Friday, February 23, 2018

Juan Manuel Fangio Kidnapped In Cuba - February 23, 1958

February 23, 1958
Five-time Formula One champion, Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina, is kidnapped in Cuba by a group of Fidel Castro's rebels.

Fangio won the 1957 event, and had set fastest times during practice for the 1958 race. Two unmasked gunmen of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement entered the Hotel Lincoln in Havana and kidnapped Fangio at gunpoint. Local police set up roadblocks at intersections, and guards were assigned to private and commercial airports and to all competing drivers.

Fangio was taken to three separate houses. His captors allowed him to listen to the race via radio, bringing a television for him to witness reports of a disastrous crash after the race concluded. In the third house, Fangio was allowed his own bedroom but became convinced that a guard was standing outside of the bedroom door at all hours. The captors talked about their revolutionary programme which Fangio had not wished to speak about as he did not have an interest in politics. Fangio was released after 29 hours.

The captors motives were to force the cancellation of the race in an attempt to embarrass the Batista regime. After Fangio was released, many Cubans were convinced that Batista was losing his power because he failed to track the captors down. The Cuban Revolution concluded in January 1959, canceling the 1959 Cuban Grand Prix. The Fangio kidnapping was dramatized in a 1999 Argentine film directed by Alberto Lecchi, Operación Fangio.

Shelby Blackstock Born In Nashville, Tennessee - February 23, 1990

February 23, 1990
Shelby Blackstock
Born inNashville, Tennessee, USA.
He is the son of country music singer Reba McEntire and her ex-husband and manager Narvel Blackstock.

Blackstock began his racing career in college when he went to a Bob Bondurant race school. He dropped out of college and decided to pursue a racing career full-time. His first significant appearances were in Skip Barber competition in 2010 and 2011. In 2011 he made his professional debut driving a Ford Mustang in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. He also finished fifth in the 2011 Skip Barber National Championship.

In 2012, he moved to the U.S. F2000 National Championship with Andretti Autosport. He finished eighth in points with a best finish of fourth at Road America. He moved up with Andretti Autosport to the Pro Mazda Championship in 2013, finishing third in points and capturing a win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park among six podium finishes in 16 races. In 2014 he continued in Pro Mazda with Andretti, but fell to fourth in points, but still captured six podium finishes, but not a race victory.

In 2015 Blackstock raced for Andretti Autosport in the Indy Lights series.
Shelby with famous mom Reba McEntire. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Marshall Teague Born In Daytona Beach, Florida - February 22, 1921

February 22, 1921 – February 11, 1959
Marshall Teague
Born in Daytona Beach, Florida, USA
He was nicknamed by NASCAR fans as the "King of the Beach" for his performances at the Daytona Beach Road Course. He walked into fellow Daytona Beach resident Smokey Yunick's "Best Damned Garage in Town", and launched Yunick's legendary NASCAR mechanic career. 

Teague competed in 23 NASCAR Grand National races from 1949 to 1952, winning seven of them. Teague approached the Hudson Motor Car Company by traveling to Michigan and visiting the automaker's factory without an appointment. By the end of his visit, Hudson virtually assured Teague of corporate support and cars, with the relationship formalized shortly after his visit. This "is generally regarded as the first stock car racing team backed by a Detroit auto manufacturer."

During the 1951 and 1952 racing seasons, Teague was a member of the Hudson Motors team and driving what were called the "Fabulous Hudson Hornet" stock cars. Teague was also instrumental in helping Hudson tune the 308 cu in (5.0 L) straight-6 powered Hudson Hornet to its maximum stock capability. When combined with the cars light weight and low center of gravity, the Hornet allowed Teague and the other Hudson drivers to dominate stock car racing from 1951 through 1954, consistently beating out other drivers in cars powered by larger, more modern engines. Smokey Yunick and Teague won 27 of 34 events in major stock car events.
(Photo: Fabulous Hudson Hornet via photopin (license))
Fabulous Hudson Hornet

In 1953, Teague dropped out of NASCAR following a dispute with NASCAR founder William France Sr. and went to the AAA and USAC racing circuits. The Indianapolis 500 was part of the FIA World Championship from 1950 through 1960. Drivers competing at Indy during those years were credited with World Championship points and participation. Marshall Teague participated in three World Championship races, but scored no World Championship points.

Teague died while attempting a closed course speed record in a reconfigured Indy car at the newly opened Daytona International Speedway. He was conducting test sessions in preparation for the April debut of the United States Auto Club championship with Indy-style roadsters. He was piloting a "Sumar Special" streamliner, a Kurtis-Kraft chassis with a Meyer-Drake Offenhauser 270 engine, streamlined fenders, and a canopy enclosing the driver, thus being classified as Formula Libre. On February 9, 1959, Teague set an unofficial closed course speed record of 171.821 mph.

Teague was attempting to go even faster on February 11, 1959, eleven days before the first Daytona 500. "Teague pushed the speed envelope in the high-powered Sumar Special streamliner - to an estimated 140 mph." His car spun and flipped through the third turn and Teague was thrown, seat and all, from his car. He died nearly instantly.

Teague's achievements include; 1951 & 1952 Daytona Beach Road Course Strictly Stock Car winner and named 1951 AAA Stock Car Driver of the Year. He won the 1952 & 1954 AAA National Stock Car championship.

Teague was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame in 1968, the National Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1988, the TRS/NASCAR Mechanics Hall of Fame in 1989, and the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 1991.

Teague was also the inspiration for Doc Hudson in the film Cars.

Niki Lauda Born in Vienna, Austria - February 22, 1949

February 22, 1949
Niki Lauda
(Photo: Niki Lauda with Carlos Reutemann via photopin (license))
Born in Vienna, Austria.
Niki Lauda was born to a wealthy family. Lauda became a racing driver despite his family's disapproval. After starting out with a Mini, Lauda moved on into Formula Vee, as was normal in Central Europe, but rapidly moved up to drive in private Porsche and Chevron sports cars. With his career stalled, he took out a £30,000 GBP bank loan, secured by a life insurance policy, to buy his way into the fledgling March team as a Formula Two driver in 1971. Because of his family's disapproval he had an ongoing feud with his family over his racing ambitions and abandoned further contact. He was quickly promoted to the F1 team, but drove for March in F1 and F2 in 1972. Although the F2 cars were good, March's 1972 F1 season was catastrophic. Lauda, in despair and deep debt, briefly contemplated suicide but finally took out another bank loan to buy his way into the BRM team in 1973. Lauda was instantly quick, but the team was in decline. His big break came when his BRM teammate Clay Regazzoni left to rejoin Ferrari in 1974 and team owner Enzo Ferrari asked him what he thought of Lauda. Regazzoni spoke so favourably of Lauda that Ferrari promptly signed him, paying Niki enough to clear his debts.

Lauda would become a three-time F1 World Champion, winning in 1975, 1977 and 1984. He is currently the only driver to have been champion for both Ferrari and McLaren, the sport's two most successful constructors. More recently an aviation entrepreneur, he has founded and run two airlines, Lauda Air and Niki.
(Photo: Lauda Air Boeing 767-300 via photopin (license))
He was also a consultant for Scuderia Ferrari and team manager of the Jaguar Formula One racing team for two years. He is currently working as a pundit for German TV during Grand Prix weekends and acts as non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.

Lauda has two sons with first wife, Mathias, a racing driver himself, and Lukas, who also acts as Mathias's manager. Lauda has a son, Christoph, through an extra-marital relationship. In 2008 he married Birgit Wetzinger, who is 30 years his junior and was a flight attendant for his airline. She donated a kidney to Lauda when the kidney he received in a transplant from his brother, years earlier, failed. In September 2009 Birgit gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, Max and Mia.

Lauda was seriously injured in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, during which his Ferrari burst into flames and he came close to death after inhaling hot toxic fumes and suffering severe burns. However he recovered and returned to race again just six weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix. Scars from the injuries he suffered have left him permanently disfigured.
(Photo: Fórmula1 - 2010 via photopin (license))
Niki in 2010
The movie Rush, a 2013 British-German biographical sports drama film, centered on the rivalry between Hunt and Niki Lauda, during the 1976 Formula One motor-racing season. 
Photo credit: engyles via photopin cc 
Lauda was played by Daniel Brühl. Lauda himself made a cameo appearance at the end of the film. At this point Lauda said of Hunt's death, "When I heard he'd died age 45 of a heart attack I wasn't surprised, I was just sad." He also said that Hunt was one of his small number of friends, a smaller number of people he respected and the only man he had ever envied.

In the book, James Hunt: The Biography, Niki Lauda stated that "We were big rivals, especially at the end of the season, but I respected him, because you could drive next to him, 2 centimeters, wheel-by-wheel, for 300 kilometers or more, and nothing would happen. 
He was a real top driver at the time."

Niki Lauda has written five books: The Art and Science of Grand Prix Driving, My Years With Ferrari, The New Formula One: A Turbo Age, Meine Story, titled To Hell and Back in some markets, Das dritte Leben. Lauda credits Austrian journalist Herbert Volker with editing the books.

Lauda was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1993.

(Photo: 1984 United States Grand Prix, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas via photopin)
Niki Lauda in his Marlboro McLaren TAG during the 1984 Championship season - United States Grand Prix, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

Etchells Defeats Capps In First All-Camaro Funny Car Final - February 22, 1998

February 22, 1998
Chuck Etchells defeats Ron Capps in the Funny Car finals of the "Atsco Nationals" at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Arizona, USA.

Capps defeated Dale Creasy Jr., Al Hofmann and Dean Skuza to reach the finals. Etchells eliminated Mitch McDowell, Whit Bazemore and Randy Anderson to make it into the finals.

This was the first ever all-Camaro final in NHRA Funny Car history. There was an all-Chevy final in 1985, however, at Firebird International Raceway, when John Collins, in an '85 Camaro, defeated John Force, in an '85 Corvette.

Lee Petty Wins "First-ever Daytona 500" - February 22, 1959

February 22, 1959

Cotton Owens had the fastest qualifying lap, at 143.198 miles per hour. The race had one qualifying race for Convertibles and one for the hardtop Grand National cars. Bob Welborn, winner of the 100-mile Grand National qualifying race earlier in the week, started on the pole position. Shorty Rollins won the Convertible qualifying race and started second. Twenty of the 59 cars in the Daytona 500 were convertibles.

There were no caution periods in the race. Welborn led the early laps in the race but his race ended after 75 laps with engine problems. Other leaders in the first 22 laps of the race were "Tiger" Tom Pistone and Joe Weatherly. Fireball Roberts took over the lead in lap 23, leading the next 20 laps before dropping out of the race on lap 57 due to a broken fuel pump. Johnny Beauchamp led several laps before Pistone and Jack Smith battled for the lead during the next 100 miles. Richard Petty also had to retire from the race with an engine problem and earned $100 for his 57th-place performance.

Lee Petty battled with Beauchamp during the final 30 laps of the race, and they were the only two drivers to finish on the lead lap. Petty took the lead with 3 laps left, and led at the start of the final lap. Petty and Beauchamp drove side by side across the finish line at the end final lap for a photo finish. Beauchamp was declared the unofficial winner by NASCAR officials, and he drove to victory lane. Petty protested the results, saying "I had Beauchamp by a good two feet. In my own mind, I know I won." Beauchamp replied "I had him by two feet. I glanced over to Lee Petty's car as I crossed the finish line and I could see his headlight slightly back of my car. It was so close I didn't know how they would call it, but I thought I won." Early leader Fireball Roberts, who was standing by the finish line, said "There's no doubt about it, Petty won." It took NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. three days to decide the winner the following Wednesday. In the end, with the help of photographs and newsreel footage, Petty was officially declared the winner.
The controversial finish helped the sport. The delayed results to determine the official winner kept NASCAR and the Daytona 500 on the front page of newspapers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

J.D. Gibbs Born In Mocksville, North Carolina - February 21, 1969

February 21, 1969
Jason Dean "J. D." Gibbs
Born in Mocksville, North Carolina, USA.
He is a former stock car driver and co-owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. During Gibbs' childhood, he moved several times before settling in Washington, D. C. Once he graduated from Oakton High School, he attended The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. While attending, he was the defensive back and quarterback during the 1987-1990 seasons, as his father coached for the Washington Redskins. He helped the school team to two Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances, which his team won ten games in his senior season.

After school, he became employed at Joe Gibbs Racing, a team his father started in July 1991. The team, with only six employees, started racing with Dale Jarrett the driver in 1992. In 1993, Gibbs was a tire changer on the team and was part of the 1993 Daytona 500 winning team. Then in the mid-1990s, J. D. started racing in the NASCAR Camping World East Series, as well as Late model events in North Carolina. Afterward, he started racing in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series. In 1998, Gibbs became president of his father's team, when his father returned to the Redskins after a 12 year hiatus.

Lee Petty Wins Daytona "NASCAR Grand National" - February 21, 1954

February 21, 1954
Tim Flock finishes first but is disqualified from his apparent win at Daytona Beach and Road Course, elevating Lee Petty to the official winner. Flock quits NASCAR in disgust. Flock's car had been equipped with a two-way radio, the first such use in NASCAR Grand National competition.

NASCAR Becomes Officially Incorporated - February 21, 1948

February 21, 1948
The National Association for Stock Car Racing, or NASCAR, as it will come to be widely known, is officially incorporated. NASCAR racing will go on to become one of America's most popular spectator sports, as well as a multi-billion-dollar industry.

 It was founded by Bill France, Sr.
As of 2014, the CEO for the company is Brian France, grandson of Bill France, Sr. NASCAR is the largest sanctioning body of stock car racing in the United States. The three largest racing series sanctioned by NASCAR are the Sprint Cup Series, the Xfinity Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. It also oversees NASCAR Local Racing, the Whelen Modified Tour, the Whelen All-American Series, and the NASCAR Series. NASCAR sanctions over 1500 races at over 100 tracks in 39 US states and Canada. NASCAR has presented exhibition races at the Suzuka and Motegi circuits in Japan, the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico, and the Calder Park Thunderdome in Australia.

NASCAR's headquarters are located in Daytona Beach, Florida, although it also maintains offices in four North Carolina cities: Charlotte, Mooresville, Concord, and Conover. Regional offices are located in New York City, Los Angeles, and Bentonville, Arkansas, and international offices are located in Mexico City and Toronto. Additionally, owing to its Southern roots, all but a handful of NASCAR teams are still based in North Carolina, especially near Charlotte.

NASCAR is second only to the National Football League among professional sports franchises in terms of television ratings in the United States. Internationally, NASCAR races are broadcast in over 150 countries. In 2004 NASCAR's Director of Security stated that NASCAR holds 17 of the top 20 regularly attended single-day sporting events in the world. Fortune 500 companies sponsor NASCAR more than any other motor sport.

French Auto Racing Pioneer Emile Levassor Born - January 21, 1843

January 21, 1843 - April 14, 1897
Emile Levassor
Born in Marolles-en-Hurepoix, France.
Was an engineer and a pioneer of the automobile industry and car racing in France. Graduated at École Centrale Paris, he started his career in 1872 in a company that produced wood-working machines, where he met René Panhard. The company also built gas engines and when, in 1886, a Belgian industrialist Edouard Sarazin got a licence to build Daimler engines he chose Levassor to build them in France.

When Sarazin died in 1887, Levassor married his widow, Louise, and together with Panhard they started building cars. The first appeared in 1890, with an engine built under Daimler licence. Levassor also took part in motor racing, finishing fifth in Paris to Rouen race in 1894, and arriving first in (but disqualified) the Paris–Bordeaux–Paris race the following year.

("Panhard-levassor". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Panhard et Levassor
In 1896, when taking part in the 1896 Paris–Marseille–Paris race, he was seriously injured in a crash while trying to avoid hitting a dog. He never recovered from the injury, and died in Paris the following year.

Peter Gethin Born In Ewell, England - February 21, 1940

February 21, 1940 - December 5, 2011
Peter Gethin
Born in Ewell, England.
He participated in 31 World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on June 21, 1970. He won the 1971 Italian Grand Prix in the fastest average speed in Formula One history, (until the record was broken by Michael Schumacher in the same race in 2003), but this was his only podium finish. Gethin also participated in numerous non-Championship Formula One races, winning the 1971 World Championship Victory Race and the 1973 Race of Champions.

Gethin also raced for Team McLaren in the 1970 Canadian-American Challenge Cup series, driving the McLaren M8D that had been driven by Dan Gurney in the first three races of the season. Peter Gethin scored Team McLaren's 19th straight Can-Am win at Road America on August 30, 1970. Gethin won the one race and finished third in the 1970 championship. 
(photo credit: Dave Hamster via photopin cc)
In 1974 Gethin won the Tasman Series, a Formula 5000 series held in Australia and New Zealand. Gethin drove a Chevron B24 Chevrolet. Gethin later ran a Formula 3000 team.

Gethin died at the age of 71 on December 5, 2011, after a long illness.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Roger Penske Born In Shaker Heights, Ohio - February 20, 1937

February 20, 1937
Roger Penske
Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA.
The owner of the racing team Team Penske, the Penske Corporation, and other automotive-related businesses. Penske's father was a corporate executive for a metal fabrication company and encouraged his son to become an entrepreneur. As a teenager he bought older cars, repaired them and sold them at a profit from his family's home in Cleveland, Ohio. In 10 years, Penske raced and sold about 32 cars.

Penske also owns the most victories as an owner in the Indianapolis 500, 16 owner victories. A winning racer in the late 1950s, Penske was named 1961's Sports Car Club of America Driver of the Year by Sports Illustrated. 

(Photo: Roger Penske, September 1964 via photopin (license))
(Roger Penske, September 1964)
After retiring from driving a few years later, he created one of the most successful teams in IndyCar Series and NASCAR racing. He is also known by his nickname of "The Captain".

Penske purchased the old Matsushita air conditioning plant in Mooresville, NC and reconditioned it to consolidate his racing empire. Now, all of Penske's racing operations are under one massive roof, with his IndyCar, NASCAR, and American Le Mans Series teams sharing over 424,000 square feet of space encompassing 105 acres. The shop includes all the necessary pieces to compete on the highest level in all of his racing endeavors, including a state-of-the-art, in-house wind tunnel. To complete the facilities, Penske imported over one million tons of Italian marble.

Penske, also an avid car collector, owns many rare American and European automobiles, including a Ferrari FXX, of which only 30 were made.

He also is one of the corporate directors at General Electric and was chairman of Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Michigan. He was previously on the board of The Home Depot and Delphi Automotive before resigning to chair the Detroit Super Bowl Committee. He has an estimated net worth of $1.1 billion.

He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1995 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2015 he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame at a Renaissance Center gala in the City of Detroit, Michigan.

Scott Brayton Born In Coldwater, Michigan - February 20, 1959

February 20, 1959 – May 17, 1996
Scott Brayton
Born in Coldwater, Michigan, USA.
He competed in 14 Indianapolis 500s, beginning with the 1981 event. Brayton was killed in practice after qualifying for the pole position for the 1996 race.

During the mid-1980s, Brayton helped introduce the Buick stock-block V-6 engine to Indianapolis. His father's firm, Brayton Engineering, was a major developer of the race engine. In 1985, he qualified 2nd and set the one-lap Indianapolis Motor Speedway track record in the process. He dropped out early and finished 30th when the engine expired. He would not finish the race again until 1989, when he scored his best finish at the Speedway, 6th place but seven laps down. He would equal this finishing position in 1993, driving a Lola-Cosworth for Dick Simon Racing.

When Buick pulled out of IndyCar racing in 1993, John Menard continued developing the engine, now badged as the Menard V-6. Brayton, now without a regular ride in the CART IndyCar series, joined the Indy-only Menards team in 1994. Their belief in the powerplant paid off when Brayton won his first Indy 500 pole position in 1995, at an average speed of 231.604 mph. Turbocharger boost and pop-off valve problems relegated him to a 17th place finish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobby Unser Born In Colorado Springs, Colorado - February 20, 1934

February 20, 1934
Bobby Unser
(Photo: Bobby Unser - Goodwood Festival of Speed 2011 via photopin (license))
Born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.
Unser was raised in Denver Colorado for his childhood. When he turned 21 he moved to Albuquerque New Mexico and joined the military in the 1950s. He is the brother of Al Unser, Jerry Unser and Louis Unser, the father of Robby Unser, and the uncle of Al Unser, Jr. and Johnny Unser. He is one of ten drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three or more times, and one of only two to have won the 500 in three different decades (1968, 75, 81). Bobby has also been a spokesman and advocate of many commercial products.

He won numerous racing championships throughout his career. He debuted in 1955 at Pike's Peak, dubbed "Unser's Peak" because of his family's history of success at the hill climb. He finished fifth that year, behind his two brothers. A year later he won his first of a record 13 championships at Pike's Peak. He won six straight titles from 1958 to 1963. His streak ended in 1964 when his younger brother Al won the race.
(Photo: Bobby Unser via photopin (license))
Bobby Unser, 1963 Pikes Peak winner

Unser raced in his first Indianapolis 500 in 1963. He crashed early and placed thirty-third. His first Indy-car win came in 1967 at Mosport, Ontario. A year later won his first Indianapolis 500, setting the record as the first driver to race over 170 miles per hour at Indianapolis. In 1969 Unser won his first USAC National Driving Championship.

In 1972, Unser set another Indianapolis 500 record for the fastest qualifying time at 195.94 miles per hour. In 1974, he won his second USAC National Driving Championship and a year later he won his second Indianapolis 500 and the 1975 IROC championship. In the late 1970s, Unser won several races in the CART series. In 1980 he became the first driver to win the California 500 four times.

Late in his racing career he joined Team Penske and won 3 races driving for Penske in 1980 and 1981, including the the controversial 1981 Indianapolis 500. Unser won the pole in the #3 Roger Penske-owned car and led the most laps. On lap 149, during a caution period, Bobby and Mario Andretti made their pit stop and headed back to the race. Bobby passed eight cars during the caution, while Mario passed two cars. Unser won the race, but was stripped of it the following morning in favor of second place finisher Mario Andretti. After a 5-month lawsuit and protest by Penske, Bobby Unser was re-awarded the win in October 1981. But the controversy and financial impact caused a bitter Unser to retire from racing at the end of the year. Unser once estimated that the commercial endorsements he lost because of the delayed result cost him $1 million.
(Photo: #3 1981 Penske PC-98 Indy Car via photopin (license))
1981 Penske PC-98 Indy Car
Unser became a television commentator for Indycar races after his retirement working for the ABC, ESPN and the NBC. He also broadcast several NASCAR events between 1986–1994 alongside Ned Jarrett and Bob Jenkins.

He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994, and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1997.

Cal Rayburn Born In San Diego, California - February 20, 1940

February 20, 1940 - December 29, 1973
Cal Rayburn 
(Photo; Robert Ballard wfotuning) 
Born in San Diego, California, USA.
Rayborn began riding motorcycles at an early age. He began his racing career in dirt track events in Southern California and in 1964, he began racing professionally in the A.M.A. Grand National Championship, a series which encompassed events in four distinctive dirt track disciplines plus road racing. Rayborn excelled at road racing, winning his first AMA national at Carlsbad, California in 1966.

His prowess on road courses earned him a place on the Harley Davidson factory racing team. It was with Harley Davidson that he achieved his greatest success, winning two consecutive Daytona 200 victories in 1968 and 1969. He also set two 1970 motorcycle land speed records. He accomplished a tremendous feat when he competed in the Trans-Atlantic Match Races in England in 1972. The Trans-Atlantic Match Races pitted the best British riders against the top American road racers. On an outdated motorcycle with no experience on British race tracks, Rayborn won three of the six races.

At the end of 1973, it was apparent that the Harley Davidson team couldn't provide him with a competitive motorcycle, so Rayborn accepted an offer to race for the Suzuki factory. In late 1973, Rayborn travelled to New Zealand to compete in an auto racing event and to test ride a Suzuki. At the Pukekohe Park Raceway outside of Auckland, Rayborn was killed when he crashed after the bike's engine had seized, and his body slammed into a wall close to the track.

Rayborn was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Cale Yarborough Wins His Fourth Daytona 500 - February 19, 1984

February 19, 1984
Cale Yarborough
(Photo: Cale Yarborough via photopin (license))
Yarborough won the Daytona 500 four times, his first win coming in 1968 for the Wood Brothers, the second in 1977 for Junior Johnson, and back-to-back wins in 1983 and 1984. In 1984, he became the first driver to qualify for the Daytona 500 with a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour. In the history of the 200-lap, 500-mile race, only one driver has topped Yarborough's record, Richard Petty, who took home seven victories.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

"NASCAR Great" Dale Earnhardt Dies In Last-lap Crash - February 18, 2001

Dale Earnhardt, considered one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history, dies at the age of 49 in a last-lap crash at the 43rd Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Earnhardt was driving his famous black No. 3 Chevrolet and vying for third place when he collided with the car driven by Sterling Marlin into the outside wall nose-first, into the path of Ken Schrader's car. Earnhardt's team, DEI drivers, Michael Waltrip won the race, with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in second place. Earnhardt, Sr. and Schrader slid off the track's asphalt banking toward the infield grass just inside of turn four. Earnhardt Sr. was taken to Halifax Medical Center after he was extricated from his car, and was pronounced dead at 5:16 p.m. Hours later, Mike Helton, president of NASCAR announced to the officials, drivers and fans that Earnhardt had died from the accident. An autopsy concluded that Earnhardt died instantly of blunt force trauma to the head. Earnhardt's funeral was held on February 22, 2001, at the Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

After Earnhardt's death, a police investigation and a NASCAR-sanctioned investigation commenced; nearly every detail of the crash was made public. The allegations of seatbelt failure resulted in Bill Simpson's resignation from the company bearing his name, which manufactured the seatbelts used in Earnhardt's car and nearly every other NASCAR driver's car.

The effect that Earnhardt's death had on motorsports and the media frenzy that followed were massive. Auto racing had not experienced a death of this magnitude since that of Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna in 1994. Senna was regarded as highly in Formula One as Earnhardt was in NASCAR. Earnhardt won the NASCAR Talladega race in 1994 on the day that Senna was killed, and in victory lane he expressed his sorrow for the Senna family.

NASCAR implemented rigorous safety improvements, such as making the HANS device mandatory. Earnhardt had refused to wear it because he found it restrictive and uncomfortable. Several press conferences were held in the days following Earnhardt's death. Some angry Earnhardt fans sent hate mail and death threats to Sterling Marlin and his relatives. In response, Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. absolved Marlin of any responsibility.

Yarborough, Allison Crash Hands Petty 500 Victory - February 18, 1979

February 18, 1979
Richard Petty
(Photo credit;
Wins the the 21st annual Daytona 500.
Critics consider the 1979 Daytona 500 to be the most important race in stock car history. The race was Richard Petty's sixth Daytona 500 win. A crash and subsequent fight between leaders Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, along with Donnie's brother Bobby, brought national publicity to NASCAR. Motorsports announcer and editor Dick Berggren said: "Nobody knew it then, but that was the race that got everything going. It was the first 'water cooler' race, the first time people had stood around water coolers on Monday and talked about seeing a race on TV the day before. It took a while – years, maybe – to realize how important it was."

The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first 500-mile race to be broadcast in its entirety live on national television in the United States. CBS signed a new contract with NASCAR to telecast the race. Ken Squier and David Hobbs were the booth announcers with Ned Jarrett and Brock Yates in the pits for that race. The day was fortunate for CBS as a major snowstorm known as the Presidents Day Snowstorm of 1979 bogged down most of the Northeast and parts of the Midwestern United States, increasing the viewership of the event. The race introduced two new innovative uses of TV cameras: The "in-car" camera and the low angle "speed shot", which are now considered standard in all telecasts of auto racing. Motor Racing Network was broadcasting the race on the radio, and their broadcasters included Barney Hall, Mike Joy and Dick Berggren.

Donnie Allison took the lead on lap 178 with Yarborough right on his tail. These two cars pulled away during the final laps and led the next closest competitors by half a lap. Donnie Allison took the white flag and was leading the race on the final lap with Yarborough drafting him tightly. As Yarborough attempted a slingshot pass on the backstretch, Allison attempted to block him. Yarborough refused to give ground and as he pulled alongside Allison, his left side tires left the pavement and went into the wet and muddy infield grass. Yarborough lost control of his car and contacted Allison's car halfway down the backstretch. As both drivers tried to regain control, their cars made contact three more times before locking together and crashing into the outside wall in turn three.The cars slid down the banking and came to rest in the infield. Richard Petty, who was over half a lap behind before the incident, went on to win. beating Darrell Waltrip by a car length.

After the wrecked cars of Donnie Allison and Yarborough settled in the infield grass, the two drivers began to argue. After they stopped arguing, Bobby Allison, who was one lap down at that point, stopped where the wreck was and a fight broke out. With the leaders wrecking near the end of the last lap, the television audience was shown seconds of Petty's win.

The story made the front page of The New York Times Sports section. NASCAR had arrived as a national sport, and began to expand from its Southeastern United States base and become a national sport, shedding its moonshine running roots along the way.

Reactions from Yarborough and the Allisons were, not surprisingly, different. Yarborough said "I was going to pass him and win the race, but he turned left and crashed me. So, hell, I crashed him back. If I wasn't going to get back around, he wasn't either." Allison said "The track was mine until he hit me in the back," he says. "He got me loose and sideways, so I came back to get what was mine. He wrecked me, I didn't wreck him."

The next morning both drivers faced an $80,000 fine for their actions. Notably Donnie and Cale complain to this day that they should not have been penalized.

(Photo credit;
(Photo credit;
Bobby Allison, left, and Cale Yarborough exchange pleasantries.

Jim McElreath Born In Arlington, Texas - February 18, 1928

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

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

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

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

Scott Kalitta Born In Mt. Clemens, Michigan - February 18, 1962

February 18, 1962 - June 21, 2008
Scott Kalitta
Born in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, USA.
He was the son of veteran NHRA driver and crew chief Connie Kalitta, and cousin of teammate Doug Kalitta. Scott competed in the Funny Car and Top Fuel classes in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. He had 17 career Top Fuel wins and 1 career Funny Car win, and at his death he was one of fourteen drivers to win in both divisions.

On June 21, 2008, Kalitta was fatally injured during the final round of qualifying for the Lucas Oil NHRA SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Kalitta's Funny Car was traveling at about 300 mph when the engine exploded in flames near the finish line. The parachutes were damaged and failed to slow the vehicle.
According to the New Jersey State Police official news release evidence discovered in Kalitta’s lane revealed that he had applied mechanical braking and maintained steering control of the vehicle throughout the 2235-foot-long “shutdown” portion of the racetrack. Post-crash examination of the vehicle further revealed the clutch system to be locked, maintaining engine power to the rear wheels. Witnesses and audio recordings reveal the vehicle’s engine was firing throughout the shutdown portion of the racetrack, which further reinforced the fact that the vehicle’s engine was still providing power for some period of time. Kalitta's vehicle reached the end of the paved race track and went through a sand trap at around 125 mph. The vehicle went over the concrete retaining wall. The vehicle continued forward and impacted a piece of heavy equipment, which was positioned outside the “run-off” area by the ESPN television crew.

This impact caused catastrophic damage to the vehicle and additional separation of chassis components and the vehicle’s engine. The largest portion of the race vehicle came to rest in a grassy area 250' south of the shutdown area. Scott Kalitta was contained in this portion of the race vehicle and had sustained fatal blunt force injuries. A review of information provided by Delphi, which was recorded by accelerometers, mounted to the Kalitta vehicle revealed multiple impacts producing over 100G, with some approaching or exceeding 200G. He was transported to the Old Bridge Division of Raritan Bay Medical Center and was pronounced dead on arrival.

He made his home in Snead Island, Florida, with wife, Kathy and two sons, Colin and Corey.
Connie Kalitta celebrates with his grandsons Colin and Corey

For more: "Remembering" Scott Kalitta

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Richard Petty Wins The "Daytona 500" - February 17, 1974

February 17, 1974

(Photo: Richard Petty- NASCAR Photography by Darryl Moran 93 via photopin)
Richard Petty wins the "Daytona 500" at Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA.

ABC Sports announced a week before the race that the event's second half would be televised live, opening with a recap of the event's opening laps. Keith Jackson handled play-by-play commentary with Jackie Stewart providing color commentary. Chris Economaki reported from pit road.

The race was run with restrictor plates and was the most competitive in Daytona history with 59 official lead changes among 15 leaders. Richard Petty and Donnie Allison combined to lead 29 times for 120 laps while other strong cars included Yarborough, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Coo Coo Marlin, and pole-sitter David Pearson.

The race car drivers still had to commute to the races using the same stock cars that competed in a typical weekend's race through a policy of homologation. This policy was in effect until roughly 1975. By 1980, NASCAR had completely stopped tracking the year model of all the vehicles and most teams did not take stock cars to the track under their own power anymore.

The race saw two dramatic changes in outcome in the final twenty laps. Petty cut a tire and had to pit under green with 19 to go, putting Donnie Allison into the lead, but with 11 to go in the trioval a backmarker's blown engine blew out both front tires on Allison's Chevy and Donnie spun out, then lost a lap limping to pit road and getting new tires. Petty's margin of victory was 47 seconds. Yarborough was second, followed by Ramo Stott, Marlin, Foyt, and Donnie Allison. Marlin might have finished second, but mistook the white flag for the checkered, since both were being displayed when they crossed the line to get the white flag, as Petty was right behind them. Marlin let off on the back straightaway, and lost second to Yarborough, while Stott, known at the time mostly for his USAC stock car prowess, followed to take third, while Marlin had to settle for fourth.

During the start of the 1974 NASCAR season, many races had their distance cut ten percent in response to the energy crisis of the year. As a result, the 1974 Daytona 500, was shortened to 180 laps (450 miles), as symbolically, the race "started" on Lap 21 and the race is often known as the Daytona 450. The Twin 125 qualifying races were also shortened to 45 laps (112.5 miles).

Bruce Jacobi In Comatose State Following Crash - February 17, 1983

June 23, 1935 - February 4, 1987
Bruce Jacobi
Born in Salem, Indiana, USA.
He grew up near the Salem Speedway and "got racing in his blood." He participated in both USAC and NASCAR competition. He had 37 USAC Champ Car starts between 1960 and 1970, with a best finish of fourth at Springfield in 1970. He qualified for the 1962 Indianapolis 500, but was "bumped" from the starting field by a faster qualifier. Jacobi also completed rookie refresher testing in preparation for the 1967 Indianapolis 500, but did not attempt to qualify.

He competed in twenty Winston Cup Series events in his career, spanning from 1975 to 1983. Most of those races came in 1975, when Jacobi finished 25th in points after his only three career top-tens. Those top-ten efforts were bested by an 8th at Talladega.

In 1987, Jacobi, 51, died of head injuries sustained in a NASCAR race crash at the Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 1983. Jacobi came to Speedweeks without a ride but picked one up with a smaller independent team by the time of the Twin 125 qualifiers. During the first qualifying race, he lost control of his No. 05 Pontiac at the exit of turn two and flipped upon entering the grass infield, eventually coming to a stop near the inside dirt bank. Jacobi suffered extensive head injuries from the crash and remained in a comatose state for almost four years before dying at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

One of Salem's "favorite sons," many of his racing memorabilia are kept at the Stevens Museum in Salem.