Racing History

Looking Back – Jan. 19, 2011

GETTING STARTED: The NASCAR Winston Cup field heads for the starting line at California’s Riverside Int’l Speedway in November 1985. (Chris Economaki Photo)

50 Years Ago – January 18, 1961

St. Louis speed merchant Bob Wente avoided a first-lap tangle and won the 50-lap USAC midget feature Saturday night on the concrete floor of Chicago’s International Amphitheatre. Former series champion Gene Hartley was less than a second behind Wente at the checkered flag while Chuck Rodee moved up from the sixth-starting spot to claim the show money.

25 Years Ago – January 15, 1986

Over the weekend it was learned that President Ronald Reagan recently granted a pardon to former driver and champion NASCAR car owner Junior Johnson. Johnson was convicted of manufacturing non-tax-paid whiskey after being caught at his father’s still in 1956. The pardon does not erase or expunge Johnson’s record of conviction, but generally restores his basic civil rights.

Countdown To 100 – 1991 – Rick Mears

Rick Mears, a former off-road racer from Bakersfield, Calif., joined A.J. Foyt and Al Unser as the only four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500.

Michael Andretti pulled off one of the most courageous moves ever seen at Indy when he sailed high around Mears entering turn one with just 14 laps remaining in the 75th running of the world’s most famous race.

But Mears was not about to settle for second and he drove his Marlboro Penske Chevrolet around the high side of Andretti’s Kmart/Havoline Chevrolet in turn one the next time around to recapture the lead.

Mears led the rest of the way and was 3.149 seconds ahead of Andretti at the checkered flag.

Newsmaker – Tony Hulman

A gold brick, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, was placed in the new asphalt surface at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November 1961.

Ray Harroun, winner of the first 500-mile race in 1911, and Louis Schwitzer, the man who drove the first race car around the 2.5-mile track on Dec. 18, 1909, were among those who helped speedway President Tony Hulman place the ceremonial brick.

After the last of the track’s original 3.2 million paving bricks were covered with asphalt in October, approximately 600 bricks were used to form a new start/finish line across the main straightway. The gold brick was placed in the very center of the 36-inch-wide strip.

Chris’s Column – August 29, 1962

“A.J. Foyt expressed his surprise over publicity emanating from Louisville when he did not participate in a midget race there. The two-time national champion explained that he had not signed an entry and that he told his car owner, Bob Nowicke, that he could not run as he was standing by at home in Houston with his expectant wife, Lucy. Lucy, incidentally, is running late, with the new Foyt heir long overdue at this point.”

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