Thursday, June 29, 2017

"Former NASCAR Cup Series Veteran" Jeff Burton Born - June 29, 1967

June 29, 1967
Jeff Burton
Born in South Boston, Virginia, USA.
Nicknamed "The Mayor", Burton is the younger brother of Ward Burton, who is a former Sprint Cup driver. The 1994 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year, would go on to a NASCAR Cup Series career of 695 races run over 22 years. He scored 21 career victories including two Coca-Cola 600s in 1999 and 2001 and the 1999 Southern 500.

He currently serves as a color analyst for NBC Sports, having joined them upon their return to their coverage of NASCAR. His son Harrison Burton currently competes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and part time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His brother Ward Burton and his nephew Jeb Burton have also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Burton currently resides in Huntersville, North Carolina.

"Long-Time Team Owner" Carl Haas Dies - June 29, 2016

February 26, 1929 - June 29, 2016
Carl Haas
 Born in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
He co-owned the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team in the IndyCar Series with Paul Newman and Mike Lanigan. He also owned Carl A. Haas Motorsports, which competed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, as well as the Haas Lola Formula One team.

Haas began racing sports cars in 1952 and won numerous races driving Ferraris, Porsches, MGs, and Jaguars. He retired from driving in the early 1960s in order to focus more on team ownership and other racing-related businesses. In 1967, he became the exclusive American importer for Lola Cars and helped the company attain national prominence in the racing world. His own company, Carl A. Haas Auto Imports, is involved in racing distribution deals, notably for Hewland gearboxes.

During the 1970s, Haas entered race teams in various series, including Formula 5000, the Can-Am Series and the Super Vee series. His Can-Am drivers included Masten Gregory, Peter Revson, Jackie Stewart, Brian Redman, Alan Jones, Patrick Tambay, Jacky Ickx, and David Hobbs. His Super Vee driver, Eddie Miller, won the series title. In 1985, he ran the Haas Lola Formula One team, using a chassis built by FORCE. He also co-owned a NASCAR Winston Cup Series team with Travis Carter for eight seasons.
In 1983, Haas joined with actor Paul Newman to form Newman/Haas Racing, a team in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) Series. The team won its first CART title with Mario Andretti the next year, and the team went on to win three more series championships: Mario's son Michael Andretti won in 1991, former Formula 1 World champion Nigel Mansell in 1993, and Brazilian Cristiano da Matta in 2002. Following the bankruptcy of CART, Newman/Haas has won in the successor series to CART, the Champ Car World Series, with Sébastien Bourdais in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

During his years in CART, Haas became known for his fondness for cigars. Prohibited from smoking in the pitlane, he would chew an unlit cigar during the race, often at both ends. When Michael Andretti and Juan Montoya collided during a practice session for the 1999 race at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan, Haas infamously threw his cigar at Montoya's car owner Chip Ganassi during a confrontation in the garage area.

He also has participated in race promotion. He served on CART's Board of Governors until the body folded in 2003, and retired as chairman of the SCCA Pro Racing Division in 2001. He also chaired the Board of the SCCA for a record four terms until his retirement in 1996. Haas is also a member of the Board of Directors at Road America.

Overall, Haas' teams have won 11 championships in three decades. USA Today called him one of the "most powerful men in the history of auto racing." He was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2007.

Haas lived in Lake Forest, Illinois with his wife, Bernadette. It was announced on July 7, 2016, that he had died on June 29, 2016, at his home.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France

In this history of the stock car racing circuit known as NASCAR, Daniel Pierce offers a revealing new look at the sport from its postwar beginnings on Daytona Beach and Piedmont dirt tracks through the early 1970s when the sport spread beyond its southern roots and gained national recognition. Following NASCAR founder Big Bill France from his start as a mechanic, Real NASCAR details the sport's genesis as it has never been shown before. Pierce not only confirms the popular notion of NASCAR's origins in bootlegging, but also establishes beyond a doubt the close ties between organized racing and the illegal liquor industry, a story that readers will find both fascinating and controversial.

Drawing on the memories of a variety of participants--including highly colorful characters like Lloyd Seay, Roy Hall, Gober Sosebee, Smokey Yunick, Bunky Knudsen, Humpy Wheeler, Bobby Isaac, Junior Johnson, and Big Bill France himself--Real NASCAR shows how the reputation for wildness of these racers-by-day and bootleggers-by-night drew throngs of spectators to the tracks in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. They came to watch their heroes maneuver ordinary automobiles at incredible speed, beating and banging on each other, wrecking spectacularly, and fighting out their differences in the infield.

Although France faced many challenges--including a fickle Detroit that often seemed unsure of its support for the sport, safety issues that killed star drivers and threatened its very existence, and drivers who twice tried to unionize to gain a bigger piece of the NASCAR pie--by the early 1970s France and his allies had laid a firm foundation for what has become today a billion-dollar industry and arguably the largest spectator sport in America.

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"The Last American Hero" Junior Johnson Born - June 28, 1931

June 28, 1931 
Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr
(Photo: Junior Johnson Pocono 1986 Photo by Ted Van Pelt )
Born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, USA.
Better known as Junior Johnson, he is one of the early superstars of NASCAR. In his career, he claimed 50 victories as a driver, and 11 of these wins were at major speedway races. He retired as the winningest driver never to have a championship. Johnson was a master of dirt track racing. "The two best drivers I've ever competed against on dirt are Junior Johnson and Dick Hutcherson," said two-time NASCAR champion Ned Jarrett.

His father, a lifelong bootlegger, spent nearly twenty of his sixty-three years in prison, as their house was frequently raided by revenue agents. Junior spent one year in prison in Ohio for having an illegal still, although he was never caught in his many years of transporting bootleg liquor at high speed. On December 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan granted Johnson a presidential pardon for his 1956 moonshining conviction. In response to the pardon, which restored his right to vote, Johnson said, "I could not have imagined anything better."

In 1955, Johnson began his career as a NASCAR driver. In his first full season, he won five races and finished sixth in the 1955 NASCAR Grand National points standings.

In 1958 he won six races. In 1959, he won five more NASCAR Grand National races, including a win from the pole position at the 1959 Hickory 250. By this time he was regarded as one of the best short-track racers in the sport.

His first win at a "superspeedway" came at the Daytona 500 in 1960. Johnson and his crew chief Ray Fox were practicing for the race, trying to figure out how to increase their speed, which was 22 miles per hour slower than the top cars in the race. During a test run a faster car passed Johnson. He noticed that when he moved behind the faster car his own speed increased due to the faster car's slipstream. Johnson was then able to stay close behind the faster car until the final lap of the test run, when he used the "slipstream" effect to slingshot past the other car. By using this technique Johnson went on to win the 1960 Daytona 500, despite the fact that his car was slower than others in the field. Johnson's technique was quickly adopted by other drivers, and his practice of "drafting" has become a common tactic in NASCAR races.
(Photo: Fireball vs. Junior via photopin (license))
Fireball Roberts leads Junior Johnson at the 1961 Daytona 500.

In 1963 he had a two-lap lead in the World 600 at Charlotte before a spectator threw a bottle onto the track and caused Junior to crash. He retired in 1966.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he became a NASCAR racing team owner, working with some of the legendary drivers in NASCAR history, including Darel Dieringer, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Neil Bonnett, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Sterling Marlin, Jimmy Spencer and Bill Elliott. In all, his drivers won 139 races, which is third to Petty Enterprises and Hendrick Motorsports. His drivers won six Winston Cup Championships, three with Yarborough (1976–1978) and Waltrip (1981–82, 1985).
(Photo: Cale Yarborough via photopin (license))

In the mid 1960s writer Tom Wolfe researched and wrote an article about Johnson, published March 1965 in Esquire, and reprinted in Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby. The article, originally entitled "Great Balls of Fire", turned Johnson into a national celebrity and led to fame beyond the circle of NASCAR fans. In turn, the article was made into a 1973 movie based on Johnson's career as a driver and moonshiner. The movie was entitled The Last American Hero. Jeff Bridges starred as the somewhat fictionalized version of Johnson, and Johnson himself served as technical advisor for the film. The movie was critically acclaimed and featured the Jim Croce hit song, "I Got A Name".
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In 2004 he joined North Carolina greats Michael Jordan, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty by having a stretch of highway named in his honor. His daughter Meredith sang the national anthem at the dedication of the highway. An 8.5-mile (13.7 km) stretch of U.S. Highway 421 from the Yadkin and Wilkes county line to the Windy Gap exit is named Junior Johnson Highway.

Johnson was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1991 and the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23, 2010.

In 2011, Johnson announced that he would restart a race team with son Robert as driver. Robert was the 2010 UARA Rookie of the Year.

He now produces a line of fried pork skins and country ham. In May 2007, Johnson teamed with Piedmont Distillers of Madison, North Carolina, to introduce the company's second moonshine product, called "Midnight Moon Moonshine". In May 2007, Johnson teamed with Piedmont Distillers of Madison, North Carolina, to introduce the company's second moonshine product, called Midnight Moon. Johnson became part owner of Piedmont Distillers, the only legal distiller in North Carolina at the time. Midnight Moon follows the Johnson family’s generations-old tradition of making moonshine, and is available in all 50 states. Every batch is born in an authentic, copper still and is handcrafted, in small batches. The 'shine is a legal version of his famous family recipe, and is available in 8 varieties that range from 70-100 proof. Junior describes his moonshine as "Smoother than vodka. Better than whiskey. Best shine ever."

Johnson resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is nicknamed "The Last American Hero" and his autobiography is of the same name.

Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France Buy at Amazon

1960s Drag Racer Dave Strickler Is Born - June 28, 1940

June 28, 1940 - June 6, 1985
Dave Strickler
From York, Pennsylvania, USA.
One of the pioneers of 1960s Super/Stock and Factory Experimental (FX) drag racing and one of the sport’s first touring professionals, Dave made his early reputation as the driver of the “Old Reliable” Chevrolets out of the Ammon R. Smith dealership that were turned by his friend, partner and fellow EMPA Hall of Fame member, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins.
In all, Dave Stickler won 16 National Class Championship titles in NHRA and American Hot Rod Association competition and he set 41 National and World records.

Unfortunately, on June 6, 1985, Dave died of a massive heart attack while mowing his lawn in York, Pennsylvania, just 22 days short of his 45th birthday.

For more see; Dave Strickler - Tribute Page

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Darrell Russell Dies In Crash At Gateway - June 27, 2004

September 20, 1968 - June 27, 2004
Darrell J. Russell
Born in Houston, Texas, USA.
He was the 2001 NHRA Rookie Of The Year. At the time, he was the third driver to win in his Professional debut.

Before becoming a driver in NHRA's Professional class of Top Fuel Dragster, he competed for several years in NHRA's Sportsman class of Top Alcohol Dragster; a slower version of Top Fuel. In four seasons of competition in NHRA Top Fuel Dragsters, he compiled a record of 106 round wins versus 75 losses. He won six events and was runner-up at eleven others, out of eighty-one events entered.

In 2004 at the NHRA Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis, he was competing in the second round of eliminations when his dragster went out of control and crashed just past the finish line. When the NHRA safety team got to Russell, he was unconscious, but breathing. Russell was extracted from his dragster by NHRA emergency services officials and transported by air to the St. Louis Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

It was determined one of the rear Goodyear tires blew out, damaging the back part of the race car. Shrapnel caused by the exploding tire entered the drivers cockpit from the rear, fatally injuring Russell. It was flying debris from the explosion, not the impact from the crash, that killed Darrell Russell.

He died of severe head injuries even though he was wearing an approved racing helmet. Russell was the first racer to be killed at an NHRA national event since Blaine Johnson, in 1996. Gateway named one of its grandstands "The Darrell Russell Stand" in his memory.

He was interred in the Klein Cemetery in Pinehurst, Texas in Montgomery County. Over 2,000 people attended his funeral.

Johnny Benson Jr Born In Grand Rapids, Michigan - June 27, 1963

June 27, 1963
Johnny Benson, Jr
(Photo;By Darryl Moran (
Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.
He is a NASCAR driver and the son of former Michigan modified driver John Benson Sr. His career highlights include the 1993 American Speed Association AC-Delco Challenge series championship, the 1995 Busch Series championship, the 1996 Winston Cup NASCAR Rookie of the Year award, and the 2008 Craftsman Truck Series championship.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"1929 Indy 500 Rookie Of the Year" Carl Marchese Dies - June 26, 1984

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.


"Legendary NASCAR Female Driver" Ethel Mobley Dies - June 26, 1984

March 8, 1920 - June 26, 1984
Ethel Mobley
Born in Fort Payne, Alabama, USA.
Part of the racing Flock family, three of her brothers are considered to be NASCAR pioneers: Tim, Fonty and Bob Flock. She was married to Charlie Mobley, who fielded Tim's car in NASCAR's modified series. Her brother Tim Flock said she was named after the gasoline her father used in his car.

She was tied for the second female to drive in NASCAR history. She raced in over 100 NASCAR Modified events in her career. She had two Strictly Stock starts.

She raced against her brothers at NASCAR's second event ever on July 10, 1949 at the Daytona Beach Road Course. The event was the first to feature a brother and a sister, and the only NASCAR event to feature four siblings. Ethel beat Fonty and Bob by finishing eleventh, and Tim finished second. She made her only other career Cup start at Langley Speedway and finished 44th. Both events featured three female drivers, Sara Christian, Louise Smith and Mobley.

In June 1949, she entered a racing competition in Florida, competing against 57 men drivers. She finished in 8th place.

On August 7, 1949, she became the first female racecar driver to compete against men in the state of Georgia when she entered a race at Central City Park Speedway in Macon, Georgia. She was rated as the top woman driver in the southeastern United States, having won many competitions in all-women races.

Ethel Mobley died on June 26, 1984 at the age of 64.

"Sprint Car Legend" Kramer Williamson Born - June 26, 1950

June 26, 1950 - August 4, 2013
Kramer Williamson
Born in Columbus, Ohio, USA.
A native of Palmyra, Pennsylvania, he was a feature winner in World of Outlaws and United Racing Company competition. He shared the rookie of the year title at Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1971. He was a champion in the United Racing Company sprint car series in 1991, 1992 and 1995.
Williamson, known for driving a bright pink car, was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2008.

On August 3, 2013, Williamson's car collided with another car and rolled over on the fourth lap of a 10-lap qualifying round at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Pennsylvania. He was airlifted to York Hospital in York, Pennsylvania, where he died on August 4. He kept his age a secret, but had been racing for over forty years at the time of his death.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ron Fellows Wins "Lysol 200" At Watkins Glen - June 25, 2000

June 25, 2000
Ron Fellows of Toronto led 35 of 82 laps Sunday to win the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series "Lysol 200" at Watkins Glen International for the second time in three years. Fellows beat another road-racer, Butch Leitzinger, by .901 seconds. Fellows, who started on the pole Sunday, won in 1998 and finished second the previous year.

Driving the No. 87 Bully Hill Vineyards/Joe Nemechek Chevrolet, Fellows led the last 10 laps and survived a one-lap, green-and-white flag dash to the finish after a caution. In last year's race, Fellows was passed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. under similar circumstances.

Fellows, who won $31,575, raced his purple-and-gold car to a double-digit car-length lead, and when David Green's spinout brought out the caution flag on lap 12, Fellows and most of the field went to the pits. Fellows then worked his way back up through the field, even passing cars that had stayed out on the track when he had pitted, and took over the top spot on lap 36.

Ron Hornaday, who took his final pit stop earlier than most, assumed the lead from laps 48 to 58 until being forced to the pits with a blown cylinder. After Fellows' second pit stop, he stood 20th with 35 laps to go.

"I was still confident, but you never know when you're that far back," said Fellows, who steadily moved through the field.

"I was concerned with one, not having enough time, and two, getting caught up in somebody else's mess. You have to be cautiously aggressive, and it worked out OK." 

Jimmy Florian Gives Ford It's First NASCAR Victory - June 25, 1950

June 25, 1950
Jimmy Florian
Jimmy Florian, the 27 year old mechanic from Cleveland, Ohio did what many thought was impossible. He beat Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, and Lee Petty in the 100-lap NASCAR Grand National event at Dayton Speedway in Daytona, Ohio, giving Ford its first win in the series.

With 35 laps to go, Florian passed Curtis Turner and had established a half-lap advantage by the time the race was over. Turner, Weatherly, and Petty quickly protested. They could not believe that they have been outrun by a flathead Ford. But at 4 A.M., after careful inspection, NASCAR officials declared the Ford was as stock as could be. The win was official.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

"Alabama Gang Member" Hut Stricklin Born - June 24, 1961

June 24, 1961
Waymond "Hut" Stricklin Jr.
Born in Calera, Alabama, USA.
He married Pam Allison, the daughter of NASCAR legend Donnie Allison after they were introduced by her cousin Davey. Stricklin was the last member of the Alabama Gang.

In 1987, Stricklin won NASCAR's Dash Series championship and made his debut in the Winston Cup Series. Two years later, he finished second to Dick Trickle in the NASCAR Rookie of the Year competition. He would go on to a NASCAR Cup Series career of 328 races run over 15 years.

"5-Time World Champ" Juan Fangio Born - June 24, 1911

June 24, 1911 – July 17, 1995
Juan Manuel Fangio
Born in Mar del la Plata, Argentina.
He won the World Championship of Drivers five times, a record which stood for 46 years until beaten by Michael Schumacher. He won it with four different teams, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati, a feat that has not been repeated. A member of the Formula 1 Hall of Fame, he is regarded by many as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time and holds the highest winning percentage in Formula One - 46.15% - winning 24 of 52 Formula One races he entered. Fangio is the only Argentine driver to have won the Argentine Grand Prix, having won it four times in his career, the most of any driver.

After retirement, Fangio presided as the honorary president of Mercedes-Benz Argentina from 1987, a year after the inauguration of his museum, until his death.

Juan Manuel Fangio died in Buenos Aires in 1995, at the age of 84; he was buried in his home town of Balcarce. His pall-bearers were his younger brother Ruben Renato ("Toto"), Stirling Moss, compatriot racers José Froilán González and Carlos Reutemann, Jackie Stewart and the president of Mercedes-Benz Argentina at the time. In 2011, on the centenary of his birth, Fangio was remembered around the world and various activities were held on the occasion of his birthday.

Friday, June 23, 2017

"Indy Veteran, Stunt Driver & Pilot" Bob Harkey Born - June 23, 1930

June 23, 1930 - January 16, 2016
Bob Harkey
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.
He was a driver in the USAC Championship Car series from Charlotte, North Carolina. He raced in the 1963 to 1979 seasons, with 85 career starts, including the Indianapolis 500 in 1964, 1971 and 1973 to 1976. He finished in the top ten 23 times, with his best finish in 4th position in 1964 at Trenton. Harkey’s specialty was qualifying on bump day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and those last-day exploits included starts of 27th, 32nd, 31st, 31st and 28th.

Harkey also raced in the inaugural race at Daytona International Speedway, finishing 10th in a NASCAR Convertible Series race.

Harkey's introduction to speed was fleeing the law on the North Carolina back roads in a car that was a decoy for moonshine runs. "I learned how to get a car sideways with trees on both sides of the road," said Harkey a few years ago during a weekly lunch with some old race drivers. "It was good experience."

Outside of racing, according to the Indianapolis Star, Harkey performed as an aerial stunt pilot and wing walker at county fairs and also was as a stunt man in movies. He was one of the drivers in “Winning,” starring Paul Newman. He served as a stunt driver for the Robert Mitchum movie "Thunder Road", and in the movie “Speedway” with Elvis Presley.

He also had a short stint as a Golden Gloves boxer, once fighting eventual heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson. For many years, Harkey, worked with Champion Spark Plug’s safety program.

On January 16, 2016, he died in Indianapolis at the age of 85.
Butch Wilkerson, Merle Bettenhausen, Bob Harkey and Eldon Rassmussen.

Bruce Jacobi Born In Salem, Indiana - June 23, 1935

June 23, 1935 - February 4, 1987
Bruce Jacobi
Born in Salem, Indiana, USA.
He grew up near the Salem Speedway and "got racing in his blood." He participated in both USAC and NASCAR competition. He had 37 USAC Champ Car starts between 1960 and 1970, with a best finish of fourth at Springfield in 1970. He qualified for the 1962 Indianapolis 500, but was "bumped" from the starting field by a faster qualifier. Jacobi also completed rookie refresher testing in preparation for the 1967 Indianapolis 500, but did not attempt to qualify.

He competed in twenty Winston Cup Series events in his career, spanning from 1975 to 1983. Most of those races came in 1975, when Jacobi finished 25th in points after his only three career top-tens. Those top-ten efforts were bested by an 8th at Talladega.

In 1987, Jacobi, 51, died of head injuries sustained in a NASCAR race crash at the Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 1983. Jacobi came to Speedweeks without a ride but picked one up with a smaller independent team by the time of the Twin 125 qualifiers. During the first qualifying race, he lost control of his No. 05 Pontiac at the exit of turn two and flipped upon entering the grass infield, eventually coming to a stop near the inside dirt bank. Jacobi suffered extensive head injuries from the crash and remained in a comatose state for almost four years before dying at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

One of Salem's "favorite sons," many of his racing memorabilia are kept at the Stevens Museum in Salem.

Alex Zanardi Scores First CART Victory At Portland - June 23, 1996

June 23, 1996
Alex Zanardi, driving a Target Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard 96I-Honda, scores his first CART victory, at Portland, Oregon.