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1988 Spokane Grand Prix

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  • #16

    There's information on both Tacoma and Spokane about halfway down the page. Note the fifth-place finisher in 1988.

    The brief life of the Budweiser-sponsored Spokane Grand Prix partially overlaps with that of its Tacoma counterpart. The idea for a downtown street race in Washington's second largest city as a new addition to the annual Neighbor Days Festival was first put forward in 1986. A year later and after dodging a range of financial and political issues, the definitive green light was finally given in late June 1987, days before the planned inaugural running in early July. The programme, very similar to Tacoma's, included four races:

    * NASCAR Winston West Series (100 laps)
    * Formula Atlantic (40 laps)
    * Formula Club Ford (17 laps)
    * Pro Sports 2000 (30 laps)

    The 1.65-mi Spokane circuit encircled Riverfront Park, a man-made island in the Spokane River, and like Tacoma was essentially your typical grid-pattern American street course, except that it also included a tunnel and no less than three river crossings. As such it was quite a remarkable course.

    A lap began on North Washington Street just before the Washington Bridge. At this point the fastest cars would be doing around 150 mph before entering the Monaco-esque tunnel on Havermale Island. Coming out of the short tunnel, drivers forked left, going over the water again, and then turned sharp right onto West Spokane Falls Boulevard. This straight permitted 120 mph or so, before another sharp right and an S-curve led onto the narrow Post Street Bridge, the third and final crossing of the Spokane River. The rest of the lap was rather less remarkable, as the course simply zig-zagged past the post office, the Coliseum (since replaced by the Veterans Memorial Arena), and the pit lane, which was situated on West Gardner Avenue rather than at start-finish. A final 90-degree right completed the lap.

    Sadly, the Spokane Grand Prix was plagued by delays. All running on Friday was cancelled as preparations to get the course ready were still ongoing. Rain showers during the weekend further upset the schedule, and on Sunday the headlining Winston West Budweiser 300 didn't end until 8 pm! Here's the top five:

    * Roy Smith (Ford) 100 laps
    * Chad Little (Ford) +3.7s
    * Sumner McKnight (Ford) 100 laps
    * Bill Schmitt (Chevrolette) 98 laps
    * Hershel McGriff (Pontiac) 96 laps

    The other races were won by Johnny O'Connell (Formula Atlantic), Randy McDaniel (Pro Sports 2000) and Ed Freutel (Formula Club Ford). O'Connell also turned out the fastest driver of the weekend, as he clocked both pole position (1.14,991) and the fastest lap (1.14,998) of the Atlantic race, averaging just under 80 mph for both laps.

    Afterwards, city officials declared the inaugural Spokane Grand Prix a success despite numerous teething troubles. It was announced the soggy three-day event attracted 32,000 people, which, although less than hoped, was not bad for a first time, but it later turned out that paid attendance was only 12,000 or so, meaning many people had sneaked a peek without buying a ticket, hence a six-figure deficit.

    The second Spokane Grand Prix was held a year later with an identical programme, except for the addition of Pro Formula Russell as a fifth class and slight tweaks to most of the race distances. Dean Hall took pole position for the Formula Atlantic race this time, but Johnny O'Connell got by after a lap, and although both drivers turned in near-identical best laps (1.15,622 for Hall vs 1.15,687 for O'Connell), the latter ultimately claimed his second consecutive Spokane victory with ease. The Budweiser 300 NASCAR race was also won by last year's winning driver, Roy Smith, who also took home the championship that season.

    * Roy Smith (Ford Thunderbird) 100 laps
    * Bill Schmitt (Chevrolette Monte Carlo) +3.34s
    * Jim Danielson (Buick LeSabre) 100 laps
    * John Krebs (Oldsmobile Delta) 100 laps
    * Tommy Kendall (Buick Regal) 99 laps

    The second Spokane Grand Prix ran a lot more smoothly than the first. Each race ran as scheduled, and rain that once again threatened to cause trouble never materialized. Immediately after the event, Grand Prix officials painted an optimistic picture for the future... In reality though, the organising Spokane Grand Prix Association faced a $700,000 debt after two years of auto racing on city streets. By December 1988 hope for a third running, to be headlined by SCCA TransAm, had all but faded and the event was declared dead unless an unforeseen saviour would step forward... which, of course, never happened.
    "Only a fool fights in a burning house."-Kang

    "If you listen to fools....The Maaahhhhb Ruuuules....."-Ronnie James Dio


    • #17
      Sea Fury,

      One error, the island Riverfront Park is one is a natural island, not man made, as is Canada Island (also part of the park) just to the northwest of the main Park. Used to be the main rail yard for several years until it bacame the site of the Expo 74, the World's Fair hosted by Spokane. After Expo '74 the City of Spokane turned it into a City park, which it still is today.

      It is also where I met my wife when we were both working Grounds Maintenance in the summers while we were going to College. I spent one summer taking care of Canada island, that was an interesting place at 6:00 am. Yesterday was the 28th anniversary of our first date, by the way.

      They put divers under the bridges for practice and the races. I don't think it would have done much good if a driver had gone off on the Post street bridge, as it was probably 80 -100 feet down to the river.

      The race was a great event, I sat above the tunnel as the cars came down Washington Street and went into the tunnel both years. But. like so many street races of that era, it just didn't work financially. I still miss it, and I still have my commorative bottles of wine from, I think, the first year.


      • #18
        So i looked through my stuff and found that i have a program from the 1988, I'm working on scanning it but right now my friend doesn't have his hooked up and i ain't got one. I'll edit it in to this post when i do get some more scanned in.


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