Torn From The Headlines – June 16, 2010

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UP THE HILL: Sports cars head up the hill at pit exit at Wisconsin's famed Road America road course on Labor Day weekend 1967. (Chris Economaki Photo)

UP THE HILL: Sports cars head up the hill at pit exit at Wisconsin’s famed Road America road course on Labor Day weekend 1967. (Chris Economaki Photo)

50 Years Ago – June 15, 1960
Don Branson opened defense of his USAC Midwest sprint-car championship in grand fashion on June 12, winning the 30-lap feature at the Vigo County Fairgrounds in Terre Haute, Ind. With an Offenhauser engine under the hood, Branson turned in a stellar performance in holding off Jim Hurtubise’s Chevrolet-powered sprint car.

25 Years Ago – June 19, 1985
Larry Pearson gave his legendary father, David, a nice Father’s Day gift by winning the June 15 NASCAR Busch Late Model Sportsman Series race at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C. “I think I could get used to this,” Pearson said after claiming his second-consecutive series victory.

Countdown To 100
Roger Penske’s car owner statistics at the Indianapolis 500 must be seen to be believed. He made his first entry in 1969 and won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing 10 years later.

His cars have 15 victories in the 500 and have sat on the pole 16 times. Penske cars have finished in the top five 34 times. Team Penske has been in front a startling 1,792 laps. The top leading driver (Al Unser) led 630. In 1988, his three cars led 192 out of 200 laps and in 1994, two Penske cars were on top for 194 circuits of the 2.5-mile speedway.

It has been a truly amazing career for the Captain.

Newsmaker – Robert Smawley
After dirt-late-model star Jim Dunn died in a fiery crash at Paducah (Ky.) Int’l Raceway May 8, 1983, Robert Smawley, president of the National Dirt Racing Ass’n, spearheaded an effort to improve safety.

“What we’ve got today, because of certain track owners refusing to establish minimum weights, is a dangerous situation,” Smawley said. “Even on my circuit, I’ve got death traps meeting a weight limit by carrying 400 pounds of lead.”

Smawley organized meetings for chassis builders and parts manufacturers that resulted in such things as the elimination of electronic fuel pumps and the standardization of fuel-cell specifications.

He was also eventually successful in convincing many track operators to implement a common weight rule.

Chris’s Column – April 13, 1983
“Early arrivals at Road Atlanta were surprised to see World of Outlaws champ Sammy Swindell wringing out one of the Ford SVO turbo Mustangs. FoMoCo’s Michael Kranefuss is on the lookout for young, upcoming drivers regardless of origin to audition for rides, which is exactly what the broadsliding sprint-car man was doing. On the car, Sammy said, ‘I tried to be smooth. I always like to bring a car back the way I took it out.’”