Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Scott Speed Born In Manteca, California - January 24, 1983

January 24, 1983
Scott Speed
(Photo: Ryosuke Yagi via photopin cc)
Born In Manteca, California, USA.
Formerly a driver for the Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 team, he made his Formula One race debut at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix; becoming the first American to race in F1 since Michael Andretti in 1993. Speed later turned his career towards stock car racing; specifically NASCAR, where he has driven for Red Bull Racing Team, Whitney Motorsports, and Leavine Family Racing in the Sprint Cup Series. In preparation for his impending NASCAR career, Speed entered into the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) series in selected races in 2007, and a full season in 2008. Driving the Red Bull-sponsored Toyota for Eddie Sharp Racing, Speed finished 5th in ARCA RE/MAX Series points in 2008. Subsequently, he moved into Global Rallycross with Andretti Autosport, winning the title in 2015 and 2016.

Speed currently resides in Mt. Holly, NC, where he lives with his wife Amanda (daughter of drag racer Rickie Smith), and their two daughters.

(Photo: Ryosuke Yagi via photopin cc)

Josef "Jo" Gartner Born In Vienna, Austria - January 24, 1954

January 24, 1954 - June 1, 1986
Josef "Jo" Gartner
(Photo; espn.co.uk)
Born in Vienna, Austria.
Gartner was a Formula One and sports car endurance driver. After a successful lower formula career, including a win in the Formula Two Pau Grand Prix, he participated in eight Formula One Grands Prix with the struggling Italian Osella team during the 1984 season, scoring no points.

Gartner had finished fourth in the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Porsche 962C along with teammates David Hobbs and Guy Edwards. In 1985, after his season in Formula One, he joined the Fitzpatrick Porsche Group C endurance racing team, driving a Porsche 956, and also campaigned a Porsche 962 for Bob Akin in the IMSA GT Championship. He won the 1986 12 Hours of Sebring, along with teammates Akin and Hans-Joachim Stuck, finishing on three wheels, and also won an international race at Thruxton with Tiff Needell. Gartner was aiming to join the factory Rothman's Porsche team for 1987.

While contesting the 1986 24 Hours of Le Mans for Kremer Racing with teammates Sarel van der Merwe and Kunimitsu Takahashi, Gartner's Porsche 962 suffered a mechanical failure at 2:10 am on the Sunday morning, and turned hard left into the barriers on the Mulsanne Straight at 160 mph (260 km/h). The car somersaulted down the track, hit a telephone pole and caught fire resting on the barriers on the opposite side of the track. Gartner was killed on impact, due to a broken neck. Although the cause of the accident was never determined, two marshals saw Gartner brake on the straight before the car veered off into the barriers. Gartner was the last fatality at the Le Mans 24 Hours under race conditions until Allan Simonsen was killed in the 2013 race.

Don Whittington Jr. Born In Lubbock, Texas - January 23, 1946

January 23, 1946
Don Whittington Jr.
(Photo; indy500autographs.com)
Born in Lubbock, Texas, USA.
Whittington won the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans together with his brother Bill Whittington and Klaus Ludwig on a Porsche 935, although Ludwig, a multiple winner at Le Mans and elsewhere, did most of the driving in the heavy rain. Don's brother Dale also competed in open wheel racing. His father, Don Whittington, Sr. was also an American racing driver in the USAC National Championship from 1957 to 1959.

Whittington also raced in five Indianapolis 500's, with a best finish of sixth. He also made 10 NASCAR Winston Cup starts in 1980 and 1981. He earned a top-ten in the sport in his debut at Riverside. He also participated in the 1980 International Race of Champions.

In 1979 the brothers purchased and operated the Road Atlanta road-racing circuit, reportedly utilizing the secluded backstretch of the course as a landing strip for aircraft.

The Whittington brothers also raced aircraft at the Reno Air Races, including the highly modified P-51D "Precious Metal", which set a qualifying record of 438.018 mph in 1976. 

Between 1976 and 1995, they raced four different P-51 Mustangs, including a rare H model, and a Rolls-Royce Griffon powered P-51D, an F8F Bearcat, and a P-63 King Cobra. While they never scored a victory, Don in "Precious Metal" earned three podium finishes, and was top qualifier twice.

In 1986, Don Whittington plead guilty to money laundering charges in association with his brother Bill's guilty plea to income tax evasion and conspiracy to smuggle marijuana into the United States from Colombia. Don Whittington received an 18 month prison sentence. Along with Randy Lanier, John Paul Sr. and John Paul Jr., the Whittington brothers were part of the IMSA drug smuggling scandal of the 1980s, where a number of drivers financed their racing activities with the proceeds from drug smuggling.

In 2009, Whittington sued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation, over possession of the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans winning Porsche 935. The car was given to the Speedway's museum in the early 1980s. Whittington claimed it was a loan and wanted to reclaim possession. The Speedway maintained it was a donation. On April 13, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sided with the museum and found the evidence pointed to the car being a donation.

Currently, Whittington owns World Jet, a Fixed Based Operator at the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport.

Jim McElreath Jr Born In Arlington, Texas - Jan. 23, 1954

Jan. 23, 1954 - Oct. 16, 1977
Jim McElreath Jr.
Born in Arlington, Texas, USA.
He was the son of Jim McElreath Sr., a veteran of 15 Indianapolis 500 classics with a personal best 3rd place finish in 1966 and winner of the inaugural California 500 race.

At the time of his death, he had been racing for 7 years and had been named Rookie-of-the-Year for the United States Auto Club's midget division in 1976. He was also active in the USAC sprint car and championship divisions. James and his father had made history in June of 1977 by becoming the first father-son combo to earn a starting position in a USAC championship race at the Pocono 500. They also competed against each other in championship division events at Michigan, Milwaukee, Ontario and the Texas World Speedway.

He was tragically killed on a first lap accident in the feature sprint car race at the Winchester Speedway when several cars piled up in front of him. McElreath's car ran over another car's tire and was propeled over the retaining wall of the high-banked oval and into a tree. He died of severe head and neck injuries about an hour after his accident at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Indiana, USA.

Monday, January 22, 2018

"Sprint Car Hall of Fame Legend" Bob Sall Born - January 22, 1908

January 22, 1908 - October 14, 1974
Bob Sall
(Photo; pinterest.com)
Born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, USA.
He made 4 AAA Championship Car starts from 1934 to 1937. He competed in the 1935 Indianapolis 500, driving in a radical front wheel drive Miller chassis powered by a Ford V8 engine. He retired with steering problems, finishing 29th.

Bob Sall was a top sprint car driver in the 1930's, specialising in short oval racing. Having been an owner/driver throughout most of his career, he was a “money driver”, and was almost always around at the finish of a race. Bob Sall’s documented racing victories from 1930 through 1941 include sixty-eight AAA Sprint Car wins, three CSRA (Central States Racing Association) Sprint Car triumphs, three AAA Midget race wins, one IMCA Sprint Car victory, and one sprint car win of unknown sanction for a total of seventy-six race victories.

He did occasional Midget and Stock Car events and later became NASCAR's Eastern field manager.

Bob Sall died in Creamridge, New Jersey on October 14, 1974. He was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1992.

Porsche Paris-Dakar Victory Overshadowed By 5-Deaths - January 22, 1986

January 22, 1986

(Photo: theignitionpoint.co.uk via photopin cc)
Porsche 959s finish first (Metge/Lemoyne), second (Ickx/Brasseur), and sixth (Kussmaul/Unger) in the Paris-Dakar Rally.

The 1986 Dakar Rally also known as the 1986 Paris–Dakar Rally was the 8th running of the Dakar Rally event. René Metge and Dominique Lemoyne won the car class for the second time and Cyril Neveu won the motorcycle class. The event was overshadowed by the death of the event organizer, Thierry Sabine, and four others, including French singer Daniel Balavoine, in a helicopter crash.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

"NHRA Top 50 Drivers" Gary Beck Born - January 21, 1941

January 21, 1941
Gary Beck
(Photo; competitionplus.com)
Born: Seattle - Home:Edmonton.
Gary is a two-time World champion drag racing driver. Born and raised in the United States, Beck married a Canadian and they made their home in her native Edmonton, Alberta. He competed in stock cars before switching to drag racing.

A virtual unknown, in 1972 he abruptly came to international prominence when he won the National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel dragster title at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana. His win marked the first of a number of important championships and in 1974, he drove his nitro-fueled dragster to a record setting three NHRA and two American Hot Rod Association titles and earned the first of his two World Championships. Beck was named driver of the year by Drag News and top fuel driver of the year by Car Craft. Among his 1975 victories, he took the Canadian Open Top Fuel championship.

In 1983 Gary Beck dominated the Top Fuel class in drag racing, scoring 17 of the fastest 18 runs in Top Fuel history and capping off the multi-win season with his second World Championship.

He retired from the NHRA tour in 1986, having won 19 Top Fuel titles plus multiple events on the IHRA and AHRA circuits. Inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1999, on the National Hot Rod Association Top 50 Drivers, 1951–2000, Beck was ranked 24th.

(Photo: twm1340 via photopin cc)
Gary Beck's 1986 dragster

Mark Donohue Wins "NASCAR Winston Western 500" At Riverside - January 21, 1973

January 21, 1973
Mark Donohue
Indycar and road racing star Mark Donohue drove an AMC Matador with a set of disc brakes - new for racing at the time - and led 138 laps en route to the win. It was the first NASCAR wins for AMC and Donohue. David Pearson won the pole but never led and fell out with clutch failure, while Richard Petty started fifth and led 39 laps before his engine failed while leading on Lap 95. Bobby Allison finished second driving a self-fielded Chevrolet following a surprise divorce from the Richard Howard team. Cale Yarborough, new driver for Howard's team with the cars renumbered to #11, fell out with transmission failure.

That race was Penske's first NASCAR win in a long history of NASCAR participation and remains to this day, the last non-regular (non-full schedule) driver (road course ringer) to win a NASCAR Winston Cup road race.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

NASCAR Legend Glenn "Fireball" Roberts Born - January 20, 1929

January 20, 1929 – July 2, 1964
Edward Glenn "Fireball" Roberts
(Photo; fireballroberts.com)
Born in Tavares, Florida, USA.
Roberts was raised in Apopka, Florida, where he was interested in both auto racing and baseball. He was a pitcher for the Zellwood Mud Hens, an American Legion baseball team, where he earned the nickname, "Fireball", because of his fastball, not his driving style, which is sometimes thought.

In 1947, at the age of eighteen, he raced on the Daytona Beach Road Course at Daytona, for the first time. He won a 150-mile race at Daytona Beach the following year. Roberts also competed in local stock and modified races at Florida tracks such as Seminole Speedway.

"Fireball" Roberts continued to amass victories on the circuit, despite the changes in NASCAR, as it moved away from shorter dirt tracks to superspeedways in the 1950s and 1960s. In his 206 career NASCAR Grand National races, he won 33 times and had 32 poles. He finished in the top-five 45 percent of the time.
(Photo: john.wellssr via photopin)
1955 Fireball Roberts at Finish #22

He won both the Daytona 500 and Firecracker 250 events in 1962, driving a black and gold 1962 Pontiac built by car builder legend, Smokey Yunick.
1962 Fireball Roberts Pontiac Daytona 500 winner.

On May 24, 1964, at the World 600 in Charlotte, Roberts had qualified in the eleventh position and started in the middle of the pack. On lap seven, Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson collided and spun out and Roberts crashed trying to avoid them. Roberts' Ford slammed backward into the inside retaining wall, flipped over and burst into flames. Witnesses at the track claimed they heard Roberts screaming, "Ned, help me", from inside his burning car after the wreck. Jarrett rushed to save Roberts as his car was engulfed by the flames. Roberts suffered second and third-degree burns over eighty percent of his body and was airlifted to a hospital in critical condition. Although it was widely believed that Roberts had an allergic reaction to flame-retardant chemicals, he was secretly an asthmatic, and the chemicals made his breathing worse.

Roberts was able to survive for several weeks, and it appeared he might pull through. But Roberts' health took a turn for the worse on June 30, 1964. He contracted pneumonia and sepsis and had slipped into a coma by the next day. "Fireball" Roberts died from his burns on July 2, 1964.

Fireball Roberts Grave Site plaque.

Prior to his death, there were many sources reporting that Roberts was retiring, since he had taken a prominent public relations position at the Falstaff Brewing Company, and that the race in which he was killed was to be one of the final races of his career. Ned Jarrett has stated that his decision to retire was prompted by Roberts' death.

After Roberts' death, NASCAR mandated that all drivers wear flame retardant coveralls while on track. They also instituted the five point safety harness, and the special, contoured drivers seat, all three of which are still requirements on all NASCAR entrants.

In 2007, a unique adventurally series was named "Fireball Run" in honor of Fireball Roberts. The production is headquartered at Universal Studios Florida, and has aided in the recovery of 38 missing children.

Despite having his career cut short and having never won a Grand National title, Fireball Roberts was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers. In 2000, the city of Concord, North Carolina, named a street near Charlotte Motor Speedway in his honor. Other career accolades he won include induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1995. He was voted into the 2014 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 22, 2013.
(Photo: The Freewheeling Daredevil via photopin cc)
1957 Fireball Roberts Ford.

Billy Foster Dies In Crash At Riverside, California - January 20, 1967

September 18, 1937 - January 20, 1967
Billy Foster
(Photo; victoriaautoracinghalloffameandmuseum.com)
Born in Victoria, British Columbia.
Foster died in a crash during practice for a NASCAR stock car race at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California. Foster is the only Canadian racing driver to have been fatally injured at a NASCAR event.

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

Besides driving in NASCAR, Foster also drove in the USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1964-1966 seasons, with 28 career starts. He finished in the top ten 10 times, with his best finish in 2nd position in 1966 at Atlanta. He was the first Canadian to race in the "Indy 500", competing in both the 1965 and 1966 races.

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

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

Scott Maxwell Born In Toronto, Ontario - January 20, 1964

January 20, 1964
Scott Maxwell
(Photo; multimaticmotorsports.com)
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canadian.
Scott has competed and won titles in Formula Vee (1984), Formula Ford 1600 (1985 and 1986), Canadian National Showroom Stock (1992 and 1993) and Grand-Am (2002 and 2008). He also contested the Canadian GM Challenge, Porsche Cup and Pro Formula Ford 2000 series from 1986 through 1990. He made a single Indy Lights start in 1992.

One of the highlights of Maxwell's career came in 2000 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he won the LMP 675 class for Multimatic Motorsports aboard a Nissan-powered Lola with fellow Canadians John Graham and Greg Wilkins.

In 2003, Scott Maxwell along with David Empringham and David Brabham won the first ever Daytona Prototype race at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. However, The Racer's Group GT-class Porsche 911 won overall honors in that race. He also contested the American Le Mans Series with Panoz in 2003 and Krohn-Barbour Racing in 2004 as well as contesting several Rolex Sports Car Series events for Multimatic Daytona Prototype customers. 2003 was to also see Maxwell make his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut, but he failed to qualify the #43 car for Petty Enterprises at Watkins Glen International.

The Canadian co-drove with Grand Am Cup Champion David Empringham in 2005 aboard a Multimatic Motorsports entered factory Ford Mustang FR500C. Maxwell missed out on sharing the title because he skipped one race to compete at Le Mans for Panoz Motor Sports.

(Photo: jimculp@live.com / ProRallyPix via photopin cc)
Scott Maxwell, David Brabham, Panoz Esperante, American LeMans race, Portland, 2006

In 2006, Maxwell clinched another milestone victory for Multimatic Motorsports when he teamed with David Brabham and Sébastien Bourdais to win the GT2 class at the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring. In 2008 he won the Grand American Road Racing KONI Sports Car Challenge driver's championship with partner Joe Foster aboard the Hypersports Mustang FR500C run in cooperation with Multimatic Motorsports.

Multimatic Motorsports celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012, and drew on Maxwell’s expertise and experience to help develop Aston Martin’s Vantage V8 GT4 for Grand-Am GS competition. Maxwell and co-driver Tonis Kasemets showed the Vantage’s potential with a podium finish. Teamed with young gun Jade Buford the following year, the pair netted seven top-tens in the Aston, before returning to familiar territory in 2014 to co-drive a Ford Boss 302R.

For the 2015 season, Maxwell is co-driving with Billy Johnson in the #15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang.

Scott was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2014.

1984 Formula Vee - Scott preparing to climb into the Silver #88 Lynx, myself in the yellow #137 Horst Kroll built Altona.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Jenson Button Born In Frome, England - January 19, 1980

January 19, 1980
Jenson Button
(Photo: TattyDon via photopin cc)
Born in Frome, England.
Sometimes known as JB, he is a Formula One driver currently under contract with McLaren-Honda, as a reserve driver. He is the 2009 Formula One World Champion, driving for Brawn GP.

Button began karting at the age of eight and achieved early success, before progressing to car racing in the British Formula Ford Championship and the British Formula Three Championship. He first drove in Formula One with Williams F1 for the 2000 season. The following year he switched to Benetton, which in 2002 became Renault, and then for the 2003 season he moved to BAR. In 2004 he finished 3rd in the World Drivers' Championship, with only the two Ferraris ahead of him. BAR were subsequently renamed Honda for the 2006 season, during which Button won his first Grand Prix in Hungary, after 113 races.

Following the withdrawal of Honda from the sport in December 2008, he was left without a drive for the 2009 season, until Ross Brawn led a management buyout of the team in February 2009, and Button suddenly found himself in a highly competitive, Mercedes-engined car. He went on to win a record-equalling six of the first seven races of the 2009 season, securing the World Drivers' Championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix, having led on points all season; his success also helped Brawn GP to secure the World Constructors' Championship.

For 2010, he moved to McLaren, partnering fellow British racer and former World Champion Lewis Hamilton. After finishing fifth for the team in 2010, Button finished the 2011 season as runner-up. In 2012 he took his first pole for McLaren at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix. He spent a fifth season with the McLaren team in 2014, his 15th in Formula One. From the 284 races that Button has started he has won 15, with a total of 50 podium finishes.

Button announced in September 2016 that he would be giving up his 2017 seat at the end of the 2016 Formula One season but announced that he would still be at McLaren as a reserve driver and ambassador of McLaren until the 2018 Formula One season.
(Photo: Sum_of_Marc via photopin cc)

"First Indianapolis 500 Winner" Ray Harroun Dies - January 19, 1968

January 12, 1879 - January 19, 1968
Ray Harroun
(Photo; findagrave.com)
Born in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
 He was a racecar driver and pioneering constructor most famous for winning the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

He participated in the original setting of the record from Chicago to New York in 1903, and the re-taking of that record in 1904. He and four others drove in shifts non-stop to establish the record of 76 hours at the end of September, 1903.

Nicknamed the "Little Professor" for his pioneering work of creating the Marmon Wasp, which was a revolutionary design being the first open-wheel single-seater racecar.

Harroun's original Marmon "Wasp".
(Photo; "MarmonWasp" by The359 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons)
On display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

Harroun is best known for winning the first running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 30, 1911. He is known to have started at least 60 AAA-sanctioned races, during the years 1905–1911. From 1909 to 1911, Harroun drove primarily for the team operated by Indianapolis-based auto maker, Marmon. However, at least one 1909 race result shows him driving a Buick. Also, statistics from 1905 through 1908 show him driving cars described as "Harroun Custom" and "Harroun Sneezer."

Harroun's race wins included: a 1910 100-mile race at the Atlanta Motordrome; the 1910 200-mile Wheeler-Schebler Trophy Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the May 1910, 50-mile Remy Grand Brassard Race also at IMS; three races at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby; three races at the original Latonia Race Track; and races at tracks in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Long Island and Memphis. He is best known for winning the first Indianapolis 500, driving a Marmon.

Harroun won a total of 8 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the second-most of any driver in the 100-year history of the track. The only driver with more victories at IMS is Johnny Aitken, with 15 wins in 1909–1916.

During the years that Harroun was driving, the AAA designated some races each year as "championship" events. However, there was no actual year-long championship, and no points were awarded. In 1927, points were assigned retroactively, and champions were designated for those years. At that time, Harroun was designated the champion for the 1910 season.

At the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, his use of what would now be called a rear-view mirror, rather than the riding mechanic specified in the rules, created controversy, but was ultimately allowed. Harroun went on to win at an average speed of 74.602 miles per hour. Harroun, who came out of retirement to race in the first 500, would not race after 1911.

After retiring from racing, Harroun continued engineering work for Marmon, and later for the Maxwell racing team. In 1917, Harroun started his own automobile company in Wayne, Michigan, where a street is now named for him. In 1927 he joined Lincoln Products. He continued to work in the automotive industry until his retirement at age 79.

Ray Harroun died on January 19, 1968 in Anderson, Indiana at the age of 89. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000.

NASCAR Legend "Little Joe" Weatherly Dies In Crash - January 19, 1964

May 29, 1922 - January 19, 1964
Joseph "Little Joe" Weatherly
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
Weatherly won NASCAR's Grand National championships in 1962 and 1963, three AMA Grand National Championships, and two NASCAR Modified championships. He won NASCAR's Most Popular Driver Award in 1961. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2009 and the NASCAR Hall of Fame on January 30, 2015.

He also won three American Motorcycle Association (AMA) nationals between 1946 and 1950, including the prestigious Laconia Classic 100 Mile road race in 1948. In 1998 he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

"Little Joe" began racing cars in 1950 and won the first modified event that he entered. He won 49 of the 83 car races that he entered that season. In 1952 he won the NASCAR Modified National crown, and he again won 49 of 83 car races that he entered. Weatherly won 52 more races in 1953, and won the Modified National crown again.

Weatherly had partial interest in what would later be called Richmond International Raceway from 1955 to 1956. In 1956 he moved into the NASCAR Grand National series. He drove a factory-sponsored Ford car for Pete DePaolo Engineering. For the next two seasons, Weatherly drove for Holman Moody. In 1959, Weatherly recorded six top-five finishes and ten top-tens.

He won two consecutive championships in 1962 and 1963 for Bud Moore Engineering. Moore did not have enough resources to run the full season, so Weatherly frequently "bummed a ride".

Weatherly enjoyed behaving outrageously. He once took practice laps wearing a Peter Pan suit. Moreover, he frequently stayed out partying until the early hours, usually with fellow driver and friend Curtis Turner. This behavior earned him the nickname "The Clown Prince of Racing". In 1956 at Raleigh, while racing in the convertible series, Weatherly's engine blew. With the help of Ralph Liguori pushing from behind, he displayed showmanship to the fullest extent by crossing the finish line while standing in a 'chariot of fire'.

Weatherly died on January 19, 1964, from head injuries sustained in a racing accident at the fifth race of the 1964 season at Riverside International Raceway. His head went outside the car and struck a retaining wall, killing him instantly. Weatherly was not wearing a shoulder harness, and did not have a window net installed on his vehicle, because he was afraid of being trapped in a burning car.

He is one of two reigning champions of what is now known as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to die during a season as the defending champion and the only one of the two to die during a race. The 1992 Winston Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, who died in a plane crash during the 1993 season is the other.

Weatherly's fatal crash, combined with Richard Petty's crash at Darlington in 1970, eventually led NASCAR to mandate the window net seven years later in 1971. Window nets are used in most stockcar racing series to this day.

Weatherly's grave marker is a sculpture of Riverside Raceway, a checkered flag marking the spot of his fatal crash.

Achievements  & Awards:
1962 Grand National Series Champion.
1963 Grand National Series Champion.
1952 Modified National Champion.
1953 Modified National Champion.
Three American Motorcycle Association championships.
Led Grand National Series in wins in 1961 and 1962.
1961 Grand National Series Most Popular Driver.
Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994.
Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1998.
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2009.
NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gilles Villeneuve Born In Richelieu, Quebec - January 18, 1950

January 18, 1950 - May 8, 1982
Gilles Villeneuve
(Photo: Formula1streaming via photopin cc)
Born In Richelieu, Quebec, Canada.
Villeneuve grew up in Berthierville, in the largely French-speaking province of Quebec. Villeneuve spent six years in Grand Prix racing with Ferrari, winning six races and widespread acclaim for his performances.

An enthusiast of cars and fast driving from an early age, Villeneuve started his professional career in snowmobile racing. He moved into single seaters, winning the US and Canadian Formula Atlantic championships in 1976, before being offered a drive in Formula One with the McLaren team at the 1977 British Grand Prix. He was taken on by reigning world champions Ferrari for the end of the season and from 1978 to his death in 1982 drove for the Italian team. He won six Grand Prix races in a short career at the highest level. In 1979, he finished second by four points in the championship to teammate Jody Scheckter.

Villeneuve died in a 140 mph (225 km/h) crash caused by a collision with the March of Jochen Mass during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. The accident came less than two weeks after an intense argument with his teammate, Didier Pironi, over Pironi's move to pass Villeneuve at the preceding San Marino Grand Prix. At the time of his death, Villeneuve was extremely popular with fans and has since become an iconic figure in the history of the sport. His son, Jacques Villeneuve, became Formula One world champion in 1997 and, to date, the only Canadian to win the Formula One World Championship.

For more see; The Gilles Villeneuve Story - The Early Years

Jimmy Caruthers Born In Anaheim, California - January 18, 1945

January 18, 1945 - October 26, 1975
Douglas "Jimmy" Caruthers
(Photo; pinterest.com)
 Born in Anaheim, California, USA.
Jimmy raced midget cars, sprint cars, and IndyCars. Caruthers won the 1970 USAC National Midget Series championship. His championship was the closest in USAC midget history, as he beat Dave Strickland by 12.48 points. He finished second to his brother Danny Caruthers in 1971. Jimmy won 21 USAC midget car features between 1967 and 1975.

He competed in the ARDC while stationed on the East Coast during his tour of duty in the armed forces. He was transferred to Phoenix, and race in caged sprint cars on weekends. He almost won the championship, but was transferred overseas before the end of the season.

He drove in the USAC Championship Car series, racing in the 1970-1975 seasons with 43 starts, including the 1972-1975 Indianapolis 500. He finished in the top ten 21 times. His best finish were second place finishes at the 1974 California 500 at the Ontario Motor Speedway and 1974 Pocono 500. He drove in four Indianapolis 500s.

He won the 1975 USAC Silver Crown Series championship while suffering from cancer. He captured the title by finishing third at the Hoosier 100 six weeks before he died. He died of cancer in October 1975 before claiming his championship trophy.

USAC has annually awarded the "Jimmy Caruthers Award" in his honor since 1978. Initially given to the Rookie of the Year, it was rededicated to honor his spirit and determination, shown in winning the Silver Crown championship in the year of his death.

He was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1992 and the USAC Hall of Fame in 2015.

His father Doug Caruthers and brother Danny Caruthers also died before accepting their USAC series championship at the end of the year awards banquet. The Caruthers family is synonymous with midget car racing.
(Photo; nmdoty.com)
Danny Caruthers (5) and brother Jimmy Caruthers (1) pose with car owner & father Doug Caruthers (left), along with a crew member.

Christian Fittipaldi Born In Sao Paulo, Brazil - January 18, 1971

January 18, 1971
Christian Fittipaldi
(Photo: insidethemagic via photopin cc)
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
He has competed in various forms of motorsport including Formula One, Champ Car and NASCAR. Named after the less known Brazilian driver Christian "Bino" Heinz (killed at Le Mans in 1963), he was a highly rated young racing driver in the early 1990s, and participated in 43 Formula One Grands Prix for Minardi and Footwork between 1992 and 1994.

Fittipaldi was fifth in the CART series in 1996 and 2002, earning two wins and a second place in the 1995 Indianapolis 500. He has also had success racing sports prototypes, winning the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2004 and 2014, the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen of 2013, 2016 and 2017, and has captured two IMSA SportsCar Championships with Action Express Racing during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

He is the son of former Grand Prix driver and team owner Wilson Fittipaldi, and the nephew of two-time Formula One Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lake Speed Born In Jackson, Mississippi - January 17, 1948

January 17, 1948
Lake Speed
(Photo; pinterest.com)
Born in Jackson, Mississippi, USA.
Lake was named after the best friend of his father, Bob Lake. Lake's father Leland L. Speed took office as the Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi in 1948, the same year that he was born. Lake started his racing career at the age of thirteen racing karts, much to the displeasure of his family. Over the years, Speed won the International Karting Federation National Championship six times and in 1978 he won the prestigious Karting World Championship over, among others, future Formula One champion Ayrton Senna. Speed had been the only American to win the World Karting Championship until 2015 when 14 year-old Logan Sargent of Florida won the KFJ World Karting Championship on September 27th, 2015.

In 1980 after considering racing in other series such as Formula One, CART, and IMSA, and getting advice from current Lowe's Motor Speedway promoter, Humpy Wheeler, Speed chose to go NASCAR racing. According to Speed, "It was the highest mountain to climb." He competed in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, scoring one career win, and 75 top ten finishes in 402 starts. Speed's day in the sun would come March 27, 1988 at Darlington in the TranSouth 500. After starting the race eighth, Speed methodically moved his way to the front before eventually taking the lead and running away with the show. Leading 178 of the 367 laps, Speed beat Alan Kulwicki by half a straightaway to secure his first and only NASCAR Winston Cup win. Speed competed in NASCAR from 1980 until his retirement in 1998.

In 2006, the International Kart Federation established the Lake Speed Achievement of Excellence karting award in honor of the 1978 World Karting Champion. The recipient of the award could be a driver, team, kart shop or any combination thereof, and the winner is determined primarily on sportsmanship, driving achievement and professionalism during the race event.

After retirement, Speed has raced in the World Karting Association National Road Racing Series schedule, in the Spec 125 TaG 1 and 2 classes. He also has four wins in Historic Stock Car Racing Association events on Daytona's 3.56-mile road. On July 30, 2010 Speed was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
(Photo: jimculp@live.com / ProRallyPix via photopin cc)

Richie Hearn Born In Glendale, California - January 4, 1971

January 4, 1971
Richie Hearn
Born in Glendale, California, USA.
He ran in the Toyota Atlantic championship for two seasons, winning the title in 1995. In 1996, he began driving for John Della Penna in both the IRL and Champ Car ranks. He won an IRL race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to cap off the year and was the highest finishing rookie at the Indianapolis 500, finishing 3rd.

Hearn moved full-time into Champ Car in 1997 for Della Penna with high profile sponsor Budweiser but failed to post significant results and by 2000 was surplus for sponsored driver Norberto Fontana. He contested a few more Indy 500s, with a best result of 6th in 2002. In 2005 following the Indy 500 he retired as a driver and started Hearn Motorsports LLC that ran in the Star Mazda series. He planned to move the team into Toyota Atlantic competition in 2006. Hearn returned from retirement to qualify on Bump Day of the 2007 Indianapolis 500 in a car jointly entered by Racing Professionals and Hemelgarn Racing.

Hearn is currently a driving instructor at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch' Ron Fellows driving school

"Legendary NASCAR Crew Cheif" Harry Hyde Born - January 17, 1925

January 17, 1925 - May 13, 1996
Harry Hyde
Born in Brownsville, Kentucky, USA.
He was a leading crew chief in NASCAR stock car racing in the 1960s through the 1980s, winning 56 races and 88 pole positions. He learned to be a mechanic in the Army during WWII. Upon returning home he worked as an auto mechanic and drove race cars for a couple years, then continued racing as a car builder for local competitions in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.

In 1965 he was hired by Nord Krauskopf to be the crew chief of the K&K Insurance team. By 1969 the team began to see considerable success with driver Bobby Isaac, winning 17 races. In 1970 the team won the NASCAR championship and Hyde was named Mechanic of the Year.
The K&K team was one of the leaders through most of the 1970s, but in 1977 Krauskopf sold the team to J. D. Stacy. The team continued to win some races, but in 1978 the relationship between Stacy and Hyde deteriorated and Hyde left the team in mid-June. Late in 1978 Hyde would sue Stacy, and eventually would win.

In 1979 Amelio Scott hired Harry Hyde to be the crew chief for his family team in 1979 with his son Tighe Scott as the driver. Their first race together was the 1979 Daytona 500. Scott finished sixth in the race. At the following race at Rockingham Speedway, Scott recorded his best NASCAR result when he finished fourth. They competed in 15 more events that season and ten more in 1980 before parting ways.

In 1980 Hyde opened his own racing engine shop and supplied engines to various teams. In 1984, he was hired by Rick Hendrick to be crew chief for a team he was partner in, All Star Racing. The partnership did not work out, and Hendrick bought the team out forming Hendrick Motorsports. The team won three races in 1984 with Geoff Bodine driving.

Hyde was then paired with new driver Tim Richmond, a young open-wheel racer from Ashland, Ohio, as Hendrick went to a two-car operation. The brashness of the new driver from outside the southern stock car circuit did not initially sit well with the notably irascible Hyde. However, after a few races they developed a relationship and began to win races. This season was the source of much of the story line for the motion picture Days of Thunder. Hyde's character was portrayed by Robert Duvall.

The team was very successful in 1986. Richmond won 7 races and finished third in points behind legends Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.
Tim Richmond & Crew chief Harry Hyde after winning the 1986 Southern 500.

Richmond, who was noted for womanizing, was diagnosed with AIDS during 1987 and missed most of the season with illness which he explained to the public as pneumonia. Veteran Benny Parsons and owner Rick Hendrick filled in for the #25 team. Richmond still managed to win 2 races in 8 starts but resigned from the team late that year. The combined performance of the three drivers would have been good enough for second in points in the driver standings.

Ken Schrader became the driver for the #25 team in 1988 but Hendrick had become a three car operation, and Hyde sometimes felt ignored. He left after the season to become crew chief for Stavola Brothers Racing where he worked through the first half of the 1991 season, before moving to Chad Little's #19 Bullseye BBQ/Tyson Foods Ford.

Hyde had 48 career victories. His forte was setting up cars for specific tracks. Hyde's race shop is still part of the Hendrick Motorsports facility, and a road within the complex is known as Hyde's Way.

Hyde died in 1996 of a heart attack brought on by a blood clot. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004.