Wednesday, December 30, 2015


The team behind the Indy Bench Racing Weekend, Chuck Shuman, Anne Mitchell, and Clare Poremsky have announced  the weekend of March 18th to 20th as the 2016 dates for the Indy Bench Racing Weekend (BRW) 

The author has attended BRW many times and every event has been memorable. If you have not attended BRW before, make 2016 the year - you will not be sorry.  

Information provided by Indy Bench Racing Weekend

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Unser Gibbs and Hendrick

2016 NMPA Hall of Fame inductees

 By Kevin Triplett


Three legendary names in motorsports have been chosed for induction into the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time IndyCar champion driver Al Unser along with NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Racing) multi-championship team owners Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs make up the 2016 NMPA Hall of Fame induction class.  

Hendrick received 88 percent of the votes cast by NMPA members, while Gibbs received 76 percent and Unser received 66 percent. Curiously, fellow four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears also received votes but not enough for election into the NMPA Hall of Fame.
Al Unser in 1987

The Unser family name appears frequently in the annals of open-wheel racing history, with no less than six family members who have driven in the Indianapolis 500-mile race, but no member of the Unser family has achieved more racing success than Alfred “Al” Unser.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico native born May 29 1939 the youngest of four sons enjoyed a career that most racers only dream about, including being one of only three drivers (others are A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears) to win the legendary Indianapolis 500 four separate times and is the only driver to have both a brother (Bobby) and son (Al Jr.) as fellow Indianapolis ‘500’ champions.

Unser made his first USAC (United States Auto Club) oval track start at the one-mile Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Milwaukee on August 23 1964 behind the wheel of J.C. Agajanian’s unloved Offenhauser powered Troutman rear engine car. Al spent most of the 1965 USAC season as the driver of Jerry Eisert’s #96 Harrison Special, but his big break came at the 1965 Indianapolis 500-mile race when he qualified Texan John Mecom’s Lola T70 in a last minute deal and went on to finish in ninth place.

Unser drove for the Mecom Racing team through the 1968 USAC season before the team was sold and became Vel’s Parnelli Jones (VPJ) Racing in 1969. Behind the wheel of a VPJ 'Johnny Lightning Special’ Colt/Ford, Unser won the 1970 Indianapolis ‘500’ in dominating fashion, as he led 190 of 200 laps. Unser went on to win the 1970 USAC National drivers’ championship with 10 race victories during the season.

Unser repeated as the 1971 Indianapolis 500 champion, and continued to drive for the VPJ Racing team through the 1977 season. In 1978, Unser drove Jim Hall’s ‘First National City Travelers Checks Special’ Lola 78/Cosworth and captured his third Indianapolis ‘500’ crown. 

After just  two seasons, Unser left Hall at the end of the 1979 season in a regrettable move to Bobby Hillin Senior’s Longhorn Racing Team, and over the next three seasons, Unser and the uncompetitive team struggled and notched no race wins. His replacement at Hall, drove the radical ground effects Chaparral/Cosworth to five wins in 1980, including the 1980 Indianapolis '500.' 

Al’s career rebounded when he joined Penske Racing in 1983 and in his first six races with his new team, he never finished worse than third and by his consistency won the 1983 CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) championship. In 1987, Al started the season without a ride, and only got his ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after Danny Ongais destroyed his Penske PC-16/Chevrolet entry in practice, suffered a concussion and was not medically cleared to drive.

After three days of practice, Al qualified for the 20th starting position on the second weekend in a 1986 March chassis powered by a Cosworth engine which began the month of May as an inoperable show car.  Al dodged a first lap spin by Josele Garza, and went on to win his fourth Indianapolis ‘500,’ as he and his Cummins/Holset Turbo sponsored entry led the last 18 laps after leader Roberto Guerrero stalled on his final pit stop.

Al Unser led 15 laps in Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser Lola/Chevy in his 27th and what proved to be his final Indianapolis ‘500’ appearance in 1993. Al was entered for the 1994 Indianapolis ‘500’, in an underfunded Lola T9400/Ford, but announced his retirement on May 17, 1994, just days before his 55th birthday.  As reported by the New York Times, Unser stated “I always said if the day came when I wasn't producing the right way, if I wasn't happy, I'd get out.  I think the time has come. I'm not all there with the race car, so I decided to pull back and retire."  Al Unser Junior went on to win his first Indianapolis '500' on his father's 55th birthday.

Al Unser’s career statistics at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are amazing: He leads all driver in laps led with 644, is ranked second in the number of races led with 11, and stands second in total race mileage with 10,890 miles (4,356 laps)  completed.  Al scored three season championships and 39 championship car victories on surfaces that included dirt ovals, paved ovals and road courses.  He remains active with The Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.   

 Rick Hendrick, right, with Ray Evernham, left,
at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994

Born in 1949, Joseph Riddick “Rick” Hendrick III was raised on the family farm near Palmer Springs, Virginia, and at 27 became the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the United States and built the Hendrick Automotive Group into an empire which is listed as the sixth-largest automotive group in the country with 73 dealerships. Hendrick was the inspiration for the “Tim Daland” character in the 1990 film Days of Thunder.

Since its first race, the 1984 Daytona 500 and its first win seven races later with Geoff Bodine at Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports has amassed countless NASCAR records in its 32-year existence. Among the most notable: 14 NASCAR driver championships, including 11 in the premier Winston Nextel and Sprint Cup Series and 14 owner championships across three national series.

Joe Gibbs at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994 

Joe Jackson Gibbs’ eye for talent and the ability to mold individuals into champions has made him successful in both the National Football League (NFL)  and NASCAR. In 16 seasons as an NFL head coach, the Mocksville, North Carolina native compiled an overall won-loss record of 171-101 and three Super Bowl championships with the Washington DC NFL franchise.

In 23 seasons as a NASCAR team owner, Gibbs’ teams have won four NASCAR Cup-level championships, with Bobby Labonte, Tony Stewart and the 2015 series title with Kyle Busch, and 128 Sprint Cup race wins. Joe Gibbs Racing once involved in NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) team ownership has also compiled four Nationwide/XFINITY Series owner and one driver championships also with Kyle Busch and 112 race wins.

The trio of motorsports legends will be officially inducted in ceremonies to be held at the Embassy Suite hotel in Concord, North Carolina on January 16, 2016. The NMPA Hall of Fame is located on the grounds of Darlington Raceway in Darlington North Carolina and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday – Friday.

Some of the information contained in this article was provided by the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) of which the author is a member.
The photographs that accompany this article appear courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in the IUPUI University Library Center of Digital Scholarship.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ford’s SEMA 2015 booth honored its sports car racing history
Written and photographed by Kevin Triplett

Ford Motor Company’s massive display at the 2015 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show in Las Vegas paid tribute to the company’s remarkable history in sports car endurance racing and introduced visitors to Ford’s latest racing car. The 2016 Ford GT sports car will mark Ford’s return to the LeMans 24-hour race on the fiftieth anniversary of Ford’s landmark 1-2-3 finish in the world’s toughest sports car race.

This yellow Ford GT harkened back to the livery of the 1967 Ford GT40 Mark IV powered by a 530 horsepower 427 cubic inch Ford V8 engine that was driven fourth place at LeMans in 1967 by racing legends Mark Donohue and Bruce McLaren. The Ford GT powered by twin turbocharged 213-cubic inch Ford Ecoboost V6 engine designed to produce 600 horsepower in race trim.  

The Galpin Auto Sports concept Ford F-150 pickup truck brought back memories of the 1968 and 1969 LeMans 24-hour races the JWA Gulf GT40 Mark I chassis number 1075. The truck features the correct powder blue paint with marigold trim and a dark blue separation stripe just as with the original. 

The 20-inch ADV wheels shod with 37-inch Cooper tires look similar to the GT40’s cast alloy wheels.  Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the tailgate of the Galpin truck even features the Gulf “lucky horseshoes,” featured in the nineteen sixties marketing program for Gulf ‘No-Nox’ Gasoline, which claimed that “Gulf No-Nox puts extra kick in horsepower.”  

The star of the Ford booth was the 2016 Ford GT #66 race car, parked on a rotating turntable in front of a huge video screen. The Ford GT will compete in two sports car racing series in 2016 in programs fielded by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.  

Nationally there will be two entries in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship GT LeMans class with drivers Ryan Briscoe, Joey Hand, Richard Westbrook and Dirk Muller.  Ford will compete against teams racing Chevrolet Corvettes, BMW M6s, and Ferrari 488s beginning with the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona January 30 2106.

Internationally, the Ford GT will compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship with two entries in the LM GTE ( LeMans Grand Touring Endurance) class with 11 stops which includes LeMans on June 18/19, and a visit to the Americas with a pair of scheduled six-hour races, at Mexico City on September 3 and at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas for September 17 2016.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

A new US racing series for 2016! 

On  November 12 the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) Pro Racing division announced the 2106 dates for the inaugural FIA-certified F4 United States Championship Powered by Honda. The world-wide Formula 4 championship was created in 2014 as a single-make category by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). F4 series races were held in 2015 in Australia, Italy, Japan, Britain, Europe, China, and Mexico.

 photo by the author 

The F4 United States Championship will make its debut at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut on May 27 & 28 together with the Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS events. The next stop on the schedule will at the New Jersey Motorsports Park together with the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series scheduled for June 10-12. 

The series then takes an extended break before racing on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 13-14 on a weekend highlighted by the SCCA Tran-Am NASCAR (national Association of Stock Car Racing) XFINITY Series. 

The SCCA says that mid-season breaks were built into the schedule to allow each team a chance to reset before making their push to end of the season. Teams can examine data from earlier races to optimize both car and driver for a chance to capture the inaugural series championship.

A month later, the F4 race weekend will be at Road Atlanta, September 17-18 shared with HSR’s (Historic Sports Car Racing) fall vintage weekend , before the season concludes at the   Homestead-Miami Speedway paired again with the SCCA Trans-Am Series on October 9-10.

Drivers get three hours of track time every race weekend, including two free practice sessions, one qualifying session and three races. Starting grids and point scoring are in accordance with global F4 series standards. Each race win pays $1,000, and the top points earner for the weekend wins $1,000.

An example of the new entry-level, cost-contained open wheel cars was on display at the Honda display at SEMA 2015 in Las Vegas Nevada.  According to the SCCA, the US series has generated significant interest since its September 2015 launch as the chassis manufacturer Crawford Composites, based in North Carolina run by new Zealand native Max Crawford) North Carolina has sent 92 purchase agreements to race teams, drivers, and driving schools.

photo by the author 

The American-built Crawford carbon-composite chassis will cost $45,000 each and will include a fixed aero package paddle shifters, data acquisition, and a camera. The cars will each be powered by Honda K20 C1 2.0-liter engine sourced from a European 2016 Honda Civic Type R. The Honda engine displaces two liters or 122 cubic inches, used double overhead camshafts and direct fuel injection. Each race engine will produce 158 horsepower, and will carry a one-year lease price of $6,600. 

photo by the author

Pirelli P Zero racing radial tires complete the package, which will be priced at approximately $250 apiece, with a maximum allotment of six tires (three front, three rear) per race weekend. The plan is for Crawford Composites to begin delivery of completed race cars to customers in January 2016.

Details and updates are available at

Information for this article was provided by Honda Performance Development and the SCCA. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Alfa Romeo 4C by Garage Italia Customs

Many “car guys”” wish they could attend the SEMA show in Las Vegas to see the fantastic custom cars built just for that show. It is a fair bet that even fewer “car guys" can attend the Dubai International Motor Show held at the Dubai World Trade Center from November 10 to 14, 2015 to view the wild cars that debut there.  As service to our readers, we are sharing photographs and the details of the Alfa Romeo 4C “La Furiosa" created for the Dubai show by Garage Italia Customs.

Garage Italia Customs is the new project of Lapo Elkann, the New York-born Italian entrepreneur and style icon and grandson of Giovanni Agnelli, the late chairman of Fiat Automobiles. Garage Italia Customs can match their customer’s favorite suit, dress, or any fashion accessory to any vehicle they desire.  Garage Italia Customs does not make performance modifications, rather their craftsmen restyles vehicles using techniques and sensibilities from the world of haute couture (high end one-of-a-kind fashion) to create exclusive "tailor-made" vehicles. 

Photograph of Garage Italia Customs headquarters courtesy of

So far, the staff at Garage Italia have customized more than seventy-five automobiles, motorcycles, sailboats, motorboats, and even airplanes.   Garage Italia Customs is based in the fashion capitol of Milan, Italy at the site of a unique Streamline Moderne design AGIP gasoline station designed by architect Mario Bacciocchi in 1952.

"La Furiosa" (The Furious in English) is described by Garage Italia as ’the result of the meeting between the “Mechanics of Emotions” and the Style Center together with the "Maestros" of Garage Italia Customs.

The car emphasizes the Alfa Romeo 4C’s wild style with a strong and extraordinary aesthetic impact. Special toned-down painting characterizes the exterior. The black carbon fiber roof gradually fades to “Accursio” red, the original opalescent tonality, with a “Velvet Touch” (matte) finish.


The interior of "La Furiosa" is finished entirely in red and black Alcantara, an Italian-made luxury fabric used for furniture, clothing and automobile upholstery which has the feel of suede. 

This article prepared with information and photographs provided by Burner Communications. 

Future articles on modern innovations in the automobile industry will be posted at my newest website,  "Triplett's Eye on Cars" at


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Justin Wilson named NMPA third quarter Spirit Award winner 

Justin Wilson, who passed away on August 24 from injuries suffered during the INDYCAR ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, has been awarded the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Spirit Award for the third quarter of 2015 after a nationwide vote by its members. The NMPA Spirit award recognizes character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship, and contributions to motor sports.
The Sheffield, England native and resident of Longmont, Colorado was hit by debris from another car during the race. After his car struck a retaining wall inside the track, Wilson was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania where he passed one day after the crash. Justin Wilson, who died at just 37 years of age, helped save six lives as an organ donor.

Wilson, a seven-time winner over 12 seasons in open-wheel racing was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 13 as he struggled with spelling and reading.  Justin was a true hero and leader in the dyslexic community, principally through his outreach efforts with the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana.  

Photo courtesy of the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana 

Portions of the information for this article were provided by the National Motorsports Press Association

Monday, July 27, 2015

A step back to racing tradition!

In the 'good old days' of racing history, Indianpolis '500' drivers also drove sprint cars and midget cars in events held at racing venues all across our country. The local appearances by the national cars and stars at the local tracks helped to "build the brand" of Indianapolis car racing. 

Last Saturday night, that tradition returned as IndyCar Series rookie Gabby Chavez shocked the midget racing world by finishing fifth in his first-ever midget car race start in the 'Tony Stewart Classic' held July 25 2015 at the historic 1/5-mile Lincoln Tech Indianapolis Speedrome oval located on Indianapolis’ east side.

In addition to the induction of the 2015 USAC United States Auto Club Hall of Fame class that included midget car champions Jimmy Caruthers, Don Kenyon, Larry Rice, Clark ‘Shorty’ Templeman, and Ron ‘Sleepy’ Tripp, the 100-lap 'Tony Stewart Classic' also featured the unique Shepherd Insurance ‘Tail Gunner Challenge.’ 

The leader at the mandatory 75-lap intermission was offered the opportunity to take the ‘Tail Gunner Challenge’ - restart at the tail of the field, and if after 25 laps he was able to win the race, he would capture the ‘Tail Gunner’ $10,000 bonus in addition to the $5,000 winner’s purse. If the leader declined, the offer would be extended to the second place driver, and if he also declined, the third place driver could take up the ‘Tail Gunner Challenge.’   

No one in the insurance business understands the racing business better than the Shepherd Insurance motorsports team, which is led by race team owner Tom Johnson and his son Jeff. Together, the Johnson’s have over 50 years of experience insuring motorsports teams and are charter members of the Indiana Motorsports Association. Shepherd Insurance knows exactly what racers need, because Tom and Jeff eat, drink and breathe racing. Contact Shepherd Insurance through their website at

Gabriel ‘Gabby’ Chavez, the 22-year old Colombian IndyCar Series rookie and 2014 Indy Lights champion had never driven a midget race car prior to his first Friday afternoon practice session. Chavez drove the #9C Honda HPD sponsored midget owned by USAC, which is powered by the Honda HPD K24 146-cubic inch double overhead camshaft (DOHC) 4-cylinder USAC HPD midget series ‘spec engine.’ Chavez’ entry likely produced 150 horsepower less than the USAC Honda National Midget Series race cars he competed against in the Tony Stewart Classic.

Chavez completed time trials with his HPD #9C machine eleventh fastest overall of the 23 qualifiers, just two-tenths of a second behind 'Bowes Seal Fast' fastest qualifier Grant Galloway.  Chavez then finished second in his heat race behind Joey Burrow to advance into the 25-car feature starting field. After starting the feature in eleventh position, by the 75-lap intermission, Chavez had moved into third place.

Leader Kyle Hamilton of Danville Indiana declined to accept the Shepherd Insurance “Tail Gunner Challenge,’ as did second place driver Galloway. Chavez, in third place, accepted the challenge to the delight of the spectators, and over the final 25 green flag laps raced from the tail of the field back up to fifth place at the drop of the checkered flag behind Hamilton, Galloway, Kevin Studley, and Ross Rankine. 
Although he fell short of winning the race and the $10,000 Shepherd Insurance bonus, the young Columbian racer gained the respect and admiration of many long-time midget racing fans with his exciting first-time midget racing performance.    

Friday, July 3, 2015

Consumers can see SEMA show cars up close at 2015 SEMA Ignited.

Information provided by Della Domingo, SEMA Public Relations Director

The SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show in Las Vegas is “trade only,” but in 2015, auto enthusiasts can now visit the SEMA Ignited website to purchase tickets to attend SEMA Ignited, the official SEMA Show "after party" that connects the general public with industry leaders, celebrities and award-winning custom vehicles.

The Friday-night festival will take place immediately after the SEMA Show closes on November 6 at 3:00 PM and run until 10:00 PM. As the SEMA show vehicles exit the Las Vegas Convention Center, they will parade across the street and congregate in what is known as the 'Gold Lot.' 

The customized rides will be displayed in either the hot-rod, truck, sport-compact or general village area for consumers to get up close with vehicles that feature new and innovative products from the coveted trade-only SEMA Show. The night will include vehicle demonstrations, automotive celebrities and plenty of entertainment.

Entrance into the event is free for credentialed SEMA Show attendees, but consumers can purchase tickets at 50% off the regular fee of $20 until July 6, 2015. Students and military members are free but must still register for tickets. Children ages 12 and under are free with a paid general admission ticket.

Additional details about the event are available at

Monday, June 29, 2015

'Tail Gunner Challenge' bonus posted for the inaugural Tony Stewart Midget Classic

Shepherd Insurance is offering an exciting $10,000 bonus for the final segment of the 100-lap Tony Stewart Midget Classic on July 25 at the historic fifth-mile Lincoln Tech Indianapolis Speedrome oval.

The Tony Stewart Midget Classic will feature a 100-lap main event broken into two segments. The first segment will be 75 laps followed by a 25-lap dash to the finish, with a 20 minute break. During the mandatory intermission which will see teams pitted in the infield for adjustments and tire changes, the 'Tail Gunner Challenge' will be presented to the leader of the race.

The leader will be asked if he or she would like to take the Shepherd Insurance ‘Tail Gunner Challenge,’ and restart at the rear of the field when the race resumes. If the tail gunner is able to make it back to the front in those final 25 green flag laps and win the Tony Stewart Midget Classic, the winner will take home a $10,000 bonus in addition to the $5,000 winner’s check.

If the leader at the 75-lap mark declines to take the Shepherd Insurance ‘Tail Gunner Challenge’ and stay in first place, the offer will then be made to the second-place driver. If the race runner-up also decides to not take the $10,000 gamble, the final 'Tail Gunner' offer will be made to the third-place driver.

No one knows the racing insurance business better than the Shepherd Insurance motorsports team, which is led by race team owner Tom Johnson and his son Jeff. Together, the Johnson’s have over 50 years of experience insuring motorsports teams and are charter members of the Indiana Motorsports Association. Shepherd Insurance knows exactly what racers need, because Tom and Jeff eat, drink and breathe racing. Contact Shepherd Insurance through their website at

For more details and to purchase tickets for the Tony Stewart Midget Classic, visit the Indianapolis Speedrome website at

Sunday, June 28, 2015

2015 inductees for the SEMA Hall of Fame

Information provided by Della Domingo, SEMA Public Relations Director

Joel Ayres, Jim Bingham and Dennis Gage will be inducted into the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association)  Hall of Fame. The new members will be recognized as part of the festivities during the SEMA Installation Gala, Friday, July 24, 2015, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. They represent an accomplished group of professionals who have shaped and inspired the $33-billion automotive specialty-equipment market.

Joel Ayres is honored for his involvement with the truck industry and the role he played in merging the Truck Cap Industry Association (now known as the Light Truck & Accessory Alliance [LTAA]), and he helped found SEMA Cares nearly 10 years ago. The nonprofit group unites the SEMA industry’s fundraising efforts and provides businesses with an easy way to give to those in need. Through activities, such as vehicle builds that are auctioned off to raise money and pinewood races where underprivileged and chronically ill kids join in the fun, SEMA Cares has raised more than $1 million to support a variety of charities.

Jim Bingham began his career in 1968 at Lang Auto Parts. As a farm boy just breaking into business, Bingham was the youngest counter guy at the store and knew nothing about high-performance parts. However, after just two years, Bingham founded Winner’s Circle Speed and Custom Inc.

Bingham’s company has grown to include three retail store locations, wholesale distribution under the name 1st Performance Warehouse and two major trade events. Throughout his career, he has taken an active role in helping the industry grow. In addition to serving on the SEMA Board of Directors, Bingham has held roles as a board member for the Performance Warehouse Association (PWA) and is an original owner of Route 66 Raceway.

In 2009, Bingham was honored with the SEMA Chairman’s Award for his role with the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow—a program that attracts the important youth demographic to the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He helped grow Hot Rodders of Tomorrow’s Engine Challenge in 2008 with 35 students from five high schools, to include more than 110 teams with 770 students competing in 2014.

Dennis Gage had an early interest in cars and purchased his first ’59 T-Bird at age 15, he didn’t immediately begin a career in the industry. After graduating from college with degrees in physics and chemistry, Gage started a country rock band and toured for two years. He returned to graduate school, and later joined Proctor & Gamble, where he helped develop the Pringles potato chip before joining Bristol-Myers Squibb. There, Gage led the development of Boost nutritional energy drinks and went on a 20-city media tour to promote the drink. His unique look and signature mustache captured consumer attention, and in the mid-’90s, the pilot for “My Classic Car“hosted by Dennis Gage premiered. The program is now in its 20th season and has reached nearly 90 million households.

Despite his fame, Gage remains humble and actively volunteers his time to the automotive industry that he loves. He’s served on several SEMA committees and groups, including three terms on the SEMA Board of Directors and the Select Committee of the Automotive Restoration Market Organization (ARMO).

Check out the SEMA Hall of Fame website for the stories of the inductees over the past 46 years at

Friday, June 12, 2015


The heritage of great racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be on display at the world's largest gathering of motorsports professionals--the 2015 Performance Racing Industry Trade Show (PRI) 2015.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum will display six IndyCars from over the decades, providing a dramatic perspective on the history of the design and engineering of one of America's most loved race vehicles. Historic IndyCar motors will also be part of the exhibit, and the Borg-Warner Trophy will be making a special appearance on the opening day of PRI 2015.

The Borg-Warner Trophy was first presented to race winner Louis Meyer. Made of 110 pounds of sterling silver, the Borg-Warner Trophy originally cost $10,000 and is currently valued at $3.5 million. The trophy clearly reflects the "art deco" period of its creation during the 1930s, and displays images of the faces of 80 Indianapolis 500 winners

Built in 1975 on the grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Hall of Fame Museum offers approximately 75 vehicles on display at all times, including about 30 winners of the Indy 500. The Museum is organizing a special exhibit, "Evolution of the IndyCar," at PRI 2015, displaying cars that have been raced at the Indy 500 over the decades.

The late Tony Hulman and Karl Kizer, the Museum's first director, established a museum in 1956 to display race vehicles and memorabilia, principally associated with the Indianapolis 500 race. During 1975, Hulman built the larger, more modern Museum facility within the Speedway oval. Approximately 75 vehicles are on display at all times, including about 30 winners of the Indy 500.

Courtesy of the Hall of Fame Museum, located on the grounds of the Speedway, there will be an exhibit at PRI 2015 of six cars that were raced in the Indy 500 over past decades, providing a dramatic perspective on the evolution of the IndyCar in design and engineering. The museum will also display historic IndyCar motors, and the Borg-Warner Trophy will make a one-day appearance on the first day of PRI 2015.

Admission to the exhibit at PRI 2015, titled, "Evolution of the IndyCar," will be at no charge. Only attendees and exhibitors with trade show credentials will be admitted. The exhibit will be open all three days of PRI 2015.

PRI 2015 is the annual trade show for the global racing industry, taking place in the Indiana Convention Center, December 10-12, 2015. The event features exhibits by 1200 racing companies, and attracts motorsports professionals from all 50 states and 70 countries. Members of the racing trade go to the PRI Trade Show each year to shop and buy the latest advances in racing technology in order to have new racing products in stock for the next race season.

Information provided by Performance Racing Industry

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Southern racing novel chapter 4

Today we return with the fourth chapter of a racing novel written a racer who wishes to remain anonymous. You can find the first three chapters in the Archive section to learn about with the cast of characters and locations.  

When I arrived at Standard Speedway about a dozen miles east of town, I immediately noticed a dramatic difference from Union Speedway. Although Standard also had a dirt parking lot, I noticed that the cars in the lot were nice late model cars, many with out of state license plates.  I followed the signs and parked off the backstretch near the pit gate, and after giving the ticket lady my name, she pinned a cardboard 'official' tag on my t-shirt (glad I wore a clean shirt). I then passed through the gate and got my first look at Standard Speedway.

Standard Speedway was nestled in a natural tree-lined valley with a small creek running alongside turn two, the small covered grandstand was built into hillside overlooking the banked 3/8-mile paved track.  Unlike Union Speedway, the pit area was located behind the back stretch. With all the trees, and the light breeze, the temperature in the grandstand was at least 10 degrees cooler than it was in the parking lot.  

After I crossed the track and skirted the pond in the infield, I reached the pit area. As I wandered through the pit area, I saw that all the teams brought their cars on trailers – no flat towing for these guys.   I was surprised by the high quality of the twenty or so shiny late model stock cars, some accented with chrome wheels.  I now understood what folks meant about Standard being a huge step up from Union Speedway; the cars were all well-prepared and for several teams, all of their crew members wore matching uniforms. 

I asked one of the passing white uniformed officials to point out John Johnson, and as he pointed I followed his finger and saw a man wearing a seersucker sport jacket and porkpie hat talking to another uniformed man. I walked over and introduced myself, and the man in the suit said “Welcome Yank! My brother told me all about you- the Hoosier boy who knows a lot about auto racing.” At a loss for words, I shrugged and said, “I’m no expert.” He smiled and said “I was just kidding! Seriously though, we are shorthanded with a man out tonight – could I ask you to help us out?”

“Gee Mr. Johnson, I’ll be glad to help but I don’t have any officiating experience” I said. “Call me John” he replied “I’d like you to meet our Chief Steward, Bennie Benning.”  The tall dark curly haired man next to him stuck out his hand. “I’m pleased to meet you Yank, and thanks for the help. All I need you to do is keep an eye on the schedule and lineups posted on the pit board, walk that far line of cars over there, talk to the crews and keep them moving – sort of like herding sheep. Anyone gives you any guff, come get me or one of the other officials.”   “Okay” I stammered, as I wondered what I had gotten myself into.  

There were 10 cars in the area that I was responsible for, so I walked over to introduce myself.  As I met the crews and drivers, it turned out that they were all from Memphis and raced together most weekends.  The most eye-catching entries were a pair of 1950 Ford coupes, the metallic blue #22  and a metallic red #55 I quickly learned that these beauties were driven by a pair of brothers, Ned and Ed Ramsey. Watching their performance through warm-ups and qualifying, I began to believe that the Ramsey brothers would be top contenders for the victory in the night’s 30-lap feature.

There was the expected amount of banter about a Yankee coming down South and ordering around the Southern racers, but all the teams were easy to get along with and kept the program moving quickly through qualifying and the heat races. My earlier judgments were proved correct as the Ramsey brothers, Ned in #55 and Ed in #22 each easily won their 8-lap heat races to transfer to the feature,  and as they did so, I noticed that the brothers had a fair-sized cheering section in the grandstand.

After the heat races were completed, the loudspeaker in the pit area crackled to life and directed the two top finishers in the heat races to report to the main straightaway to draw their starting positions. The Ramsey brothers, a fun-loving pair of stocky blonde farm boys, invited me to walk with them up front. I hesitated, but I agreed when they promised to buy me an ice-cold Coca-Cola from the concession stand.

Once all the drivers were gathered together under the flag stand, a red Cadillac convertible with a pretty brunette who wore a short blue dress. The girl was perched on top of the back seat as the pulled out of the infield and slowly circled the track as the girl waved to the appreciative crowd before the Cadillac came to a halt in front of the flag stand. Like moths to a flame, all the drivers crowded around the car, but I caught the girl’s eye and offered her my hand as she climbed from the car.

“Thanks darling” said the green-eyed beauty “You are such a gentleman! I don't thin I've seen you before. My name’s Janet- what’s yours?” After I told her she giggled and said “So you’re the Yankee boy I heard about. Charmed to make your acquaintance I’m sure.” 

As the flagman led her away, she looked over her shoulder and gave me a little wave and mouthed "later."  Ned elbowed me, laughed and said “Wooo-ee, Yank! You work fast- not only you tell us how to run our races, now you gonna come down here and take all our best looking women?”

The Ramsey brothers drew starting positions on the front row with Ned’s Ford on the pole position. All the drivers hustled back to the pit area and climbed into their machines for the feature. I was standing behind the Ramsey pits when they started their engines, and the exhaust fumes made my eyes water. 

It seemed clear to me that someone had added some additive to their fuel. I ran across the pit area and grabbed Bennie’s arm. “Bennie! The Ramsey brothers are cheating! They added nitromethane to their fuel.” Bennie looked me in the eye and repeated my accusation. “Yank, that’s a serious charge but it’s too late now- the cars are on the track. We’ll have to talk about this after the race.”  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Information proved by the USAC Press Office

United Auto States Auto Club (USAC) midget racers will join racers from numerous other midget racing groups at the inaugural 100-lap ‘Tony Stewart Classic’ Midget race scheduled for July 25 2015 at the historic Lincoln Tech Indianapolis Speedrome in the Hoosier capital.

The special ‘Tony Stewart Classic’ non-points event will bring together midget racers from across the country for what promises to be an exciting night of pavement short-track racing on the track which has hosted more USAC races than any  other track in history.

494 total USAC races have been contested on the one-fifth mile paved oval located on Kitley Avenue on Indianapolis' southeast side. USAC racing at the Indianapolis Speedrome dates back to August 1958 when Gene Hartley, the winner of USAC's first-ever race in 1956 won a 50-lap Midget feature. Hartley later promoted the Speedrome along with fellow retired race car driver Leroy Warriner.

Indianapolis Speedrome Managing Partner Larry Curry is extremely encouraged by the support the racing community has offered in regards to this challenging event, scheduled for the night before the ‘Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard’ NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Racing) Sprint Cup series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"We are all very excited to have the opportunity to have such a great event in honor of Tony Stewart, who scored his first USAC feature win on August 9 1991 at the Indianapolis Speedrome," said Curry. "I was very lucky to have Tony as my race car driver, as well as work for him. He is a very special person, and one that I feel very lucky to refer to as a friend."

"The Indianapolis Speedrome is a special place for me," said Tony Stewart. "It's a huge honor to have a race named after me. I always enjoyed racing there and I'm sure July 25 will be an enjoyable atmosphere for the competitors and the fans."

More event details regarding this special event will be available at and

Monday, March 23, 2015

Notes on Joe Dawson and the 1912 Indianapolis 500

By William ‘Bill’ Blaylock -  Dallas Texas

All photos courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Scholarship

At some point over the past year or so, I became interested in Joe Dawson and the 1912 500, probably in part because the big, bright blue National he drove is always on display at the Speedway Museum.  Apart from the dramatic finish, I never knew much about him or the race, or for that matter, the times.   So I have tried to read up on Dawson and the race.  As a part of that, I thought I should also read up on what the country was like in 1912.  

Indianapolis must have been exciting in 1912.  America was thriving and changing rapidly, and nearly all of the change was for the good. The country had prospered through the Gilded Age, a period of strong economic growth and accumulation of wealth, and it had endured but recovered rapidly from the Panic of 1907, a two-year recession where unemployment peaked at 8.5 percent.  There were several new and powerful economic and social forces that were shaping the country. 

One was transportation – publicly accessible transportation of people, products and information available from railroads, automobiles, the telephone and an extensive network of newspapers capable of reporting almost any national event within hours.   This was possible “by new technologies in steelmaking, the production of oil and gas and an expanding electrical grid.   By 1912, we could form and shape metal like never before, with foundries, precision machine tools such as lathes, milling machines and planers, and with both acetylene and electric welding.  We had steam, electric, gasoline and diesel motors. 

These advancements were putting the country through what was arguably the most rapid change through innovation in the country’s history.  To put the speed of change in context, thanks to the Wright Brothers, we had been flying for nine years.  Yet it had been a mere 26 years since Captain Lawton and Lieutenant Gatewood set out with a unit of the 4th Cavalry to find Geronimo.

Part of the changing times was our growing appetite for entertainment and spectator sports.  We had acquired the economic wherewithal, leisure time and access to news to pursue them.   By 1912, we had amusement parks in cities throughout the country, including Indianapolis, which were modeled after Coney Island, with roller coasters, midway rides, games of chance and entertainment.   We had vaudeville, nickelodeons and motion picture theaters.  The first generation of baseball stadiums had been built.    The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had been operating for three years.  By 1912, entertainment and professional sports had become industries.

In the midst of all of the progress at the national level, Indianapolis was at the leading edge. In the late 1800s, Indiana had undergone an oil and gas boom with the discovery of the rich Trenton gas field east of Indianapolis.   The boom set the stage for the economic base that still defines Indiana to this day -- manufacturing.   It was access to abundant and inexpensive natural gas that brought the great steel mills to northern Indiana.  Other manufacturers set up throughout the state.   The gas fields had pretty well played out soon after the turn-of-the-century, but the manufacturers turned to coal for energy, stayed on and flourished. 

Inside Indiana’s manufacturing boom was the automobile boom.  It is both easy and accurate to compare Indianapolis then to Silicon Valley today, with its community of entrepreneurs creating car companies and a broad array of accessory companies with new ideas and new technologies.   This community included the Speedway’s founders:  Carl Fisher and Jim Allison of Prest-O-Lite, Frank Wheeler of the Wheeler-Schebler Carburetor Company and Arthur Newby of the National Motor Vehicle Company.

Joe Dawson's official IMS photograph

Joe Dawson was ready for the 1912 500.   Born in 1889 in Odon, Indiana, he had been a Marmon mechanic and later factory driver.  He gained notoriety racing for Marmon in some of the pre-500 events at the Speedway and the bloody 1910 Vanderbilt Cup, where he finished second.  He also won the Savannah Challenge Trophy race in 1910 and finished fifth in the 1911 500.  After Ray Harroun’s victory in 1911, Marmon withdrew from racing.  Dawson took a leave of absence from the company to drive a National factory car in the 1912 500.  He also brought Harry Martin over from Marmon.  Martin had ridden with him six times during the 1910 season.  To get in physical shape for the race, Dawson worked out at the downtown Indianapolis YMCA.

The rules for the second 500 were pretty much the same as with the first, except that two-man cars were mandatory.  The second man was officially designated a “mechanician.”   Only 24 cars started the race, a count way down from the 40 that started in 1911.  Several car companies decided not to re-enter a team.  Personally, I had been under the impression that in its early years, the 500 field was made up of factory cars.   But in fact eight of the 24 cars were entered by individuals, such as the Fiat entered by E.E. Hewlett, a successful attorney and businessman from California who enjoyed racing.   The rules allowed for engines up to a massive 600 cubic inches.  Eleven of the 24 cars had engines larger than 500 cubic inches, but others were smaller, from the 491 cubic inches of the four cylinder Nationals down to the 301 cubic inch engine in Hughie Hughes’ lightweight, wire wheeled Mercer.   In his Design and Development of the Indy Car, the late Roger Huntington tells us that the typical engines of the era were T-heads that might put out 100 HP at 2,000 rpm, and that the top speed for the cars was probably 90-100 mph.   Further, in describing the handling of those early cars, he says, 

“Probably the most notable characteristic of those early chassis was the twisting and bending of the frame.  This prevented any degree of precise suspension tuning.  You couldn’t predict what path a wheel would follow when rising over a bump.”

There was a lot of buzz about the second running of the 500, but it wasn’t clear until race day that attendance would be up from the prior year.   The local press reported that the Union Railway Company and the Ben-Hur traction line began special runs to the track at 4:30 am.  Between them, they moved 60,000 fans by the 10:00 am starting time.    Automobiles poured into the infield over two wooden bridges and through a new tunnel on the main straight next to Grandstand C.   Estimates of attendance ranged from 70,000 to, according to The Indianapolis Star, a “throng near 100,000.”   The late Al Bloemker in his book 500 MILES TO GO says it was 90,000, as did the race coverage from The New York Times.   To understand the significance of that level of attendance, think about this:  according to the census for 1910, America’s population was about 92 million; if we assume that by 1912 it had grown to 95 million, it means that roughly one out of every 1,100 people in the entire country was there for the race.  That is a remarkable statistic. 

The 24 cars were lined up for the start with five cars in four rows and four in the fifth row.  The fastest in qualifying had been David Bruce-Brown at 88.45 mph in a National which was identical to Dawson’s.  Dawson had qualified at 86.13 mph.     However, the pole position went to Gil Anderson’s 390 cubic inch Stutz, with a speed of 80.93 mph.   The rules provided that to qualify, the car had to run at least one lap at 75 mph or more.   Otherwise, the cars that qualified were lined up in the order that the entry forms were received.  

Only one car failed to qualify, which was Lee Oldfield’s 243 cubic inch Mason.   Dawson was slated to start on the second row in the eighth position.  However, Louis Disbrow’s crew made a last minute change to the gear ratio in his 450 cubic inch Case.  He arrived late to the grid.  The officials moved him from the front row to the last starting position, which moved Dawson up a notch.

All of the drivers and crew learned from practice sessions that the key to a good race would be good management of tire wear.   As Ray Harroun demonstrated in 1911, running a few miles per hour below a car’s potential would extend tire wear significantly.

Carl Fisher drove the Stutz pace car and brought the field around for the start at 40 mph.  Teddy Tetzlaff’s 589 cubic inch Fiat grabbed the lead from his middle starting position on the front row, finishing the first lap at 86 mph.  He hung on for one more lap, then Ralph DePalma and Spencer Wishart blasted past in their powerful 583 cubic inch Mercedes.  

By lap eight, Dawson was running seventh, behind DePalma, Wishart, Bruce-Brown, Tetzlaff, Ralph Mulford (in a Knox) and Howdy Wilcox (a third National).  By the 12th lap, the fast pace began taking its toll, as the two Case cars of Louis Disbrow and Eddie Hearne, along with Wilcox, had to pit for tires.

On lap 15, Dawson was running in sixth behind Tetzlaff and, as reported by The Horseless Age, he “outguessed Tetzlaff going into the first turn and moved in toward the pole.”   After a few more laps, Wishart fell off the pace with tire trouble and Dawson inherited fourth.   DePalma stayed in front, but by only a few seconds.  He was closely followed by Bruce-Brown, Mulford and Dawson.  At the 40 lap mark, the race remained anyone’s guess, with Dawson and Tetzlaff closely following DePalma.   But soon thereafter, the Mercedes started pulling away, averaging 81 mph.

On the 108th lap, Dawson came in for relief.  Don Herr took over for 36 laps, or roughly one hour of track time.   At 160 laps, the race was clearly DePalma’s to lose.  Dawson was back behind the wheel in second, but four laps down.   Behind him were Tetzlaff and Burman, seven laps down from the leader.  There were 12 cars running. 

Mulford, who ran with the leaders early on, had made two lengthy stops for clutch repairs and was back in 12th, 51 laps down from DePalma.    With ten laps to go, DePalma had stretched his lead over Dawson to five laps.  His Mercedes was running flawlessly and he showed no inclination to slow down and cruise to the checkered.   Many spectators started heading to the exits. 

And then it happened. 

As DePalma came down the front stretch to start lap 195, his big Mercedes was leaking a visible trail of oil and the engine was noticeably rough.  It had broken a connecting rod, and the ragged end of the rod had punched a hole in the crankcase.   DePalma slowed down to 60 mph and tried to limp home on three cylinders.   Dawson’s crew alerted him with the pit board.  The fans who remained in the stands realized a drama was at hand.  Will DePalma make it to the finish?  Is a five lap lead enough?

By the time he completed his 198th lap, DePalma had slowed to 40 mph.  His lead over Dawson was down to three laps.   At some point past turn one, the engine seized and the big white car coasted to a halt, but accounts differ on where that was on the track.  The Horseless Age said the car stopped at the beginning of the backstretch, two miles from the finish line.  Bloemker marks it one mile further down the track to the beginning of the fourth turn.  

DePalma and Jeffkins push their disabled racer past the pits
Race winner Joe Dawson looks on in the foreground

Wherever it was, DePalma and his Australian mechanician, Rupert Jeffkins, got out and started pushing the car toward the finish line.  It did not take long for Dawson to pass them, complete 200 laps and drive two laps more as insurance against a scoring error.   DePalma and Jeffkins eventually pushed the Mercedes down the front straight to the line, to the applause of the crowd.  But the resounding ovation had gone to Joe Dawson.  He was the hometown hero and a favorite Hoosier son. 

There were 10 cars on the track at the finish, with Ralph Mulford still running.   He pulled in, but was informed by Speedway management that he would not get the $1,200 prize for 10th place unless he completed 500 miles.  He returned to the track and continued on at a leisurely 60 mph pace.   With 17 laps to go, he stopped so he and his mechanician could have some fried chicken and replace the shock absorbers.  They continued on, completing the 500 miles some two and a half hours after Dawson, at an average speed of 56 mph.  

The famous photograph of Dawson accepting the checkered flag

Dawson’s speed for the 500 miles was 78.72 mph, 4 mph faster than Harroun’s run the year before.  A post-race article reported that “never before has a man traveled so far and so fast.”  The National’s four cylinder, 491 cubic inch engine, with its 5.0 inch bore and 6.25-inch stroke, was the largest ever to win the 500.   Nearly every part on the car was a stock part from a National passenger car.   The race would be the only instance where a car with Michelin tires won Indy.  Dawson had made four pit stops, three of  which were for tires.  Including contingency prizes, he won $25,000, a princely amount for 1912.  It exceeded Harroun’s 1911 winnings by more than $10,000.  

                   Joe Dawson accepts the congratulations of Speedway founder Carl Fisher

When he pulled in, Dawson was exhausted but ecstatic.      After a brief ceremony, he got in his personal car and drove to his home at 2828 North Illinois Street in Indianapolis.  He ran up the steps and told his mother, a widow, that he had just won the Indianapolis 500.   She prepared supper for him and then, according to Bloemker, he took a trolley downtown to the YMCA for a steam bath, and “savoring an expensive cigar, he strolled through the dusk to his home two miles away.”   Joe was 22 years old.  He remained in record books as the youngest driver to win the 500 for the next forty years, until Troy Ruttman won in 1952.

It was a safe race with only a few incidents, mostly due to tire failures.  Bert Dingley’s 597 cubic inch Simplex caught fire, was doused, but later dropped out with a broken connecting rod.   On Burman’s 157th lap, both of his rear tires failed and his car rolled over.  Thankfully, he and his mechanician sustained only minor scrapes.  He had suffered tire wear all day and had been in seven times for replacements.   Likewise, both rear tires failed on Mel Marquette’s 425 cubic inch McFarlan.  The car straddled the outer retaining wall on the front stretch then scooted along it until coming to a halt against a telephone pole.  No one was injured.   Anderson’s Stutz blew a tire and rolled over twice on the north end of the track.  He and his rider were thrown clear without serious injury. 

Arguably, one might credit the best driving of the day to Hughie Hughes for his remarkable run in the diminutive and underpowered Mercer.   It has largely been unrecognized by history, but he drove to third place despite tire troubles that forced him to make six pit stops, and the fact that the Mercer ran out of gas and coasted to a halt near the fourth turn.  Like DePalma and Jeffkins, Hughes and his mechanician got out and pushed the car to the pits, some three quarters of a mile.  They refueled and rejoined the race.   

Ralph DePalma was of course very disappointed after the race, but the press credited him for being a gentleman.  His grand moment on the bricks would come three years later, in 1915.  Again, he was leading in a Mercedes with just a few laps to go.  Again, his Mercedes threw a rod, ventilated the crankcase and started spewing oil.   And again, he slowed down, running on three cylinders, and tried to nurse the car to victory.   In 1915, DePalma made it. 

 Joe Dawson’s racing career tapered off dramatically after his win.   He ran in two more AAA events.  One was on the Elgin road course in 1913, and the second was the 1914 500.  There, on his 46th lap, he swerved his Marmon abruptly to avoid hitting Ray Gilhooly, a driver who had crashed and was thrown onto the track.   The car turned over and severely injured Dawson.   He recovered but wore a back brace for a year.   His career as a driver in championship racing was over; however, in the years that followed, he remained engaged with automobile businesses and the sport, including serving as a test driver for Chalmers and as a race official for AAA.  He died of a heart attack in 1946 while inspecting the track at Langhorne on behalf of AAA.  He was 56.

Going into the month of May 1912, the Speedway management must have had some concerns and doubts about the second 500, especially in view of the light car count and reduced participation by car companies.  But the race turned out to be a thriller and a success.  Both attendance and ticket prices were up significantly.  The 1912 race confirmed the event’s viability and its status as the largest one-day spectator event in the world.   It also confirmed the Speedway’s role as the Grand Lady of all sports facilities.  And it all got better and better for years to come.