he, along with 350 others, would start out in Albany and race down the Hudson River to New York City.

The first time Packard raced at Daytona, he threw his ’37 Buick Phaeton into the north turn, and promptly slid across the seat over to the passenger side of the car. His crew quickly went to work, finding some rope that had been discarded on the beach, and tied him into the Phaeton.

Bill France Sr. later invited Sammy to a meeting with a group of men at the Streamline Hotel in December 1947, that resulted in the formation of NASCAR.

In 1974, Sammy Packard took on a new challenge in his auto racing career by starting an antique race car restoration business. He restored well over 100 racecars, which have been shipped coast to coast, and as far away as West Germany.

Sammy Packard, who was the last surviving participant of the meeting which formed NASCAR, died at his home in Daytona Beach on March 23, 2003. He was 83 years old.

Sammy was inducted in the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 2004.

Craig Breedlove Born In Los Angeles, California - March 23, 1937

March 23, 1937
Born in Los Angeles, California, USA.
He was the first person in history to reach 500 mph, and 600 mph, using several turbojet-powered vehicles, all named Spirit of America.

He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1993 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000.

Eric Medlen Dies From Crash Injuries - March 23, 2007

August 13, 1973 - March 23, 2007
Eric Medlen
Born in Oakdale, California, USA
He was an NHRA Fuel Funny Car driver. Medlen drove for John Force Racing in 2004, 2005 and 2006, campaigning in the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang Fuel Funny Car, and in 2007, campaigning in the Auto Club/Pleasant Holiday Ford Mustang Fuel Funny Car. He had a total of 6 career wins. His first win came during his Rookie season in 2004 at Brainerd International Raceway. His father John Medlen was his crew chief.

On March 19, 2007 during a test session at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Florida, Medlen was critically injured when his Funny Car developed the most severe tire shake ever recorded in a Funny Car. The side-to-side force of the shake caused his head to hit the roll bars around his head, causing severe head injuries. He became unconscious, causing the car to lose control and strike the wall.

After being cut free from the car by the NHRA Safety Safari and receiving emergency treatment at the track, Medlen was transferred by Alachua County Fire Rescue to Shands at the University of Florida where he was treated for four days for what doctors characterized as a severe closed head injury.

Medlen survived a delicate, three-hour craniectomy procedure to relieve pressure and hemorrhaging on March 20, 2007, but succumbed to complications of diffuse axonal injury three days later after being removed from life support in accordance with his own previously stated wishes.

For more see; "Remembering" Eric Medlen

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rick Miaskiewicz Born In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - March 22, 1953

March 22, 1953
Rick Miaskiewicz
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
 He won the Can-Am championship in 1985, the series' next to last year of operations and then moved to the CART series for 1986. He competed in five races in a Cosworth powered March chassis. He returned the following year with a 1986 March and competed in four more races. His best CART finish was an 11th place at Cleveland in 1986, one of the best finishes for any rookie that season. Miaskiewicz also raced AMA Motocross and was an Alpine Ski racer.

Peter Revson Dies During Test Session - March 22, 1974

February 27, 1939 – March 22, 1974
Peter Revson
(Photo; f1.wikia.com)
Born in New York City, New York, USA.
Revson began racing in 1960 while at the University of Hawaii. Revson finished second in a local club event, driving a Plus Four Morgan. In 1963 Revson raced professionally while barnstorming Europe, driving a Formula Junior which was towed behind a beaten up British bread van. In 1968 he was part of the new Javelin racing program established by American Motors. At the first Trans-Am Series attempt, the 12 Hours of Sebring, Revson and Skip Scott drove to a 12th overall and took 5th in their class.

In the 1969 Indianapolis 500 Revson was the top rookie finisher, placing fifth. He drove a Brabham-Repco which experienced carburetor problems. During a post-race election, he was selected as runner-up for rookie of the year.

In 1970 he teamed with Steve McQueen to place second in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Also that year, Revson competed in the SCCA Trans Am series with Mark Donohue, driving the Penske Racing AMC factory-team Javelins and piloted an L&M Lola Cars special, became a top contender in the Can-Am series.

Revson joined McLaren in 1971, becoming the first American to win the Can-Am Championship. That same season he finished second at the Indianapolis 500, after posting the fastest qualifying time. He competed in the Indy 500 each year from 1969–1973.

In 1972, Revson was named to the McLaren Formula One team. He remained with the team for two years, winning the 1973 British Grand Prix and the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix. He moved to Shadow in 1974. He is the last American born driver to win a Formula One race.

On March 22nd, 1974, Revson was killed during a test session, before the South African Grand Prix, in Kyalami. While driving the Ford UOP Shadow-Ford DN3, he suffered a front suspension failure and crashed heavily into the Armco barrier on the outside of "Barbecue Bend". The car stood on its nose, wrapped itself around the barrier and caught fire, and although safety workers and other drivers managed to pull Revson from the wreckage, he was already dead.

He was the second Revson to lose his life racing. His brother Douglas was killed in a crash in Denmark in 1967. Peter and Douglas Revson are interred together in a crypt at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Revson was replaced by Tom Pryce, who died three years later at the same Grand Prix.

Revson's autobiography, 'Speed with Style', co-written with Leon Mandel, was published posthumously by Doubleday & Company in 1974.

Peter Revson was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1996.

Bobby Johns Born In Miami, Florida - May 22, 1932

May 22, 1932 - March 7, 2016
Robert James "Bobby" Johns
Born in Miami, Florida, USA.
Johns raced in the NASCAR series in the 1956–1969 seasons, with 141 career starts. He had two wins among his 36 top ten finishes and finished the 1960 season 3rd in the points. Johns was able to race in NASCAR regardless of being conscripted into the United States Army. Bobby Johns is the first NASCAR driver to ever make a competitive lap at Indianapolis. In the early days of NASCAR and USAC, it would not allow it's drivers to race under other racing sanctions. USAC sanctioned Indy, featuring  open-wheel cars. Even NASCAR's 'Big' Bill France couldn't get into Indy. But when Johns got to take his competitive lap in 1964, France was there beaming from ear to ear.

In Bobby's early life his dad, Socrates (known as Shorty), was a midget and later roadster racer and Bobby was virtually born into the sport. He grew up in Miami, chased NASCAR national sportsman points in the early 50's and served in the Army stationed at Ft Jackson, SC. Indy was a long time dream for him and he was finally able to put a deal together with Smokey Yunick to drive the odd looking side car car in 1964 but failed to qualify. He did make the 500 in 1965 and '69. In '65 he hooked up in a Ford Lotus with Jim Clarke and qualified 22nd and finished a respectable 7th place. Jimmy Clark in the #82 Ford Lotus won the '65 race. Ford brought the Wood Brothers in for the pit stops on race day, and to have the starter ready to hand over the wall in case anybody stalled. Bobby Johns, Jimmy’s teammate, did have the engine die on his first stop. 1969 found him  back to a traditional Offy machine with the Wagner-Lockheed folks, starting 37th and finished 10th. A memorable two Top 10's in a row.

Bobby Johns Died on March 7, 2016, in Miami, Florida, USA. Despite two Grand National victories and two Indy 500 appearances Bobby Johns has been largely forgotten by the NASCAR set and some of it may be his own doing.

Thanks to a few close friends Bobby is finally accepting some of the recognition that he should have had years ago and it's wonderful. In 2006 he received the Distinguished Driver of the Year Award from the Living Legends of Auto Racing, based in Daytona Beach, with Club President Ray Fox.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kenny Brack Born In Arvika, Sweden - March 21, 1966

March 21, 1966
Kenny Brack
Born in Arvika, Sweden.
Brack competed in the CART, Indy Racing League and the IROC series. He is the winner of the 1999 Indianapolis 500 and the 1998 driving champion of the Indy Racing League. He survived one of the racing sport's biggest accidents in Fort Worth, Texas 2003, in which a deceleration of 214g was measured. 18 months later he made a comeback at the Indy 500 and set the fastest qualifying time of the field. He retired from IndyCar racing after the race.

In 2009, he made a come back but now to rally, and competed in Rally X at X-Games 15 and won Gold. Bräck still drives occasionally and won The Dukerie's Stage Rally in Nottingham, England with co-driver Emil Axelsson in June 2011. The duo also won the Swedish classic "The Midnight Sun Rally" in July 2011. In September Brack took pole position and won the RAC Tourist Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival in an AC Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé 1964 together with 8-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen. In September 2013 Bräck won The Whitsun Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival in a Ford GT 40 together with Red Bull F1 Racing's Adrian Newey.

Fonty Flock Born In Fort Payne, Alabama - March 21, 1920

March 21, 1920 – July 15, 1972
Fonty Flock
 Born in Fort Payne, Alabama, USA.
He was the brother of NASCAR pioneers Tim Flock and Bob Flock, and the second female NASCAR driver Ethel Mobley. Like many early NASCAR drivers, Flock's career began by delivering illegal moonshine. He started delivering on his bicycle as a teenager. He used his car to deliver moonshine as he got older. "I used to deliberately seek out the sheriff and get him to chase me," he later recalled. "It was fun, and besides we could send to California to get special parts to modify our cars, and the sheriff couldn't afford to do that."

Early in his career, Flock raced on dirt tracks in Georgia, winning a 100-mile race at Lakewood Speedway Park in Atlanta, Georgia in 1940. 

He qualified in the pole position for the July 27, 1941 race at the Daytona Beach Road Course beside Roy Hall. Flock took the early lead, before he and Hall got together in the south turn. Flock rolled and landed upside down in bushes. The seatbelt broke during the rolling, and Flock was tossed around. He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, having suffered a crushed chest, broken pelvis, head and back injuries, and severe shock. Flock sat out the 1945 and 1946 seasons because of his injuries.

His brother convinced car owner Ed Schenck to put Flock in his car at the first race at the North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 5, 1947. Flock won the pole and his heat race. He won the 30-lap feature after not racing in 4½ years. He took over his brother Bob's ride later in the season after Bob broke his back. He won seven of 47 races that season, and beat Ed Samples and Red Byron to win the National Championship Stock Car Circuit championship.

In 1949 he won eleven features and the NASCAR National Modified championship. He raced in six of eight Strictly Stock (later Grand National, now Sprint Cup) events, and finished fifth in the points. On July 10, 1949 Fonty, his brothers Tim and Bob, along with sister Ethel Mobley, raced at the Daytona Beach Road Course, which was the first event to feature a brother and a sister, and the only NASCAR event to feature four siblings.

He raced his first full-time season in the Grand National series in 1951. He had eight wins, 22 Top-10s, and 13 poles to finish second in the points. He won the 100-mile Grand National Stock Car race at Bainbridge Speedway, Solon, Ohio, on July 9, 1951. In 1952 he had two wins, 17 Top-10s, and seven poles and finished fourth in the points.

He was leading by more than a minute at the 1953 Daytona Beach Road Course race, but ran out of gas taking the white flag at the start of the final lap. Flock's teammate pushed his car into the pits. Bill Blair passed to win the race, Flock finished second. He had four wins, 17 Top-10 finishes, and three poles to finish fourth in the final points.

He opened an insurance agency in 1954, racing part-time after that. He raced 31 of 45 events in 1955. He had three wins, 14 Top-10s, and six poles. He finished eleventh in the points. He had his final win in 1956 at the Charlotte Speedway.

In 1957 he raced at the Daytona Beach Road Course. Herb Thomas had been gravely injured in a 1956 race held at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds in Shelby, North Carolina so he asked Flock to drive the car in the 1957 Southern 500. Flock accepted. He spun and was smashed by Bobby Myers and Paul Goldsmith on lap 27, injuring all, Myers fatally. From the hospital bed, Flock announced his retirement. 

In 2004, Flock was inducted into the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame and the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Association. in 2004.

Flock died in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 15, 1972 after a lengthy illness.

John Nemechek Dies From Crash Injuries - March 21, 1997

March 12, 1970 – March 21, 1997  
John Nemechek
(Photo credit; Darryl Moran)
Born in Lakeland, Florida, USA.
The younger brother of four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner Joe Nemechek, John followed his brother into racing, running his first race at the age of twelve in an 80 class dirtbike race. After a quick progression to the 250cc class, he moved onto mini-stock cars, where he raced against his brother, and eventually late-model stocks.

When he wasn't racing, Nemechek served as the front-tire changer on Joe's pit crew, and was on Joe's 1992 NASCAR Busch Series Championship winning team. He would begin attempting NASCAR races himself, and ran one Busch Race at IRP in 1994. He finished 30th after his #89 Chevrolet suffered engine failure. The following season, he began racing in the new Craftsman Truck Series, driving at first for Redding Motorsports, and then for his brother's NEMCO Motorsports. In the first year of competition, Nemechek ran 16 races and had two top-ten finishes. He followed that up with two more top-tens in 1996 and a thirteenth place finish in points, running a single truck he built himself titled The War Wagon under his own team, Chek Racing.

On March 16, 1997, Nemechek was running a truck race at Homestead-Miami Speedway when with 25 laps to go, he suddenly lost control of his truck and slammed into the Turn 1 wall driver's-side first, suffering major head injuries. He was extricated and transported to a nearby hospital, where he clung to life over the next five days before finally succumbing on March 21, just nine days after his 27th birthday.

Following the incident, Homestead was reconfigured into a true oval with a six-degree banking to reduce the possibility of the type of crash that killed Nemechek. His brother Joe was able to pay tribute to his brother by winning a Busch Series race that November at the now-reconfigured circuit. He later named his son John Hunter after his late brother.

Ayrton Senna Born In Sao Paulo, Brazil - March 21, 1960

March 21, 1960 - May  1, 1994
Ayrton Senna
(photo credit: Senna champagne via photopin (license))
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  He was among the most dominant and successful Formula One drivers of the modern era and is considered by some as the greatest motor racing driver of all time. He began his motorsport career in karting, moving up to open-wheel racing in 1981, and winning the British Formula 3 championship in 1983. He made his Formula One debut with Toleman-Hart in 1984 before moving to Lotus-Renault the following year and winning six Grands Prix over the next three seasons. In 1988, he joined Frenchman Alain Prost at McLaren-Honda. Between them, they won all but one of the 16 Grands Prix that year and Senna claimed his first World Championship. Prost claimed the championship in 1989, and Senna his second and third championships in 1990 and 1991. In 1992, the Williams-Renault combination began to dominate Formula One. Senna nonetheless managed to finish the 1993 season as runner-up, winning five races and negotiating a move to Williams in 1994.

Senna has often been voted as the best and most influential Formula One driver of all time in various motorsport polls. He was recognized for his qualifying speed over one lap and from 1989 until 2006 held the record for most pole positions. He was also acclaimed for his wet weather performances, such as the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix, and the 1993 European Grand Prix. He holds a record six victories at the Monaco Grand Prix, and is the third most successful driver of all time in terms of race wins. Senna courted controversy throughout his career, particularly during his turbulent rivalry with Alain Prost. In the Japanese Grands Prix of 1989 and 1990, each of which decided the Championship of that year, collisions between Senna and Prost determined the eventual winner.

Senna was killed in an accident while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. For more see; Tribute To Ayrton Senna

Monday, March 20, 2017

"New England Hall of Famer" Bert Brooks Born - March 20, 1920

March 20, 1920 - September 2, 1968
Bert Brooks
Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Bert Brooks was a motorcycle racer before World War II. Following the war, Bert tried his hand at midget racing. Bert competed in midgets and sprints from Florida to Maine.

Brooks was one of the countries premier Midget drivers during the busy post-war era. His first race was at Danbury CT. in 1945. In the early years, he drove a Ford-powered car and often won the non-Offenhauser championship. He joined the United Racing Club sprint car circuit in 1954 and won the championship four times, including three consecutive years - 1956, 1957 and 1958. He switched back to the ARDC midgets in 1959.

Like many of the open-wheel specialists of his era, Bert Brooks also spent a limited amount of time wheeling stock cars, a division whose popularity was on the rise. Due to a variety of reasons, the Coupes would become the main weekly fare all across New England with the “Mighty Midgets” becoming primarily a traveling circuit.
In 1961 Brooks attempted to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. He passed the rookie test but was too slow to make the field in the Hall-Mar Curtis-Offy. He also tried to qualify at Milwaukee the week after Indy, but again was too slow, this time in the Eelco Custom Shaft Kuzma-Offy. Later that year he suffered a mangled arm in a wreck at Flemington.

His 23 year career came to an end following a violent multi-car crash, that claimed his life, during an ARDC Labor Day event at Hershey (PA), Stadium in 1968. In 2009 Bert Brooks was inducted into the New England

Geoff Brabham Born In Sydney, Australia - March 20, 1952

March 20, 1952
Geoff Brabham
Born in Sydney, Australia.
Geoff is the son of three-time Formula One World Champion Jack Brabham. He has two younger brothers; Gary and David. Geoff teamed with David to win the 1997 Bathurst 1000 in a BMW, becoming the only brothers to have combined to win the race. Although the most successful of the second generation of racing Brabhams, unlike his siblings he did not compete in World Championship Formula One.

Brabham spent the majority of his racing career in the United States. He raced successfully in CART early in his career, finishing 8th in 1982, 1984 and 1987 with nine podiums. In ten appearances in the Indianapolis 500, he had a best result of fourth in 1983 and fifth in 1981.

His greatest source of success was in various forms of sports cars, winning four IMSA GTP titles, from 1988 to 1991, when racing for Nissan, and the 1981 Can-Am championship.

Brabham also won the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving one of the factory Peugeot 905, alongside French drivers Eric Hélary and Christophe Bouchut. He became just the third Australian driver to win Le Mans after Bernard Rubin in 1928, and Vern Schuppan in 1983.

Brabham had two victories in the International Race of Champions in 1992 and 1993, both at Michigan. In 1994 he made his only NASCAR Winston Cup Series start, at the first ever Brickyard 400, at Indianapolis, driving for Michael Kranefuss. He crashed in the second half of the race.

Later in his career, Brabham returned to Australia, where he was runner-up in the 1995 and 1997 Australian Super Touring Championship, and won the 1997 Bathurst 1000 Super Touring race driving a BMW 320i alongside brother David. He dabbled in V8 Supercars, throughout his career. He is still one of the few drivers to win his first race, Sandown 500 in 1993.

Brabham now works for BMW Group Australia, as a driver trainer. His son Matthew is also following in the family interest and is a very successful Kart racer.

"Italian Driver & MOMO Founder" Giampiero Moretti Born - March 20, 1940

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.
(Photo;sub5zero.com)
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.
(Photo;racing5.cl)
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.
(Photo;jalopnik.com)
(Photo;autoblog.com)

Scott Fraser Killed In Snowmobile Accident - March 20, 2004

March 20, 2004
Scott Fraser
Home: Shubenacadie, NS.
Scott a popular stock car driver, and builder of top-quality race cars, at the Scott Fraser Racing Shop, lost his life at just 33 years of age in a tragic snowmobile accident.

In 1999 he was named Nova Scotia Male Athlete of the Year. He was inducted to the Maritime Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2006, the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Colchester Sport Heritage Hall of Fame in 2010.

For more see Canadian Auto Racing Blog; Tribute To Scott Fraser

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Mario Andretti Story - Part One; The Early Years

February 28, 1940
Mario Andretti
(Photo credit: IndyCar-030 via photopin (license))
Born in Montona d'Istria, Italy
Mario and twin brother Aldo, were born in Italy, where they were inspired by watching the great Alberto Ascari race at Monza. The twins' mother Rina said that when they were two years old, they would take pot lids out of the cupboards and run around the kitchen, going "Vroom, vroom," like they were driving cars, this before they had seen a car. In 1945, at the age of five, he and Aldo were racing their hand-crafted wooden cars through the steep streets of their hometown. After World War II Istria was occupied and annexed by Yugoslavia. His family, like many other Italian Istrians, fled in 1948. They lived in a refugee camp from 1948 to 1955. The family settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania and the brothers discovered racing on an oval track in their home town. Later, the brothers were hired by a garage to park cars, Andretti described the experience in his book What's it like out there: "The first time I fired up a car, felt the engine shudder and the wheel come to life in my hands, I was hooked. It was a feeling I can't describe. I still get it every time I get into a race car."

Andretti's first racing experience was in a new youth racing league called Formula Junior in Ancona, Italy when he was thirteen years old. He had two fond childhood memories of watching a stretch of the Mille Miglia race in 1954 which caused him to become captivated by Italian two-time Formula One world champion Alberto Ascari, who won the race, which got him to go to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, where he saw Ascari and Juan Manuel Fangio race against each other.

Mario and Aldo were surprised to find a half-mile dirt racing track when they moved to Nazareth. The twins rebuilt a 1948 Hudson Hornet into a Sportsman modified in 1959, funded by money that they earned in their uncle's garage in 1959.
(Photo credit; www.motor-talk.de)
They flipped a coin to see who would race in the first race. Aldo won the coin toss, the heat race and the feature. They took turns racing and each had two wins after the first four weeks. They did not tell their parents that they were racing. Aldo was seriously hurt near the end of the season, and their parents were unhappy to find out that the twins were racing. Aldo fractured his skull, he recovered from his coma, and returned the following season.

Aldo continued racing on the USAC and IMCA circuits, but in 1969 Aldo suffered severe damage to his face after crashing into a fence, and quit racing. His face had 14 fractures to his facial bones. Mario described the accident in his book What's it like out there: "Aldo continued racing until August 17, 1969, when he had an accident, which was not his fault, in an IMCA sprint race at Des Moines, Iowa. He was driving a sprint car that I had bought for him."
(Photo credit; www.t-online.de)
Aldo is the father of John Andretti and Adam Andretti. Both of Mario Andretti's sons, Michael and Jeff, were IndyCar racers. Michael followed in his father's footsteps by winning the Indy Car title. With John joining the series in 1988, this meant that the Andretti's became the first family, to have four relatives compete in the same series.

Mario had 21 modified stockcar wins in 46 races in 1960 and 1961. Andretti's goal was to race in single-seater open wheel cars. Andretti said "Aldo and I were winning in the modifieds. But my objective was to get into open-wheelers." Andretti raced midget cars from 1961 to 1963. He started racing 3/4 midget cars in the American Three Quarter Midget Racing Association in the winter to be seen by full-sized midget car owners. He raced in over one hundred events in 1963. Andretti won three feature races at two different tracks on Labor Day in 1963. He won an afternoon feature at Flemington, New Jersey, and swept twin features at Hatfield, Pennsylvania.

The next rung on the racing ladder on the East Coast of the United States was to race in sprint cars in the United Racing Club. Andretti was able to get a ride for individual races in the URC sprint car racing series, but was unable to secure a full-time ride. He once drove from Canada to Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania hoping to find a ride in an event, but he went empty-handed. He bypassed the series when he was offered a full-time ride in a United States Automobile Club sprint car for 1964.

Andretti won the 1964 Joe James-Pat O'Connor Memorial USAC sprint car race at Salem Speedway in Salem, Indiana. Andretti continued to race in USAC sprint cars after moving into champ cars. In 1965 he won once at Ascot Park, and finished tenth in the season points. In 1966 he won five times, but finished behind Roger McCluskey in the season championship. In 1967 he won two of the three events that he entered. He won a USAC Stock Car race in 1967, and finished seventh in the season points.

Andretti competed in fourteen NASCAR Grand National/Winston Cup events in his career. He competed in Holman Moody cars for his final ten events. Holman Moody was one of NASCAR's most successful teams at that time, as the team won NASCAR championships in 1968 and 1969 with driver David Pearson. Andretti won the 1967 Daytona 500 for Holman Moody.

Andretti was invited to race in six International Race of Champions series in his career. His best years were his first three years. He finished second in the final points standings in IROC III (1975–1976) and IROC V (1977–1978). He won the IROC VI (1978–1979) points championship with finishes of third, first, and second. He won three races in twenty events.

Andretti won three 12 Hours of Sebring endurance races (1967, 1970, 1972), and the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1972. In early sportscar races he competed for the Holman Moody team, but later often drove for Ferrari. He signed with Ferrari in 1971, and won several races with co-driver Jacky Ickx. In 1972 he shared wins in the three North American rounds of the championship and at Brands Hatch in the UK, contributing to Ferrari's dominant victory in that year's World Championship for Makes. He also competed in the popular North American Can-Am series in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
(Photo: 1971 Ferrari 712 Can-Am via photopin (license))
1971 Ferrari 712 Can-Am 
Silverstone Classic Endurance Car Racing - September 2009

Andretti competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in four decades. In 1966 he shared a Holman Moody Ford MKII with Lucien Bianchi. They retired after their car dropped a valve at 10:30 pm In 1967, during a 3:30 am pit stop, a mechanic inadvertently installed a front brake pad backward on his Ford MkIV. As Andretti passed under the Dunlop Bridge before the Esses, he touched his brake pedal for the first time since leaving the pits. The front wheel instantly locked, turning the car hard into the dirt embankment at 150 mph. The wreckage slid to a stop with Andretti badly shaken, the car sideways to oncoming traffic and the track nearly blocked. His teammates, Jo Schlesser and Roger McCluskey, crashed trying to avoid Andretti's car. McCluskey pulled Andretti to safety, and Andretti was taken to hospital for X-rays.

Andretti did not return to Le Mans until his full-time Formula One career was over. In 1982, he partnered with son Michael in a Mirage M12 Ford. They qualified in ninth place, but the pair found their car being removed from the starting grid 80 minutes before the start of the race, as an official discovered an oil cooler that was mounted behind the gearbox, which was against the rules. The car had passed initial inspection four days before the race. Despite protests and complaints, the Andretti's entry was removed altogether. Their return in the following year was more successful as they finished third. The father/son team returned in 1988 with Mario's nephew John. They finished sixth in a factory Porsche 962. Following Mario's retirement from full-time racing, he decided on a return to the circuit to add a Le Mans victory to his achievements. He returned in 1995 with a second place finish. He said in a 2006 interview that he feels that the Courage Compétition team "lost five times over" through poor organization. He had unsuccessful efforts in the following years with a thirteenth place in 1996, and then a DNF for 1997. Andretti's final appearance at Le Mans was at the 2000 race, six years after his retirement from full-time racing, when he drove the Panoz LMP-1 Roadster-S at the age of 60, finishing 16th.

Continued in The Mario Andretti Story - Part Two; The Champ car & Indy Years

The Mario Andretti Story - Part Two; The Champ Car & Indy Years

Mario Andretti
From 1956 to 1979, the top open wheel racing series in North America was the USAC National Championship. It was often referred to as Champ car racing, or Indycar racing, referring to the famous Indianapolis 500 race which was the centerpiece of the championship. The races were run on a mixture of paved and dirt ovals, and in later years also included some road courses.

Andretti made his Champ Car debut on April 19, 1964 at the New Jersey State fairgrounds in Trenton, New Jersey. He started sixteenth and finishing eleventh. Andretti was introduced by his USAC sprint car owner, Rufus Gray, to veteran mechanic Clint Brawner. Brawner was not impressed since sprint car drivers Stan Bowman and Donnie Davis had recently died, and Brawner's current driver, Chuck Hulse, had been critically injured. Chris Economaki recommended Andretti to Brawner, so Brawner watched Andretti race at Terre Haute, Indiana. Brawner was convinced that he had found the new driver for his team. The two stayed together for six years. Andretti finished eleventh in the USAC National Championship that season. Andretti won his first championship car race at the Hoosier Grand Prix on a road course at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1965. His third place finish at the 1965 Indianapolis 500 in the Brawner Hawk earned him the race's Rookie of the Year award, and contributed towards Andretti winning the series championship. He was the youngest national champion in series history at age 25. He repeated as series champion in 1966, winning eight of fifteen events. He also won the pole at the 1966 Indianapolis 500. Andretti finished second in the IndyCars in 1967 and 1968. He also won a single non-championship drag race in 1967 in a Ford Mustang. In both 1967 and 1968, Andretti lost the season USAC championship to A.J. Foyt and Bobby Unser, respectively, in the waning laps of the last race of the season at Riverside, California, each by the smallest points margin in history.

Andretti won nine races in 1969, the 1969 Indianapolis 500, and the season championship. He also won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which was part of the USAC National Championship. He was named ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. Between 1966 and 1969 he won 29 of 85 USAC championship races.

In 1973, USAC split its National Championship into dirt and pavement championships. Andretti had one win on the pavement and finished fifth in the season points, and finished second in the dirt championship. He competed in USAC's dirt track division in 1974, and won the dirt track championship while competing in both series. Andretti also competed in the North American Formula 5000 series in 1973 and 1974, and finished second in the championship in both seasons.

Andretti had continued to race, and occasionally win, in the USAC National Championship during his time in the Formula One world championship. In 1979 a new organization, Championship Auto Racing Teams, had set up the Indycar world series as a rival to the USAC National Championships that Andretti had won three times in the 1960s. The new series had rapidly become the top open wheel racing series in North America.

It was to this arena that Andretti returned full-time in 1982, driving for Patrick Racing. He returned to the 1982 Indianapolis 500 as well. After starting in row 2, Andretti got victimized by a controversial wreck during the pace-laps, when rookie Kevin Cogan suddenly spun out for no apparent reason. Andretti was livid and engaged in a shoving match with Cogan. In an interview 3 minutes after the wreck Andretti was heard saying "This is what happens when you have children doing a man's job up front."

In 1983 he joined the new Newman/Haas Racing team, set up by Carl Haas and actor Paul Newman using cars built by British company Lola. Andretti took the team's first win at Elkhart Lake in 1983. He won the pole for nine of sixteen events in 1984, and claimed his fourth Champ Car title at the age of 44. He edged out Tom Sneva by 13 points. It was the first series title for the second year team.

Mario's son Michael joined Newman/Haas in 1989. Together, they made history as the first father/son team to compete in both IMSA GT and Champ Car racing, as for the former, it was their fourth time in an endurance race together as co-drivers. Mario finished seventh in points for the 1991 season, the year that Michael won the championship. Mario's last victory in IndyCar racing came in 1993 at Phoenix International Raceway, the year that Michael left Newman/Haas to race in Formula One. The win made Mario the oldest recorded winner in an IndyCar event, 53 years, 34 days old. Andretti qualified on the pole at the Michigan 500 later that year with a speed of 234.275 miles per hour. The speed was a new closed course world record. Andretti's final season, in 1994, was dubbed "The Arrivederci Tour." He raced in the last of his 407 Indy car races that September.

Continued in The Mario Andretti Story - Part Three; The Formula One Years

The Mario Andretti Story - Part Three; The Formula One Years

Mario Andretti
At Andretti's first Indianapolis 500, in 1965, he met Colin Chapman, owner of the Lotus Formula One team, who was running eventual race winner Jim Clark's car. Andretti told Chapman of his ambition to compete in Formula One and was told "When you're ready, call me." By 1968 Andretti felt he was ready. Chapman gave him a car, and the young American took the pole position on his debut at the 1968 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in his Lotus 49.

Andretti drove sporadically in Formula One over the next four years for Lotus, March, and Ferrari, while continuing to focus on his racing career in America. At the 1971 South African Grand Prix, on his debut for Ferrari, he won his first Grand Prix. Three weeks later, at the non-championship Questor Grand Prix in the U.S., he brought the Italian team a second victory.

It wasn't until 1975 that Andretti drove a full Formula One season, for the American Parnelli team. The team was new to Formula One, although it had been successful in both Formula 5000 and IndyCar racing in America with Andretti driving. The team had run Andretti in the two North American end-of-season races in 1974 with promising results. Andretti qualified fourth and led the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix for nine laps before his suspension failed. He scored five championship points in the season. Andretti continued to compete in IndyCar, missing two Formula One races in the middle of the season to do so.

When the Parnelli team pulled out of Formula One after two races of the 1976 season, Andretti returned to Chapman's Lotus team, for whom he had already driven at the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix.
(1976 British Grand Prix - Niki Lauda Ferrari 312 leads, James Hunt McLaren M23 with Mario Andretti Lotus 77 and Clay Regazzoni Ferrari 312)

Lotus was then at a low point, having failed to produce a competitive car to replace 1970's Lotus 72. Andretti's ability at developing a racing car contributed to Lotus' return to the front of the Formula One grid, culminating in lapping the field in his victory at the season ending race at the Mount Fuji circuit in Japan. Since mid-1975 Lotus had been developing the use of ground effect, shaping the underside of the car to generate downforce with little penalizing drag. For his part, Andretti worked at setting up his cars for the races, exploiting subtle differences in tire size and suspension set up on each side of the car to optimize it for each track, an approach imported from his extensive oval racing experience in the United States. In 1977, at Long Beach, he became the only American to win the United States Grand Prix West, and the last American as of 2014 to win any US Grand Prix. The Lotus 78 "wing car" proved to be the most competitive car of 1977, but despite winning four races, more than any other driver, reliability problems and collisions with other drivers meant Andretti finished only third in the championship. The following year, the Lotus 79 exploited ground effect even further and Andretti took the title with six wins. He clinched the championship at the Italian Grand Prix. There was no championship celebration because his teammate and close friend Ronnie Peterson crashed heavily at the start of the race, was hospitalised and died that night from complications resulting from his injuries.

Mario Andretti - Grand Prix of Canada, October 8, 1978.
Andretti would find little success after 1978 in Formula One, he failed to win another grand prix. He had a difficult year in 1979, as the new Lotus 80 was not competitive, and the team had to rely on the Lotus 79 which had been overtaken by the second generation of ground effect cars. In 1980, he was paired with the young Italian Elio de Angelis, and briefly with test driver Nigel Mansell, but the team was again unsuccessful.

Andretti had an unsuccessful 1981 with the Alfa Romeo team. Like other drivers of the period he did not like the ground effect cars of the time: "the cars were getting absurd, really crude, with no suspension movement whatever. It was toggle switch driving with no need for any kind of delicacy...it made leaving Formula One a lot easier than it would have been."

The next year Andretti raced once for the Williams team, after their driver Carlos Reutemann suddenly quit, before replacing the seriously injured Didier Pironi at Ferrari for the last two races of the year. Suspension failure dropped him out of the last race of the season, but at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza he took the pole position and finished third in the race.

Continued in The Mario Andretti Story - Part Four; The Later Years

The Mario Andretti Story - Part Four; The Later Years

Mario Andretti
(Photo: Mario Andretti signing Andretti Winery bottles for WCLM via photopin)
Mario and his wife Dee Ann live near their grandson Marco in mansions in Bushkill Township, Pennsylvania. Dee Ann is a native of Nazareth who taught English to Andretti in 1961. Dee Ann and Mario were married on November 25, 1961.

Andretti has kept active after his retirement from full-time racing. He makes numerous speaking engagements before corporate audiences and is a spokesman for longtime sponsors Texaco/Havoline, Firestone and Magnaflow performance exhaust. He was occasionally a spokesman for the defunct Champ Car World Series, though he frequently attended IRL races to watch Marco compete. He owns a chain of gasoline stations, a Toyota dealership in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, car washes, car-care products, go-kart tracks, a clothing line, video games and replica cars. He also test drives cars for Road & Track and Car and Driver magazines. In July 2006 Andretti took part in the Bullrun race across America. The first pitstop was at the Pocono Raceway, with Gate No. 5 aptly named Andretti Road. Since 2012 Andretti has been the official ambassador for the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) and the United States Grand Prix promoting awareness of Formula 1 in the United States and all forms of motorsports at COTA.

Andretti is vice chairman of a winery named Andretti Winery in Napa Valley, California.

(Photo: Andretti Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA via photopin) 
Mario Andretti was featured in the 2007 documentary A State of Vine, where he commented on his wine-making activities.

Andretti played himself on three episodes of the United States television show Home Improvement. He also appears in films such as the IMAX movie Super Speedway, about the making of Newman/Haas Racing cars, as well as being about Mario Andretti and Michael Andretti. Mario is also in the Pixar Animation Studios film Cars, where his voice is used for a cameo in which he plays the 1967 Ford Fairlane in which he won the Daytona 500, a parody of his own success in that race.
(Photo: Mario via photopin (license))
The Mario Andretti character from the movie Cars.

Mario appeared in the off-road racing documentary Dust to Glory as the race grand marshal, where the movie documents the 2004 Baja 1000 race. Mario also wrote a racing column for the Indianapolis Star where he wrote about other drivers, equipment and cars. He has a voice part in the movie Turbo.

Mario had a long career in racing, spanning five decades, going on to become an International star. Known for his versatility as a driver, he is one of only two drivers to win races in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR, the other being Dan Gurney. To date, he remains the only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500 (1969), Daytona 500 (1967) and the Formula One World Championship, and, along with Juan Pablo Montoya, the only driver to have won a race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Formula One, and an Indianapolis 500. No American has won a Formula One race since Andretti's victory at the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix. Mario had 109 career wins on major circuits. He was the only person to be named United States Driver of the Year in three decades, 1967, 1978, and 1984. He was also one of only three drivers to win races on road courses, paved ovals, and dirt tracks in one season, a feat that he accomplished four times. With his final Indy Car win in April 1993, Andretti became the first driver to win Indy Car races in four different decades and the first to win automobile races of any kind in five.

Mario Andretti Awards & Achievements;
Named the "Driver of the Century" by the Associated Press and RACER magazine.

2012 Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Inductee.

2000 International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee.

1996 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Inductee.

1992 named Driver of the Quarter Century.

1990 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America inductee

1978–1979 International Race of Champions series champion.

1978 Formula One World Championship.

1974 USAC national dirt track champion.

1972 6 Hours of Daytona.

1969 Indianapolis 500 winner.

1967 Daytona 500 winner.

Three time 12 Hours of Sebring winner, 1967, 1970, & 1972.

Four time IndyCar champion, 1965, 1966, 1969, & 1984

1969 ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year.

Vern Schuppan Born In Booleroo Centre, South Australia - March 19, 1943

March 19, 1943
Vern Schuppan
(Photo; www.formula1.com)
Born in Booleroo Centre, South Australia.
Schuppan drove in various categories, participating in Formula One, the Indianapolis 500 and most successfully in sports car racing. Although he considers himself to be an single-seater driver, Schuppan's biggest career victory was with the factory backed Rothmans Porsche team when he partnered Americans Hurley Haywood and Al Holbert to win the 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans driving the iconic Porsche 956.

Bill Sedgwick Born In Acton, California - March 19, 1955

March 19, 1955
Bill Sedgwick
(Photo;racing-reference.info)
Born in Acton, California, USA.
Sedgwick was a successful NASCAR driver particularly prominent in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sedgwick’s driving background ranged from a figure-eight championship at Saugus Speedway, before it closed, to racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 1995 and 1996.

 In 2013, Sedgwick is received his fourth champion crew chief award in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. Overall, it marks his sixth championship in the series. Sedgwick won two straight championships as a driver in 1991-1992, garnered back-to-back crew chief titles in 2004-2005. He won a third crew chief championship in 2009.

With four crew chief titles to his credit, Sedgwick is becoming best known for his role outside the car, despite having one of the top winning percentages as a driver in the series. Behind the wheel he amassed a record of 17 wins, 61 top-five and 74 top-10 finishes in 109 races between 1980 and 2001. He was the runner-up in the standings in his first two full seasons of competition, 1989 and 1990.

His duties as a mechanic have included working as a tire changer for racing legend Hershel McGriff and being the crew chief for Ron Hornaday Jr., in 1994. Sedgwick’s back-to-back championships as a crew chief were with the MB Duncan Motorsports team of Mike Duncan in 2004 and 2005. His 2009 championship was with Jason Bowles driving for Sunrise Ford Racing. His 2013 award was with the No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford driven by Derek Thorn.

In 2004, Sedgwick was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mark Donohue Born In Haddon Township, New Jersey - March 18, 1937

March 18, 1937 – August 19, 1975
Mark Donohue
Born in Haddon Township, New Jersey, USA.
 Nicknamed "Captain Nice", and later "Dark Monohue", was known for his ability to set up his own race car as well as driving it to victories. Donohue is probably best known as the driver of the 1500+ bhp “Can-Am Killer” Porsche 917-30 and as the winner of the 1972 Indianapolis 500.
(Photo; www.flickr.com)
Donohue died on August 19, 1975, from injuries as a result of a crash. Donohue recently had arrived in Austria for the Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring race track following a successful closed-course speed record attempt at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama just a few days earlier. During a practice session, Donohue lost control of his March after a tire failed, sending him careening into the catch fencing at the fastest corner on the track, Vöest Hügel. A track marshal was killed by debris from the accident, but Donohue did not appear to be injured significantly. It is said that Donohue's head struck either a catch fencing post or the bottom of the wood frame for an advertising billboard located alongside of the racetrack. A headache resulted, however, and worsened. After going to the hospital the next day, Donohue lapsed into a coma from a cerebral hemorrhage and died.

For more see; Tribute To Mark Donohue 

Anthony "Andy" Granatelli Born In Dallas, Texas - March 18, 1923

March 18, 1923 - December 29, 2013
Anthony "Andy" Granatelli
Born in Dallas, Texas, USA.
Granatelli was an American businessman, most prominent as the CEO of STP as well as a major figure in automobile racing.

Granatelli along with his brothers Vince and Joe, first worked as an auto mechanic and "speed-shop" entrepreneur, modifying engines such as the "flathead" Ford into racing-quality equipment. During World War II, he became a promoter of automobile racing events, such as the "Hurricane Racing Association," which combined racing opportunities for up-and-coming drivers with crowd-pleasing theatrics. Hurricane events, according to Granatelli in his autobiography They Call Me Mister 500, included drivers who were experts at executing and surviving roll-over and end-over-end crashes, and also an ambulance that not only got caught up into the race, but also ejected a stretcher with a dummy on it into the way of the racers.

In 1946, the three brothers entered the first of several Indianapolis 500 races, as the Grancor racing team. They did their own mechanical work, and brought innovations like fully independent suspension, yet never made it to "Victory Lane". In 1948, Andy decided to try to qualify as a driver, and nearly did so, but a horrendous crash during his qualifying run ended that part of his career.

Granatelli eventually became very visible in the racing world in the 1960s as the spokesman for STP oil and gasoline treatment products, appearing on its television and radio advertisements as well as sponsoring racecars. He clad his pit crews in white coveralls with the oval STP logo scattered all over them, and once wore a suit jacket with the same STP-laden design. He made a cameo appearance in the Disney movie "The Love Bug".

His cars became a significant presence at the Indianapolis 500. While he first gained notoriety by re-introducing the legendary Novi, his most famous entries were his turbine-powered cars in 1967 and 1968. In both years, he endured the excruciating frustration of seeing probable race-winners fail near the end; Joe Leonard's breakdown in the Lotus 56 with 10 laps remaining in 1968 had been topped the previous year when Parnelli Jones, leading comfortably with just three laps to go, suffered the failure of a six dollar transmission bearing in the STP-Paxton Turbocar and retired, handing a sure victory to A. J. Foyt.

He was finally rewarded with an Indianapolis 500 winner in 1969. After his innovative Lotus 4-wheel-drive car was destroyed in practice upon establishing itself as one of the most dominants cars to date, his driver Mario Andretti, nursing the burns from the Lotus crash, won at the wheel of a year-old backup car. Before Andretti could be traditionally kissed in "Victory Lane" by the Queen of the "500 Festival", Granatelli got there first, and his joyful kiss on Andretti's cheek is one of the 500's most memorable images. However rumor is that the kiss began the infamous Indianapolis 500 curse that Mario Andretti's family is named for.
In 1973, Granatelli retired his USAC team, and STP became a sponsor of Patrick Racing. Gordon Johncock won the 1973 and 1982 Indianapolis 500 for the brand.

It was believed that Granatelli attended every Indianapolis 500, whether as a participant or as a spectator, from 1946-2012. He did not attend the race in 2013.

Granatelli bought Tuneup Masters in 1976 for $300,000. He sold it for $60 million in 1986. Game Show Icon and close friend, Dennis James, served as the original commercial spokesman.

Granatelli died on December 29, 2013 in Santa Barbara, California. He died from congestive heart failure at the age of 90.

He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2001. Granatelli was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2011 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.

William H. "Blackie" Pitt Born In Rocky Mount, North Carolina - March 18, 1925

March 18, 1925 - March 28, 1992
William H. "Blackie" Pitt
 Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, USA.
He is best known as the 1954 NASCAR Rookie of the Year. Pitt raced from 1954 to 1958 and competed in 81 races in his four-year NASCAR career. One of his most memorable appearances in NASCAR was at the 1955 Southern 500, where he would race in a 1955 Ford Fairlane owned by his brother W.W. "Brownie" Pitt. This race would be captured on film and memorialized for future generations. His total career in NASCAR consisted of completing 9326 laps of professional American stock car racing. According to history, Pitt generally did better on short tracks than he did on road courses and intermediate tracks.

Pitt would end up contributing nineteen finishes in the top ten and accumulating 6,222.1 miles or 10,013.5 kilometres of stock car racing experience. His total career earnings is considered to be $5,619. Pitt was the recipient of the 1954 NASCAR Rookie of the Year award although he never received an official trophy. Due to the sudden disqualification of Joe Weatherly and Jim Reed at the end of an untitled 1955 Palm Beach Speedway race in West Palm Beach, Florida, Pitt was awarded an additional $50. The money came from a Mrs. Gail John Bruner using her Wachovia Bank and Trust Company bank account to access the funds.

Pitt's ultimate retirement came after finishing in last place at a 1958 race at Old Bridge Stadium. Blackie Pitt Died on March 28, 1992.

"Inaugural Monaco GP Winner" William Grover-Williams Dies - March 18, 1945

January 16, 1903 - March 18, 1945
William Grover-Williams
(Photo; bugattirevue.com)
Born in Montrouge, Hauts-de-Seine, France.
He was a Grand Prix motor racing driver and special agent who worked for the Special Operations Executive inside France. He organized and coordinated the Chestnut network. He was captured and killed by the Nazis.

Mechanically inclined, and fascinated by motorized vehicles, at the age of 15, Grover-Williams acquired an Indian motorcycle and it became his pride and joy. He would later go on to compete in motorcycle races in the early 1920s, although he kept it secret from his family by adopting the using the alias "W Williams".

By 1926, Grover-Williams had begun racing a Bugatti in races throughout France, using the alias "W Williams", entering the Grand Prix de Provence at Miramas and the Monte Carlo Rally. In 1928, he won the French Grand Prix, repeating in 1929. That same year, driving a Bugatti 35B, painted in what would become known as "British racing green", he won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix beating the heavily favored Mercedes of the great German driver, Rudolf Caracciola. In 1931 he won the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. He also won the Grand Prix de la Baule three consecutive years, 1931 to 1933. Then his career waned and he was out of racing by the latter part of the 1930s.

Following the Nazi occupation of France in World War II, Grover-Williams fled to England where he joined the Royal Army Service Corps. Due to his fluency in French and English he was recruited into the Special Operations Executive to foster the French Resistance. He recruited fellow racing driver Robert Benoist and together they worked in the Paris region to build up a successful circuit of operatives, forming sabotage cells and reception committees for Allied parachute operations.

On August 2, 1943, Grover-Williams was arrested by the SD and underwent lengthy interrogation before being deported to Berlin and was then held prisoner in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Grover-Williams was executed at Sachsenhausen concentration camp on March 18, 1945, however there is a theory that Grover-Williams may have survived the war, and lived on under an assumed identity as "Georges Tambal" who allegedly lived with Grover-Williams' widow for many years.

Friday, March 17, 2017

"Tiger" Tom Pistone Born In Chicago, Illinois - March 17, 1929

March 17, 1929
"Tiger" Tom Pistone
(Photo;By Flagmarshal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL])
Born in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Tom made his Grand National debut in 1955. He won two races and finished 6th in championship points in the 1959 season for Carl Rupert, his best season statistically. He was away from NASCAR in 1963 and 1964, but returned in 1965 to drive in 33 races for Glen Sweet and Emory Gilliam, a career high, but only 8 top tens and a 32nd place points finish came of it. His final and 130th cup race came in 1968. He won two NASCAR Convertible Division races.

In 1960, he wore a life preserver and an oxygen tube in his car while racing at Daytona for fear of running into the lake in the middle of the speedway and drowning. This happened after Tommy Irwin ran into the lake in the first qualifying race. Irwin did not drown, however.

On October 17, 2010, Pistone was one of the year's 15 inductees to the Racers' Reunion Hall of Fame, located at Memory Lane Museum in Mooresville NC.

In April 2011, Pistone appeared on an episode of The History Channel's American Pickers in which he sold items to be placed in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Still active in racing in his 80's, Pistone has a thriving race car parts business in Charlotte, NC, and can often be found mentoring young drivers at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He prepares and crews for several Legends and Bandolero drivers in the Winter Heat and Summer Shootout series. His grandson, Chase Pistone, races in the Camping World Truck Series.
(Photo; www.charlottemotorspeedway.com)
(L to R) Tommy Pistone III, Tiger Tom Pistone and Chase Pistone