Friday, June 2, 2017

Don "The Racing Grandfather" Branson Born - June 2, 1920

June 2, 1920 - November 12, 1966
Donald  Branson
Born in Rantoul, Illinois, USA.
At the time of his death, "Pappy," as he was known, was the oldest driver in United States Auto Club championship circuit competition and one of the most consistent and popular. Branson drove in the USAC Championship Car series and also in sprint cars, racing champ cars in the 1956–1966 seasons with 128 starts, including the 1959 to 1966 Indianapolis 500 races. He finished in the top ten 85 times, with 7 victories. Branson was also the 1959 and 1964 USAC Sprint Car Series Champion.

At the age of 39, Branson qualified for his first Indianapolis 500 and also edged out A.J. Foyt for the 1959 USAC sprint car title in a preview of things to come. He would go on to win six big car races, 28 sprint features and 15 midget main events against his younger competition and against the odds. Branson was diabetic but kept that a secret because had it known his condition, USAC would not have granted him a license. To win 100-mile dirt races in searing heat and humidity with no power steering while fighting such a handicap was truly remarkable.

Branson and another driver, Dick Atkins, were tragically killed in a fiery accident on November 12, 1966  in a USAC sprint car race at Ascot Park in Gardena, California. 1966 was to be his last year of competition, and the fatal wreck occurred with only a few races left in the season for the USAC series.

At the time of his death, Branson was a member of the USAC Board of Directors and almost invariably was assigned to take rookie drivers on their first orientation ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A few months before his death, he was named championship racing representative for Goodyear.

He was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1994 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. What A Wonderful Man He Was, Don Drove For My Father And Won The Midwest USAC Sprint Car Title In 1959. He Introduced Me To A. J. Foyt At Manzy. He Ask A.J. To Tell Me What They Looked For In Up And Coming Drivers. A.J. Gave Me Some Great Advice. Later In Life Weather It Was Driving My C-Open Karts. Or A Porsche 935 In Japan I Always Remembered His Wise Words. Yes Don Branson Was A Real Prince Of A Man ! It Really Hit Me Hard When He Was Killed, I Was 16 Years Old At The Time !