Unconfigured Ad Widget

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

USAC and road racing?

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • USAC and road racing?

    I'm sure this has been asked before, but why did USAC turn away from road racing in the early 70's?

    They added their first road race in 1965 at IRP. By 1967 they had 4 road races on the calendar. 6 in 1968, but when they split off dirt races in 1971 it appears they also split off road racing into a separate road racing championship that quickly folded due to lack of interest.

    I get spinning of dirt races - teams were required to maintain separate dirt and pavement cars, but why road racing?

    In retrospect, it feels a little short sighted. They had a vary diverse schedule by the late 1960's (even if you remove the dirt races), but by the mid-70's it was Trenton, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Michigan, Pocono, Indy and repeat.

    Is there more to the story?
    Real drivers don't need fenders!

  • #2
    As far as I can determine, it was that the car owners had concerns that things would reach a point where a special road course chassis would be
    required to be competitive on the road courses.

    They were already running separate engine programs. For instance in 1970, Al Unser's cars used the 2.65 turbo racing engine on the paved ovals,
    the 4.2 normally aspirated racing engine on the dirt, and the 5.2 normally aspirated stock block on the road courses.
    "It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny." - James Fenimore Cooper

    "One man with courage is a majority." - Thomas Jefferson

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Pelican Joe View Post
      I'm sure this has been asked before, but why did USAC turn away from road racing in the early 70's?

      They added their first road race in 1965 at IRP. By 1967 they had 4 road races on the calendar. 6 in 1968, but when they split off dirt races in 1971 it appears they also split off road racing into a separate road racing championship that quickly folded due to lack of interest.

      I get spinning of dirt races - teams were required to maintain separate dirt and pavement cars, but why road racing?

      In retrospect, it feels a little short sighted. They had a vary diverse schedule by the late 1960's (even if you remove the dirt races), but by the mid-70's it was Trenton, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Michigan, Pocono, Indy and repeat.

      Is there more to the story? [sic]
      USAC's interest in road racing during the period in question proved to be insincere, according to John Cooper, a self-described moderate in the battle over road racing that roiled the group. Fearful of change, reactionary elements inside USAC engaged in a racing version of identity politics to eventually beat back the idea.

      It would be necessary to view USAC's road racing exploits in context to gain a better understanding of how turning left and right was viewed. You can go back to 1958 or to 1962 if you wish to gain a fuller appreciation of the Sturm und Drang or you can begin with USAC's unexpected revelation that it planned to merge with the SCCA if you want to be more period specific. Include, too, USAC's and the SCCA's agreement to jointly sanction F5000 and what that portended.

      The larger interest that USAC's orthodox and progressive factions could agree upon was money. If, say, a promoter such as a John Webb or a sponsor such as a Jim Trueman came along with a big enough bag of gold for a champ car race, they'd pause their internecine war long enough vacuum up the cash.





      Comment


      • #4
        I have no inside information, but I recall USRRC and CanAm being awfully popular in the time frame being discussed, and perhaps USAC, right or wrong, figured there was no room or future in it for them. Don'r forget the TransAm series was dam popular as well. (and way, way more competitive than CanAm ever was)
        “Church supper with grandma and granddad, lets go out and have ourselves the best time we ever had" - John Mellencamp

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Oddy View Post
          I have no inside information, but I recall USRRC and CanAm being awfully popular in the time frame being discussed, and perhaps USAC, right or wrong, figured there was no room or future in it for them. Don'r forget the TransAm series was dam popular as well. (and way, way more competitive than CanAm ever was) [sic]
          Your memories are rose-tinted and your speculation has no basis in fact.

          The USRRC proved not to be as popular with spectators as you recall. For example, one circuit that hosted USRRC and Can-Am events routinely had attendance figures that were about six times larger for its Can-Am than for its USRRC race held the same year. Overall, the popularity of the Trans-Am was about on par with that of the USRRC during the years both championship were run side by side. Taken in context, both were about as popular as USAC champ car road races. Examined closely, the glory years of Trans-Am series were not "way, way more competitive" than the Group 7-era Can-Am. There were periods when a driver/team/manufacturer was dominant. You need to take into account the way Trans-Am points were awarded up until 1972 and how driver contracts were structured when assessing Trans-Am competitiveness.

          The USRRC did not live to see the 1970s.

          At the time, USAC did not, right or wrong, figure there as no room or future for champ car road racing. USAC's attempt to resurrect the USAC Road Racing Championship moniker in 1971 for mainly F5000 cars was a flop.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by editor View Post

            Your memories are rose-tinted and your speculation has no basis in fact.

            The USRRC proved not to be as popular with spectators as you recall. For example, one circuit that hosted USRRC and Can-Am events routinely had attendance figures that were about six times larger for its Can-Am than for its USRRC race held the same year. Overall, the popularity of the Trans-Am was about on par with that of the USRRC during the years both championship were run side by side. Taken in context, both were about as popular as USAC champ car road races. Examined closely, the glory years of Trans-Am series were not "way, way more competitive" than the Group 7-era Can-Am. There were periods when a driver/team/manufacturer was dominant. You need to take into account the way Trans-Am points were awarded up until 1972 and how driver contracts were structured when assessing Trans-Am competitiveness.

            The USRRC did not live to see the 1970s.

            At the time, USAC did not, right or wrong, figure there as no room or future for champ car road racing. USAC's attempt to resurrect the USAC Road Racing Championship moniker in 1971 for mainly F5000 cars was a flop.
            Thanks for the info. This line feels important: I'm looking at it from a time where champ car road racing is very important, and growing up with the sport in the 1980's I've never known a time where it wasn't a key part of the schedule.
            Real drivers don't need fenders!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by editor View Post

              Your memories are rose-tinted and your speculation has no basis in fact.

              The USRRC proved not to be as popular with spectators as you recall. For example, one circuit that hosted USRRC and Can-Am events routinely had attendance figures that were about six times larger for its Can-Am than for its USRRC race held the same year. Overall, the popularity of the Trans-Am was about on par with that of the USRRC during the years both championship were run side by side. Taken in context, both were about as popular as USAC champ car road races. Examined closely, the glory years of Trans-Am series were not "way, way more competitive" than the Group 7-era Can-Am. There were periods when a driver/team/manufacturer was dominant. You need to take into account the way Trans-Am points were awarded up until 1972 and how driver contracts were structured when assessing Trans-Am competitiveness.

              The USRRC did not live to see the 1970s.

              At the time, USAC did not, right or wrong, figure there as no room or future for champ car road racing. USAC's attempt to resurrect the USAC Road Racing Championship moniker in 1971 for mainly F5000 cars was a flop.
              OK, I should have said USRRC was popular until CanAm came around. And once the orange cars showed up CanAm was always dominated by one make, Porsche being next in line, but by then I had lost interest. And popular is a relative term, all I know is it seemed crowded to me at Road America, CanAm or the Road America 500 before it.. CanAm was fun to watch, but not competitive. As for TransAm, yea Penske/Donahue dominated in 68 IIRC. Also recall the racing being all out combat.

              Regarding the original USAC question, I don't know, sorry to deflect via speculation.
              “Church supper with grandma and granddad, lets go out and have ourselves the best time we ever had" - John Mellencamp

              Comment


              • #8
                I did some research last night. I started looking through old Car and Driver issues from the time. Did not find anything that really
                addressed the issue, but there were a few interesting items:

                The USAC Director of competition, Henry Banks, was shifted to a different position in 1970. I was under the impression that he
                was one of the people who pushed for road racing to be added to the series.

                Marlboro sponsored the 1971 USAC Championship Trail. We know that when Winston made their deal with NASCAR, they wanted
                a "refined" schedule including only the best races. Could Marlboro have had an influence here with USAC ?

                There was an article on TV coverage of racing. Suggested that ABC might have had an influence on USAC's schedule, but did not
                come right out & say so. Also, the author believed that Marlboro & Winston got a steal of a deal.

                Then, I did an internet search and found this:


                $300,000 Marlboro Auto Slate Hits Paved Oval Trail in 1971



                By Bill Braddock
                • New York Times Nov. 15, 1970


                The new format for the United States Auto Club's Championship Trail, which has been paved with gold by Marlboro, has some benefits for the racing teams that are not apparent to the fans. The advantages were emphasized by Bobby Unser when the schedule was announced last week. The former national champion, noting that the 12 races on the 1971 $300,000 Marlboro program are all to be run on paved oval tracks, said that this factor made competition, and life itself, much simpler.

                Unser the elder pointed out that there are race cars for tracks just as there are “horses for courses.” If the emphasis is on oval track racing, then the team can concentrate on the engine and chassis best suited for those conditions and eliminate the types needed for dirt track and road racing. This not only conserves money but cuts down on the wear and tear on mechanics and over‐all racing supervisors.

                Bobby Unser, who won the USAC championship in 1968, has been racing in the shadow of his little brother, Al, this year. Al clinched the title in September and with record earnings of $448,145 to date has far surpassed the previous high attained by Mario Andretti in 1969. Bobby is second on this year's Marlboro Championship Trail point list but his earnings have only been $80,000. The Unsers do not race as a team.

                Asked for a breakdown of his “stable” for the season that will be completed at Phoenix next Saturday, and the one coming up in 1971, Bob gave these listings:

                This season he and his crew had to prepare six engines — three turbo ‐ Offenhausers and three turbo‐ Fords—for oval track races; two 255 Offys for dirt tracks and two 255‐Fords for road races. He also had six chassis—five for asphalt and one for dirt.

                For the new season, Bobby says he will need only three cars for the Marlboro competition. He will have a No. 1 car, a back‐up car and one for testing tires and accessories. However, he thought he would keep a fourth ma chine for experimental purposes.

                This, of course, not only cuts expenses but gives the team more opportunity to perfect its equipment. Bob also said that the fact that the races were well‐spaced gives the teams more opportunity to avoid mechanical breakdowns.

                “The Marlboro program is actually an aid to the small driver,” said the elder Unser. “Outfits like Al's and those I deal with have more money. But the smaller teams with a couple of car will have a much Better chance of keeping them in good condition for all the races on the Championship Trail.”

                Bobby will drive a Dar Gurney Eagle at Phoenix and this may be a guide to next season. Gurney said when he retired from racing a few weeks ago that his main objective was to build a racing team. It is possible that Bobby Unser will head it in 1971.

                The Marlboro program actually has a 13th race but it is an invitation event in Argentina on Feb. 28 and is not included in the point plan. For the 12 races in the regular competition there are some new features.

                In addition to the Indian apolis 500 on May 29 and the California 500 at Ontario, Sept. 5, there will be a 500‐ mile race at a new raceway at Pocono, Pa., on July 3. Another new track on the list is Mountaineer Speed way at Parkersburg, West Va., where a 150‐mile race is scheduled July 18.

                The other paved tracks and the dates for races are Hanford (Calif.) Motor Speed way, March 14 and Oct. 10; Wisconsin State Fair Park, June 6 and Aug. 15; Phoenix Raceway, March 27 and Oct. 23, and Trenton Speedway, April 18 and Sept. 26.

                Of the Marlboro prize money, $100,000 will go to the drivers' point standing season split. A second $100, 000 goes to the drivers' purses for each event and the third $100,000 is a track operator fund.




                So it appears that road racing and dirt racing were separated to reduce costs.

                Also found this at SpeedSport:

                https://speedsport.com/racing-histor...r-1970-season/
                "It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny." - James Fenimore Cooper

                "One man with courage is a majority." - Thomas Jefferson

                Comment


                • #9
                  Reduce costs... and ultimately splinter the sport.
                  I'll see YOU at the races!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by KenK View Post
                    As far as I can determine, it was that the car owners had concerns that things would reach a point where a special road course chassis would be
                    required to be competitive on the road courses.

                    They were already running separate engine programs. For instance in 1970, Al Unser's cars used the 2.65 turbo racing engine on the paved ovals,
                    the 4.2 normally aspirated racing engine on the dirt, and the 5.2 normally aspirated stock block on the road courses.
                    The sensible thing would have been to have the same engine size for paved ovals and road courses.
                    "An emphasis was placed on drivers with road racing backgrounds which meant drivers from open wheel, oval track racing were at a disadvantage. That led Tony George to create the IRL." -Indy Review 1996

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Oddy View Post

                      OK, I should have said USRRC was popular until CanAm came around. And once the orange cars showed up CanAm was always dominated by one make, Porsche being next in line, but by then I had lost interest. And popular is a relative term, all I know is it seemed crowded to me at Road America, CanAm or the Road America 500 before it.. CanAm was fun to watch, but not competitive. As for TransAm, yea Penske/Donahue dominated in 68 IIRC. Also recall the racing being all out combat.

                      Regarding the original USAC question, I don't know, sorry to deflect via speculation. [sic]
                      Can-Am races were not always dominated by McLarens or by the McLaren team after it switched its colors from chiefly red to papaya. The Kiwis had to overcome a number of difficulties. They scored a number of lucky victories, including at Elkhart Lake in 1970 and 1971. McLaren torpedoed its 1972 Can-Am campaign. Meanwhile, Porsche didn't own the Can-Am as is often alleged. Customer Porsches were technologically or otherwise superior at times to the works car/cars. Politics and mistakes also hampered its effort.

                      The Trans-Am was far from being the all out combat you assert. Ford's efforts were handicapped by, among other things, bad engines, bad chassis and bad tires. Ford politics blunted efforts from its contracted teams. Penske Racing's Camaro program in '68 was under-resourced and suffered technical dilemmas. RKE's Javelins were underdeveloped; the relationship between team and factory was riven by politics. Roger Penske nearly had his Javelin deal cancelled in 1970 for lack of results. Dan Gurney was cited by many as being the force that drove Chrysler out of road racing, nevermind Chrysler's engineering deficiencies.
                      Last edited by editor; 08-12-2020, 05:12 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ensign14 View Post

                        The sensible thing would have been to have the same engine size for paved ovals and road courses.
                        USAC rules at the time didn't require teams to change engine types. Teams able to choose elected not to run smaller-displacement turbocharged engines in road races. Dan Gurney, for instance, could be found running his Gurney-Eagle Ford-engined car in the Indianapolis 500 and in USAC road races. Bobby Unser drove a customer Eagle MkII that was fitted with either a turbocharged engine or torquey NA power depending upon type of track or circuit being used. There was a time when Mario Andretti had Gurney-Eagle Ford power installed in his champ and dirt cars.
                        Last edited by editor; 08-12-2020, 05:06 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by editor View Post

                          As you admit, your impressions are not particularly well informed. Can-Am races were not always dominated by McLarens or by the McLaren team after it switched its colors from red to papaya. The Kiwis had to overcome a number of difficulties. They scored a number of lucky victories, including at Elkhart Lake in 1970 and 1971. Underfunded McLaren torpedoed itself for 1972. Meanwhile, Porsche didn't own the Can-Am as is often alleged. Customer Porsches were technologically or otherwise superior at times to the works car/cars. Politics and mistakes also hampered its effort.

                          The Trans-Am was far from being the all out combat you describe. Ford's efforts were handicapped by, among other things, bad engines, bad chassis and bad tires. Ford politics blunted efforts by its contracted teams. Penske Racing's Camaro program in '68 was under-resourced and suffered technical dilemmas. RKE's Javelins were underdeveloped; the relationship between team and factory was riven by politics. Roger Penske nearly had his Javelin deal cancelled in 1970 for lack of results. Dan Gurney was cited by many as being the force that drove Chrysler out of road racing, nevermind Chrysler's engineering deficiencies.
                          This is a bit off topic, but I once read Tyler Alexander mention that they had an engine to compete with Porsche, but didn't have the bucks to develop a new chassis.
                          Real drivers don't need fenders!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ensign14 View Post

                            The sensible thing would have been to have the same engine size for paved ovals and road courses.



                            USAC rules at the time didn't require teams to change engine types. Teams able to choose elected not to run smaller-displacement turbocharged engines in road races. Dan Gurney, for instance, could be found running his Gurney-Eagle Ford-engined car in the Indianapolis 500 and in USAC road races. Bobby Unser drove a customer Eagle MkII that was fitted with either a turbocharged engine or torquey NA power depending upon type of track or circuit being used. There was a time when Mario Andretti had Gurney-Eagle Ford power installed in his champ and dirt cars.

                            One must also consider that in 1970, turbochargers were still a new technology in racing. People didn't know how to make them work on
                            road courses and dirt ovals yet. It took the Penske team to make the 917/10 turbo Porsche work during the 1971-72 off season. To the
                            best of my knowledge, when they ran that car in the 1972 Can-Am, it was the first time a turbo road racing car won a race.

                            And then in 1974, Pat Patrick & George Bignotti entered a turbo Offy in the Hoosier Hundred and Jackie Howerton used it to lead all 100 laps.

                            Had the variety of tracks been left unchanged, I believe it is safe to say that the 2.65L turbo engines would have become the preferred engine
                            for all tracks by 1975-76.
                            "It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny." - James Fenimore Cooper

                            "One man with courage is a majority." - Thomas Jefferson

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by editor View Post

                              Can-Am races were not always dominated by McLarens or by the McLaren team after it switched its colors from chiefly red to papaya. The Kiwis had to overcome a number of difficulties. They scored a number of lucky victories, including at Elkhart Lake in 1970 and 1971. McLaren torpedoed its 1972 Can-Am campaign. Meanwhile, Porsche didn't own the Can-Am as is often alleged. Customer Porsches were technologically or otherwise superior at times to the works car/cars. Politics and mistakes also hampered its effort.

                              The Trans-Am was far from being the all out combat you assert. Ford's efforts were handicapped by, among other things, bad engines, bad chassis and bad tires. Ford politics blunted efforts from its contracted teams. Penske Racing's Camaro program in '68 was under-resourced and suffered technical dilemmas. RKE's Javelins were underdeveloped; the relationship between team and factory was riven by politics. Roger Penske nearly had his Javelin deal cancelled in 1970 for lack of results. Dan Gurney was cited by many as being the force that drove Chrysler out of road racing, nevermind Chrysler's engineering deficiencies.
                              Your replies have hardly anything to do with what I said, let's just call it a day.
                              “Church supper with grandma and granddad, lets go out and have ourselves the best time we ever had" - John Mellencamp

                              Comment

                              Unconfigured Ad Widget

                              Collapse
                              Working...
                              X