Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gary Bettenhausen Born In Blue Island, Illinois - November 18, 1941

November 18, 1941 - March 16, 2014
Gary Bettenhausen
Born in Blue Island, Illinois, USA.
Bettenhausen's father was Indianapolis 500 and sprint car legend Tony Bettenhausen. His brother was former CART driver and team owner Tony. Another brother, Merle, was injured in a fiery crash.

Bettenhausen began as a midget car driver. He finished third in the midget car national points in 1967. He won the first leg of the Astro Grand Prix in 1969, which was held in the Astrodome. He won the 1967 and 1970 Turkey Night Grand Prix, the 1972 Astro Grand Prix, and the 1976 Hut Hundred, on his way to a total of 27 career wins in USAC midget car competition.

Bettenhausen won the 1969 and 1971 sprint car championships. He won the 1980 and 1983 USAC Dirt Track champions in a Silver Crown car. A crash at a Championship Dirt Car race in Syracuse, New York on July 2, 1974 crushed his left arm and left it paralyzed. He regained enough mobility to drive but never fully recovered from the injury.

Bettenhausen competed in Champ/Indy style cars from the mid-1960s until 1996. During this time he won six USAC Indy Car races. He made 21 starts in the Indianapolis 500, with his best finish in 1980 when he finished third after starting 32nd in the 33-car field.

In the 1972 Indianapolis 500, Bettenhausen led 138 laps, but suffered a blown engine with only 24 laps remaining, and dropped out to finish 14th.

Bettenhsusen competed in eight career NASCAR Winston Cup events. He had four Top 10 finishes. His highest career finish was a fourth-place finish at the 1974 Motor State 360 at the Michigan International Speedway.

Bettenhsusen was inducted in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998.

Bettenhausen died on March 16, 2014 in Monrovia, Indiana.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Kenny Brack Wins CART "México Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante" - November 17, 2002

November 17, 2002

(photo credit: PSParrot via photopin)
 Kenny Brack, driving for team Target/Chip Ganassi won the CART "México Gran Premio Telmex/Gigante"at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico.

It was the first Champ Car race at the track since the 1981 season. The race preceded a mass exodus of significant drivers and teams who all competed in their final Champ Car event, most of whom knew beforehand that they would not return. Most rued the fact that they were leaving for the rival Indy Racing League, wishing to continue in CART rather than endure a more stable future in the IRL. CART's winningest driver Michael Andretti, along with Kenny Brack, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, and Japan's most successful driver in U.S. open wheel racing Tora Takagi would all bid CART adieu in favor of the IRL. Other entities leaving CART included 1996-1999 champions Chip Ganassi Racing, 1995 champions Team KOOL Green, and Mo Nunn Racing permanently switched to the IRL, and Japanese automotive industry giants Honda and Toyota likewise left CART for the IRL. Season champion Cristiano da Matta was set to leave CART for Formula One with his engine supplier's F1 team, and Christian Fittipaldi attempted a stock car career.

"1929 Indy 500 Rookie Of the Year" Carl Marchese Born - November 17, 1905

November 17, 1905 - June 26, 1984
Carl Marchese
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
Carl Marchese dominated auto racing in Wisconsin as a driver, but had a lasting impact on the sport as a car owner and race official. Marchese won numerous state races and finished fourth in the 1929 Indianapolis 500. Carl was the 1929 Indianapolis 500 "Rookie Of the Year"That would be Marchese's only Indy 500. Marchese was later an Indy 500 car entrant and entered his own Marchese chassis in the 1950 and 1951 races.

As a midget car owner and designer, Marchese was credited with many innovations, including the tube frame and supercharged engine. Marchese also was the first president of the Wisconsin Racing Association. He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978.

Carl Marchese died on June 26, 1984 in Valrico, Florida.


Rodger Ward Wins USAC Champ Car "Bobby Ball Memorial" - November 17, 1963

November 17, 1963
(photo credit: clamshack via photopin cc)
Rodger Ward driving the Kaiser Aluminum sponsored, Watson/Offy wins the USAC Champ Car Series "Bobby Ball Memorial" at Arizona State Fairgrounds, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

The USAC National Champion was A. J. Foyt with Roger Ward second in the final point standings.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Donald Thomas Becomes Youngest Winner In NASCAR - Nov. 16, 1952

Nov. 16, 1952
Donald Thomas, the younger brother of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Herb, won the pole at Lakewood Speedway, Georgia, USA and went on to win the race. Donald at 20-years-old was the youngest driver to ever win a race in Cup Series history, until Kyle Busch broke the record in 2005 at the age of 19.

Roberto Guerrero Born In Medellín, Colombia - November 16, 1958

November 16, 1958
Roberto Guerrero
(Photo: Vukie1953 via photopin cc)
Born in Medellín, Colombia.
A former Formula One driver and both 1984 CART and Indianapolis 500 "rookie of the year", Guerrero began his racing career in 1972 by competing in kart racing. From 1972 to 1977 he won two national championships in his native Colombia. He also finished third in the 1975 Pan American Karting Championship.

Guerrero then joined the Jim Russell Racing School in 1977. In the school's six events Guerrero managed to win 5 of the races and finished second in the other race.

 He participated in 29 Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on 23 January 1982. With no championship points in Formula One and no prospects to drive for a competitive team, Guerrero left at the end of the 1983 season to race in the United States. He had an auspicious beginning to his Champ Car racing career, winning both CART and Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year honors in 1984. His initial promise was never completely fulfilled, winning only two CART races, both in 1987. Later the same year he had a massive accident which left him in a coma for 17 days.

Of special note were Guerrero's participations in the Indianapolis 500. He came very close to winning outright on two occasions, but bad luck always kept the victory out of his grasp. In 1992 he spun off on the pace lap after having qualified on the pole position. Guerrero finished runner up twice, in the top-five five times, and held the qualifying speed record from 1992 through 1996. Guerrero was also selected to participate in the 1988 International Race of Champions.

Guerrero became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1989. He and his wife have three children and reside in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California.

In recent years Guerrero has returned to racing, but of a different venue. He began off-road racing at the legendary Baja 2000. He has since continued to race in Baja 1000 events and guide tours of the Baja Peninsula with Wide Open Baja.

Scuderia Ferrari Founded By Enzo Ferrari - November 16, 1929

November 16, 1929
(Enzo Ferrari (1st from left), Tazio Nuvolari (4th) and Achille Varzi (6th) with Alfa Romeo Managing Director Prospero Gianferrari (3rd) at Colle Maddalena)
Scuderia Ferrari was founded by Enzo Ferrari in 1929 to enter amateur drivers in various races, though Ferrari himself had raced in CMN (Costruzioni Maccaniche Nazionali) and Alfa Romeo cars before that date. The idea came about on the night of November 16 at a dinner in Bologna, where Ferrari solicited financial help from textile heirs Augusto and Alfredo Caniato and wealthy amateur racer Mario Tadini. He then gathered a team which at its peak included over forty drivers, most of whom raced in various Alfa Romeo 8C cars; Ferrari himself continued racing, with moderate success, until the birth of his first son Dino in 1932. The well-known prancing horse blazon first appeared at the 1932 Spa 24 Hours in Belgium on a two-car team of Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spiders, which finished first and second.

"2-Time NASCAR Winston Cup Champ" Terry Labonte Born - November 16, 1956

November 16, 1956
Terry Labonte
(photo credit: Darryl W. Moran Photography via photopin cc)
Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, USA.
A two-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion and 1989 IROC champion, he last drove the No. 32 Ford Fusion for Go FAS Racing in the Sprint Cup Series on a part-time basis. He is the older brother of 2000 Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte, and the father of former Nationwide Series driver Justin Labonte. He also co-owns a Chevrolet dealership in North Carolina with Rick Hendrick.

In 1998, the senior Labonte was named as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers. A park was renamed for the Labonte brothers in their hometown of Corpus Christi in 2001, and they were chosen for entry into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. Labonte supports a variety of charities and due to his efforts, the Ronald McDonald House in Corpus Christi, the Victory Junction Gang Camp near Randleman, North Carolina, and the Hendrick Marrow Program all have benefited.

After being passed over as a first-ballot inductee for the class of 2015, Labonte was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 on May 20, 2015. Joining Labonte in the 2016 class will be Speedway Motorsports Executive Chairman Bruton Smith, and drivers Curtis Turner, Bobby Isaac, and Jerry Cook.

Skip Barber Born In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - November 16, 1936

November 16, 1936
Skip Barber
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Barber is a retired racecar driver, who is most famous for his Skip Barber Racing Schools. He started racing in 1958 while studying at Harvard University, where he earned a degree in English. In the mid-1960s, he won three SCCA national championships in a row and finished third in the 1967 United States Road Racing Championship. Later, Barber went on to win consecutive Formula Ford National Championships (1969 and 1970), a record tied only recently.

At the start of the 1971 season he purchased a March 711, which he planned to take back to the United States and race in the U.S. Formula 5000 series. Before he did so, he took part in the Monaco Grand Prix, Dutch Grand Prix, United States Grand Prix, and Canadian Grand Prix in a privately funded March. He returned to the U.S. and Canadian races again in 1972. After that he raced GT cars.

When his racing career ended, Barber's belief that auto racing was "coachable" in the same manner as any other sport at the time, a distinctly minority position led him to create the eponymously named racing school, and a year later the equal car race series. In 1975, with two borrowed Lola Formula Fords and four students, Barber started the Skip Barber School of High Performance Driving. In 1976 it was renamed the Skip Barber Racing School, and that same year he created the Skip Barber Race Series.

Barber remains active in motor sports today as the owner and operator of Lime Rock Park, a road-racing venue in the north-western hills of Connecticut. He lives in the nearby town of Sharon, with wife Judy.

Tommy Archer Born in Duluth, Minnesota - November 16, 1954

November 16, 1954
Tommy Archer
(Photo; Archer Brothers Racing)
Born in Duluth, Minnesota, USA.
Tommy Archer’s racing experience spans 33 years. He has played a part in 38 racing championships over the last 26 years. Archer has been a part of the Chrysler Group’s racing and development programs for the past 18 years. His experience and winning record in nearly every type of racing vehicle has made him one of the best-known American road racers. Has raced in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Trans-Am and Sports cars including races like the Le Mans 24 Hours & the Rolex 24-hour race at Daytona. For many years, he raced with his brother Bobby Archer, and were collectively known as the Archer Brothers. For the 2015 season, Tommy Archer raced in the SCCA's Trans-Am 2 series.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Gerhard Berger Leads Ferrari Sweep In Australian - November 15, 1987

November 15, 1987
Gerhard Berger leads teammate Michele Alboreto to a Ferrari 1-2 finish in the Australian Grand Prix on the streets of Adelaide, Australia. 
(Photo: StuSeeger via photopin cc)
 Berger started from his third pole position of the year despite being ill during qualifying. At the green light, it was Nelson Piquet, in his last race for Williams before moving to Lotus in 1988, who got away best of all, darting past Berger to take the lead into the first chicane. A confident Berger, fresh from his victory in the previous race in Japan, re-passed Piquet going into turn three. The Austrian then went on to lead until the chequered flag to claim his third Grand Prix victory. Behind Berger developed a sparkling battle between Piquet, Alain Prost (McLaren), Michele Alboreto (Ferrari) and Ayrton Senna (Lotus). Piquet pitted for new tyres and later retired leaving the other trio to fight over second position. Senna eventually made a break from Alboreto and Prost who were being held up by back markers, with the Larrousse of Philippe Alliot in particular proving difficult to pass.

Prost suffered brake failure on lap 53, spinning off into the wall at Stag Turn and subsequently retiring. Senna made a late charge in an attempt to catch Berger, but the Austrian had enough in hand to respond despite having what appeared to be a dragging under-tray. Senna finished second but was later disqualified when post race scrutineering revealed oversized brake ducts on his Lotus. Alboreto was promoted up to second to make it a Ferrari 1-2, the first since Alboreto and Stefan Johansson finished 1-2 in the 1985 Canadian Grand Prix. Third across the line was the Benetton of Thierry Boutsen. Alboreto was the only driver to not be lapped by Berger.

Craig Breedlove Sets Land-Speed Record Of 600 MPH - November 15, 1965

November 15, 1965
Californian Craig Breedlove, sets a new land-speed record of 600.601 miles per hour, at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, driving his car, the Spirit of America, which cost $250,000 and is powered by a surplus engine from a Navy jet. 
(photo credit: twm1340 via photopin cc)
He actually drove across the desert twice that day, since international world-record rules require a car to make two timed one-mile runs in one hour; officials log the average speed of the two trips. During his first trip, Breedlove zoomed across the flats at 593.178 mph; during his second, the first time any person had officially gone faster than 600 mph, he managed to push the car up to 608.201 mph. "That 600 is about a thousand times better than 599," he said afterward. "Boy, it's a great feeling."

Jerry & Louie Unser Born In Colorado Springs - November 15, 1932

November 15, 1932 - May 17, 1959
Jerry Unser Jr
Born In Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.
Jerry was the driver and twin brother Louie was his chief mechanic. The family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico when the boys were four. However, in 1955, Jerry Unser Sr took his sons back to Colorado for the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb, and it was there that the boys' interest really took off.

Louie was driving a tour bus up the mountain, but his father refused to allow him to race in the wheel tracks of his famous uncle of the same name, so Louie slipped into brother Bobby's Jaguar on race day and placed third overall.

But Louie had greater skills as a mechanic and, in 1956, went to work for Bill Stroppe's factory team that was based next door to brother's Jerry's DePaolo Engineering USAC racing team. Both teams folded in 1957 when factories withdrew their support, but the brothers purchased the equipment and went racing together.

Jerry was the 1957 USAC Stock Car champion and presented his diamond ring to Louie, who wore it the rest of his life. Louie also was named mechanic of the year that season.

Jerry and Louie showed up at Indy in 1958, starting a family tradition at the famed Brickyard that would see youngest brother Al the win the Indianapolis 500 four times, brother Bobby three times, while nephew Al Unser Jr was a two-time winner. Jerry's son Johnny and Bobby's son Robby have also competed in the race.

When the twins arrived at Indy, Jerry jumped from car to car until he qualified the McKay Special in 24th place. In his only start, he was caught up in a 13-car pileup on the first lap and flew over the turn three wall, miraculously emerging unhurt.

(Photo credit;
The following year on May 17th, Jerry died of serious burns following a practice crash before the 1959 Indianapolis 500, leaving behind a widow, Jeanne Unser, and two sons, Jerry and Johnny Unser.

November 15, 1932 - March 2, 2004
Louis (Louie) Jefferson Unser
Left to right: La Verne Unser, Louie Unser, Bob Sykes.
From 1960-62, Louie worked with Stroppe, Carroll Shelby's AC Cobra team and others building engines in the shop, and changing tires and refuelling cars in the races. He also worked on a car in the four-month East Africa Safari in 1964, despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.

He still managed the strength to act as crew chief with Al at Indy in 1965, before retiring from trackside involvement. "If it wasn't for Louie, I wouldn't have made it at the Speedway," Al said, "He pushed me."

Louis started an engine-building business in southern California, and his powerplants helped brother Bobby and Mario Andretti to race to victories at Pikes Peak. He also built strong, winning engines for sprint cars, sports cars and racing boats.

By the 1970s, Louie was confined to a wheelchair, but he continued working until the 1990s. He and his wife, Laverne, participated in many MS-related fund-raising and research events over the years, and he was inducted into the Orange County Hall of Fame in 1997. His final visit to the Indianapolis was for the 1999 Brickyard 400.

Louie Unser passed away in California March 2, 2004. He had been afflicted with multiple sclerosis for over 50 years and died of complications from the degenerative disease at the age of 71.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Larry Kopp Becomes First "NHRA Pro Stock Truck Champ" - November 14, 1998

November 14, 1998
Larry Kopp becomes the inaugural NHRA Pro Stock Truck champion when he qualifies for the final race of the season in Pomona, California, USA.
When Kopp decided to move to the Pro ranks with the introduction of Pro Stock Truck in 1998, he made a pivotal decision to become Bill Jenkins' first small-block Chevy customer for the new category. The move that gave him a decided edge in horsepower for the duration of the season as Kopp not only won five of 12 national events that year, but he qualified No. 1 at six different events and set a national record with his season-best clocking of 7.594. At the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals, Kopp produced a wire-to-wire victory by running the quickest elapsed time in all four rounds of qualifying, and all four rounds of eliminations as well.
Slixx Decals Larry Kopp's '98 Chevy S-10 Prostock Truck

"First Two-Time Indy 500 Winner" Tommy" Milton Born - November 14, 1893

November 14, 1893 - July 10, 1962
Thomas "Tommy" Milton
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.
 Tommy was best known as the first two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. He was notable for having only one functional eye, a disability that would have disqualified him from competing in modern motorsports. He began his career in racing in 1914, competing on dirt tracks in the Midwestern United States. By 1917, he was competing nationwide, and earned his first major win at a track in Providence, Rhode Island.

In 1919, he was one of the dominant figures in American racing, winning five of the nine championship races including the International Sweepstakes at Sheepshead Bay, New York, and making his debut at the Indianapolis 500. Later that year he suffered severe burns when his car burst into flames during a race at Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He returned to the track the following year to win the Universal Trophy on June 19 before winning the 1920 United States National Driving Championship.

Milton was a starter in the Indianapolis 500 eight times, earning the pole position once, and finishing in the top five on four occasions. He drove for Duesenberg his first time in 1919 and again the following year when he finished third. In 1921, the twenty-seven-year-old Milton won the celebrated race driving a straight-eight Frontenac built by Louis Chevrolet. In 1922 fuel tank problems forced Milton out of the race after only forty-four laps, but he came back in 1923 driving for the H.C.S. Motor Co. with a Miller 122 and won the race for the second time. His last was the 1927 Indianapolis 500 where he finished eighth.

At the 1936 race, Milton returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to drive the Packard 120 Pace Car. At his suggestion, the tradition of giving the race winner the Pace Car began that year. In 1949 Milton was appointed chief steward for the Indianapolis 500. Health problems forced him to retire in 1957.

Milton died in 1962 in Mount Clemens, Michigan, at the age of 68 of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Phil "Red" Shafer Born In Des Moines, Iowa - November 13, 1891

November 13, 1891 - January 29, 1971
Phil "Red" Shafer
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, USA.
He made 30 AAA Championship Car starts from 1923 to 1952. He captured one win in 1924 at the New York State Fairgrounds Raceway in Syracuse, New York. That year he finished a career best 9th in the National Championship. He made a total of 7 Indy 500 starts, with his best finish of third in 1925. His last oval or road course Championship Car start came in 1936, afterwards the only Championship starts he made were in the Pikes Peak Auto Hillclimb. He later built his own racing chassis.
("Buick Shafer 8" by kogo. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons.)
1932 Buick Shafer 8

Nigel Mansell Wins His Final Grand Prix - November 13, 1994

November 13, 1994
Nigel Mansell, drove his Rothmans Williams/Renault, to a 2.511 second victory over the Ferrari of Gerhard Berger, to win the "Australian Grand Prix" at Adelaide Grand Prix Circuit, Adelaide, Australia.

The race is remembered for an incident involving the two title contenders Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher which forced both to retire and resulted in Schumacher winning the World Drivers' Championship. Also notable was the last appearance in a Formula One Grand Prix of the first incarnation of Team Lotus, previously seven-time Constructors' Champions. It was also the 31st and last Grand Prix victory of Nigel Mansell's Formula One career.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

John Surtees Takes His Final Can-Am Victory - November 12, 1967

November 12, 1967

 John Surtees drives a Lola T70-Chevrolet to victory in the Can-Am race at Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. This will be John's final Can-Am win. Bruce McLaren would clinch the 1967 Can-Am Championship.

Don "The Racing Grandfather" Branson Tragically Killed - November 12, 1966

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

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

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

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

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