Friday, April 20, 2018

Phil Hill Born In Miami, Florida - April 20, 1927

April 20, 1927 – August 28, 2008
Phil Hill
(Photo; philhill.com)
Born in Miami, Florida, USA.
He is only American-born driver to win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship (Mario Andretti, an American driver, won the World Drivers' Championship in 1978, but was not born in the United States). He also scored three wins at each of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring sports car races.

Following his retirement, Hill built up an award winning classic car restoration business in the 1970s called Hill & Vaughn. Hill also worked as a television commentator for ABC's Wide World of Sports. Hill had a long and distinguished association with Road & Track magazine. He wrote several articles for them, including road tests and retrospective articles on historic cars and races. He shared his "grand old man" status at R&T with '60s racing rival Paul Frère, who also died in 2008.

Hill, in his last years, devoted his time to his vintage car collection and judged at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance more often than any other individual. 2007 was the 40th time he had judged the event.

Hill was married to Alma, and had three children: Derek, Vanessa and Jennifer. Derek raced in International Formula 3000 in 2001, 2002 and 2003, but was forced to retire when Hill became ill with Parkinson's Disease.

After traveling to the Monterey Historic Automobile Races in August 2008, Hill was taken to a hospital, where he died after a short illness from complications of Parkinson's Disease in Salinas, California on August 28.

Hill was described as a "thoughtful, gentle man" and once said, "I'm in the wrong business. I don't want to beat anybody, I don't want to be the big hero. I'm a peace-loving man, basically."

Danica Patrick wins the "Indy Japan 300" at Motegi, Japan - April 20, 2008

April 20, 2008
(photo credit: via photopin (license))
Danica Patrick, then 26 years old and competing in her 50th IndyCar Series race, won the "Indy Japan 300" at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan, making her the first female winner of a major United States sanctioned open-wheel race.

Gordon Smiley Born In Omaha, Nebraska - April 20, 1946

April 20, 1946 – May 15, 1982
Gordon Smiley
(photo credit: ©David Hutson)
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, USA.
Driving his first race at age 19, Smiley was an accomplished road racer. He raced SCCA Formula Ford, Formula Atlantic, Trans-Am, Can-Am, Formula 5000 and Formula Super Vee. In 1979, he raced in the British Formula One Series for the Surtees Team, and in 11 races he had eight top-10 finishes, including a win, which is the last by an American in an FIA sanctioned event, at Silverstone, England in 1979.

Smiley raced in the Indianapolis 500 twice, in 1980 and 1981, and was killed while trying to qualify for a third in 1982. In the 1980 Indianapolis 500, Smiley qualified Patrick Racing's Valvoline Phoenix/Cosworth in 20th position. His race ended when the turbocharger blew on lap 47, causing him to finish 25th. In the 1981 Indianapolis 500, Smiley qualified the Patrick Racing Intermedics Wildcat VIII/Cosworth, qualifying 8th and led 1 lap, but finishing 22nd after a crash on lap 141. His crash set up the controversial finish to the Indy 500 between teammate Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser.

In 1982, record speeds were being set during qualification for the 1982 Indianapolis 500. Both Kevin Cogan and Rick Mears set new single lap and 4-lap records in their attempts. Smiley went out for a qualifying attempt an hour later. On the second warm up lap his car began to oversteer while rounding the third turn, causing the car to slightly slide. When Smiley steered right to correct this, the front wheels gained grip suddenly, sending his car directly across the track and into the wall nose first at nearly 200 mph (320 km/h). The impact shattered and completely disintegrated the March chassis, causing the fuel tank to explode, and sent debris, including Smiley's exposed body, tumbling hundreds of feet across the short-chute connecting turns 3 and 4. The impact of Smiley's car against the wall was so violent and so extreme, and the destruction of the car was so finite and total, that the crash looked like that of an aircraft crash, the amount of pieces of debris strewn across the track was in the thousands. Smiley died instantly from massive trauma inflicted by the severe impact. His death was the first at Indy since 1973 when Art Pollard and Swede Savage were killed during that same weekend, and to date, the last driver to die during qualifying.

Smiley's funeral was held on May 20, 1982 and he was buried in his birth location in Nebraska. He was inducted into the Nebraska Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2000.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"2-Time Indy 500 Winner" Al Unser Jr Born - April 19, 1962

April 19, 1962
Al Unser Jr
(Photo; en.wikipedia.org)
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.
Nicknamed "Little Al", "Al Junior" or simply "Junior" he is a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. He is the son of Al Unser and the nephew of Bobby Unser, both Indianapolis 500 winners themselves. By the age of 11, Al Junior was racing sprint cars. After high school, he was already in the World of Outlaws series of sprint car racing. He soon moved into road racing, winning the Super Vee title in 1981 and the Can-Am title in 1982.

In 1982, Unser made his debut on the CART circuit. A year later, he competed in his first Indianapolis 500, finishing tenth. Unser continued racing on the CART circuit, becoming one of the series' rising stars. He finished second in the CART championship point standings in 1985, losing to his father by just one point. He began competing in the IROC championship in 1986, winning that championship with two victories in four races. At the age of 24, Unser was the youngest IROC champion ever. Unser won the 1988 and 1986 IROC championships. Unser won the 24 Hours of Daytona, also at age 24 for the first time in 1986 and again in 1987.

Unser Jr. continued to improve on the CART circuit, finishing fourth in the points standings in 1986, third in 1987, second in 1988 and finally winning the series for the first time in 1990. In 1989, Unser Jr. was on the verge of winning his first Indianapolis 500, but while battling with Emerson Fittipaldi for the lead, the two touched wheels and Unser spun out, hitting the wall and ending his chances. This race is remembered for a remarkable show of sportsmanship, as Little Al climbed out of his wrecked racecar and gave Fittipaldi the "thumbs up" as he drove by Unser Jr. under caution. Unser would have his day at Indy in 1992, however, defeating Scott Goodyear by 0.043 of a second, the closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history. During the off-season he drove in the 1993 Daytona 500 for Hendrick Motorsports finishing 36th in what would be his only NASCAR start. He ran well in the race, running with the lead pack all day, until a late race crash with Kyle Petty and Bobby Hillin Jr.

In 1994, Unser again won at Indy, this time with Penske Racing. His teammates were Emerson Fittipaldi, the man whom he battled with five years before, and Paul Tracy. Unser Jr. turned in a dominant season-long performance, winning eight of 16 races on his way to his second CART championship, as well as being named ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year that year.

 In 1995 Unser, along with teammate Emerson Fittipaldi, failed to qualify at Indianapolis, and he would later point to this as the trigger event for his descent into alcoholism and the breakup of his marriage. He would finish second to Jacques Villeneuve in CART championship points in 1995, but after finishing fourth in 1996, 13th in 1997, 11th in 1998 and 21st in 1999. Little Al's decline in performance coincided with the Penske team's struggles with the Penske chassis and his teammates suffered similar results during this time. Team Penske began abandoning the maligned in-house Penske chassis for customer Lola chassis during the 1999 season. Unser Jr. would eventually leave CART to join the budding Indy Racing League for the 2000 campaign. Unser Jr. won a total of 31 races during his 17 seasons in CART. His career win total including IRL stands at 34, which is currently the sixth-most all time in American open wheel racing, as of 2013. As a two-time Indy 500 and two-time overall points champion, Unser Jr. enjoyed a decorated career as one of the most dynamic and successful drivers in American auto racing.

On May 18, 2007, Unser spoke publicly for the first time about his battle with alcoholism when he joined forces with LIVE outside the Bottle, a national educational campaign to help the public understand the need for addressing and treating alcoholism.

During the race weekend of the 2009 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Little Al confirmed that his IndyCar career was in fact over. During the weekend, he returned to the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race that he won in 1985, and scored his second in the event and his eighth Long Beach victory overall. 

In 2010, Unser started the Race Clinic for Paralysis charity. Unser is on the board of Baltimore Racing Development and helped announce plans for the 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix on Monday, August 17, 2009. Unser was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2009.

On September 29, 2011, Unser was arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico on charges of reckless driving and aggravated driving while intoxicated. Charges stemmed from an incident where Unser reportedly drag raced his Chevrolet Suburban SUV at speeds of over 100 mph. He was placed on indefinite suspension from his role with IndyCar.

In 2013, Unser entered a sportscar race at Thunderhill Raceway Park, the legendary 25 Hours of Thunderhill, racing with his son Al III as teammates.

In 2014, once again at Long Beach, he came out of retirement to again participate in the Pro/Celebrity race, while finishing fifth, he was 6.115 seconds behind winner Brett Davern and four other celebrities, he was handicapped by a 30-second disadvantage assessed to professionals. As the top-finishing professional, it was his ninth Long Beach victory overall, extending the "King of the Beach" nickname. Later that year, Unser raced again at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, participating in the Indy Legends Charity Pro/Am race, during the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association's Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational event. This two-driver race included an Indianapolis 500 veteran in each car. Unser won the race, along with Peter Klutt, driving Klutt's 1969 Chevrolet Corvette. In so doing, Unser became the second driver to win on both the oval and road course at the Speedway.

In 2015, Unser participated in several Goodguys AutoCross competitions and also the Sports Car Club of America Solo National Championship, placing second in his class in the latter.

Legendary NASCAR Team Owner Robert Yates Born - April 19, 1943

April 19, 1943 - October 2, 2017
Robert Yates
(Photo;foxsports.com)
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.
 He was a NASCAR engine builder and former owner of the Sprint Cup Series team Yates Racing, owned since 2007 by his son Doug. The son of Rev. John Clyde Yates, he grew up as one of nine children in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has a twin brother, Richard. As a youth, he raced his own dragster in the late 1950s. In 1964, Yates graduated from Wilson Technical College in North Carolina, earning a degree in mechanical engineering.

He purchased the team from Harry Ranier in 1988, with driver Davey Allison. The team finished second in its first race, the 1988 Daytona 500, being edged by Allison's father and NASCAR legend Bobby Allison.
In 1991, Larry McReynolds joined the team as crew chief and led Allison to five victories. In 1992 the Yates Racing started the season with a bang with Allison winning the Daytona 500, joining his father Bobby a three time Daytona 500 winner. The win also put the Allisons in an exclusive club, joining Lee and Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr as the only father/son winners of the Daytona 500.

In 1992 Allison again had another dominant year winning five races again, despite a broken hand suffered at Pocono in June and a cracked rib. Allison also experienced a personal tragedy in August when his brother Clifford was killed in the Busch Series race at Michigan International Speedway. Going into the last race at Atlanta all Allison had to do was finish sixth or better to clinch the Winston Cup title, but a collision with Ernie Irvan on the 251st lap damaged Allison's car and knocked him from contention. Allison completed 34 more laps and was running at the finish. With Allison eliminated from title contention it was down to a two-man race between Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki, Elliott won the race, but Kulwicki led one more lap than Elliott to win the title by ten points. Allison would finish third in the final points standings.

In 1993 the team struggled, although Allison did win the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond in March. They then experienced tragedy as Allison was killed in a helicopter crash in July. Ernie Irvan, who was driving for Morgan-McClure Motorsports, wanted to replace his friend and after several weeks Yates was able to bring him aboard. With Irvan behind the wheel the team won at Martinsville in a car set up by Allison, the team also won at Charlotte in the Mello Yello 500 when Irvan led all but six of the race's 334 laps.

In 1994 the team got off to a fast start with Irvan finishing second to Sterling Marlin at the Daytona 500, two weeks later Irvan won at Richmond just like Allison did the year before, Irvan would follow that win up a week later by winning the Puralator 500 at Atlanta. In May 1994 the team won at Sonoma, California. In August Irvan came within ten laps of winning the Inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, before cutting a tire and handing the race to Jeff Gordon. Irvan was in contention for the Winston Cup title before he was critically injured in practice crash at Michigan a week later. Kenny Wallace finished out the year in the No. 28 Ford Thunderbird.

In 1995 with the team in need of a full-time replacement while Irvan was sidelined, Yates brought Dale Jarrett from Joe Gibbs Racing to drive the #28. Jarrett won at Pocono in July. In October Irvan returned to the track driving a second Yates car No. 88 in a race at North Wilkesboro, N.C. Irvan led six laps and finished sixth.

In 1996 Yates expanded to two full-time teams with Irvan back behind the wheel of the No. 28 Ford and Dale Jarrett driving the No. 88 car. The new team wasted no time showing its muscle with Jarrett, under the leadership of rookie crewchief Todd Parrott won the Busch Clash at Daytona and the Daytona 500. Irvan secured the outside pole for the Daytona 500 alongside Dale Earnhardt Sr. who was in his eighteenth attempt to win the Daytona 500. Irvan also won his Gatorade Twin 125 Qualifying Race. Jarrett also won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the Brickyard 400 and at Michigan in August and finished third in the final Winston Cup points standings behind Hendrick Motorsports teammates Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon.

Yates was given his first championship as a NASCAR owner in 1999 with Dale Jarrett. His engines had won championships with him as an engine builder before, notably 1983 with Bobby Allison and DiGard Motorsports, and also with Darrell Waltrip.

After that season the team began to slump a little. Eddie D'Hondt joined the team as Manager after leaving Evernham Motorsports and the team seemed to be heading in the right direction with the hiring of Mike Ford. Ford hired several key members including Russ Salerno, as his Pit Crew Coordinator.

Shortly after that RYR found itself with a team that was improving and becoming a contender again. Elliott Sadler joined Robert Yates Racing for the 2003 season and won two races for Yates in 2004. As of July 2007, Yates' last win was with Dale Jarrett at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2005. Yates retired as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Team Owner after 2007, giving Yates Racing to his son, Doug. In 2010 he came out of retirement to form a new company, Robert Yates Racing Engines, with his son-in-law Chris Davy as his partner.

On May 24, 2017, Yates was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2018.

Since November 2016, Yates has been undergoing treatment for liver cancer. Yates said he was told by a doctor in early August to gather his family and make plans for hospice because “you’re done in four weeks.” Four hours later, Yates’ future looked much better. Another doctor told Yates, who is battling liver cancer, that the terminal diagnosis was wrong. “I need both doctors, but I need a little cheerleading, too,’’ said the 74-year-old. On October 2, 2017, Yates died due to liver cancer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Remembering A Legend - "The Intimidator" Dale Earnhardt

April 29, 1951 – February 18, 2001
Dale Earnhardt
(Photo: twm1340 via photopin cc)
Born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, USA.
He was the son of Ralph Lee Earnhardt, who was then one of the best short-track drivers in North Carolina. Ralph won his one and only NASCAR Sportsman Championship in 1956 at Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, South Carolina. Although Ralph did not want his son to follow in his footsteps, Earnhardt would not be persuaded to give up his dream of racing, dropping out of school to race. Ralph was a hard teacher for Earnhardt, and after Ralph died of a heart attack at his home in 1973, it took many years before Earnhardt felt as though he had finally "proven" himself to his father. Dale is the father of former NASCAR driver Kerry Earnhardt and current NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt began his professional career at the Winston Cup in 1975, making his debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina in the longest race on the Cup circuit, the World 600. Earnhardt drove an Ed Negre Dodge Charger (#8) and finished 22nd in the race, one place ahead of his future car owner, Richard Childress. Earnhardt competed in 8 more races until 1979.


In 1979 he joined car owner Rod Osterlund Racing, in a season that included a rookie class of future stars including Earnhardt, Harry Gant and Terry Labonte. In his rookie season, Earnhardt won one race at Bristol, captured four poles, had 11 Top 5 finishes, 17 Top 10 finishes, and finished 7th in the points standings, in spite of missing four races because of a broken collarbone, winning Rookie of the Year honors.
(Photo: Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway via photopin cc)
In his sophomore season, Earnhardt, now with 20-year old Doug Richert as his crew chief, began the season winning the Busch Clash. With wins at Atlanta, Bristol, Nashville, Martinsville, and Charlotte, Earnhardt won his first Winston Cup championship. To this day, Earnhardt is the first and only driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history to follow a Rookie of the Year title with a NASCAR Winston Cup Championship the next season. He was the third driver in NASCAR history to win both the Rookie of the Year and Cup Series championship in his career, joining David Pearson and Richard Petty. Only 5 drivers have joined this exclusive club since – Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Matt Kenseth.

Considered one of the best NASCAR drivers of all time, Earnhardt won a total of 76 races over the course of his career, including one Daytona 500 victory in 1998. He earned 7 NASCAR Winston Cup Championships, which is tied for the most all time with Richard Petty. His aggressive driving style earned him the nickname "The Intimidator".

At the 2001 Daytona 500 on February 18, 2001, Earnhardt started in 7th place. He was involved in an accident during the final lap, in which Earnhardt's car was turned from behind after contacting 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. He was 49 years old. 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.

Richard Childress made a public pledge that the number 3 would never again adorn the side of a black car sponsored by GM Goodwrench. Childress, who currently holds the rights from NASCAR to the No. 3, placed a moratorium on using it, the number returned for the 2014 season, driven by Childress's grandson Austin Dillon.

Immediately after Earnhardt's death, his team was re-christened as the No. 29 team, with the same sponsor but with a new look for the following races at Rockingham and Las Vegas. For Atlanta, a new GM Goodwrench scheme was introduced, with angled red stripes and a thin blue pinstripe, resembling the Childress AC Delco Chevrolets driven in the Busch Series.

Childress' second-year Busch Series driver Kevin Harvick was named as Earnhardt's replacement driver, beginning with the race following Earnhardt's death held at the North Carolina Speedway. Special pennants bearing the No. 3 were distributed to everyone at the track to honor Earnhardt, and the Childress team wore blank uniforms out of respect, something which disappeared quickly and was soon replaced by the previous GM Goodwrench Service Plus uniforms. Harvick's car always displayed the Earnhardt stylized number 3 on the "B" posts above the number 29, until the end of 2013, when Harvick departed for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Fans began honoring Earnhardt by holding three fingers aloft on the third lap of every race, a black screen of number 3 in the beginning of NASCAR Thunder 2002 before the EA Sports logo, and the television coverage of NASCAR on Fox and NASCAR on NBC went silent for each third lap from Rockingham to the following year's race there in honor of Earnhardt. On-track incidents brought out the caution flag on the third lap. Three weeks after Earnhardt's death, Harvick scored his first career Cup win at Atlanta driving a car that had been prepared for Earnhardt. In the final lap of the 2001 Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500, Harvick beat Jeff Gordon by .006 seconds, the same margin that Earnhardt had won over Bobby Labonte at the same race a year prior, and the images of Earnhardt's longtime gas man, Danny "Chocolate" Myers, crying after the victory, Harvick's tire-smoking burnout on the frontstretch with three fingers held aloft outside the driver's window, and the Fox television call by Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds, and Darrell Waltrip, concluding with "Just like a year ago but he is gonna get him though...Gordon got loose... it's Harvick! Harvick by inches!" are memorable to many NASCAR fans. The win was also considered cathartic for a sport whose epicenter had been ripped away. Harvick would win another race at Chicagoland en route to a ninth place finish in the final points, and won Rookie of the Year honors.

Earnhardt's team, DEI, won five races in the regular 2001 season, with Steve Park winning the Rockingham race one week after Earnhardt's death. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Michael Waltrip finished 1-2 in the series' return to Daytona that July in the Pepsi 400, the reverse of their Daytona 500 finish. Earnhardt, Jr. also won the fall races at Dover and Talladega en route to an eighth place points finish.

Earnhardt was buried on his farm in Mooresville, North Carolina.

(Photo: "Fast" Eddie Maloney via photopin cc)
Kannapolis, NC : Dale Earnhardt Memorial

"Earnhardt Tower", a seating section at Daytona International Speedway, was opened and named in his honor.
(Photo: Matthew Trudeau Photography via photopin cc)
Earnhardt statue at Daytona USA

Earnhardt has several roads named after him, including a street in his hometown of Kannapolis named after him.
(Photo: Jym Ferrier via photopin cc)
Dale Earnhardt Boulevard is marked as Exit 60 off Interstate 85, northeast of Charlotte. Dale Earnhardt Drive is also the start of The Dale Journey Trail, a self-guided driving tour of landmarks in the lives of Dale and his family. A road between Kannapolis and Mooresville, near the headquarters of DEI, formerly NC 136, had its designation switched by the North Carolina Department of Transportation with State Highway 3 which was in Currituck County. In addition, Exit 73 off Interstate 35W, one of the entrances to Texas Motor Speedway, is named "Dale Earnhardt Way".

In 2000, shortly before his death, Earnhardt became a part-owner of the minor league baseball team in Kannapolis, and the team was renamed the Kannapolis Intimidators shortly thereafter. After his death, the team retired the jersey number 3 in Earnhardt's honor, and a "3" flag flies beyond the left field wall during every game.

Between the 2004 and 2005 JGTC season, Hasemi Sport competed in the series with a sole black G'Zox sponsored Nissan 350Z with the same number and letterset as Earnhardt on the roof.

During the April 29, 2006 – May 1, 2006 NASCAR weekend races at Talladega Superspeedway, the Dale Earnhardt Inc cars competed in identical special black paint schemes on Dale Earnhardt Day, held annually on his birthday, April 29. Martin Truex Jr won the Aaron's 312 in the black car, painted to reflect Earnhardt's Intimidating Black No. 3 NASCAR Busch Grand National series car. In the Nextel Cup race on May 1, No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 1 Martin Truex Jr., and No. 15 Paul Menard competed in cars with the same type of paint scheme.

On June 18, 2006 at Michigan for the 3M Performance 400 Dale Earnhardt Jr ran a special vintage Budweiser car to honor his father and his grandfather Ralph Earnhardt. He finished 3rd after rain caused the race to be cut short. 
The car was painted to resemble Ralph's 1956 dirt cars, and carried 1956-era Budweiser logos to complete the throwback look.

In the summer of 2007, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. with the Dale Earnhardt Foundation, announced it will fund an annual undergraduate scholarship at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina for students interested in motorsports and automotive engineering. Scholarship winners are also eligible to work at DEI in internships. The first winner was William Bostic, a senior at Clemson majoring in mechanical engineering.

In 2008, on the 50th anniversary of the first Daytona 500 race, DEI and RCR teamed up to make a special COT sporting Earnhardt's 1998 Daytona 500 paint scheme to honor the tenth anniversary of his Daytona 500 victory. In a tribute to all previous Daytona 500 winners, the winning drivers appeared in a lineup on stage, in chronological order. The throwback No. 3 car stood in the infield, in the approximate position Earnhardt would have taken in the processional. The throwback car featured the authentic 1998-era design on a current-era car, a concept similar to modern throwback jerseys in other sports. The car was later sold in 1:64 and 1:24 scale models.

The Intimidator 305 roller coaster has been open since April 2010 at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia. Named after Earnhardt, the ride's trains are modeled after Dale Earnhardt's black-and-red Chevrolet. Another Intimidator was built at Carowinds, in Charlotte, NC.

Atlanta Braves assistant coach Ned Yost was a friend of Earnhardt, and Richard Childress. When Yost was named Milwaukee Brewers manager, he changed jersey numbers, from No. 5 to No. 3 in Earnhardt's honor. When Yost was named Kansas City Royals assistant coach, he wore No. 2 for the 2010 season, even when he was named manager in May 2010, but for the 2011 season, he switched back to #3.

During the third lap of the 2011 Daytona 500, a decade since Earnhardt's death, the commentators on FOX fell silent while fans each raised three fingers in a similar fashion to the tributes throughout 2001.

The north entrance to New Avondale City Center in Arizona will bear the name Dale Earnhardt Drive. Avondale is where Earnhardt won a Cup race in 1990.

His helmet from the 1998 season is at the National Museum of American History in the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C.

Achievements;
1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994 Winston Cup Series Champion
1990, 1995, 1999, 2000 IROC Champion
1998 Daytona 500 Winner
1995 Brickyard 400 Winner
1987, 1989, 1990 Southern 500 Winner
1986, 1992, 1993 Coca-Cola 600 Winner
1990, 1994, 1999, 2000 Winston 500 Winner
The Winston Winner 1987, 1990, 1993
Led Winston Cup Series in wins in 1987, 1990
Led Winston Cup Series in poles in 1990
Led Busch Series in wins in 1986

Awards;
1979 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year
2001 Winston Cup Series Most Popular Driver
Named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998
2002 Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee
2006 International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee
2010 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee
(Photo: i heart him via photopin cc)

"1970 Formula One World Champ" Jochen Rindt Born - April 18, 1942

 April 18, 1942 - September 5, 1970
Jochen Rindt
Born in Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.
Rindt is the only driver to posthumously win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship, after being killed. He competed in 62 Grands Prix, winning six and achieving 13 podium finishes. Away from Formula One, Rindt was highly successful in other single-seater formula, as well as sports car racing. In 1965 he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, driving a Ferrari 250LM in partnership with Masten Gregory from the United States of America. He was a close friend to Jackie Stewart, and was a neighbor to the Scotsman in Switzerland.

For more;Tribute To Jochen Rindt

Geoff Bodine Born In Chemung, New York - April 18, 1949

April 18, 1949
Geoff Bodine
Born in Chemung, New York, USA.
He is the oldest of the three Bodine brothers, with Brett Bodine and Todd Bodine. Bodine's racing career seemed to be on track right from the start as his father and grandfather, Eli Bodine Jr. and Sr. built Chemung Speedrome just a year after he was born. He began learning his racing skills at this track in the micro-midget division when he was only five years old. He had such an itch to race that he disguised himself as a lady and entered a Powderpuff Division Race when he was 15.

Bodine was quite an accomplished driver before he hit the big-time in NASCAR's premier division, the Winston Cup series with his first start in 1979. By this time, Bodine was well known as a Modified driver in the Northeast, racing against popular drivers like Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Jimmy Spencer, Ron Bouchard, and others. Bodine earned Modified championships at Stafford Speedway, Shangri-La Speedway, Spencer/Williamson Speedway, and Utica-Rome Speedway. He has won many of the big races in Modifieds including the Lancaster 200 (1978, 1981), Race of Champions (1972 - Trenton, 1978 - Pocono), the Stafford 200 (1978), the Trenton Dogleg 200 (1979), the Thompson 300, the Spring Sizzler (1980 - Stafford Speedway), Oswego Classic (1981), Cardinal Classic (1975 - Martinsville Speedway), Oxford 250 (1980, 1981), and other modified events.

In 1978, Bodine won more races than any other Modified driver in recorded history. Driving cars owned by Dick Armstrong with Billy Taylor and Ralph Hop Harrington as crew chief, Bodine started 84 feature events and won 55 of them. Among the most prestigious of these victories were the Race of Champions at Pocono, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford, the Budweiser 200 at Oswego, both major events at Martinsville, the Thompson 300, and a sweep of the six-race Yankee All-Star League series. For these fifty-five victories, Bodine is credited in the Guinness Book of World Records with "Most wins in one season".

Bodine's racing background also included wins in the Late Model division, Nationwide Series division, and others. He has six Busch Grand National wins to his credit.

 In October 2012, Bodine announced through TheRacingExperts.Com that he was retiring from NASCAR after 27 seasons. He finished with a total of 575 Cup series races run over 27 years, with 18 wins, 190 top ten finishes and 37 pole positions.

Achievements & Awards; 1986 Daytona 500 Winner, 1987 IROC Champion, 1994 The Winston Winner, 1992 Busch Clash Winner, 1982 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year, Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, Named one of NASCAR's Modified all-time Top 10 Drivers and listed in the Guinness World Records for "Most wins in one season".

Bodine said he was retiring to spend time with his family and do charitable deeds. In June 2012 he opened a Honda Power Sports dealership in West Melbourne, Florida, where he currently resides.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Riccardo Patrese Born In Padua, Veneto, Italy - April 17, 1954

April 17, 1954
Riccardo Patrese
Born in Padua, Veneto, Italy.
He became the first Formula One driver to achieve 200 Grand Prix starts when he appeared at the 1990 British Grand Prix, and the first to achieve 250 starts at the 1993 German Grand Prix. Patrese entered 257 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix and started 256 races making him the seventh most experienced F1 driver in history, after Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa. He was runner-up in the 1992 Formula One season and third in 1989 and 1991. He won six Formula One races, with a record gap of over six years between two of these, the 1983 South African Grand Prix and 1990 San Marino Grand Prix.

Patrese also competed at the World Sportscar Championship for the Lancia factory team, finishing runnerup in 1982 and collecting eight wins.

Arnie Beswick "First NHRA Funny Car Under 10 Seconds" - April 17, 1965

April 17, 1965

www.risesales.com
Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick becomes the first NHRA Funny Car driver to run the quarter-mile in under 10 seconds, with a time of 9.97 seconds during a meet in York, Pennsylvania, USA.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Frank Williams Born In South Shields, England - April 16, 1942

April 16, 1942
Frank Williams
(Photo; f1.wikia.com)
Born in South Shields, County Durham, England.
He is the founder and team principal of the Williams Formula One racing team. In the late 1950s a friend gave Williams a ride in his Jaguar XK150 and young Frank was immediately hooked on fast cars.

After a brief career as a driver and mechanic, funded by his work as a travelling grocery salesman, Williams founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966. He ran drivers including Piers Courage and Tony Trimmer for several years in Formula Two and Formula Three. Williams purchased a Brabham Formula One chassis, which Courage drove throughout the 1969 Formula One season, twice finishing in second place.

In 1970 Williams undertook a brief partnership with Alejandro de Tomaso. After the death of Courage at the Dutch Grand Prix that year, Williams's relationship with de Tomaso ended. In 1971 he raced Henri Pescarolo with a chassis he had purchased from March Engineering. 1972 saw the first F1 car built by the Williams works, the Politoys FX3 designed by Len Bailey, but Pescarolo crashed and destroyed it at its first race.

In 1976, Williams short on cash took on a partner in oil magnate Walter Wolf. Though the team continued functioning, it no longer belonged to Frank Williams and he left in 1977 along with one of his old employees, engineer Patrick Head. The two acquired an empty carpet warehouse in Didcot, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom and announced the formation of Williams Grand Prix Engineering. This same team and partnership still competes in Formula One and is known as Williams F1.

The team's first win came in 1979 when Clay Regazzoni drove the Cosworth powered Williams FW07 to victory at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Their first Drivers' and Constructors' championships both came in 1980 with Australian Alan Jones winning the drivers' championship and the team winning the constructors title by 54 points. Between 1981 and 1997, the team won six more drivers' championships and eight more constructors' championships.

A car accident on March 6, 1986, in France resulted in Williams sustaining a spinal cord injury and becoming tetraplegic. While driving a Ford Sierra rental car from the Paul Ricard Circuit to Nice airport, Williams lost control of the car which then rolled over causing him to be pressed between his seat and the roof resulting in a spinal fracture between the 4th and 5th vertebra. He had not been wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident. Williams' passenger and the team sponsorship manager Peter Windsor sustained only minor injuries. Since the accident, Williams has used a wheelchair.

In May 1994, following the death of Ayrton Senna in a Williams at Imola, he was charged with manslaughter in accordance with Italian law, but was cleared after several years. Since Senna's death, all his F1 cars have carried a little tribute to Senna featuring the Senna "S" logo. The Williams FW33, FW34, FW35, and FW36 all have this on their front wing supports.

On March 2, 2012, Williams announced he would be stepping down from the board of Williams F1 and will be replaced by his daughter Claire, although he would still remain with the team in the role of Team Principal.

Honours received over the years include; In 1987, the Queen awarded Williams the title of CBE. He was knighted in 1999. He has been made a Chevalier of France's Legion d'honneur, this honour accorded for his work with Renault engines. In 2008, Williams was awarded the Wheatcroft trophy. On December 19, 2010, he was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for "outstanding achievement in the face of adversity" at the BBC Sports Personality of The Year Awards. On October 15, 2012, the main road through the new Great Western Park development in Didcot was named "Sir Frank Williams Avenue" with Williams unveiling its name plate.

In 1974, Frank Williams married Virginia Berry. They had two sons, Jonathan and Jaime and a daughter, Claire. Virginia was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and died on March 7, 2013, at the age of 66.

Virginia Williams wrote an autobigraphical book, A Different Kind of Life. It that describes her experiences in the formula one team's formative years as well as her husband's near-fatal accident in 1986.

Bob Flock Born In Fort Payne, Alabama - April 16, 1918

April 16, 1918 - May 16, 1964
Bob Flock
Born in Fort Payne, Alabama, USA.
He was a well established driver before NASCAR was formed, and along with Red Byron, is considered one of the two best drivers from that era.

He took over NASCAR founder Bill France's ride in 1946. He won both events at the Daytona Beach Road Course in 1947. Flock was known for his daring driving style. For example, during a race on June 15, 1947, Flock overturned his car in an accident. Instead of accepting a DNF, he solicited help from spectators, who turned the car back on its wheels, and he finished the race.

He sat on the pole for NASCAR's first race at Charlotte Speedway on June 19, 1949. He had two wins that season, and finished third in the points behind Lee Petty and champion Red Byron.

He won two 100 lap ARCA races at Lakewood Speedway in 1954. He had over 200 modified wins in his career.

He was the brother of NASCAR pioneers Tim Flock and Fonty Flock, and the second female NASCAR driver Ethel Mobley. The four raced at the July 10, 1949 race 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. Ethel beat Fonty and Bob by finishing in eleventh.

The Flock family had an illegal moonshine business. The federal agents discovered that Flock would be running a race in Atlanta, and they staked out the place to make an arrest. A gate opened as the race was beginning, and he drove on the track to take the green flag. The police vehicles quickly appeared on the track. They chased Flock for a lap or two before he drove through the fence. The police followed him until he ran out of gas later. Reminiscing years later, Flock said, "I would have won that race if the cops had stayed out of it"

Flock retired from driving when he broke his back in an on track accident. He became a track promoter in Atlanta. He hired three women, Sara Christian, Mildred Williams, and his sister Ethel Mobley to race at his new track.

Bob Flock died on May 16, 1964. He was inducted in the Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame in 2003 and was a member of the National Motorsports Hall of Fame Association.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"Remembering" Darrell Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Formula Car Designer" Harvey Postlethwaite Dies - April 15, 1999

March 4, 1944 - April 15, 1999
Harvey Postlethwaite
(Photo; en.wikipedia.org)
Born in Barnet, England.
Postlethwaite was an engineer and Technical Director of several Formula One teams during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He died of a heart attack in Barcelona, Spain while supervising the testing of the abortive Honda F1 project. He was only 55 years of age.

Postlethwaite attended Birmingham University, England to study Mechanical Engineering and graduated, with a doctorate, during the 1960s. He was a keen follower of motor sport, competing in a Mallock at club level for a while. After graduation Postlethwaite joined ICI as a research scientist, but bored by this he soon began to pursue a career as a race car engineer, joining March in 1970, then aged just 26. Postlethwaite worked on the fledgling company's Formula 2 and Formula 3 cars but was lured away to join the Hesketh Formula One team who were a March customer.

Working to modify and improve the novice team's March 731 chassis, Postlethwaite elevated the team into serious contention and the following year designed the team's car from scratch. 'Doc' Postlethwaite's 1974 Hesketh 308 secured a number of podium positions. The following year he further developed the car's unusual rubber spring suspension and saw his creation take victory at the Dutch Grand Prix in the hands of James Hunt.

By 1976 Lord Hesketh could no longer afford to run the team and sold out. Postlethwaite went with his cars to the newly founded Wolf-Williams team, headed by Walter Wolf and Frank Williams, but the results were poor and the owners soon went their separate ways. Postlethwaite remained with Wolf, designing the team's 1977 challenger, the WR1. Success was immediate with Jody Scheckter taking victory at the season's opening race. Two more wins and a number of podium results followed and Scheckter eventually finished second in the drivers' championship.

Although Postlethwaite remained with the team until 1979 they were never to repeat their 1977 success. When Walter Wolf closed the team down at the end of 1979 he transferred, along with the Wolf cars and driver Keke Rosberg to the Fittipaldi Automotive team. He produced a new design, the F8, for the latter half of 1980 but left to join Ferrari in early 1981. At the time the Italian team were considered amongst the best engine builders in the sport, but amongst the worst chassis designers. Postlethwaite was selected personally by Enzo Ferrari to rectify this problem and by the following year everything was in place for success.

The 1982 126C2 Ferrari took the constructors' title despite several serious setbacks, including the practice crash at Zolder which claimed the life of Gilles Villeneuve. Despite the loss of their inspirational Canadian driver, Postlethwaite's updated design, the 126C2B, took the constructors' title again in 1983.

Postlethwaite remained with Ferrari until 1987. After 1983 his cars took several more wins, but were unable to compete with McLaren and Williams for title victory. He was eventually replaced by John Barnard and moved to Tyrrell, where he worked for four years. During his tenure as technical director Tyrrell's results improved noticeably, culminating in the 1990 season opener in Phoenix, where Jean Alesi was able to challenge Ayrton Senna's McLaren for victory and finished second in a Tyrrell 018. Alesi repeated the feat in the Postlethwaite's novel 019 – the first of the 'high nose' Formula One cars – at Monaco. At the car's launch Postlethwaite proved the structural integrity of its unusual front 'gull wing' by standing on it. While at Tyrrell Postlethwaite employed Mike Gascoyne, who became his assistant and protégé.

In 1991, Postlethwaite was signed as technical director of the Sauber team who planned to enter Formula One in 1993. Taking Gascoyne with him, Postlethwaite relocated to Switzerland and designed the team's first car. Despite leaving Sauber before the start of 1993, the designer's car went on to considerable success in the hands of JJ Lehto and Karl Wendlinger regularly scoring points.

Postlethwaite moved back to Tyrrell in 1994 where he remained until 1998 when the team was sold to become British American Racing. Although by the late 1980s and 1990s Tyrrell was a small, and largely uncompetitive team, the designer remained well respected within the sport and was hired as technical director of the abortive in-house Honda F1 project in 1999. Although Honda had not committed to race in Formula One the project produced an evaluation car, designed by Postlethwaite and built by Dallara, and it was during testing of this car at Barcelona in Spain that he suffered a fatal heart attack. The project was subsequently discontinued, although Honda began supplying engines again from the 2000 season onwards, eventually taking over the BAR team for 2006.

Race-car Driver & Engineer Dies In Sinking Titanic - April 15, 1912

March 25, 1881 - April 15, 1912
Washington Augustus Roebling II
(Photo; www.nj.com)
Born in Trenton, New Jersey, USA.
Roebling was 31, dynamic, handsome, and the general manager of Mercer Automobile Co. He eventually developed a race car, known as the Roebling-Planche, which he drove to a second place finish in the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Race in Savannah, Georgia. In 1912, Roebling, along with his chauffeur, his Fiat car and a friend, sailed to Europe, where they traveled to several countries to promote a new racing sports car, the Mercer Raceabout. For the return trip home to America, Roebling booked a first-class cabin on the Titanic, then the world’s largest and most luxurious ocean liner, measuring 882 feet in length and tipping the scales at over 46,000 tons.

Roebling boarded the ship at Southampton, England, on April 12, 1912, for its maiden voyage. Two days later, at approximately 11:40 p.m., the Titanic struck an iceberg in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, about 400 miles from Newfoundland. Two hours and 40 minutes after hitting the iceberg, the mangled luxury liner, which had been dubbed “unsinkable” by the press, lay broken in pieces at the bottom of the sea, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers and crew members. The Titanic carried 20 boats capable of holding 1,178 people, which exceeded regulations at the time but was hardly sufficient for the 2,228 individuals onboard.

After the collision, Roebling reportedly assisted numerous passengers to the lifeboats, but perished on board the sinking ship.
(Photo; www.encyclopedia-titanica.org)
Washington A. Roebling, II, at the wheel of the specially built Roebling Planche racer.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Remembering "Sprint Car Legend" Kramer Williamson

June 26, 1950 - August 4, 2013
Kramer Williamson
(Photo;alchetron.com)
Born in Columbus, Ohio, USA.
A native of Palmyra, Pennsylvania, he was a feature winner in World of Outlaws and United Racing Company competition. He shared the rookie of the year title at Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1971. He was a champion in the United Racing Company sprint car series in 1991, 1992 and 1995.
(Photo;jalopnik.com)
Williamson, known for driving a bright pink car, was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2008.

On August 3, 2013, Williamson's car collided with another car and rolled over on the fourth lap of a 10-lap qualifying round at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Pennsylvania. He was airlifted to York Hospital in York, Pennsylvania, where he died on August 4. He kept his age a secret, but had been racing for over forty years at the time of his death.
 (Photo:PennLive.com)

"Remembering" Eric Medlen

August 13, 1973 - March 23, 2007
Eric Medlen
(Photo;nhra.com)
Born in Oakdale, California, USA
Medlen was a champion calf roper in high school and considered a career as a professional team roper with his partner and mentor, World Champion Team Roper Jerold Camarillo. He also loved to build custom motorcycles and paint his race helmets. He worked as a mechanic for John Force and past teammate Tony Pedregon for 8 years until Pedregon left to join his brother Cruz's race team. Medlen was moved into Pedregon's Castrol Syntec-sponsored car. His father John Medlen was his crew chief.

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. He also was a top contender for the NHRA Road to the Future Funny Car Rookie of the Year. Each year he raced, he placed in the top five or higher in NHRA Championship Points.

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.

According to auto racing safety expert John Medlen, Medlen was literally shaken to death in the incident. The deflating tire caused an 18-inch movement up and down, which then exerted a force of 40,000 or more pounds as it rotated.

He was the first NHRA fatality since 2004, when Top Fuel racer Darrell Russell lost his life in a race, and the first Funny Car driver to lose his life in 30 years. John Force Racing immediately began an investigation into Medlen's death, leading to the project to build a safer car called the Eric Medlen Project, with the new chassis often called an Eric Medlen chassis.

One major legacy that was left behind by Medlen happened after his death, the NHRA enacted a new safety requirement within the Funny Car division, that states that the roll bars within the car now have to be padded. The roll bars are padded with a heavy foam rubber insulation and wrapped with seven layers of Nomex fabric to make the foam rubber more resistant to fire. This has dramatically reduced the kinds of injuries among drivers that Medlen suffered which ultimately resulted in his death.

Sonoma Raceway holds the Eric Medlen Ice Cream Social with fans and competitors being able to have ice cream after the final round of qualifying during the track's NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series race. Medlen mentioned that a person can never be unhappy when eating ice cream. The benefit helps local racers in the San Francisco Bay area who race at Sonoma toward a scholarship fund.

Jeff Andretti Born In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania - April 14, 1964

April 14, 1964
Jeff Andretti
  (Photo; www.winners-circle.de)
Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA.
 Jeff is the youngest son of the legendary Italian-born Mario Andretti, younger brother of Michael Andretti, and uncle of Marco Andretti. Jeff is the nephew of Mario's twin Aldo Andretti and cousin of Aldo's sons John Andretti and Adam Andretti. The Andretti family became the first family to have four relatives, Michael, Mario, Jeff, and John compete in the same series, CART.

In 1983, Jeff was racing in Formula Fords, winning both the USCA Pro Ford Championship and the Skip Barber Formula Ford Eastern Series. After qualifying for his Sports Car Club of America national license in 1984, he won the Northeast Division title in Formula Ford. In the November, he made his Formula Super Vee debut at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas.

He continued in Formula Super Vee the following season, with the Ralt America outfit, winning the third race of the season, on the Milwaukee Mile. In the CART race at the same event, Mario did the same, marking the first time a father and son had started from pole and won races on the same track, in the same weekend. Jeff would also win in Cleveland and Phoenix, on his way the fifth in the Robert Bosch/Valvoline Championship.

1986 saw Jeff move into the new American Racing Series with Ralph Sanchez Racing. Like his Milwaukee win the previous year, his only race win was a “family affair”. He earned his first ARS victory at Pocono, as his father wins the CART race at the same meeting, after his brother, Michael had started from pole, giving the Andretti family a “clean sweep.” Jeff would go on and finish second the overall ARS standing. For 1987, Jeff switched to Arciero Racing for another attempt at ARS, winning the opening race of the season, in Phoenix. He would revisit the top step of the podium in the series finale, in the race around Tamiami Park, Miami, snatching second place in the championship away from Tommy Byrne in the process.

After in quiet 1988, Jeff took a new challenge for 1989, completing in the Toyota Atlantic, while developing a new chassis. Although the season was winless, he did earned Rookie of the Year honours, on his to sixth in the Atlantic Division.

He moved into the CART ranks in 1990, joining his father and brother, making racing history, making it the first time a father has completed against his two sons in a CART race. After failing to qualifier for the Indianapolis 500, he make his race debut with TEAMKAR International in their Lola-Cosworth T89/00 in the Miller Genuine Draft 200 on the Milwaukee Mile, only to suffer mechanical problems and not finish. He sat out the rest of the season, returning in 1991, doing a full season with Bayside Disposal Racing, driving their Texaco Havoline Star sponsored Lola-Cosworth T91/00. With four top ten finishes throughout the season, three of which were the first three races, the best being a 7th place in the Gold Coast IndyCar Grand Prix, the race incidentally won by his cousin, John, earning the CART Rookie of the Year title.

In the May of 1991, Jeff would qualify 11th for the Indianapolis 500, coupled with an outstanding performance before mechanical problems earned him the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year title. He followed his Mario and Michael in making it the first time ever, that three members of the same family have achieved this.

Earlier that year, Jeff joined Mario and Michael to race for Jochen Dauer Racing in the SunBank 24 at Daytona. Although their Porsche 962C was classified in fifth place, they failed to finish due to overheating.

Without for full time drive for 1992, Jeff returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with A. J. Foyt Enterprises. Unfortunately, he became yet another victim of the infamous Andretti Curse at the famed race track when on lap 109, a right rear wheel came loose off his car at Turn 2 and he crashed violently head-on into the wall, smashing both his legs. He spend three weeks at the Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, before the long road to recovery, determined to race again in 1993.

It was February 1993, when Jeff set the then unofficial closed-course speed record for IndyCars of 234.50 mph, the fastest speed ever recorded at Texas World Speedway, while testing for the Indianapolis 500. This marked his first time back in an IndyCar since the accident the previous year. Andretti's fast run came at the conclusion of two days of testing where he consistently posted laps in the 230 mph range. Andretti's Buick-powered Lola was prepared by Pagan Racing. It was at the Indy, that Jeff made his complete his comeback, only to record a third straight DNF.

The accident severely hampered Andretti's career, at least in terms of his competitiveness, since he was never the same afterwards. In 1994, Jeff did a one-off race with Euromotorsports, finishing 17th in the Slick 50 200, held at the Phoenix International Raceway, albeit 21 laps adrift. Come May, Jeff had switched to Hemelgarn Racing, but he’s bid for a fourth consecutive start failed due to a blown Buick engine.

He later managed, however, to come back and race full-time in the Indy Lights with Canaska Racing in 1995, but recorded just one top-ten finish. For 1996, he stepped away from open-wheel racing and joined the tin-top brigade, racing to seventh place overall in the North American Touring Car Championship in a Leitzinger Racing prepared Ford Mondeo. After a gap of three year, he moved to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, driving the No. 94 Chevrolet for Enerjetix Motorsports, he raced in three events in 1999, posting a best finish of 30th at the Milwaukee Mile.

Andretti is now retired from competitive racing, and works as a driving instructor.

"French Racing Pioneer" Emile Levassor Dies From Crash Injuries - April 14, 1897

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.