Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vintage Auto Racing 1906 - 1964

This is Langhorne Speedway..This is probably like 1958 59...Langhorne was paved in 1965.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Michigan Before MIS

Because stock car racing wasn’t born yesterday.

In 1969, the smooth, fast Michigan International Speedway was born in the rural reaches of southern Michigan. It has been the only home for NASCAR in the state since.

But well before that day, NASCAR’s uniqueness was in the ‘touring’ qualities of the series. During the 50s and 60s, NASCAR would sweep into almost any town with short track and bunch of wild old boys who thought they could beat the Southern regulars to keep alive the Civil War, or as we from the South refer to it, The War of Northern Aggression.

It gets hot in the Southeast during the summer, so July and August were perfect months to head north.

NASCAR’s first foray into Michigan was in July 1951. The local boys didn’t fare very well—Jimmy Florian from nearby Cleveland OH and Tommy Lane from parts unknown (but a Midwestern starter only) were the only two “Yankees” to finish in the top 10.

Florian followed the NASCAR stars on their Northern tour all through the 1950 and 1951 seasons and had acquitted the Midwesterners properly, scoring six top 10s in ten starts during 1950—all in the upper Midwest or Mid-Atlantic states. His attempts in the South had not gone nearly as well. He finished 41st out of 75 competitors in the inaugural Southern 500 and was first man out in a race at Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsboro, NC.

His crowning moment was when he bested the boys a year earlier on a dirt track in Dayton, OH to provide Ford with its first win. In doing so, he outran Curtis Turner, Lee Petty, Bill Rexford and many other strong competitors.

10th place finisher Tommy Lane’s only other NASCAR start was a back-of-the-pack run at Heidelburg Stadium in nearby Pennsylvania two weeks later.

Marshall Teague was flagged the winner of the 100-mile, 200-lap affair in 1951. Records show only that he completed the 200 laps—not how far ahead he was in front of 2nd place Dick Rathmann, nor how long it took to complete the race. In fact, the correct finishing order for driver outside the top 10 isn’t even known—nor how many drivers started the race. The only matter worth considering was the $1,000 Teague got to take with him when he left the track.

A little more than one month later, the good old boys were back in Michigan. This time the race would be run in style, right under the noses of the auto manufacturering muckety-mucks. A 250-mile race on the one mile dirt track at Michigan Fairgrounds in Detroit took four hours, twenty minutes and change to complete. Officials kept track of qualification for this race, giving the cars two laps to post time—then added the two times together. Frank Mundy was the fastest car at 69.76 miles per hour, but it was not set in the first round of qualification, so Marshall Teague started the day on the front row—undefeated in Michigan so far.

Fifteen different makes of cars were in the field, all of them the finest of American Iron. The manufacturers anticipated this race for several months. They weren’t disappointed.

Marshall Teague launched off the pole to lead the first lap, but it was the only one he would lead. Overheating sent him to the showers a little past halfway.

Fonty Flock and Tommy Thompson swapped the lead six times before the 100-lap mark when Gober Sosebee wrenched the lead away from the two-some. He held his lead for seven laps before Flock and Thompson came back into the fray, but this time, they brought Curtis Turner with them, which almost proved catastrophic for all involved.

Flock crashed out on lap 130, turning the lead over to Turner—well known for his intimidating driving style. Thompson proved hard to intimidate. These two now took on the chore of thrilling the 16,000 fans. Turner held the lead for 82 laps when Thompson chased him down and passed him. Turner could not let the challenge go unreturned. He swept past Thompson three laps later and the two laid on each other for the next ten circuits before their cars could not stand anymore—and with 25 laps remaining in the event the two slammed into the wooden fence.

Slow and steady, Joe Eubanks eased past the wreck to take the lead—unaware he had even done so. Both Turner and Thompson scrambled to refire their mounts. Thompson chased Eubanks down within eight laps and charged back into the lead, winning the unnamed event by 37 seconds.

Chrysler celebrated as the winning mount, with the Oldsmobile of Eubanks on the same lap in 2nd. Johnny Mantz in a Nash Ambassador and Red Byron in a Ford came home 3rd and 4th. It was Thompson’s first and only victory in only his fifth start.

For his efforts Thompson took home $5,000 in cash and a Packard convertible valued at $3,700. What do you want to bet at least parts of that car made their way onto a racetrack in the months to follow?

The dusty tracks in 1951 are a far cry from the 2-mile SuperSpeedway, but the races were no less thrilling.

Other Michigan Races
1951Grand National Race No 14Grand River Speedrome7/1/1951Marshall Teague
1951Grand National Race No 20Michigan Fairgrounds8/12/1951Tommy Thompson
1952Motor City 250Michigan Fairgrounds6/29/1952Tim Flock
1952Grand National Race No 20Monroe Speedway (MI)7/6/1952Tim Flock
1954Grand National Race No 25Grand River Speedrome7/11/1954Lee Petty

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 13th in Racing History

2006 Greg Biffle held off a determined Jeff Gordon in the 2006 Dodge Charger 500.

2003 Steve Kinser, Joey Saldana and Greg Hodnett started first through third and finished in those same positions in a World of Outlaws Sprint car series race at Delaware International Speedway. They wouldn't return there until 2009.

1995 The bar was still pretty low, but Ron Hornaday Jr. won his third - and at that point it was the most in the series - win at Evergreen Speedway in the Craftsman Truck Series.

1984 Local hot shoes Alan Kulwicki and Dick Trickle finished second and third, but Sam Ard carried the day in the Red Carpet 200 at the Milwaukee Mile.

1979 Lee James won two World of Outlaws Sprint car races in 1979 and one of these came at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, IN.

1962 May 13th was a great day for Iggy Katona. He won back-to-back MARC (now ARCA) races. His 1961 victory came at Cloverleaf Speedway and 1962 was taken at Heidelburg Raceway.

1950 Nino Farina did not make very many Formula 1 starts - two to be exact - but he won his first attempt in the 1950 Grand Prix d'Europe

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

May 12th in Racing History

2007 Close, but no cigar: Erin Crocker narrowly missed winning a major stock car race when she was beaten to the line by Erik Darnell in the Buckle-Up Kentucky 150.

2001 There wasn't a lot of movement at the top of the ARCA Kentucky 150 this day. Frank Kimmel won from the pole, while Tim Steele and Mike Swaim Jr. finished second and third after starting in those same positions.

1991 The Monaco Grand Prix was run on this day, and Ayrton Senna bested a large field of 27 starters

1984 Darrell Waltrip became the fifth driver to hit 60 victories in the NASCAR series when he won the Coors 420 at Nashville International Raceway from the pole.

1973/1979 Cale Yarborough won two races on this day in the 1970s. He took the Music City 420 in 1973 and again in 1979. In 1973, he lapped the field and won by two laps. In 1979 the competition was a little stiffer when Richard Petty also finished on the lead lap.

1968 Graham Hill was the first of only two drivers to complete all 90 laps in the Spanish Grand Prix. It was his 11th F1 victory.

1956 Speedy Thompson led all 200 laps of a NASCAR race in Hickory NC en route to his seventh win in this series.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Emanuel Zervakis

Auto Racing is unique among major league sports because so many of its heroes are still alive, allowing the fan direct access to a rich and colorful history.

Emanuel Zervakis, nicknamed “The Golden Greek,” was already a legend in his native Richmond, VA before he graduated to NASCAR’s senior division, driving hot rods on local dirt tracks.

He began racing on NASCAR’s senior circuit in 1956; it was not an auspicious debut. At the Daytona Beach and Road Course, he crashed on the first lap and finished in 76th position.

He fared a little better in the remainder of his races that season, coming home 14th out of 31 starters at Occoneechee Speedway in Hillsboro, NC and 13th on the paved one-mile Raleigh Speedway. Campaigning his own equipment, however, proved a costly proposition and he returned to Richmond and made only handful of Grand National races each in 1957 and '58.

In 1959 he won the Modified championship at Richmond’s Southside Speedway and it was time to attempt to move back onto the big circuit.

Racing for Monroe Shook in 1960 and 1961, Zervakis found his greatest success. They scored a pole in 1960 at Wilson Speedway and crossed the finish line first at the end of 100 dusty miles, but were forced to hand the trophy to Joe Weatherly when NASCAR discovered an oversized gas tank on their Chevrolet.

In only 14 starts of the 44 races run, Zervakis finished 8th in the point’s standings.

1961 was the year that gave Zervakis his fondest memories. During his career as a driver, he started 83 senior division races, won two, and scored 21 top 5s, 40 top 10s and two poles. Both victories, 19 top-fives, 28 top-10s and one pole came in 1961.

Zervakis’ first victory came at Greenville, SC after narrowly avoiding a spinning Rex White.

David Pearson was pestering White for the lead on lap 176 when the two ran over a hole in the dirt surface and looped their cars. Third place Zervakis meandered through the crash sight and never looked back, leading the final 25 laps. The only other car on the lead lap at the end of the day was Richard Petty. White recovered from his spin to finish third, one lap off the pace.

Zervakis’ closest competition for his second career victory was also Rex White. The event was a 500-lap race at the Norwood (MA) Arena on a ¼-mile asphalt course. Eighteen cars started the race on a track no bigger than a city block, and at the day’s end more than half the field was still running.

The Golden Greek dominated this event, leading twice for more than 350 circuits including the final 237. He was ¼ lap ahead of White when the checkers flew. This battle kept the fans in their seat—the next closest competitor was Ned Jarrett, nine laps off the pace.

He was unable to replicate that season, and he left the big leagues for good in 1963.

He attempted life as a car owner briefly for one season in 1974 and then again in 1981 – 1984 without much success. His best finish as an owner came in 1982 at Martinsville, VA with Butch Lindley at the wheel. They came home second to Harry Gant.

His greatest contribution as an owner came in fielding cars for little known drivers who would eventually find fame. Dale Jarrett made his first ever start in one of Zervakis’ machines. Mark Martin, Morgan Shepherd, Sam Ard and a fellow Modified racer named Geoff Bodine all took turns behind his wheel.

Cup Career
TrackAvg. FinAvg. StartAttempts
Norwood Arena1.003.001
Greenville - Pickens Speedway2.003.002
Asheville - Weaverville Speedway4.339.003
Columbia Speedway4.504.002
Starkey Speedway5.0018.001
Rambi Raceway5.0013.001
Nashville International Raceway5.008.001
North Wilkesboro Speedway6.0013.502
Bowman Gray Stadium7.006.333
Southside Speedway10.676.003
Hickory Speedway11.007.002
Occoneechee Speedway11.679.003
Martinsville Speedway12.0010.867
South Boston Speedway12.5014.002
Bristol Motor Speedway14.009.333
Lincoln Speedway (PA)14.0011.001
Lowes Motor Speedway14.2517.638
Daytona International Speedway14.4017.205
Atlanta Motor Speedway15.7116.577
Hartsville Speedway16.001.001
Wilson Speedway18.3313.673
Richmond International Raceway19.179.676
Darlington Raceway19.7824.229
Old Dominion Speedway22.007.001
Trenton Speedway24.004.001
Langhorne Speedway26.0015.001
Raleigh Speedway30.6720.003
Daytona Beach and Road Course76.00

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Augusta 417

If the modern day drivers think road racing is a grueling event today, they would have hated earning points in 1963 season.

In the 50s and 60s, one season would close and immediately the next would open. The final race of the 1963 season was contested at Riverside, CA on the 2.7-mile road course. Originally several Champ car drivers were scheduled to compete, but the United States Auto Club (USAC) was beginning to feel heat from NASCAR, and refused to allow their drivers to participate—threatening they would not be allowed to attempt the Indy 500 if they disobeyed.

That announcement came after qualification was complete and pole sitter Dan Gurney was one of the drivers affected—his pole came in a Wood Bros Ford. Marvin Panch assumed his mount. Paul Goldsmith also ignored USAC’s petulance, and was suspended for a year as a result.

The race was a grueling affair featuring seven lead changes among three drivers for a total of 400 laps. Fred Lorenzen in a Holman-Moody Ford got the jump on the competition and led the first 21 circuits before a broken transmission sidelined him.

One champ car driver who also ignored USAC’s prohibition was 26-year-old Dave MacDonald, competing in his second career NASCAR race. Driving the primary car for the Wood Bros, he took the lead when Lorenzen retired and settled into a seesaw battle with Darel Dieringer. Neither driver had a NASCAR senior division win to there credit and both were hungry.

MacDonald faded a lap at the end, but the field was impressed with his strong 2nd place showing. Teammate Panch came home on the same lap, in 3rd position.

If the stockers thought the 400-mile race in the desert of California was tough, however, they had another surprise in store: merely two weeks later the tour rolled into Augusta, GA to christen the newly built 3-mile Augusta International Speedway road course with the second race of the 1964 season. It was as close as America has come to replicating the Nurburgring.

Today drivers negotiate ten turns at Sears Point and 12 at Watkins Glen; Augusta was comprised of 21 turns and at least two series of Esses.

Originally the race was scheduled to be a 510-mile event but after qualification was completed, NASCAR realized they would not be able to finish the race before a local curfew of 5pm. Instead, NASCAR set a time restriction similar to those applied to sports car races and the event was due to be completed in under five hours.

It took the drivers more than 2 minutes to complete a lap on the challenging course.

Fireball Roberts sat on the outside front row and jumped into the lead before the first lap was completed. We watched while David Pearson, Junior Johnson and Richard Petty blew past. These three dominated the race until Johnson twisted his transmission out of his Chevrolet on lap 52 while leading. Petty pulled away from the field when he also experienced driveline problems—retiring on lap 93, also while leading the race.

Marvin Panch—still in the Wood Bros Ford—inherited the lead. David Pearson blew his engine on lap 115 and 13 laps later, Panch followed him into the pits. The Wood Bros pilot had also broken a transmission and retired from the lead. He completed enough laps to score a top 10 finish in a race with heavy attrition and diminished competition. The race lasted only eleven more laps but eight cars who were still running at the end of the event, failed to overtake Panch’s sidelined machine.

Slow and steady, Roberts retook the lead for the final time on lap 129 and brought with him Dave MacDonald. This time MacDonald was in a 2nd Holman-Moody car as a teammate to Roberts. In his first three races, the young Californian had scored two runner-up positions.

Later in 1964 MacDonald would be allowed to compete in the Indy 500—his defection must not have been as great in the minds of USAC as Goldsmith’s. He lost his life from injuries sustained in that race on May 30th.
The race was significant for another reason—in 15 previous road race events contested on nine different race tracks NASCAR had never given victory lane to the same driver twice. Roberts won a 56-lap race on a modified air strip in Titusville, FL on December 30th 1956 and it took nearly eight years for him to repeat—becoming the first driver in NASCAR’s history with two road course victories.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Kevin Grubb found dead

Kevin Grubb was found dead in a Henrico County motel room, the victim of an apparent, self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. He was 31.

Grubb showed a lot of promise in NASCAR's secondary series, but his career was derailed by a problem with drugs. Suspended in 2004, he was later reinstated by NASCAR and suspended again on September 11, 2006, because he declined to take a random drug test, which was a condition of his reinstatement. Grubb maintained at the time, that he was suffering from a concussion and had no memory of his refusal.

Police said there was no evidence of drugs in his room.

Grubb made 176 starts in what was then called the Busch series, earning 10 top-fives and 32 top-10s.

Career Stats

TrackAvg. FinAvg. StartAttempts


Richmond International Raceway44.00


Chicagoland Speedway14.3322.003
Pikes Peak International Raceway15.0015.836
Atlanta Motor Speedway15.2523.504
Phoenix International Raceway17.8020.205
Talladega Superspeedway17.8022.205
Texas Motor Speedway18.8026.005
Memphis Motorsports Park19.5020.754
Daytona International Speedway19.6724.176
Myrtle Beach Speedway20.0018.002
Darlington Raceway20.4223.0812
Nashville Speedway USA20.5023.002
North Carolina Speedway20.6720.2512
Dover Downs International21.7717.0013
Milwaukee Mile21.8018.605
Richmond International Raceway21.9218.4212
Kansas Speedway22.007.001
Gateway International Raceway22.1415.437
Bristol Motor Speedway22.1713.0012
Las Vegas Motor Speedway22.2517.254
Kentucky Speedway22.6729.673
Watkins Glen International22.6720.003
New Hampshire Motor Speedway22.8625.577
Michigan International Speedway24.5022.754
Auto Club Speedway24.8024.405
Nazareth Speedway25.1717.336
Nashville Superspeedway25.2014.805
Hickory Speedway26.003.001
O'Reilly Raceway Park26.8319.176
South Boston Speedway27.506.754
Lowes Motor Speedway29.5624.139
Martinsville Speedway33.0024.001
Homestead - Miami Speedway - old36.0039.003


New Hampshire International Speedway11.006.001
Nazareth Speedway13.0021.001
Memphis Motorsports Park14.008.001
Richmond International Raceway18.008.001
Kentucky Speedway21.0015.001
Nashville Superspeedway24.0028.001
O'Reilly Raceway Park33.0015.001
Martinsville Speedway35.0022.001