A History Of The Turismo Carretera

There was a day when that old dirt road in your backyard could be used as part of a very long closed circuit race track. Of course, those days are gone, but they did not end very long ago. In fact, there was a day where the sight of stock cars on those old dirt roads was nothing to drop your jaw at, but instead was something to love and cheer on. And cheer the fans of the day did! Watching race cars go neck and neck maybe a kilometer away from your house? It was every fan’s dream. This is exactly what Argentina’s Turismo Carretera series did.

Turismo Carretera, literally road touring, is the world’s oldest active racing series. The series started in 1939 and has been going strong since, despite a rocky beginning and a lack of virtually any safety integration until the late 1960s at the earliest.

 

Motorsport reached Argentina around 1910, but instead of permanent circuits, Argentina frequently used open road courses made of gravel, dirt, and asphalt, something the United States had mostly done away with for its major events by the First World War. The first Turismo Carretera event, however, is often considered to have been held in 1937, though the series was named Campeonato Argentino de Velocidad, literally Argentine Speed Challenge. The first race of the new championship was the Gran Premio Argentino, an event that was already on its 20th running by 1937. This open road race saw 72 drivers on the entry list with an assortment of cars, mostly Fords, Chevys and Plymouths, though Dodge, Hudson, Lincoln, Hupp, Graham, Hillman, Peerless, and Continental also saw some use. Entered in a #58 1935 Ford Voiturette was a young Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, the namesake of the track in Buenos Aires.

The Gran Premio Argentino, at least in its earlier years, was held alongside pedestrian traffic, though speed limits were often ignored. In 1936, speed limits had begun to be enforced on some roads, leading to a decreased amount of heavy accidents. The 1937 running was much the same, with few major accidents despite safety regulations so relaxed that some drivers were actually seen wearing pajamas at points during the 13 day, 6894km race.

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Credit to Historiatc; The car of José Balcarce

19 cars finished the event, which was won by Angel Lo Valvo’s Ford. Two more races were held that year, the Circuito Correntino, won by Raúl Melo Fojardo in a Dodge, and the Mil Millas Argentinas, a one day, 1000 mile event held at Avellaneda won by Eduardo Pedrazzini in a Ford Coupe.

The series’ first fatality was during the 1937 Mil Millas, when newcomer Américo Traba flipped his Ford on approach to the small town of Tres Lomas, Buenos Aires Province. Traba, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, was killed in the crash, though his co-driver survived. The first co-driver to die was Héctor Moisello, the co-driver to Angel Lo Valvo, whose car rolled during the 1938 Gran Premio Del Sur Argentino. Moisello suffered injuries that he would die from a few days later.

As stated earlier, events in these days were usually multi-day events, with very long stages making for a format reminiscent of a very long rally race. Co-drivers, or as they were called, acompañantes, served both as a voice of reason and a guide, though again they were fully optional. Also optional in the early days of the series were roofs on the cars, as while few teams used them, convertibles were permitted.

In 1939, the Campeonato Argentino de Velocidad received a name change to Turismo Carretera, a name it has kept to this day. The first race with the new name was the Gran Premio Internacional del Sur, won again by the Ford of, again, Angel Lo Valvo.

Drivers in these days would use a variety of tactics to improve themselves, their vehicles, and their times. A common way of practicing was tiradita, possibly derived from either tirado, the Spanish equivalent of easy-peasy, or tirar, to launch. These were straight line dashes down a stretch of public road, often done with traffic still running in the opposite direction. Despite incredible danger, these dashes were legal for several years in Turismo Carretera. As expected, several fatalities occurred during tiraditas, including an incident in 1939 where three people died when their car was hit by a train.

Also seen was la técnica del bidoneo, or the technique of bidoneo, which I was unable to fully translate. This was functionally a way to refuel without stopping. A service team would place itself at a naturally slow part of the track such as a hairpin, and would throw fuel cans into the car through the co-driver’s window. The co-driver would then unbuckle his seat belt and refuel the car while it was still running. It was a dangerous technique and was completely against the rules, but many teams did it anyway.

The Turismo Carretera was one of the very few motorsport series to actually be run in 1942, with most of the world fighting World War II. Two races were held in 1942, though no champion was crowned. Being as Argentina was not directly involved in the War, competition continued, though it still took a hiatus from 1943 to 1946. The competition resumed in 1947.

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Credit to Historiatc; A.T. Palacios competes at the 1947 Mil Millas Argentino

The competition had proved itself dangerous in the early years, with six competitor fatalities, three drivers and three acompañantes, during events, in the pre-War years, and it was about to get even more dangerous.

One of the series’ most influential moments came during the Gran Premio de la America del Sur in 1948, a 20-day race from Buenos Aires to Caracas by way of La Paz, Lima, Quito and Bogotá. A massive 138 car field made up of Chevys, Fords, Buicks, Nashes, DeSotos, Lincolns, Mercurys, Plymouths and Dodges took the start of the 6,000 mile race. All eyes, however, were on the red #1 Chevrolet of Juan Manuel Fangio and acompañante Daniel Urrutia. While traversing a narrow pass in Peru, Fangio lost control and flipped down an embankment. First on the scene was Oscar Gálvez, who stopped his race to assist the stricken duo. Fangio was found injured but awake and alert, and reportedly asked Gálvez to get back in his car, to which he refused. Gálvez soon thereafter found an unconscious Urrutia, who’d been ejected through the windscreen. Urrutia suffered a basilar skull fracture and died later that night. Several drivers, Gálvez included, wanted to retire from the event, but Fangio made a radio message from his hospital bed and managed to convince most to continue. Fangio, on the other hand, was heavily contemplating heading home to Balcarce and opening up a garage, but decided to give it another shot, a move that would pay off considerably.

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Credit to HistoriaTC

Urrutia was one of six fatalities during the race, alongside driver Julián Q. Elguea and his acompañante Heriberto Román, whose fatal fall down a Bolivian gorge made them the first duo to be killed in Turismo Carretera, and three spectators.

With the 1950s under way, motorsport in Argentina was growing more and more popular. Juan Manuel Fangio had begun racing in Europe, and the inaugural Argentine Formula One Grand Prix was a few years on the horizon. In 1952, two new circuits were opened in Argentina, the Autódromo Diecisiete de Octubre, a circuit basically built for the Argentine Grand Prix, and the Autódromo Ciudad de Rafaela, a literal three mile ribbon of dirt in the shape of an oval.

In the meantime, Turismo Carretera was doing what it did best, providing racing in the backroads of Argentina. Chevrolets and Fords were still the primary cars of choice, though again there were other manufacturers that saw use.

1951 however saw another tragedy when 1938 champion Ricardo Risatti crashed during the Vuelta del Norte race. His car overturned about fifteen times, not injuring his acompañante but fatally injuring Risatti. Risatti, who had begun racing as a way to raise money for his critically ill wife, was apparently running his last race before retirement.

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Credit to HistoriaTC

In 1953, the inaugural Formula One Argentine Grand Prix was held at the Diecesiete de Octubre circuit, and 300,000 spectators showed up to the track after the ultra-popular Argentine leader Juan Perón guaranteed free admission for everyone. Despite the death of 13 spectators when Nino Farina spun into an enclosure, the race was successful in showing the world Argentina’s love for motor racing.

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Credit to HistoriaTC; Domingo Marimon crosses a rail line during the 1953 Vuelta de Santa Fé

 

That same year was marred by another death, as Eusebio Marcilla, the same driver who had stopped his race and helped transport Juan Fangio and the fatally injured Daniel Urrutia to the hospital in 1948 and a noted anti-Peronist whose views kept him out of the newspapers, was killed in a crash during the 1953 Vuelta de Santa Fé. Beloved by the fans, Marcilla’s death left the community in mourning, but the race kept going.

By 1956, Perón had been overthrown, and the Autodromo Diecisiete de Octubre had been renamed. Around this time, motorsport had been growing more and more popular, though the roads on which they were run weren’t getting better, in fact they were getting worse. The tiradita had begun being cracked down on, and the la técnica de bidoneo was distinctly illegal, with threat of disqualification, though drivers still did it. One co-driver was actually fatally burned during a failed bidoneo in 1960.

The 1960 Gran Premio Argentino demonstrated well the dangers of the series. The Gran Premio had remained on the schedule and had, in terms of safety, improved very little.

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Credit to HistoriaTC; The car of Ernesto Scally during the 1960 Gran Premio

Exactly how many spectators died during the 1960 Gran Premio will never be known, though the lowest estimate is 12. A cyclist was struck and killed halfway through the event, a young boy died after a guidebook error sent the race leaders skidding into a crowd while making a U-turn, and with about 20 miles to go, another driver failed to negotiate a bend and went into a group of fans, instantly killing seven and injuring many, some of whom likely died in the hospital later. Just a half mile up the road from this accident, another occurred when a racer struck a pedestrian motorcycle carrying two people and veered into an enclosure. One of the motorcycle riders died, as did two spectators in the enclosure. All drivers involved in these accidents as well as their acompañantes were unhurt. Police blamed the spectators for the two larger accidents, as crowds were stated to be so thick that drivers couldn’t see the apexes of corners.

Not even the death of one of the series’ mainstays was enough to halt the madness. By 1963, Juan Gálvez, who had started as his brother’s acompañante before hopping behind the wheel himself, had proven himself as the best driver in series history to that point, with 59 wins and nine championships. His brother Oscar possessed five championships. In fact, between 1947 and 1961 (inclusive), there was only one year in which a Gálvez brother did not win the title.

Unfortunately, Juan himself would be fatally injured behind the wheel. Oscar Gálvez refused to compete at the 1963 Vuelta de Olavarria, his reason being the terrible weather and the rowdy fans, who had in fact thrown stones at him the last time they had been in town. Juan hopped into his 1939 Ford Coupe and started the race, but while approaching an ess bend just past the race’s halfway point he hit a mud pile and rolled. Juan, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the car and killed instantly, though his acompañante survived. This crash was blamed on poor road conditions. Not even the Juan Gálvez memorial run one month later on a completely paved circuit went without tragedy, though the race itself was remarkable, being the first broadcasted Turismo Carretera event in history. During the race, Joaquín Deporte and his acompañante Joaquín González were both killed when their car rolled. Ford had been dominating Turismo Carretera as of recent, and the death of Gálvez ended that dominance.

 

By the mid 1960s, the 1930s coupes that had been used for so long were beginning to look outdated. Turismo Carretera needed better, and they quickly found it in a variant of the muscle cars that were popular during the times. Sleek and powerful, these cars, sometimes developed in house and sometimes not, were expensive, leading to decreased fields. However, it did also cause something else: the introduction of the manufacturer IKA. During the 1960s, IKA was a subsidiary of Kaiser, though it has since been purchased by Renault. IKA cars lined the grids during the mid to late 1960s, their powerful engines leaving the cars of old in the dust. The introduction of a sports prototype partially owned by IKA called the Liebre Tornado made the usage of other manufacturers silly for some time.

1968 started off poorly for the Turismo Carretera. A disagreement had caused fields to dwindle, and only around 25 cars, mostly series fulltimers, showed up to the opener at Buenos Aires, by this point renamed the Autódromo Juan Gálvez. The frontrunners had started using the new Liebre Tornado, with Fords, Chevys, and Peugeots filling a few positions as well. Unfortunately, Turismo Carretera would have more important things to worry about, as the fifth race of the year, Balcarce-Loberia, proved to be a game changer.

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Credit to HistoriaTC; The car of Jorge Kissling

Over a hundred cars lined up for the Gran Premio Lubricantes Celinoil through the backroads of Balcarce and Loberia, in Buenos Aires province, a slight decrease from the 120s when coupes were being run, but still a healthy grid nonetheless. The disagreements which had marred the beginning of the year had been resolved and older machinery was still usable and fairly competitive on the dirt and decrepit asphalt roads of Argentina. On lap one of two, Raúl Salerno veered off course and into a crowd, killing one and injuring several. Later that lap, Jorge Kissling and acompañante Quique Duplán were both killed when their car’s steering arm broke on a gravel stretch, sending their IKA Torino rolling.

On lap two, while passing by the property of Juan Manuel Bordeu, a one-time F1 starter and good friend of Juan Fangio (who himself was the race director), the cars of Plinio Rosetto and Luis Gargiulo collided and went off course. Both cars flipped, and both drivers and their acompañantes were injured. Rosetto’s co-driver, Rubén Barra, died of his injuries a few days later. Finally, while approaching the finish line, Segundo Taraborelli and acompañante Hugo Bonavento lost control at full speed and spun into a stationary lorry. The car exploded, killing both Taraborelli and Bonavento. Two occupants of the lorry were also killed.

 

The toll of the race caused the intervention of the Argentine government. All motorsport events in the country were prohibited for the next month. During this time, Turismo Carretera, recognizing the danger of brand new equipment running on roads which likely hadn’t seen an inspection since the 1940s, chose to replace all of the wide open backroads races with ones on permanent tracks and street circuits, with the exception of the Vuelta de Allen, which had very high-quality roads to begin with while they conducted inspections of potential circuits. The rest of the calendar consisted of races at Rafaela, which had since been paved, Buenos Aires, Alta Gracia, San Juan, and a trip to the El Pinar circuit in Uruguay, alongside the remaining road race, the Vuelta de Allen.

At year’s end, Turismo Carretera made their decision. Races on the open road circuits, known as semipermanente circuits, would remain, but roads had to be of a much higher quality, and gravel roads, while still used for several more years, were banned in any races held in the Buenos Aires province. This also spelled the end of the classic rough-n-ready Gran Premio Argentino, though it would remain on the schedule for another decade as an all-asphalt race.

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Credit to HistoriaTC; Oscar Mauricio Franco races at Buenos Aires 1969

 

By 1971, Turismo Carretera had found a rhythm. Grid sizes were still small for the most part, as cars were being updated so quickly that even the Liebre Tornado was growing outdated, but competition was fierce and manufacturer involvement was strong. The series ran their 500th race that year, the Vuelta de Hughes. Races by this point lasted no more than two days for the most part, though the Gran Premio still lasted around five. That same year, the USAC Indycars made a very rare international trip, stopping by the large oval at Rafaela for a pair of 150 mile races, both won by A.J. Foyt.

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Credit to Sygic Travel

The dangers of Turismo Carretera hadn’t exactly faded, however. This was realized once again by the series in 1973. Nasif Estéfano was a popular face in Turismo Carretera who also ran a couple of races in Europe on occasion, and he had dominated early 1973. Going into round 13 of 15, an event known as the Gran Premio de la Reconstrucción Nacional, his points lead was looking insurmountable, and by the end of the first leg, it mathematically was, as the points Nasif had gained for winning the leg combined with the failure of his main rival to finish had given him enough of a buffer. On day two of the race, however, Nasif’s car shot off into a sandbank near Aimogasta, and Nasif was fatally injured. His co-driver was not hurt. Despite missing the last two rounds of the schedule, Nasif brought home the title.

The tiradita had become a no-no by this point according to Argentine traffic rules, and the organizers of Turismo Carretera had started cracking down on them, though a little sporadically. A fatal crash in 1974 caused the Turismo Carretera to outlaw tiraditas on public roads, though tiraditas on semipermanente circuits were permitted. Also in 1974, Octavio Suárez, a longtime competitor in Turismo Carretera, became President of the series’ sanctioning body, ACTC. Interestingly, despite his new position as President, Suárez continued to compete in Turismo Carretera.

 

One of the most interesting events of the 1970s occurred at the Vuelta de Salto, Buenos Aires province, in 1976. A field of 64 teams lined up for the event, all of them using cars that were, by the day’s standards, modern. The Ford users ran the Falcon, which had been sold in the United States for several years, but had been discontinued by 1976. The IKA representatives ran the Torino, which is even today considered the ‘national car’ of Argentina, but has no American equivalent. Those running Dodges mostly used the GTX, a car with a design that was heavily derived from the original Dodge Dart. Lastly, Chevrolet users ran the Chevrolet Chevy, which was based off of the American Chevrolet Nova. All of these cars were extremely popular with the Argentine public. The Chevrolet 400, Dodge Polara, and Peugeot 404 saw limited use.

On lap four of the first heat, which was to be followed by a second heat and a final, Luis Rubén Di Palma blew his engine while running a part of the track that ran through a small village called La Blanquita. Enrique Bravi skidded in the oil and struck a marshal’s post, terribly injuring a marshal. The post collapsed into the middle of the circuit, and Carlos Nani and his acompañante were injured when they crashed in an attempt to avoid it.

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Credit to HistoriaTC; The car of Eugenio Cali

The competition continued, and a cavalcade of people entered the circuit in an attempt to flag down drivers and assist Nani and his co-driver. Even the entry of an ambulance wasn’t enough to stop the cavalry of cars. After a short while, backmarker Eugenio Cali collided with another car while passing the accident site and flipped into the crowd, killing three spectators. Cali and his co-driver were not injured, and despite the violence of their hit, Enrique Bravi and his co-driver also weren’t injured. The marshal at the post that had been collapsed survived.

The reason why the race hadn’t been stopped immediately soon became apparent: the timing and scoring platform had collapsed in a separate incident. The race was finally called on lap eight. The round was cancelled, and while racing returned to the area, it wouldn’t be on the same circuit.

 

With the arrival of the 1980s, the series’ Ford representatives had begun looking into a new model for the car, believing they could go even faster. However, even with the discontinuation of most of the models either by the 1980s or in the early 1980s, the Chevy, Falcon, GTX and Torino had proven themselves so popular that the series kept using them. Once again, not everything was sunshine and rainbows for the series.

Octavio Suárez was a burly man and a fairly older one too, but behind the wheel of his Dodge GTX he fit in with his fellow competitors, despite being head of the ACTC. Sadly, he would become another victim of the Turismo Carretera.

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Credit to HistoriaTC; Octavio Suárez and acompañante before V. de Benito Juárez, 1984

On lap one of the Vuelta de Benito Juárez in 1984, Suárez’s car blew a tire and the car shot off the track on a very long straightaway. The car went end over end and landed on its wheels, completely destroyed. The car soon burst into flames, forcing Norberto Torre, his co-driver, to evacuate out the windshield. Suárez, however, was pinned.

Torre turned around and asked Suárez if there was a bar or something he could use to help get his driver out of the burning vehicle. Suárez’s arm was pinned against the door, but when Suárez saw a spectator approach with a flashlight, he, smelling fuel, ordered the spectator away. As Torre backed up to try and find a resolution, he noticed officials approaching the scene, who he beckoned to the scene, but the moment they arrived at the car, the Dodge GTX exploded. The race continued for a few more laps, though it was halted early. The series had lost its leader, and no one wanted to race. Eerily, the year prior, Octavio’s wife had passed away, leading Octavio to ask his brother, who had usually been his acompañante to that point, to retire, as if the pair had both been killed in a crash, his children would have been orphaned.

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Credit to fanafalcon

Even more tragedy was down the road, however. By 1988, semipermanente circuits were making up about half the calendar. Ford had found their alternate model in the Fairlane, which was just starting to be used in Turismo Carretera. Most semipermanente circuits were fully paved, the Gran Premio had been discontinued, and even then the semipermanente circuits were much smaller than they had been, at usually no more than ten kilometers long. Grid sizes often totalled in at around 50 to maybe 60, and the 750th Turismo Carretera race, which was held that year at the Circuito Semipermanente de Benedicto Campos, at Necochea, Buenos Aires province, was no exception.

On lap 14 of 21, Edgardo Caparrós, the son of Raimundo Caparrós, who had been killed in a Turismo Carretera accident in 1965, was running down the track’s longest straight when the car threw a tire. Caparrós, who’d been the winner of the previous season’s last two events, veered off the road and into the crowd. It demolished a caravan, a parked car, and flattened a tent before digging in and rolling five times. Edgardo Caparrós survived the accident, which stopped the race immediately, but he suffered severe head injuries that would force his retirement. Worse off was his acompañante, Alberto Belloli, who was killed, as were twelve spectators and an unborn child. At 14 confirmed dead, it was the worst accident in the history of Argentine motorsport, and finally led to the discontinuation of spectator enclosures being directly off the road. All tracks had to be closed off, though semipermanente circuits survived.

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Credit to HistoriaTC; The car of Caparrós

The next year was the year of the Ford Fairlane, which was used alongside the Falcons during the season by a few drivers. Oscar Angeletti was the frontrunner of the Fairlanes, winning three races and finishing second in the championship chase. Angeletti, however, was very badly injured during the 1990 season opener at Santa Teresita when his car went off and struck a pole at high speed. He would survive, but never raced again. The Ford Fairlane was eventually phased out at year’s end, and the cavalry went back to the Falcons.

 

Through death and excitement, semipermanente circuits had survived. They didn’t make up the bulk of the schedule any longer, but they were still being run. Gravel roads had been phased out after 1968, and dirt roads had been done away with in the late 80s, but the old remnants of the past had survived into the 1990s. A pair of fatal crashes, however, spelt their end.

Roberto Mouras was a very frequent frontrunner in the series, as he had been since the 1970s. He had three titles to his name, and had almost won the championship in his first fulltime year in 1971. Even in the 1990s, he was still a frontrunner, and he had a championship shot going into the penultimate round of the championship, the Vuelta de Lobos, in 1992.

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Credit to Motores En La Sierra

During practice, Mouras stepped out of the car, and expert tuner Jorge Pedersoli, who had once been Mouras’ acompañante, stepped in. He ran a couple of laps to see if he could diagnose a nagging problem with the left front of the car that the team had been enduring. Mouras had lost a recent race due to a failure of the left front, and the problem hadn’t been going away. Pedersoli had a scary moment behind the wheel, but the problem was not addressed much further. During the main event, the left front again gave way, and Mouras skidded the car off at full speed, hitting an earth wall with so much force that the roll cage was shattered. The car went skyward, landing with a sickening thud. Mouras died on the spot, and his co-driver Amadeo González was terribly injured. He died a few days later. The race was ended, with Mouras being declared the winner.

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Credit to HistoriaTC

In 1994, Osvaldo Morresi, a former teammate of Mouras, slipped in another car’s oil during a race at La Plata and crashed into another earth wall. Morresi was pronounced dead within a few hours, and Jorge Marceca, his acompañante, was badly injured. Marceca died of his injuries two days later. Morresi, one of the best drivers in the series and one of the most successful to never win a title, also won the race he was killed in posthumously. This crash was the last straw, and semipermanente circuits were prohibited. They continued for three more years, but the very last semipermanente circuit to be used was the Santa Teresita circuit in 1997. Turismo Carretera had done away with something so influential it had given the series its name. That same year, Dodge and IKA both introduced new models to run in Turismo Carretera to slowly replace the Dodge GTX and IKA Torino, prototype models known as the Dodge Cherokee and Torino Cherokee. The pair of Cherokees, developed hand in hand, were based off the GTX and IKA Torino respectively and were created solely for racing. Their goal was to end the dominance of Chevrolet and Ford, which proved somewhat successful, though it would take a few years.

Dodge still struggled, however, while they attempted to get their Cherokees up to speed, and yet another tragedy would make the time before the Cherokees were competitive enough even more miserable. During a practice session for the round at Rafaela in 1998, Raúl Petrich, a Dodge mainstay, told his team that he detected an issue with the car’s undercarriage that was holding him back. His normal co-driver hopped out, and Oscar Lafeudo, a chassis expert, hopped into the passenger seat, a legal maneuver in practice. On his last lap of the day, however, the Dodge went straight on into a corner. Rafaela had seen very few updates since USAC had stopped by in 1971, so rather loose steel guardrails were still being used in the corners. When the Dodge hit the wall, it broke off the guardrail support, and the steel guardrail entered the cabin, instantly and graphically killing both occupants. The round was completely cancelled, and Rafaela built proper barriers for the series’ next visit.

By the beginning of the 2000s, Turismo Carretera had hit a rhythm. Circuits were all permanent with the occasional air base or closed street circuit event. Acompañantes were still being used. They were completely optional, however. The classic look of the cars also remained, and they were both loved by and popular with the public.

However, there were still more changes to be made, and again it would take tragedy to change them. Turismo Carretera has many junior series, one of which is TC Pista. During a race at Rafaela in 2006, Alberto Noya spun his car in a chicane and was hit full-bore by Hugo Fayanás directly in the passenger door. Both Noya and his acompañante, Gabriel Miller, died, forcing the cancellation of the Pista race and the Turismo Carretera Final. Rather famously, the fans, well past drunk by this point, were not pleased with the race’s cancellation. They set fire to tires and banners in protest, but officials did not budge.

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Credit to HistoriaTC

Turismo Carretera, in a historic ruling, ruled that acompañantes would be done away with at the beginning of 2008, only for their discontinuation to be made immediate after a bizarre crash at Rivadavia in mid-2007 claimed the life of Turismo Carretera competitor Guillermo Castellanos, who was fatally injured when his car was struck while he attempted to navigate a crash. Even though his co-driver wasn’t injured in the accident, the Turismo Carretera prohibited the use of them immediately. There was another thing that was done away with in 2008: the tiradita, which was completely outlawed by the ACTC.

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Credit to HistoriaTC; Matias Rossi rounds a bend at Mar de Ajo in 2007

The beginning of the 2010s was marred by one last tragedy for the series. Guido Falaschi had worked his way from Argentine Formula Renault in 2008 to Turismo Carretera in 2011 at the age of 22. Going into the semi-final race of the year at Balcarce, he had an outside shot at the championship, which was further helped by Guido qualifying pole position.

Balcarce had proved itself a dangerous circuit, using primary tire barriers and earth walls instead of concrete. A pair of Fiat 600s had once flown over the fence in the same turn during a race in separate accidents, and even during the 2011 race weekend Agustín Canapino utterly destroyed his car during practice, though he was surprisingly not injured.

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Credit to MundoD

With two to go in the main event, leader Mauro Giallombardo encountered the lapped car of Leonel Larrauri with Guido Falaschi running a close second. Rounding a small bend, Larrauri bailed out of the leaders’ way with too much speed and ran off. Guido Falaschi found Larrauri’s car bouncing in front of him and darted to the side to the track  in an attempt to avoid Larrauri. Falaschi’s car hit the tires and spun into the middle of the circuit, being hit by Guillermo Ortelli and then Nestor Girolami, whose Torino struck the Ford in the driver’s door. The race was red flagged and ended a lap early as rescue crews worked to extricate Falaschi, who was pronounced dead of a basilar skull fracture an hour later, the 126th competitor fatality in Turismo Carretera. Guido’s race team, HAZ Racing Team, closed down immediately after his death. It would reopen the next year as Por Siempre Guido (Forever Guido) 16 Team, running touring cars.

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Credit to Minutobalcarce

Balcarce was closed down in the aftermath of the crash, organizers deciding the track simply was too unsafe. As of 2018, it had not reopened.

 

Today, Turismo Carretera continues on. Turismo Carretera is currently considered a stock car series, in a way the Argentine equivalent of NASCAR complete with double-file restarts and high speed banked turns, and even a playoff system. Grids often clock in at about 45 per event. Races usually consist of practice and qualifying, followed by a series of three short heats to determine starting grid and, if there is a need for DNQs, who they will be. Afterwards is the Final, which is often between 100 to 120km, though there is an annual 1000km endurance event held at Buenos Aires. The season usually starts early, in February, and ends in December.

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Credit to Clarín; Guri Martinez leads the pack at Parana 2015, note the flipped car of J.P. Gianini in the back

There are a myriad of series that drivers can use to step up to Turismo Carretera, however drivers who want to move right to Turismo Carretera start in the TC Pista Mouras series, which began in 2008. Drivers who move up from this series go on to TC Mouras, which began in 2004, after which is the TC Pista series, which was created in 1995. These, along with an Argentine Porsche GT3 series, are the series run by the ACTC.

The series is supported by a myriad of other series. TC2000 and Súper TC2000 are a pair of touring car series that usually run their own race weekends, but will occasionally support Turismo Carretera. Both series are very high-ranked, especially Súper TC2000. The two series use cars such as the Citroën C4 Lounge, Toyota Corolla, Renault Fluence, Peugeot 408, Fiat Linea, Chevrolet Cruze, and Ford Focus.

Another popular series in Argentina is Top Race, another high-ranked touring car series that used to be owned by the ACTC, but no longer is. Top Race has three levels, Top Race, V6, and Junior, and uses its own regulations, regulations which can best be described as a mix of Supertouring and S2000. It

 

 

Sources:

Historiatc.com.ar  (Carrera Nº 1, Nº 3, Nº 7, Nº 21, Nº 29, Nº 73, Nº 107, Nº 292, Nº 451, Nº 499, Nº 538, Nº 580-A, Nº 691, Nº 750, Nº 780, Nº 826, Nº 846, Nº 1044, Nº 1130)

“Hace 20 años moría Octavio Justo Suárez”, September 24th, 2004 article to La Nueva

“A 30 años de la tragedia del TC que dejó 13 muertos”, March 5th, 2018 article to Política Necochea

“Cuando el Fairlane fajó a las Chevy, Falcon y las Dodge GTX”, December 6th, 2014 article to La Izquierda Diario

“RELEVAN ESTADO DEL AUTÓDROMO EN BALCARCE”, March 5, 2018 article to Carburando

Motorsport Memorial

“Adios a las tiraditas”, January 30th, 2008 article to Olé!

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Daytona Oval In The Rain: The 1963 American Challenge Cup

Oval racing in the rain is very rare, though it does occur. The Pickup Truck Racing Championship in Britain, the only series that still uses the oval at Rockingham, is willing to run the big oval in the rain, and the Tours Speedway, being a track built out of a parking lot with drainage systems, can hold rain races, as it did in 2014, and undoubtedly several short tracks have held races in a light drizzle.

In 1963, however, the most unexpected track held a rain race on its oval: Daytona.

The American Challenge Cup, also known as the NASCAR Challenge Cup, made its debut in 1963. Somewhat confusingly, there had already been a race called the American Challenge Cup, which had begun in 1961 and was a ten lap dash at Daytona for the prior season’s winners. In 1963, the last year this ten lap dash was held, it was renamed the Race of Champions.

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Credit to Racingsportscars

The new race that usurped the moniker, however, was no quick dash. It was a 250 mile race for GT cars and sports cars alike. From Pontiacs to Ferraris, the race was open to all sorts provided their engine displacement was under 427.2 cubic inches. Its organizers are currently unknown. Several different cars entered the event, from a pair of Jaguars and a Maserati entered by sports car enthusiast Briggs Cunningham, Sr., grandfather of the former ARCA teamowner, to several self owned privateer teams such as a Ferrari 250 GTO entered by Britain’s David Piper and a Chevrolet Corvette owned and driven by American Tony Denman.

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Credit to Flickr

On February 14th, 1963, disaster struck. Marvin Panch had been tapped to run a Maserati Tipo 151 for the team owned by Briggs Cunningham, Sr. The Maserati had been previously used at Le Mans the year prior, and hadn’t done very well, but it was looking quick at Daytona. Control was lost, however, and Panch flipped the beautiful Maserati down the banking before landing on his lid. Several men rushed to Panch’s aid, saving him from the inferno. One of the men, Tiny Lund, would be asked by the Wood Brothers, for whom Panch was planning on running the Daytona 500, to take his place. Lund went on to famously score a Cinderella victory at the 500.

The Maserati, of course, was a total loss. Panch had been one of the quickest drivers in practice, and one less competitor put a large damper on the starting grid, as, while about 30 drivers attempted the race, only 16 ran laps surpassing the magical mark of 130mph to make the show.

1963 American Challenge Cup Starting Lineup

  1. #3 Bill KRAUSE (Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray)
  2. #4 Rex WHITE/Mickey THOMPSON (Chevrolet Corvette)
  3. #22 Fireball ROBERTS (Ferrari 250 GTO)
  4. #50 Paul GOLDSMITH (Pontiac Tempest)
  5. #26 David PIPER (Ferrari 250 GTO)
  6. #17 A.J. FOYT (Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray)
  7. #19 Tony DENMAN (Chevrolet Corvette)
  8. #28 Joe WEATHERLY (Ferrari 4.9)
  9. #41 Bob BROWN (Chevrolet Corvette)
  10. #14 Count Huschke VON HANSTEIN (Porsche 356B)
  11. #1 Ed CANTRELL (Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray)
  12. #6 Jeff STEVENS (Chevrolet Corvette)
  13. #15 Joachim BONNIER (Porsche 356B Carrera Abarth GTL)
  14. #7 Don CAMPBELL (Chevrolet Corvette)
  15. #16 Bob HOLBERT (Porsche 356B Carrera Abarth GTL)
  16. #44 Bill BENCKER (Porsche 356B Carrera 2)
    Note: #15 may have started 10th and #14 13th. Exact car models beyond the manufacturer and basic model may be inaccurate.

DNQ:
Dick Lang* (Corvette SR), Johnny Allen* (Corvette), Bill Krause* (Corvette SR), Doug Hooper* (Corvette SR), Bill Storey (Lotus Elise), Mike Kurkjian (Porsche 356B Carrera), Delmo Johnson (Corvette), Pedro Rodriguez (Ferrari 250 GTO), Bob Grossman (Ferrari 250 GTO), Innes Ireland (Ferrari 250 GTO), Charlie Kolb (Porsche 356B Carrera), Paul Richards (Alfa Romeo Giuletta SZ)
WD: Junior Johnson (Corvette SR, car driven by Krause), Marvin Panch (Maserati Tipo, crash), Art Huttinger (Corvette SR, car driven by Cantrell)
DNA: Walt Hansgen (Jaguar), Augie Pabst (Jaguar)
* these drivers failed to qualify due to finishing outside the top 3 in a 7 car, 5 lap qualifying race, the others were too slow during time trials

7-1963-Mystery-Motor-Corvette-Mickey-Thompson-Daytona-lpr
Credit to Hot Rod Network

Junior Johnson had easily been the fastest in practice, setting a 162.220mph lap and putting his car on pole. However, the crew which owned his Sting Ray was more of a drag racing team and couldn’t find a great handling setup, to the point where Johnson didn’t feel comfortable driving and pulled out. Bill Krause, who had finished outside the top 3 in a qualifying race, hopped in at the last minute. Art Huttinger also pulled out, and his place was taken by Ed Cantrell.

14 cars took the green on a very cold and wet Saturday, February 16th, as Stevens and Weatherly did not start. Paul Goldsmith quickly took the lead and had a decent gap by the end of the lap. Disappointingly, the cold and steady rain provided little excitement for the spectators, as while the sight of sports cars rounding the big oval in the rain was interesting, not much passing took place beyond cars being lapped. All 100 laps were led by Goldsmith, who brought home a dominant win. Virtually nothing that reporters found to be worth accounting for happened in the race, save for the interesting sight of sports cars slowly lapping the speedway.

1963 American Challenge Cup Results

  1. #50 Paul GOLDSMITH
  2. #17 A.J. FOYT (-2)
  3. #3 Bill KRAUSE (-6)
  4. #22 Fireball ROBERTS (-7)
  5. #26 David PIPER (-8)
  6. #19 Tony DENMAN (-13)
  7. #14 Count Huschke VON HANSTEIN (-15)
  8. #15 Joachim BONNIER (-15)
  9. #44 Bill BENCKER (-15)
  10. #16 Bob HOLBERT (-15)
  11. #1 Ed CANTRELL (-16)
  12. #41 Bob BROWN (-41, DNF)
  13. #4 Rex WHITE/Mickey THOMPSON (-62, Visibility)
  14. #7 Don CAMPBELL (-93, DNF)
  15. #28 Joe WEATHERLY (DNS)
  16. #6 Jeff STEVENS (DNS)

This would be the only running of the American Challenge Cup oval race. Another race of the same name was held the next year, won by A.J. Foyt, but it was a 250-mile road race. Goldsmith’s incredibly fast Pontiac was used again by Goldsmith in the Daytona Continental 3-hour road race the next day, a race which would soon develop into the 24h of Daytona, but the car’s fuel pump gave out a few minutes after the start. Mercedes quickly found an interest in the Pontiac and purchased for use in ‘competitive reconnaissance’, never to be seen again. Even still, this race remains an interesting footnote in Daytona’s long history, showing that racing on a large oval is possible…though usually ill advised.

Sources:

“Cunningham To Have Three Cars In Daytona Speed Test”, January 27th, 1963 edition of The Bridgeport Post

“Racer Burned In Daytona Spill”, February 15th, 1963 edition of The Hillsdale (Michigan) Daily News

“Now It Can Be Told! The True Story of How Mickey Thompson Was the First to Race the Big-Block Chevy”, September 10th, 2015 article on Hot Rod Network

“1963 Pontiac LeMans Wins the 1963 NASCAR Challenge Cup”, October 4th, 2015 article on Hot Rod Network

The Time Indycars Ran Daytona’s Oval

Despite its high banks, Daytona Int’l Speedway is actually suitable for open wheel racing. Indycar tested at the track’s motorcycle course in 2006 and 2007, and the SCCA frequently holds regional events at the full road course, including the prestigious Runoffs in 2015. Even Formula One cars have run the road course at Daytona, as in 1984, a secret tire test was conducted at the circuit to little coverage or fanfare. However, open wheelers have shied away from the oval, and for good reason: their one attempt went terribly.

Daytona International Speedway was, in 1959, possibly the most modern racing facility in the world. Everyone wanted to race at the beautiful new 2.5 mile oval or one of its three road courses. USAC was one of these series, and in August talks began. USAC wanted to hold a 100 lap, 250 mile race on July 4th. However, in anticipation for such a long event, USAC scheduled a 40 lap, 100 mile event on April 4th, so drivers could acclimate to the new facility. This race would be held alongside a non-championship Formula Libre race, also 100 miles and on the oval, and a 1000km road race on the facility’s 3.81 mile primary road course. The Formula Libre race was open to Championship Cars, as the day’s Indycars were called, and select sports cars, while the road race counted for the USAC Road Racing Championship.

Daytona International Speedway
Credit to Getty Images

When USAC officials visited the speedway, they were impressed. Speeds were expected to be around 180mph during the event. For reference, the qualifying track record at Indianapolis at the time was 145 mph, set by Dick Rathmann in 1958, and the one lap record in an Indycar, then referred to as a Championship Car, was set at Monza’s high banked oval in 1957 during the Race of Two Worlds weekend, when Tony Bettenhausen, Sr. set a lap with an average speed of 177.045 mph.

Upon the speedway’s completion, Bill France asked USAC to run a full exhibition at the facility. USAC declined, but permitted teams that wanted to run unofficial familiarization tests to do so. One of these team owners was Chapman Root, who owned a Sumar Streamliner, a modified Championship Car roadster with a removable canopy (canopy not seen in the below photo).

IMG_2594
Credit to Indy Roadster Builders

Root’s driver was Marshall Teague, who ironically enough had once been a NASCAR star. On February 9th, Teague ran nine laps, his best being at 171.821 mph, the fastest lap ever set in the United States. His test session on February 10th ended early due to a cut tire, his best lap being a little slower than day one. Day three, February 11th, ended in tragedy when Teague’s car skidded in turn one while he was warming up for the day’s first flying lap. The car overturned, and Teague, still strapped in his seat, was ejected through the canopy, dying instantly of a skull fracture. Testing continued throughout the ensuing days, but no one set a better lap time than Teague.

59marshallteague2
Credit to The Fastlane

Thirty entries were expected for the inaugural USAC Daytona 100, and 26 cars showed up at the speedway. Practice was to begin on March 25th and last throughout the ensuing days, with both the USAC and Formula Libre races planned for April 4th, the sports car race being the following day. All of the Formula Libre entries were also USAC Championship Car entries with the exception of Carroll Shelby in a Maserati, however Shelby withdrew from the Formula Libre race midweek, deciding to only run the sports car event.

Chief Steward Harlan Fengler imposed a speed limit during practice as a safety precaution. Drivers were to keep their speed to 150mph during their first ten laps. After that, their speed limit was 160mph, which would last for another ten laps. At the start of their 21st lap, they could run as fast as they pleased. Jim Rathmann quickly shattered Teague’s best time, but it was 1958 Indy 500 Rookie Of The Year George Amick atop the final leaderboard with a 176.887 mph lap, which would remain the fastest at Daytona for eight years. He set the time during the second day of time trials, however, so he only lined up ninth.

Mother Nature was a frequent nuisance during the race week, frequently cancelling practice and qualifying sessions to the point where officials, despite not having any additional Formula Libre entries to hold sessions for, called off sports car qualifying, deciding to line the 28 entries up by engine size.

Practice, however, was marred by a huge crash on the 29th. Bob Veith, who ironically was one of the region’s top highway safety experts, lost control due to a gust of wind and struck the outside wall on the backstretch. His car flipped over and slid on its lid down before eventually rolling back onto its wheels. Veith was injured, but not critically, and he was released after a night in the hospital. Veith credited his survival on his car’s roll bar, a new requirement as of the 1959 season. The car was a write off and had to be withdrawn. No other massive incidents occurred during pre-race sessions, though two crashes on April 3rd sent both Jerry Unser and Al Keller’s cars airborne. Neither driver was hurt, but both cars were damaged, and Unser had to withdraw.

Out of the 26 entries, only 20 cars ended up qualifying for the USAC Daytona 100. Two drivers failed to qualify, and the others withdrew.

1959 USAC Daytona 100 Starting Grid:

  1. #41 Dick RATHMANN
  2. #16 Jim RATHMANN
  3. #5 Rodger WARD
  4. #24 Dempsey WILSON
  5. #21 Elmer GEORGE
  6. #65 Bob CHRISTIE
  7. #9 Don BRANSON
  8. #44 Eddie SACHS
  9. #2 George AMICK
  10. #75 Tony BETTENHAUSEN, SR.
  11. #8 Len SUTTON
  12. #25 Bill CHEESBOURG
  13. #4 Jud LARSON
  14. #10 A.J. FOYT
  15. #3 Johnny THOMSON
  16. #82 Al KELLER
  17. #84 Pat FLAHERTY
  18. #22 Jim PACKARD
  19. #95 Bill RANDALL
  20. #53 Jimmy DAVIES

DNQ: #77 Mike Magill, #71 Chuck Arnold
WD: Jerry Unser (practice crash), Bob Veith (practice crash), Bob Said (car driven by Randall), Paul Russo (car driven by Bettenhausen, Sr.)

The field took the green around 2:00 p.m. on April 4th, a Saturday. Winds were fairly substantial, at about 20mph, but otherwise it was a warm and sunny day. Only about 10,000 spectators filled the stands, a huge drop from the 47,000 that had attended the inaugural Daytona 500. Jim Rathmann’s Watson took the lead early, and held it for six laps before Rodger Ward, in the field’s other Watson, passed him. On lap 12, Jim Rathmann, using Ward’s slipstream, shot by Ward and took the lead back. Rathmann and Ward would run 1-2 the rest of the race, which went by quickly and without major incident – or so they thought.

images (7)
Credit to Floridastockcars

As Rathmann and Ward crossed the line to finish the race, the battle was still fierce for third place. Bob Christie in the Kurtis chassis and George Amick were neck and neck in turn two, a half lap behind the leaders. As Amick dropped in behind Christie, his car made a sudden swerve, possibly due to dirty air combined with Amick’s quick turn to get behind Christie. The sleek Epperly chassis hooked up the track and into the wall at the exit of turn two at full speed. It flew into the air, landed, and bounced once down the track before doing a dozen violent rolls.

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Credit to The Fastlane

Dick Rathmann and Jim Packard swerved hard and missed the accident, and Bill Cheesbourg spun his Kurtis out in avoidance. He ran over to Amick’s car, which had come to rest upright, before realizing that there was no chance of reviving him. Amick, 34, had died instantly of catastrophic back and head injuries, the entire front and left side of his car sheared away.

OZXrGRR
Credit to The Fastlane

The race was red flagged, and all racers who had not already crossed the line (i.e. everyone but the two leaders) was waved off the track. For third place on back, their results were taken from how they had been running the last time they had crossed the line.

1959 USAC Daytona 100 Results:

  1. #16 Jim RATHMANN
  2. #5 Rodger WARD
  3. #65 Bob CHRISTIE (-1, Flagged)
  4. #2 George AMICK (-1, Fatal Crash, Backstretch)
  5. #41 Dick RATHMANN (-1, Flagged)
  6. #21 Elmer GEORGE (-2, Flagged)
  7. #3 Johnny THOMSON (-2, Flagged)
  8. #10 A.J. FOYT (-3, Flagged)
  9. #84 Pat FLAHERTY (-3, Flagged)
  10. #22 Jim PACKARD (-3, Flagged)
  11. #9 Don BRANSON (-3, Flagged)
  12. #25 Bill CHEESBOURG (-4, Spun, Backstretch)
  13. #82 Al KELLER (-5, Flagged)
  14. #95 Bill RANDALL (-6, Flagged)
  15. #53 Jimmy DAVIES (-7, Flagged)
  16. #4 Jud LARSON (-8, Flagged)
  17. #24 Dempsey WILSON (-12, Spun, Turn 2)
  18. #75 Tony BETTENHAUSEN, SR. (-28, Oil Leak)
  19. #44 Eddie SACHS (-28, Ignition)
  20. #8 Len SUTTON (-28, Piston)

Race Time: 0h35m14s40
Poleman’s Speed: 173.210mph
Race Speed: 170.261mph
Lead Changes: 3
Leaders: 2 (#5, #16)
Purse: $20,410
Winner’s Purse: $6,400

Guardrail repairs took about two hours, and sunset was approaching. Despite the ever-increasing winds and the fact that drivers were both heavily fatigued and in mourning, the Formula Libre race was squeezed into the schedule, though it was shortened to 20 laps. Six drivers did not take the start. Dempsey Wilson, his car wrecked, hopped into Tony Bettenhausen, Sr.’s car. Though Bettenhausen, Sr.’s Kuzma was repairable, Tony himself refused to race at Daytona ever again.

Starting Grid:

  1. #41 Dick RATHMANN
  2. #16 Jim RATHMANN
  3. #5 Rodger WARD
  4. #21 Elmer GEORGE
  5. #65 Bob CHRISTIE
  6. #9 Don BRANSON
  7. #75 Dempsey WILSON
  8. #25 Bill CHEESBOURG
  9. #3 Johnny THOMSON
  10. #22 Jim PACKARD
  11. #82 Al KELLER
  12. #84 Pat FLAHERTY
  13. #95 Bill RANDALL
  14. #53 Jimmy DAVIES

WD: George Amick (deceased), Tony Bettenhausen, Sr. (driver choice, car driven by Wilson), Jud Larson (driver choice), A.J. Foyt (driver choice), Len Sutton (mechanical), Eddie Sachs (mechanical)

Right out of the gate, Jim Rathmann got the jump and he led lap one. Rodger Ward led lap two through four, but spun out on lap five while dueling Jim Rathmann. Ward was unhurt. The caution flag came out for this, and the race only restarted on lap 10.

With Ward having fallen by the wayside, Jim Rathmann and his brother Dick were home free. The pair dueled one another fiercely, with Jim Rathmann prevailing in the end. Very little occurred in the Libre race, possibly due to Jim’s main competitor for the lead spinning out and everyone else simply pacing their cars.

Results:

  1. #16 Jim RATHMANN
  2. #41 Dick RATHMANN
  3. #65 Bob CHRISTIE
  4. #3 Johnny THOMSON (-1, Flagged)
  5. #22 Jim PACKARD (-1, Flagged)
  6. #21 Elmer GEORGE (-1, Flagged)
  7. #25 Bill CHEESBOURG (-1, Flagged)
  8. #9 Don BRANSON (-3, Flagged)
  9. #75 Dempsey WILSON (-3, Flagged)
  10. #53 Jimmy DAVIES (-4, Flagged)
  11. #82 Al KELLER (-10, Piston Failure)
  12. #95 Bill RANDALL (-10, Oil Leak)
  13. #5 Rodger WARD (-16, Spun, Turn 2)
  14. #84 Pat FLAHERTY (-16, Out)

Race Time: 0h18m40s14
Relief Drivers: Mike Magill (Magill relieved #75 Dempsey Wilson from lap 11 to the finish)
Race Speed: 160.694mph
Lead Changes: 3
Leaders: 2 (#5, #16)

With that, one of the most bizarre and yet tragic race weekends in American open wheel history was over for most drivers. However, there was still the sports car race, which counted for the USAC Road Racing Championship. Only about 6,000 spectators were there to watch the sports car race, however. The race was scheduled for 164 laps for 1000km, but was shortened to a six hour race due to darkness. It ended up lasting 147 laps. No major incidents were reported.

Carroll Shelby led the race early, but a bad pit stop ruined his day, which was eventually ended by a driveshaft failure. From there, the Porsche 718 RSK of Roberto Mieres and Count Antonio Von Döry dominated the show. They won handily despite being penalized a lap for running out of fuel.

1959 Daytona 1000km Results (Car, Laps Off, Reason Out if any)

  1. #86 Roberto MIERES/Count Antonio VON DÖRY (Porsche)
  2. Bob SAID/Art BUNKER (Porsche, -1)
  3. #7 Paul O’SHEA/Augie PABST (Jaguar, -1)
  4. #12 Loyal KATSKEE (Ferrari, -5)
  5. #22 Fireball ROBERTS/Ralph MOODY/Dick RATHMANN (Ford, -9)
  6. #99 Skip HUDSON/Santiago GONZALES (Ferrari, -9)
  7. #8 Lloyd CASNER/Lee LILLY (Ferrari, -10, DNF)
  8. #6 Jim KAPERONIS/Marshall SARGENT (Astari Corvette, -20)
  9. #62 Remo CATTINI (Fiat, -26)
  10. #64 Alfonso THIELE (Fiat, -27)
  11. #63 Alonzo CUSSINI (Fiat, -28)
  12. #1 Alphonso GOMEZ-MENA/Raimoro MONTALVO (Ferrari, -31, DNF)
  13. #45 Bill KRAUSE/Lloyd RUBY (Maserati, -37, Oil Line)
  14. #78 Phil STILES/Don FINDLEY (Austin-Healey, -37)
  15. #61 Fred PFISTERER (Lotus, -49)
  16. #46 Carroll SHELBY (Maserati, -49, Driveshaft)
  17. #36 Bob HOLBERT/Fred WINDRIDGE (Lister, -51, Engine)
  18. #212 A.J. FOYT (Lister, -54, Differential)
  19. #15 Ray SAIDEL/Paul MANSEN (Jomar, -59, Fuel Pump)
  20. #81 Len SUTTON/Bill LOVE (AC, -61, DNF)
  21. #65 Ralph MOODY/Jim RATHMANN (Ford, -107, Engine)
  22. #38 Ricardo RODRIGUEZ (OSCA, -117, Connecting Rod)
  23. #21 Sherman UTSMAN/Jerry UNSER (Williams Special, -125, DNF)
  24. #27 Bill KRAUSE (Jaguar, -134, DNF)
  25. #68 Jim RATHMANN/Chuck DAIGH (Maserati, -136, Piston)
  26. #88 Chuck DAIGH (Ferrari, -140, Differential)
  27. #3 Paul GOLDSMITH (Kurtis Corvette, -140, Engine)
  28. #49 George CONSTANTINE (Aston Martin, -146, Piston)

The response by USAC was maybe even swifter than the speeds they had been running. Daytona was too fast, the banking was too steep, the local winds were too fast, attendance levels were too low, and driver fatigue levels were through the roof. By April 8th, USAC had cancelled the planned July 4th race, which was quickly snatched up by NASCAR Grand National. The Firecracker 250, now known as the Coke Zero Sugar 400, would become one of NASCAR’s most successful races. USAC gave sports cars at Daytona another try despite low attendance, and the 1000km of Daytona eventually turned into a successful event, being lengthened to 24 hours a few years later.

In 1971, USAC ran a much larger oval than even Indianapolis or Daytona. That year, the speedsters travelled down to the 2.874 mile oval in Rafaela, Argentina. The twin 150 milers on the standard back-and-forth oval’s low banks, though successful and held without tragedy, were never repeated. USAC also had Talladega, of all tracks, on its calendar after merging with CART in 1980, but when the merger fell through halfway through the season and CART split off, the race was cancelled.

Even today, all sorts of vehicles continue to lap the high banks of the famous tri-oval and its road course. However, open wheelers at Daytona’s oval has been something no series has been willing to try again – except for a few parade laps of vintage USAC Championship Cars in 2009.

Sources:

“Testing!!”, April 12th, 2006 article on Daytona’s website

“Duane Carter”, August 13th, 1958 edition of the Indianapolis Star

“Speeds Of 175-180 MPH Predicted For Daytona”, February 6th, 1959 edition of the Indianapolis Star

“Experts Divided On Wreck Cause”, February 12th, 1959 edition of the Daytona Beach Morning Journal

“Pit Chatter – Death Strikes Early”, February 12th, 1959 edition of The Spartanburg Herald

“Ferrari Factory Enters Car In Sunday’s Race”, April 1st, 1959 edition of the Daytona Beach Morning Journal

“Indy Cars Made One Tragic Attempt At Daytona Oval”, February 2nd, 2010 article on Speedsport

“Stocks Replace Speedway Cars July 4th At Daytona”, April 8th, 1959 edition of The Palm Beach Journal

The Fastlane

The Survival Of David Anspaugh

Some people just love to race. The allure of racing is too much for these individuals, and despite many of them not having the greatest equipment and not being the greatest drivers, they are often loved by the fans simply due to how enjoyable they are to watch.

In August of 2000, one of these drivers slid into his car for what would be the final time. A life changing crash awaited the journeyman, a driver his fans often called the Racing Principal.

OI1253660432_DavidAnspaugh
Credit to Weichtfh.com

David Anspaugh of Sturgis, Michigan was one such journeyman. Anspaugh’s racing career began in the late 1970s, and he had been competing ever since for the love of the sport.

By trade Anspaugh, who was married with no children, was the superintendent of Waldron, Michigan’s school district. The Racing Principal, as he was called, was a popular face, freely talking about his love for racing, giving ideas and tips to students who shared his love and wanted to start racing themselves, and sometimes even showing up to school in his racing suit. Anspaugh also had his students sign the side of his race cars.

ASA-22
Credit to comicozzle; note Anspaugh’s sponsor

Anspaugh, who owned his own team with his brother Frank, moved to the ASA in the 1990s. He was never a frontrunner, but was a respected driver nonetheless. Anspaugh’s best career finish came at the I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Missouri in 1992, where he finished ninth, and he was a frequent midfielder who raced cleanly and enjoyed himself thoroughly.

By the time 2000 arrived however, Anspaugh, 51, found himself struggling to make races. In late August, the ASA wagon train arrived at the Milwaukee Mile for the Time Warner Cable 200 for round 15 of 20. Anspaugh, who hadn’t failed to qualify for any races in 1998 or 1999, had only timed his way into three of the 12 races he’d attempted in 2000. Anspaugh’s name was to show up on the DNQ list yet again when the weekend was over, but this time it would be as a withdrawal.

During the race’s first practice session on August 26th, the #37 1st AYD/Sturgis Middle School 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix suffered a malfunction on the front straight. It was first believed that a brake pad came loose, but later sources claimed that the accelerator hung. In any case, the car spun backwards, hit the wall rear first at top speed, and turned onto its roof, sliding upside down for some distance before eventually rolling back onto its wheels. Anspaugh was unconscious when reached by officials and was extricated from the car through the top. No marks were found on Anspaugh’s helmet, but the beloved superintendent had suffered a severe closed head injury.

Waldron-s-chief-suffered-brain-injuries-in-stock-car
Credit to The Toledo Blade

Anspaugh was comatose for six weeks before finally awakening, upon which therapy began. Doctors had only given Anspaugh a 1% chance of survival, yet the Racing Principal taught them otherwise, so to speak. Through rigorous therapy, Anspaugh made incredible progress, and when he next returned to his schools in February 2002 for a fundraiser, Anspaugh turned heads. He’d started to walk on his own again, though only for short distances as he otherwise used a wheelchair. He’d regained the ability to swallow, speak full sentences, and read, and his wife was planning on bringing him home. His speech was still somewhat erratic, and he still needed assistance, but Anspaugh was able to perform most actions on his own despite suffering an injury which had killed and incapacitated many other drivers such as Rick Baldwin and Bruce Jacobi. This, unfortunately, was the last update made.

The Racing Principal did not lose his interest in race cars. In fact, when asked in March 2001, Anspaugh indicated that he still wanted to race again, though he never actually got behind the wheel of one again. David Anspaugh passed away on July 23, 2014 at the age of 65 from cancer, though he continues to be a fantastic example of a race car driver returning from the very edge.

 

Sources:

“Waldron’s chief suffered brain injuries in stock car”, March 5, 2001 edition of the Toledo Blade

“Victory lap finally in sight”, February 27, 2002 edition of the Toledo Blade

“Death at the Track”, November 11, 2001 special edition of The Charlotte Observer

“Collision with uncertainty”, February 28, 2006 edition of KPC News (date likely wrong, but that’s what is listed)

99 Weird Facts And Occurrences In NASCAR

 

NASCAR has always had its fair share of weird stories and interesting occurrences. Here’s a list of 99 odd happenings and fun little bits about the United States’ most popular racing series.

  1. Lee Petty entered the inaugural NASCAR Strictly Stock race at Charlotte in 1949 in a Buick he borrowed from a friend. Lee’s ‘pit crew’, if you could call it one, consisted of his sons Richard, 11, and Maurice, 10. Lee upended the car during the event, forcing him to replace the car and hike home.
  2. NASCAR occasionally allowed foreign marques to compete in select races in the 1950s and early 1960s. In fact, open top cars were permitted at NASCAR’s inaugural road race, held in 1954 at the Linden Airport in New Jersey. At all other ‘international’ races, however, only hardtops were permitted.
  3. During a race in Columbia, South Carolina in 1952, a fan in a pedestrian car attempted to cross the track and was struck by E.C. Ramsey’s Ford, taking Ramsey out of the race. Ramsey, unhurt, hopped out of his wrecked car and pummeled the drunkard until cops arrived.
  4. In 1976, two NASCAR cars were invited to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The cars were popular with the French crowd, but neither did very much. One of them, the #4 Dodge Charger of Hershel McGriff and Doug McGriff, blew up after two laps. The other, the #90 Ford Torino of Dick Brooks, Dick Hutcherson, and local Marcel Mignot, made it 104 laps before it, too, broke.
  5. The only driver to win in his only start is Marvin Burke, who won a race at Oakland in 1951. 
  6. Window nets began appearing around the mid-1960s and were optional until mid-1970.
  7. A driver by the name of J. Christopher competed in the inaugural NASCAR road race at Linden. Christopher dropped out of the race halfway through. Christopher was part of an amateur sports car group and would have lost his amateur status if he’d not entered under a false name. J. Christopher’s real name is Conrad Janis – yes, the same Conrad Janis as the one who played Mindy’s dad on Mork & Mindy.
  8. Joey Logano attempted – but did not qualify for – a 250-lap ASA race at the Lanier National Speedway when he was 13. He would qualify for several races that year in the series after he’d turned 14.
  9. Clint Bowyer almost hung up on Richard Childress’ secretary when Childress was calling him to inquire about Bowyer joining his driver development program. Bowyer believed it to be one of his friends playing a joke on him.
  10. Carl Edwards used business cards to promote his driving abilities.
  11. Jimmy Ingram of Jacksonville, Florida ran three Cup races in his career, one in 1951, one in 1952, and one in 1980. This 28-year gap is the largest between starts for a Cup driver.
  12. The record for most DNQs by a driver who never qualified for a NASCAR Cup race is likely St. James Davis, who attempted 16 Cup races without ever qualifying for one. All of these events were combination events with the NASCAR West Series, where West drivers could attempt to time their way in to Cup races.
  13. NASCAR actually ran four races in Japan. The fourth race was held at Motegi in 1999, and counted for NASCAR West Series points. It was won by Kevin Richards. Poor attendance led to it being a one-off.
  14. Lake Speed won the 1978 World Karting Championships over such names as Stefan Bellof and Ayrton Senna. He spent 1979 mulling his options and refining his skills, and made his Winston Cup debut in January 1980 at Riverside, meaning, for all intents and purposes, Speed jumped right from karting to NASCAR Cup.
  15. Jimmy Florian won a race in Canfield, Ohio in 1950 without a shirt on. It was an extremely hot day, and there were no rules saying he had to wear a shirt.
  16. Herman Beam received NASCAR’s first black flag during a qualifying race at Daytona in 1960 for not wearing a helmet. He ignored the black flag for about eight laps, but eventually came into the pits and was parked.
  17. In 1953, at the age of 12, Morgan Shepherd bought his first car. It cost him $12.50, two flying squirrels, a gray squirrel, and a 20 gauge shotgun.
  18. Race cars have ended up in some weird places over the years. Lee Petty once found himself spinning onto a baseball diamond during a race at Soldier Field in Chicago, Wilbur Rakestraw once plummeted into a cesspool after going off at Lakewood Speedway’s third turn, and Rich Woodland, Jr. flipped his car into the parking area at Sonoma Raceway in 1994.
  19. The tire bundles on Sonoma Raceway’s NASCAR layout are composed of more than 25000 tires.
  20. John Andretti tested a Lincoln Mark VIII at Charlotte in 1996. Lincoln was planning on possibly re-entering the Cup Series in the near future, but parent company Ford decided they wanted to only enter cars with the Ford name attached.
  21. Toyota debuted in NASCAR in the International Sedan (later Goody’s Dash) Series in 1982. It used the Corolla model. The driver of that Corolla was Davey Allison.
  22. Toyota later returned to NASCAR in the Goody’s Dash Series (again) with the Celica Coupe model in 2000. It was introduced back to NASCAR by road racer Eric Van Cleef. Van Cleef soon returned to road racing, but the Celica Coupe proved popular with drivers, and in 2003, Toyota won the manufacturer’s title with Robert Huffman.
  23. The tallest driver to ever attempt a NASCAR race is Gregory Vandersluis, an SCCA driving instructor who was entered for the 2017 Xfinity race at Road America for the Obaika team. As was typical of Obaika, they withdrew, and Gregory, who stands at a monumental six foot eight, never raced.
  24. The shortest driver to ever attempt a NASCAR race is likely Rico Abreu, who drove for Thorsport in the Truck Series for two seasons. He stands at four foot four.
  25. Cup drivers are not required to have a standard driver’s license.
  26. Driver Dink Widenhouse crashed his #B-29 car during a race at Darlington in 1956, and suffered a cut arm. Dink noticed he was bleeding while he climbed out of his car, passed out from the shock, and became entangled in the safety belts. When safety crews reached Dink, who was otherwise uninjured, he was upside-down angled against the car.
  27. Datsuns were mainstays in the Dash Series in the mid-80s, as were Nissans when Nissan acquired Datsun later in the decade.
  28. Mazda ran in the NASCAR Mexico Series for several years using the Mazda6 model.
  29. Rodrigo Peralta drove the field’s only Ford to the NASCAR Mexico title in 2013.
  30. Jeff Gordon, by his own admission, ran the 24h of Daytona in 2017, which his team won, for free.
  31. No one knows what happened to Bob Pronger, a NASCAR competitor in the 50s. He disappeared early in 1971 and his fate remains unknown, though he’s suspected to have been a victim of the mafia.
  32. NASCAR pioneer Buddy Shuman died in 1955 when he fell asleep in a hotel holding a lit cigarette in his hand, leading to a fire. He died of smoke inhalation.
  33. Even when their usage was still commonplace in NASCAR, triple digit numbers were not allowed at the Darlington Raceway with very few exceptions.
  34. Driver Allan Clarke ran a car “numbered” R-D at a race in West Palm Beach in 1954.
  35. Car number X was also used on several occasions in the 50s, most notably by Rex White. Car number X can still be seen occasionally on short tracks. In fact, in some of the earliest races, cars did not require numbers.
  36. Other bizarre numbers, all of them used in the “old era” of the NASCAR Modifieds, include #7777, #10-10, #10%, and #L-M.
  37. No one knows the actual age of Red Farmer, a longtime part-timer in both NASCAR and ARCA who still ran sporadic dirt track events well into the 2000s. Birth certificates were still not mandatory and were sometimes not given out to the dirt-poor, and Farmer himself does not remember. Several sources give his DoB as October 15th, 1932, though Farmer seems to go with sometime in 1928.
  38. In 1951, Frank Mundy carpooled with Marshall Teague in order to get to a race in Gardena, California. Mundy didn’t have a car available, and rented a ’50 Chevy from a local dealership, which he used in the race to finish 11th. Mundy had to return the car at night so the employees didn’t notice the balded tires. However, they apparently did notice, to which Mundy said the alignment was probably out and left.
  39. The minnow pond that led to Darlington being so oddly shaped no longer exists. 
  40. Kevin Harvick finished last for the first time, after almost 1100 races in NASCAR’s top 3 series, when he crashed out of the 2018 Coke 600.
  41. In 1956, Lee Petty took it upon himself to end a crash riddled race at the Tulsa Fairgrounds by snatching the red flag out of the flagman’s hand and waving drivers down. Conditions had been awful that day, and of the 13 starters, only seven were still running on lap 32, when Lee, who himself had just wrecked out, ended the race. The crowd was understandably not pleased, but eventually they left. The race was annulled and was not rescheduled.
  42. The NASCAR West Series has run the Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca on a few occasions, most recently in 2001.
  43. Fonty Flock passed the time during several races in 1952 by playing radio music.
  44. Carl Kiekhaefer reportedly once built a bonfire out of the engines of his business rivals, then danced around the flames.
  45. Superspeedway ringer Phil Barkdoll, who ran a NASCAR team for about 15 years, apparently started racing on a dare from a friend.
  46. Tim Flock suffered a concussion and was out for a month when a car ran over his head while he was napping before a race to be held in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1953.
  47. If his own word is to be believed, Greenville, South Carolina’s Jimmy Vaughn ran both the supporting Bama 400 Grand Touring race and the inaugural Alabama 500 at Talladega in 1969 on the same set of tires. He completed almost 750 miles combined.
  48. J.D. McDuffie used McCreary tires when he stunningly won the pole for a race at Dover in 1978. McCreary tires are, or at least were, notable for providing excellent speed but not lasting very long, and indeed, the tires wore out after eight laps. He lost the lead two laps later, and lost the engine on lap 80. It was still enough to qualify for the inaugural Busch Clash race for pole winners in 1979.
  49. McDuffie won $10,000 in the inaugural Clash despite finishing ninth (last). This was about double what McDuffie won in all of 1978.
  50. The inaugural Southern 500 in 1950 was interesting, to say the least. For example, Hershel McGriff of Oregon drove his car to the race and spent a few days sleeping on the county courthouse lawn.
  51. At the inaugural Southern 500, many drivers, not used to such a long race, brought an assortment of drinks, with one driver reportedly bringing some beer to drink during it. According to Buck Baker, the beer quickly foamed up, and the back of the car began to look like a washing machine as the booze sloshed out the window.
  52. Baker himself wrecked out on lap 176, and was shaken but all right. Baker had brought a jug of tomato juice, which went flying everywhere. When a first responder reached Baker, covered in red liquid and slumped, he thought Baker’d been beheaded.
  53. The #98jr of race winner Johnny Mantz’s infamous truck tires, on which he lapped the track at low speed but without a tire change – a several minute process at the time – were Firestones. They were the only Firestones on the grid.
  54. The inaugural Southern 500 only paid out money to the top 18 finishers and to a couple drivers who did well in qualifying. 19th place Joe Eubanks, despite finishing ahead of 56 other drivers, received nothing.
  55. According to some heavy cross-referencing, seven drivers flipped in the infamous pileup on the first lap of the NASCAR Modified-Sportsman race in 1960: #25 Bill Wark, #38 Ralph Earnhardt, #40 Stan Kross, #74 Dick Freeman, #84 Acey Taylor, #89 Wendell Scott and #92 Larry Thomas. Scott actually returned to the race.
  56. During a Busch North (now East) race at Lime Rock in 2005, Dale Quarterley flipped his car on the first lap after being stuffed into the tire wall, drove the wrecked car back to the pits, and eventually returned to the race. The car itself was reportedly very fast despite the flip, even capable of unlapping itself.
  57. In 1955, Tiny Lund flipped his car at the Memphis-Arkansas Speedway in Arkansas. The safety belts broke and Lund was thrown from the car, but thankfully he escaped with little more than a broken arm and bruises. Lund’s sponsor that day was Rupert Safety Belts.
  58. Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Michael Waltrip are tied for most confirmed flips by a NASCAR driver, with five, though Junior Johnson may have flipped as many as six times.
  59. Within a span of two races, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds and Daytona Beach and Road Course, in 1956, ten drivers flipped their cars. Sherman Clark, Jim Stapley, Bill Stammer, Bob Ruppert, and Howard Phillipi flipped at the Fairgrounds, and Buddy Krebs, Jim Wilson, Russ Truelove, Junior Johnson, and Ralph Moody flipped at Daytona Beach.
  60. Fireball Roberts’ real name was Glenn. He was nicknamed Fireball because he pitched a mean fastball in high school baseball.
  61. Tiny Lund’s real name was DeWayne. He was nicknamed Tiny due to his massive stature.
  62. NASCAR, like most sports, has its fair share of very embarrassing nicknames, such as Paul “Wimpy” Ervin and Thomas “Cotton” Priddy.
  63. Current Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman apparently does not like being called “Bowman the Showman”.
  64. ARCA/NASCAR Trucks driver Bo LeMastus’ real name is James. His nickname was coined by his grandfather when a young LeMastus took a photo with him while wearing a bow tie.
  65. At least four former NASCAR drivers are known to currently work in real estate, Boston Reid, Buckshot Jones, James Buescher, and Dylan Kwasniewski.
  66. Brandon Whitt reportedly works as a plumber, Ryan Hemphill’s got a factory job, and Todd Kleuver’s a roofer.
  67. Retired drivers with other racing-related jobs include Josh Wise, who works as a driver coach and fitness trainer, and Kyle Krisiloff, who organizes entertainment and music at Indianapolis.
  68. Former drivers who are now crew chiefs include Matt McCall (Jamie McMurray), Paul Wolfe (Brad Keselowski), Mario Gosselin (Alex Labbe), and Brian Keselowski (Jordan Anderson), though McCall does run very sporadic late model events.
  69. Former drivers who are now spotters include Tim Fedewa (Kevin Harvick), T.J. Majors (Joey Logano), and Kevin Hamlin (Alex Bowman), among many others.
  70. T.J. Majors met Dale Earnhardt, Jr. while racing online, and soon became Jr.’s protégé as he rose through the late model ranks.
  71. The winner of the equivalent to the All Star Open (the Atlanta Invitational) in 1986, Benny Parsons, did not transfer to the All Star Race (then called The Winston).
  72. Curley Barker ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of a NASCAR Grand National/Pacific Coast combination event at Portland Speedway in 1956, giving the win to Lloyd Dane. Barker, while far from the first or last NASCAR driver to lose the win on the last lap, is the only loser in a last lap pass to never actually score a win, either before the event or after.
  73. About an hour before the start of a Grand National race at the Wilson Speedway in North Carolina in 1959, the grandstands caught fire and burned down. No one was injured, but the crowd of 8800 had to stand to watch the event.
  74. Carl Kiekhaefer’s departure from NASCAR before the 1957 season was apparently so abrupt and done with so little fanfare that most pre-season entry lists still had him listed, even in the days leading up to the season’s first major event at Daytona Beach.
  75. The Riverside Raceway held 3 races in 1981, its traditional January race, its also-preexistent June race, and a new race in November, bookending the season. This would be the last year where the January race was held.
  76. A NASCAR Convertible race at the Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in North Carolina in 1956 ended with 181/200 laps complete because there was only one car still running. A jarring 14-car pileup had broken out on the backstretch, and only one driver, Curtis Turner, had survived the mayhem.
  77. Only one spectator has been killed during a Cup race: W.R. Thomasson, who died when he was struck by debris during a race at North Wilkesboro in 1957.
  78. The Goody’s Dash Series ran a dirt race in 2003 at the Oglethorpe Speedway Park in Georgia. Danny Bagwell won the 150-lap jaunt, which saw 15 caution flags.
  79. Curtis Turner piloted a Nash Ambassador to victory at the Charlotte Speedway in 1951. This would be the Nash manufacturer’s only win. The Nash Ambassador was usually seen as a joke by most drivers, making it almost fitting that the Ambassador, nicknamed the ‘upside-down bathtub’ by many, won its only NASCAR race on April 1st.
  80. Despite hosting the first NASCAR Strictly Stock race in 1949, the Charlotte Speedway only lasted a few more years. The 0.750 mile dirt oval closed after the 1956 season when Interstate 85, then still under construction, took its parking lot.
  81. New Hampshire International Speedway was supposed to be banked at 12 degrees, but the blueprints didn’t specify whether the 12 near the corners was 12 degrees or 12% grade. The construction crew assumed it was the latter, hence why it was only built to 8 degrees in the turns.
  82. Tom Cherry competed at the Daytona Beach and Road Course in 1953 with two numbers adorning his car. #38, the number placed on the sides, was the one he used for the event, and #120, the number placed on the roof, had been used when Cherry ran the Carrera Panamericana road race with the same vehicle.
  83. NASCAR had a Midget Division that operated until 1962.
  84. For a couple races in 1953, Tim Flock had a rhesus monkey by the name of Jocko Flocko in his car as a passenger. The fans loved Jocko, with whom Tim even scored a win, but after a freakout by Jocko cost Tim a race at Raleigh Speedway, Flock decided that Jocko had to go.
  85. The morning before the 1974 Winston 500, drivers and crews arrived at the Talladega Superspeedway to find that someone had filled their fuel tanks with sand and had cut brake lines. Despite the best efforts of investigators, the saboteur was never caught.
  86. The youngest driver to compete in NASCAR’s top series was Tommie Elliott, who competed at the Altamont-Schenectady Fairgrounds in 1951 at the age of 15 and a half. Elliott completed over 80% of the event, but whether or not he finished is unknown. He placed 15th out of 20 cars.
  87. The racing bug never left R.C. Zimmerman, who competed in five Cup races during the 1940s and 1950s. Zimmerman was still racing as of 2013, at the age of 94, though the series he competed in appears to not have been NASCAR-sanctioned. The oldest to compete in a NASCAR sanctioned series is Hershel McGriff, who ran a NASCAR K&N West race in 2018 at Tucson, aged 90.
  88. The 13th Southern 500, held in 1962 was listed as the 12th Renewal Southern 500 at the request of Joe Weatherly, who was famous for his belief in superstition and was considering not entering the race before the name change.
  89. Caesar’s Palace, the street circuit once used for Formula One which saw a Winston West in 1984 on a modified layout, was well-known for its smooth as glass surface. Organizers achieved this surface by having taxi drivers repeatedly lap the circuit.
  90. In 1963, the organizer of the Rebel 300 at Darlington changed the race’s format from a 219 lap race to two 110 lap races, with a 30 minute intermission. Drivers were scored using a confusing points system. Joe Weatherly was ruled the winner with 197.8 points, having finished first in segment one and second in segment two, Fireball Roberts, third place in both segments, was scored second with 191.7 points, and Richard Petty, the segment two winner, was third with 187.9 points. The format was never used again.
  91. NASCAR would occasionally run two races on the same day in its early seasons at different circuits. In fact, there were two instances in 1948, the inaugural NASCAR Modified season, where three races were held on the same day, all at different tracks, plus another instance that year where one track held a doubleheader and the other a single race on the same day, and yet another instance where two tracks held doubleheaders, both on the same day.
  92. In its early seasons, NASCAR also used to run a few races at the tail end of one year which would count for the next year’s points chase. In fact, on November 11th, 1956, two races were held, one at Hickory Speedway in North Carolina, and one at Willow Springs Raceway in California. The Hickory race counted for the 1956 points table, but the Willow Springs race counted for 1957 points.
  93. Six of the top seven finishers in a race held at the Augusta Raceway in November 1963 (counting for 1964 points) would die in car accidents before the end of  January 1965. Winner Fireball Roberts, second place Dave MacDonald, third place Billy Wade, fourth place Joe Weatherly, and sixth place Jimmy Pardue were killed in racing accidents, while seventh place Larry Thomas was killed in a highway crash in January 1965. Fifth place Ned Jarrett was the only exception.
  94. Three NASCAR starter flags were taken into space in 2008 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. One of the flags was presented to Ryan Newman, the Daytona 500 winner that year, a second was put on display, and NASA kept the third.
  95. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Division does not use Goodyear tires. It used Michelin tires from 2009, its first season, through its acquisition by NASCAR in 2012, until 2017. The Division switched to BF Goodrich tires in 2018. NASCAR Euro isn’t the only NASCAR series to not use Goodyears, as NASCAR Mexico has used Continentals for some time.
  96. The NASCAR Whelen Euro Division’s two series, Elite 1 and Elite 2, run the same race lengths: 30 minutes. The difference is in the FIA driver rankings, with Elite 1 being more for the professional racers and young talents, and Elite 2 being more for the journeymen and hobbyist racers.
  97. NASCAR Euro also has a Club Division. In this division, drivers run one at a time, and the best time wins. This division is stated to be for the journeymen who more enjoy simply driving race cars than competing, and for the rookies who aren’t sure if the Division’s for them.
  98. NASCAR Euro ran a rain race on an oval in 2014 at the Tours Speedway. The Speedway is built out of a parking lot and its berms, and its low banks and drainage systems permitted a rain race. It was won by Mathias Lauda.
  99. Canadian Tire, the former sponsor of the current NASCAR Pinty’s Series, is not a garage, nor a brand of tire – it’s a hobby shop, though most have tools and equipment for car enthusiasts.

Well, that’s the end of that, I’ll see you all later.

 

Sources:

“Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France”, book by Daniel S. Pierce

“Bowyer gets surprise call, and ride, from Childress”, May 16th, 2004 edition of The Morning Call (Allentown)

“SIX DIVISIONS – TWO CHAMPIONS AT IRWINDALE”, October 5th, 2013 article on Irwindale Speedway’s website

“Karting Passion Comes Full Circle for Karting Legend Lake Speed”, August 10th, 2015 article on ekartingnews

Tiny Lund’s profile on Decades of Racing

Sonoma Raceway’s website

“NASCAR Chronicle”, book by Greg Fielden

“Red Farmer: The Stock Car Interview”, October 18th, 2007 article to stockcarracing

Legends of NASCAR

“BNS: Dale Quarterley: Race Notes”, October 3rd, 2005 article on motorsport.com

“Helen Rae is really something special”, August 20th, 1986 article in The Anniston Star

“Hall of Fame memories for 2013”, February 8th, 2013 article on ESPN

“1001 NASCAR Facts: Cars, Tracks, Milestones, Personalities”, book by John Close

“First Southern 500 Featured 75 Cars, Many Driven To Track Then Home Again”, May 9th, 2012 article on SB Nation

“Baker Leads Chryslers To 150-Mile Race Sweep”, January 23rd, 1956 article in Arizona Republic

“The Early Laps of Stock Car Racing: A History of the Sport and Business”, book by Betty Boles Ellison

“Glen Wood still getting it done”, February 14th, 2010 article on ESPN

“Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner”, book by Robert Edelstein

Silhouet.com

“The 9 weirdest things ever flown on the Space Shuttle”, July 8th, 2011 article on csmonitor

Who Was David Gaines?

It’s that time again. NASCAR is off to Charlotte. I did an article on Gary Batson last year, and the year before on Russell Phillips. By process of elimination, it’s time to do an article on the remaining Sportsman fatality, David Arthur Gaines.

The background of the Sportsman Division is likely one you know well from my prior articles, but for those who don’t know, the NASCAR Sportsman Division ran from 1989 to 1996. Its objective was to allow for drivers who were accustomed to short tracks and much lower speeds to receive experience on larger ovals such as the Division’s home base, the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The cars used were old Cup and Busch cars that had had their engines tuned down and speeds lowered considerably. However, the series had many detractors, who believed that lowered speed alone wasn’t enough of a measure to keep the newcomers safe. Wrecks frequently became much worse than they needed to be, as inexperienced drivers panicked when a crash broke out in front of them at speeds much higher than what they were used to. The allure of racing at Charlotte, however, was just too strong for some.

2017-04-14 14.01.33
Credit to the Charlotte Observer

Not much is known about David Arthur Gaines, but what is known is that he was born on January 20th, 1963 in Raleigh, North Carolina and possessed an enjoyment of motorsport for many years. Gaines, a native of Goldston, North Carolina, began competing at the Caraway Speedway in 1985. Gaines, by trade an engineer at an electronics firm, was well known for crafting some rather impressive race engines, which won him three races and scored him 11 second places. He finished second in his division’s points table at Caraway in 1989, and did some other late model racing on the side, including one confirmed race where he raced against the Burtons. According to friends and family, Gaines’ love was racing, and he held his engineering position to fund his race team, which was managed by his father, Jerry, with David’s brother Todd on the box.

Screenshot_2018-05-15-14-30-36
Credit to The Anniston Star

Looking to move up, Gaines purchased a 1975 Oldsmobile Omega which had once been used by Dale Earnhardt, Sr. in the Busch Series and entered into the NASCAR Sportsman Division in 1990’s opening event, the Sportsman 100, at Charlotte, to be held May 20th. Pre-race practice sessions were aplenty, as the 72 drivers entered into the race, most of them very new, tried to acclimate to the speedway. They’d have a qualifying session followed by two 20-lap qualifying races to determine the 40-car grid for the 67-lap race. Gaines was one of the drivers acclimating best, with Earnhardt himself giving tips to the new owner of his old car.

During the final practice session before pre-race inspection on May 16th, driver inexperience led to a pileup breaking out in the west turn. In turn three, Ted Comstock of Rockwell, North Carolina spun his car, skidding up the track and sending the Chevrolet of successful Australian stock car racer Terri Sawyer, of Melbourne, into the wall. As Gaines came on scene, his Oldsmobile, possibly numbered 37, was clipped from behind by Stouffville, Ontario’s Peter Gibbons, causing Gaines to strike a set of water barrels on the track’s inside.

Screenshot_2018-05-15-14-41-03
Credit to AP

Steve McEachern, 29, of Phoenix, approached the site of the wreck with the speedway caution lights still flashing. McEachern piloted his Chevrolet on the inside through the turn at high speed, seemingly attempting to race back to the line. With little time to react, slammed into Gaines’ right rear quarter panel at full speed. The impact knocked McEachern’s car onto its roof. McEachern, an off-road racing specialist who was brand new to speedways, spun several times upside-down before the car hit the grass in the quadoval, sending him back onto his wheels with a vicious bounce.

Rescuers found McEachern conscious in his car, with injuries to his hands, but otherwise fine. Upon reaching Gaines, however, two men, presumably crew members, walked over to Peter Gibbons’ stalled car and put their heads in their hands. Gaines had suffered severe head injuries in the crash, and was pronounced dead on arrival to the hospital 20 minutes later.

Screenshot_2018-05-15-15-02-29
Credit to AP; The man squatting, head in hands, is Todd Gaines

Sawyer, Gibbons and Comstock all found themselves on the DNQ list. The race itself went on as planned and, somewhat surprisingly, was solid, containing a duel between Robbie Faggart and Charles ‘Tuck’ Trentham to the line, won by Faggart by a bumper.

NASCAR actually did not require Sportsman drivers to test at specific NASCAR-sanctioned racing schools, simply to have experience, a flaw that was swiftly changed in the aftermath. The Division was new at this point, and NASCAR hadn’t seen for itself what this would lead to. Unfortunately, when it did lead to something, it was a fatality. NASCAR clearly tried its best to make the Division work out, sending drivers to one of the best driving schools in the area before they could run a Sportsman race, and making its protocol much stricter. However, as later crashes revealed, it was not meant to be.

 

Sources:

“DAVID GAINES DIES IN FATAL CRASH FIVE-CAR ACCIDENT TAKES LIFE OF DRIVER”, May 16th, 1990 edition of the Greensboro Record

“Crash takes life of electrical engineer”, May 17th, 1990 edition of The Kokomo Tribune

“Gaines killed at Charlotte”, May 17th, 1990 edition of The Anniston Star

“Sportsman driver dies in crash during practice run”, May 17th, 1990 edition of The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)

“NASCAR driver Gaines killed in multi-car crash”, May 17th, 1990 edition of The Tampa Tribune

The Non-Competitor Cup Fatalities

Eight non-competitors have been killed during NASCAR Cup events, ranging from spectators to policemen to crew members to officials. Today, I’m going to give an overview speaking about what exactly happened and who they were.

 

STEVE CLARK

On August 19th, 1956, a NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model Division race was held at the Bay Meadows Race Track, a one mile oval in San Mateo, California. Though the race was for what’s now called the West Series, it did also count for Grand National points.

With about ten laps to go in the 250 mile race, backmarker Royce Hagerty crashed his car hard into the barrier. With the massive crowd interested to see if Hagerty was all right, several officers rushed onto the scene to keep them away from the fence. Conditions had been terrible that day, and drivers were unable to see very well. As such, there was little Scotty Cain could do when 46-year-old reserve officer Steve Clark of San Mateo stepped in his path.

Cain recalled later that conditions were so terrible that the only way he could see was by wiping away a small square of dirt on his windshield with his left hand. He only realized Clark was there when he struck him.

Clark died at the scene, and the race was stopped with 241/250 laps completed. Hagerty ended up being all right. The Bay Meadows Race Track was not used for any further stock car events, but it remained open to horse racing until 2008.

 

W.R. THOMASSON

A third of the way through a race at the recently paved North Wilkesboro Speedway on October 20th, 1957, Tiny Lund threw a wheel on his Pontiac. Another car hit the wheel, and the tire went over the fence and into the crowd. The wheel squarely struck 28-year-old spectator W.R. Thomasson, a mechanic’s helper from Mount Holly, North Carolina. Thomasson died instantly. Also injured in the incident was Frank Campbell of Charlotte, who was released shortly thereafter. A caution was waved, and after both injured men had been taken to the hospital, the race resumed.

Thomasson remains the only spectator fatality in NASCAR’s top series.

 

PAUL MCDUFFIE, CHARLES SWEATLUND AND JOE TAYLOR

On lap 95 of the 1960 Southern 500 on September 5th, Floridian Bobby Johns was racing alongside independent driver Roy Tyner when the duo collided. The cars entered the pit lane, and to the horror of inaugural World 600 champion Joe Lee Johnson, they were headed right towards him. Johnson, who had been receiving service, sped away from his pit box just in time. Tyner and Johns passed into the pit lane, as there was no wall to separate it at the time, and struck the inside wall, with Tyner’s car bouncing away from the site of impact and Johns’ car backing into the wall at full speed and rolling onto its lid. This sent the concrete blocks which marked the inside wall flying into the pit area.

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Credit to Legends of NASCAR

The pit lane was a mess, with several crew members injured. Three men had been killed in the mayhem, all victims of the blocks. They were identified as 32-year-old Paul McDuffie of Atlanta, Charles Sweatlund of Atlanta, and Joe Taylor of Charlotte. Also injured were mechanics Ralph Byers, R.M. Vermillion Jr., and John Blalock, all of Atlanta, as was bystander A.M. Crawford of North Carolina. Crawford’s injuries were considered minor, Byers and Vermillion Jr. had suffered serious injuries, and Blalock’s were considered critical, though he survived. Johns suffered minor injuries, and Tyner walked away.

McDuffie had been the crew chief for Fireball Roberts during Roberts’ excellent 1958 season, and was both the owner of and a mechanic on Johnson’s car. Sweatlund was also a mechanic for Johnson’s car, and Taylor was a NASCAR official, serving as the assistant inspector to Chief Inspector Norris Friel. Bill Gazaway was reportedly also almost struck.

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McDuffie; Credit to Georgia Racing History

Joe Lee Johnson withdrew from the race after the incident. NASCAR would eventually order the construction of a barrier to protect the pit lane.

 

RANDY OWENS

On May 4th, 1975, Richard Petty was making a pit stop during the Winston 500 at Talladega when a fire was detected on a forward wheel bearing. Petty had been leading the race, which was on its 140th lap, so the crew worked frantically to try and put the fire out. Suddenly, an explosion was heard – but it wasn’t from the car.

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Credit to Findagrave

20-year-old Randy Owens, the brother of Richard’s wife, the late Linda Petty, was tending to the car fire by using a water tank. Shortly after Petty had evacuated the car, the water tank blew up, splitting in two near the base. Owens was struck and instantly killed by the top section of the tank, which struck him in the upper chest and chin. The tank shot 100 feet into the air and came back down, almost striking Richard according to Benny Parsons’ crew chief, Travis Carter. Also injured in the explosion, which soaked the surrounding pit boxes and garage area, was Gary Rodgers, a crew member for Parsons. Rodgers suffered lacerations and was released from the hospital a short time later.

Petty withdrew from the race immediately after the explosion, and NASCAR provided the team with a plane back home. Randy left behind a wife and two children, including future crew chief Trent Owens, who was still an infant at the time. Chief mechanic for the Buddy Baker team Bud Moore suggested that the pop-off valve, a valve used to relieve pressure, may have stuck on the tank, though the exact cause of the explosion appears to have never been discerned.

 

DENNIS WADE

On March 18th, 1979, Dave Watson, the 1977 ASA champion, was leading the Atlanta 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Despite the #37 Phil Howard-owned car not being one of the quicker cars on the grid, Watson had done a great job during the season, with one top ten in three races.

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Credit to Findagrave

Around the race’s one-third mark, Watson was making his pit stop and had just shifted into a lower gear when the transmission locked, leading to the rear wheels skidding. 18-year-old high schooler Dennis Banister Wade, a recent hire for Howard’s team who had worked previously for Janet Guthrie, hopped over the wall with the jack and ran to where Watson was expected to be, only to be confronted by the spinning Monte Carlo. Wade was struck by Watson’s car and died at the scene. Watson withdrew from the race immediately. While his racing career continued, Watson would never race in the highest level of stock car racing again. No caution was flown for the incident. Buddy Baker, incidentially enough, emerged victorious at day’s end.

Bill Gazaway stated that there would be an investigation into the incident, but the results appear to have not been released, though he did not blame Wade, as Wade didn’t run too far out into the pit area. Wade was noted to have ‘frozen’ when Watson spun towards him.

 

MIKE RICH

While it isn’t shocking to think of the fact that there was once no pit road speed limit, it’s quite jarring to think that it took until 1990 for one to be put in place. This measure was made, of course, after a pit lane accident.

On November 18th, 1990, race leader Bill Elliott was making his last pit stop of the year at the Atlanta Journal 500 at Atlanta Int’l Raceway. In the meantime, Ricky Rudd had entered the pit lane at speed and had started to slow to enter his own pit stall. Suddenly, under braking, Rudd’s #10 jerked left and slid backwards into Elliott’s #9, pinning two crew members.

42-year-old Tommy Cole, the jackman, was struck in the back and suffered an arm injury, but was later said to be in good condition. Michael Dawson Rich, the rear tire changer, however, was pinned for several minutes, and he suffered heavy crush injuries and other severe internal trauma. Rich, a 32-year-old married owner of a construction firm from Blairsville, Georgia, was airlifted to Georgia Baptist Hospital, where he died that night of a heart attack. Rich was conscious during transport, and reportedly was more concerned with whether Elliott could return to the race, which Elliott ultimately did not.

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Credit to Kirt Achenbach (Rich is at far right, with light hair)

This accident led to the introduction of proper pit road speed limits, along with an odd-even system that was meant to ensure that cars had an open spot in front and behind at all times. The odd-even system was ditched shortly thereafter, but the pit road speed limit has remained to this day.

 

Sources:

Motorsportmemorial

“Racing Cars Kill Officer At Track; Weekend Toll 4”, August 20th, 1956 edition of The Times (San Mateo)

“2 Mechanics And Inspector Killed At Darlington Race”, September 8th, 1960 edition of The Gaffney Ledger

“Gold Thunder: Autobiography of a NASCAR Champion”, book by Rex White and Anne B. Jones

“In Tragedy-Marred Talladega Race, Baker Over Pearson By Inches”, May 5th, 1975 edition of The High Point Enterprise

“Pit Crew Member At Atlanta 500; Man Killed In Racing Tragedy”, March 19th?, 1979 edition of the Charlotte Observer

“Crew member dies of accident suffered in Atlanta Journal 500”, November 18th, 1990 edition of UPI