Torn From The Headlines – April 21, 2010

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THROUGH THE INFIELD: Paul Hawkins (81) leads the 24 Hours of Daytona field through the infield portion of the course during the 1968 running of the event at Florida’s Daytona Int'l Speedway. (Chris Economaki Photo)

THROUGH THE INFIELD: Paul Hawkins (81) leads the 24 Hours of Daytona field through the infield portion of the course during the 1968 running of the event at Florida’s Daytona Int’l Speedway. (Chris Economaki Photo)

50 Years Ago – April 20, 1960
No spectators were in the stands Wednesday, April 13, when Don Branson won a special 10-lap USAC National Championship race at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway. The four-car race, which Branson won at an average speed of 108.611 mph, was filmed for a proposed television series entitled “USAC National Championship Racing.”

25 Years Ago – April 24, 1985
Maurice Petty surprised the racing world by closing the doors at Petty Enterprises at 4 p.m. on Monday, April 22, indicating the team was “out of business.” Richard Petty left the legendary NASCAR operation at the end of the 1983 season and his son, Kyle, departed following the final race of 1984.

Countdown To 100
The traditional 11 rows that make up the 33-car starting field for the Indianapolis 500 has a long history, but it wasn’t always the case.

Forty cars took the green flag in 1911, but the car count was in the 20s until 1919 when 33 lined up. That didn’t happen again for 10 years. Then the field grew with 42 cars in the 1933 race.

Thirty-three became traditional the following year.

In 1947, only 30 cars raced due to the ASPAR strike and in 1979, it was raised to 35 because of legal hassles with CART.

Louis Schneider, the 1931 winner, finished 42nd in 1933, the biggest career spread.

Newsmaker – Brian Redman
England’s Brian Redman captured the inaugural running of the Formula 5000 Long Beach Grand Prix on Sept. 28, 1975.

With an estimated 65,000 spectators watching, Redman capitalized on the misfortunes of early leaders Al Unser, Mario Andretti and Tony Brise to win the first legal street race in California in 50 years.

“I don’t like to win in this fashion,” said Redman, who also clinched his second-consecutive SCCA-USAC Formula 5000 driving title. “I’ll be the first to admit that I backed into it. But winning is always nice, no matter how one attains it.”

Redman inherited the lead when Brise’s gearbox failed and he led the final 15 laps around the 2.02-mile, 16-turn circuit.

Chris’s Column – January 8, 1975
“One year ago racing talk centered on the fuel crisis, today it’s the economy and inflation. The first significant result of our depressed economy is that drivers are being offered rides at less than the customary 40 percent of winnings. Back in the ‘good old days’ of sponsored rides, tire company help and fat expense accounts, many drivers got 50 percent when they won. We now hear of top drivers inking for much lower percentages.”