Torn From The Headlines – Dec. 15, 2010

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NORTHERN STARS: The USAC National Championship Car field lines up at the New York State Fairgrounds mile oval in Syracuse, N.Y., on Sept. 9, 1961. (Chris Economaki Photo)

NORTHERN STARS: The USAC National Championship Car field lines up at the New York State Fairgrounds mile oval in Syracuse, N.Y., on Sept. 9, 1961. (Chris Economaki Photo)

50 Years Ago – December 14, 1960

Purses paid to United States Auto Club sprint-car competitors during 1960 totaled $120,198, the most money paid in this division since 1956 when the total was $134,702. The average purse for the 21 races was $5,723.71, an all-time high. The average purse per mile was $219.34, second only to the championship division.

25 Years Ago – December 18, 1985

Nick Fornoro, Jr. scored a last-lap victory Saturday night during the opening race of the Can-Am Challenge Series for three-quarter midgets in the Niagara Falls (N.Y.) Convention Center. A trio of lapped cars slowed leader Vince Christiano on the white-flag lap and Fornoro drove around him in the final corner.

Countdown To 100

One of the most outstanding consecutive career records in the 94 runnings of the Indianapolis 500 belongs to Ted Horn. In nine races from 1936 to 1948 (due to World War II no races were held 1942-1945), Horn recorded nine-consecutive top-five finishes.

He started the string in 1936 with a second-place finish and followed with third-, fourth-, fourth-, fourth- and third-place efforts through 1941. Horn was back after the war and resumed his streak in 1946, finishing third. He followed that with third- and fourth-place efforts before his untimely death at DuQuoin, Ill., in 1948.

Horn’s early mentor and car owner was Harry Hartz, who held the consecutive top-five record (from 1922 through 1926) until Horn came along.

Newsmaker – Tony George

Soon after Helio Castroneves won the 2009 Indianapolis 500, rumors began to swirl that the board of directors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had ousted Tony George as the track’s president and CEO.

While speedway officials repeatedly denied the rumors, they turned out to be true and on June 30 it was announced George was being replaced as the head of both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League, which he founded.

The move surprised many because the IMS board was comprised primarily of George’s relatives, including his mother and three sisters. By the end of the year, several other longtime speedway employees, including COO Joie Chitwood, had either quit or were dismissed.

Chris’s Column – July 29, 2009

“Not so vividly I recall back in the mid 1950s being cautioned to correctly spell the first name of the driver wheeling his home-built racing machine to a historic victory over Mexico’s full-length course in the initial Carrera Panamericana (Mexican Road Race). The pilot was Hershel (not Herschel) McGriff, Ye Ed being told Herschel is Jewish and Hershel is Christian. Thought I at the time: Who cares? Yet the memory lives on as McGriff continues to race at age 81.”