50 Years Ago – February 8, 1961
Paul Goldsmith celebrated his escape from blizzard-bound St. Clair Shores, Mich., by wheeling a Pontiac to victory in the opening USAC stock-car race of the season on the one-mile dirt oval at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix. Jim Rostek challenged Goldsmith, but finished second with Elmer Musgrave third.
25 Years Ago – February 5, 1986
After 12 years of trying, Al Holbert won the 24 Hours of Daytona. Holbert shared his Lowenbrau Porsche 962 with Derek Bell and open-wheel star Al Unser, Jr. A.J. Foyt, Danny Sullivan and Arie Luyendyk appeared en route to victory in Preston Henn’s Porsche until mechanical problems during the final hours relegated them to second.
Countdown To 100 – 1994 – Al Unser, Jr.
Al Unser, Jr. won his second Indianapolis 500 in 1994, taking advantage of the misfortune that befell his Penske Racing teammate Emerson Fittipaldi with 15 laps left.
While trying to put Unser a lap down, Fittipaldi lost control coming out of the fourth turn and slammed the wall, leaving the victory to the second-generation star.
“Emmo got caught in my turbulence,” Unser said. “When you get into a turn and get close like that, it really washes out the front end.”
The victory gave the new Mercedes pushrod V-8 engine an Indy win in its maiden race, and car owner Roger Penske said the engine’s torque off the corners was key.
Newsmaker – Mel Kenyon
Mel Kenyon, of Davenport, Iowa, topped Bob Wente in a terrific battle for the 1964 USAC midget championship.
In 54 starts, Kenyon posted 38 top-five finishes, including seven victories and 11 runner-up finishes.
“Mel is a gentleman on and off the track,” said Bob Stroud, the USAC midget supervisor. “He has the makings of a great champion. He’s a cool, steady and smooth driver and needs only good equipment to make his mark on the championship trail.”
Kenyon started the season in his own No. 61 car but later switched to the A.J. Watson-built Willard Coil Special. This car is the only midget ever built by Watson, attesting to the genius of the legendary championship car builder.
Chris’s Column – February 3, 1968
“The ‘elder statesman’ of USAC midget racing, Johnny Tolan, now a fast-talking salesman for Bill Krech’s Inglewood Tire Service, regaled listeners at the Firestone showing with his story of a big night at the Las Vegas crap tables. When his pile of chips got to 17 big ones, he said he detected a certain animosity on the part of the dealer, so he bowed out a winner, only to have his wardrobe stolen. His wad, however, remained intact.”