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"The Race I'll Never Forget."

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  • "The Race I'll Never Forget."

    A reacurring article that appeared in Auto Racing Digest where such racing luminaries like Mario and Bobby Allison would recount their particular race.

    Since we have a whole slew of seasoned race fans I wonder to each of you which is the one you will never forget. Here's mine:

    New Breman in the fall of 1971. They had a USAC sprint car show with a twin 40 lap feature. It was almost remembered for all the wrong reasons when Larry Cannon destroyed the Hoffman Sprinter in practice. I thought he was a goner but he would recover after a winter convelescence. To set the stage 1971 was the final installment in the famed "Larry and Gary Show". The first feature of the afternoon was won by Rollie Beale who was still had a slim chance to wrestle the sprint car title away from Larry and Gary. His chance was enhanced when both Larry Dickson and Gary Bettenhausen had mechanical problems with their assigned rides. Since their rides couldn't be repaired in time and the title was on the line both Larry and Gary went ride hopping for the second feature. Dickson was offered the #33 Jones car that Johnny Parsons ran a strong first race in runnerup spot. Bettenhausen was offered the Ben Leyba car #1 that Greg Weld literally coasted across the finish line with a problem. Somehow the problem wasn't serious so Gary accepted the ride anyway.

    Because of the driver switches both Dickson and Bettenhausen had to tag the tail for the start of the second feature. Rollie Beale was an early DNF in the second feature which effectively ended his championship hunt. Dickson gave the #33 a decent ride but was mired in midpack most of the 40 laps. In the second half of the feature a heated race for the lead ensued between leader Sammy Sessions and Lee Kunzman. Kunzman was in Sessions shadow and IN turn 4 on the last lap tried valiently to pass in the inside when Sessions was stuck behind a lapped car. Unbenounced to either one of them was Bettenhausen who wheeled the Leyba sprinter under Sessions and Kunzman and gassed it past both of them to win by less than a wheel.

    This was the race Dickson may never forget too. The Leyba car was Dicksons ride most of the year. Now the car became instrumental in helping Gary B. win the USAC Sprint car title in 1971.

    Can't wait to hear others races on this cold November day.
    Last edited by grogg; 11-19-2005, 02:58 PM.

  • #2
    1970 and 71 Nationals and Indy 72 and 74

    All for different reasons.

    Short versions:

    70 Irp, for Jim Nicholls cutting his top fuel car (clutch explosion) in half trying to beat Snake and being unharmed though shaken. I couldn't believe seeing Superman stagger to the first responders. Wow. Again the films do not do the event justice. With Snake - we all feared the very worst for a while.
    6.4 seems so slow now doesn't it?

    71 IRP for the age of the rear engine cars dawning even though Garlits wuz whupped after the incredible burndown at the starting line in the final, Steve Carbone deserved that last win for the front engine cars.

    72 Indy, first broken heart for Gary B. Man that guy was flying. For a while. Gary B we still love ya and miss ya. Tony Jr. too.

    74 Indy for the whole field showing me that Indy would recover from 1973.
    And JR was driving the best car in the field clearly on that day.

    To chose one? Indy 74 as I needed to see that or I would never ever have gone back. That would have been my loss.


    • #3
      This is too simple...even for me

      Indy 500 1968. Although not the first time at T.H.E. Speedway, it was my first race (sniff, sniff...)


      • #4
        Mosley smoking the entire field from the last row at Milwaukee with the Pepsi Challenger Chevy. Best drive i ever saw. The other of course would be Indy 73 something no one can ever forget for entirely different reasons...
        Last edited by stockblock; 11-19-2005, 02:50 AM.


        • #5
          Oh, there's lots, some making a big impression on me when I was just a little kid-the 1977 Indy 500, for example. Back then, Foyt was the biggest star in racing. Racing was something served up in bite-sized chunks on Wide World of Sports in those days, and if they had a race on, whether it was Indy cars or NASCAR or sports cars, everything but F1, it was usually because Foyt was in it. So he was a hero of mine, up there with Evel Kneivel and Muhammad Ali....and Captain Kirk. (Hey, I was like 6, OK? ) Prior to that '77 race, being so little and being subjected to racing in that piecemeal fashion, I remember bits and pieces of races before that. So I knew the names like Mario Andretti, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Niki Lauda, Al Unser, Bobby Allison, Peter Gregg, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford-all the big names.

          I remember the Petty STP Chargers (and my then-teenage uncle's stickers on his notebook that said STP-THE RACER'S EDGE), Porsche 917 CAN AM cars (one said RC COLA on it, and I had a little Matchbox 917 just like it, and we actually drank RC Cola!), Tyrrell 6-wheelers, and a slew of Indy car stuff, but like I said, in bits and pieces. Cool stuff to a little kid. I was just learning to read just like the other kids, but I could already recognize words like TYRRELL, John Player Special, STP, Gatorade, First National City, Porsche, Ferrari....And some of those cars were just the kind of mutant machinery that kids love. Like space fighters-out of the ordinary. How can a little kid not like a screaming red car with a giant sucker fan in the back, or a car with 6 wheels on it?

          That was a big summer for a little kid with my interests-racing, space, airplanes, movies. Within one summer, I saw my hero A.J. Foyt win the Indy 500, waited for hours SEVERAL times to see Star Wars (for a kid my age from 1977 to about 1984 or 85, the Star Wars saga was life), and got to watch the first Space Shuttle test flights on live TV. (I liked Star Trek, and here was a real live space ship named Enterprise!)

          I remember seeing coverage of the Italian GP at Monza the next year-I remember it now because of the horrific accident. I was too little to process what the consquences of that accident really meant back then-that by the time it aired, Ronnie Peterson had died as a result of it. I do have recollections of F1 in the '70s. Like Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux dueling at Dijon; seeing footage of Mario in action in the Lotus 79, etc. Also: I really thought for a while that Jackie Stewart worked in the broadcasting booth while holding his nose.

          I remember the 1979 Daytona 500. Winter of '78-'79 was pretty nasty up in this neck of the woods. I was watching that race because A.J. Foyt was in it. I also remember a guy coming into the pits at Texas World Speedway with a deer's legs sticking out of his imploded grille....

          I remember staying up at age 10 to watch the '82 500 with my friend Junior. We had to watch it on the old black-and-white Zenith because my mom would not watch racing when there were perfectly good TV movies on. It was a close race at the end, as you might recall! ....I remember Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough duking it out in the Firecracker 400 with President Reagan there....200 wins....Nigel Mansell tries to get out and push his Lotus to the finish but collapses in the stifling Dallas heat....

          The 1989 500 with the duel between Emmo and Little Al. Other races....A.J. telling a live TV audience that his pit crew had their heads up their @$$e$ and then puttering away on a moped....Bobby and Davey Allison racing down to the wire at Daytona....several runnings of the NASCAR all-star race then known as The Winston....Ricky Rudd summersaulting a Bud Moore Thunderchicken at Daytona and then coming back with his eyes taped open to race....Bobby Rahal and Kevin Cogan at Indy in 1986....Dale Earnhardt dominating Daytona in 1990-UNTIL-!!!!!.....That same year, they interviewed Arie Luyendyk before the start of the Indy 500, and I remember distinctly seeing Arie look up at the camera right at the end, and thinking, "that look in his eye-something tells me.... Later that afternoon, they showed Ayrton Senna conducting a master class at Monaco....A.J. Foyt comes back after his injury to sit on the front row at Indy in 1991, between Mario Andretti and Rick Mears, and during qualifying on Pole Day, when it looked like he might even have the pole, telling us, "It ain't nothing"-only to choke up, visibly, when he is reminded, "it is something....in the race, he cruises around the track waving to cheering fans after debris knocked his car all to hell.....Davey Allison becomes the man to beat in NASCAR in 1992, along with Million Dollar Bill-until he flips his car 25 friggin' times at Pocono....Jimmy Spencer gets up on his nose when his car becomes airborne at Talladega, slams back down on his wheels-and suddenly his handling problems are cured!....the wreck-strewn 1992 500, when we should have known there would be trouble when the friggin' polesitter spun out on the pace lap, and while Little Al and Scott Goodyear duel to the finish, ol' pro A.J. Foyt comes through the wreckage to finish 9th....Bobby Allison coming back from his head injuries to win a FastMasters race in an XJ220 at IRP....Nigel Mansell, who has taken his all-conquering Williams-Renault and beaten everybody over the head with it, wins the British GP and cruises Silverstone flying the Union Jack....Alan Kulwicki wins a couple of races and outfoxes the big-buck teams at Atlanta to take the 1992 Winston Cup; over the end credits, they play Frank Sinatra: "And more, much more than this-I did it my way...."that was Petty's last Cup race....the old pro comes through: Mario Andretti wins the 1993 Phoenix race....Nigel Mansell, who is in fact one of my all-time favorites so don't think I'm knocking him, gets taken to school on the art of roundy-round restarts at Indy in 1993....Ayrton Senna takes the decidedly inferior McLaren-Ford and still manages to show the mighty Williams team how things are done at Kaylami and Donnington....Scott Pruett outdueling Little Al at Michigan for the win, proving that you only need two cars to make a race exciting....Neil Bonnett getting into a Richard Childress car at Talladega only to roll it over, spin it around backwards, bounce windshield-to-windshield off of the car of a VERY SURPRISED Ted Musgrave (I think) and hit the fence, and then head up to the broadcasting booth to call the rest of the race during the ensuing red flag. I think he actually said something like, "Man, I ain't never doing THAT again...." which in retrospect seems like something he should have held to....in the early 1990s, the F1 races were on ESPN at like 4:30 AM live, so I taped 'em and watched 'em later Sunday sometime. Meanwhile I would watch Sateside Indy car and stock car races live. So I'm watching the 1994 Winston 500 at Talladega, and hear the announcers somberly note, "the racing world has been shocked by the death of Ayrton Senna"-and when Earnhardt won, he paid tribute to him in victory lane....I popped the tape right in, and couldn't believe what I was seeing-like Earnhardt, Senna had seemed like a force of nature....Buddy Lazier's comeback from a bad back injury to win the big prize....Arie Luyendyk dropping the F-Bomb on live TV during the last restart of the 1997 500....tons of close IRL finishes over the past 10 years....Eddie Cheever's persistence pays off, and the racing gods smile on him at Indy in 1998-say what you will about the man's talents, after 10 years in F1 and 8 in Indy cars and a whole lot in between, you can't say he hadn't paid his dues....Helio Castroneves makes a fan out of me when he hits the wall at Indy and grins, "I'm not here to kiss de wall-I'm here to kiss de CHICKS!!!" ....he wins the 500, climbs the fence, and his teary-eyed, unrestrained joy is contageous-a refreshing change in this era of stony corporate plug-spewers....and then he does it again!....the somber tone of almost all the races in the wake of September 11th....John Mellencamp's "Peaceful World" being sung before the USGP, and that horrifying wreck in Germany that cost Alex Zanardi his legs. I just KNEW I had just seen Alex Zanardi die. My mom, a non-racing fan you might say, was sitting there watching the race with me, and she screamed when she saw that happen....Same with Kenny Brack's wreck at Texas....But she also uttered a few respectful "WOW!!"s at the end of a couple of those Texas races....Buddy Rice wins Indy, and then later in the season tricks Kanaan into thinking he's about to run out of fuel-and does like 5 minutes' worth of dougnuts on the victory lap, practically rubbing AGR's noses in it....And yes, Danica at Indy at '05....

          I cant WAIT for 2006!!!!!!!!!! More racing history waiting to be made....
          "Only a fool fights in a burning house."-Kang

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


          • #6
            A few races I was privileged to have attended come to mind;

            1. The Mansell/Tracy shoot-out through traffic at New Hampshire in ‘93. Indy Car racing at its best.

            2. Roger Ward’s whipping the ‘sporty car’ boys at Lime Rock in ‘59.

            3. Don’t remember the year, but Geoff, ("The Driver Formerly Known For One Year As Geoffrey") Bodine put on a show at the old Westboro Speedway when he was the gold standard (and villain) in the N.E.Modifieds. Starting in the back, he battled his way through traffic over the length of the race until he took the lead with a few laps left. The master at work.

            4. Another memorable charge from the back, this by hired gun Rich Vogler driving for a west coast owner at Ascot Park in (I think) 1987. A classic 'take no prisoners' "There's NO WAY he can get through there" drive by Rich. Unfortunately his engine couldn't make it to the checker.


            • #7
              A couple of mine involve Roger McCluskey. One he won/one he lost.

              USAC Stocks at Terre Haute Action Track '71. Great race on the clay 1/2mi. The place was packed. Remember Foyt and, I think, Bay Darnell getting together at the west end of the track between 3 & 4. McCluskey wins.

              Pocono 500 '73. Roger almost wins..runs out of fuel on last lap(?). Foyt wins.

              USAC Michigan '70. Johncock breaks and literally 'rides' the wall, while leading in his McLaren. Gary Bettenhausen goes on for the win.

              '70 500 - mostly because it was my first race, after going to the track for Practice and/or Quals since '59.

              '74 500, for the same reason mentioned earlier, by UsacIrl: We all needed a 500 like that, following the brutal '73 nightmare.

              '92 Sebring 12HRS. Getting to be just a few feet away from Dan Gurney as his Eagle-Toyota wins the 40th running of that endurance.

              Eldora, the day when a kid I went to high school with finally got it all hooked-up -- thanks to leader Rich Vogler breaking on the last lap. Dave Peperak won that day. Used to tag-along and crew/stooge for him, for awhile. Very proud and happy for him that day. I think it was 1980 -- but I'll never forget it.

              here come the edits/add-ons

              Can't leave out my first race at the Action Track, June '64..which was my first "race" ever.

              Classic names there that day...even a name I never heard before: Andretti.
              Sad day for Johnny White.
              AJ won.


              • #8
                In Person:
                1981: First Michigan 500 at MIS. Wicked race. Got rained out the first weekend and on the second weekend there were several serious crashes and a nearly disastrous pit fire. Too bad Pancho's only CART win was so wild.

                1973: Mid-Ohio Can-Am. Watching George Follmer in the Bobby Rinzler 917/10 hold off Mark Donohue in the 917/30KL until Mark had enough and he turned up the boost. Two great drivers, but with a tremendous difference between their current year and last year's cars.

                Being present for all of Mark Martin's string of 3 victories at Watkins Glen

                '60's and '70's: Watching Gordon Johncock, Sammy Sessions, Rollie Beale, Johnny White, Gordon Dukes, Karl Busson & Darl Harrison run supermodifieds or USAC sprints at Toledo Speedway when I was in junior high, high school and college

                1985: Harry Gant comes from 'way back to make a pass for the lead on Brad Teague on the next to the last lap in a Busch race at Darlington


                • #9
                  Whatever happened to Busson?


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