50 Years Ago – May 18, 1960
A.J. Shepherd, of Gardena, Calif., set a track record in claiming the pole for the 12th annual Little 500 at Sun Valley Speedway in Anderson, Ind. Driving “Dizz” Wilson’s Offy-powered sprinter, Shepherd completed his four-lap run in 55.76 seconds and will lead the 33-car field to the green flag on May 28.
25 Years Ago – May 22, 1985
USAC sprint-car and midget champion Rich Vogler scored a major victory for open-wheel short-track racers when he qualified for the Indianapolis 500. “I proved it can be done,” Vogler said after earning the 33rd starting spot. “You can race in the midget-car ranks and drive in the 500.”
Countdown To 100
In 1921, Ralph DePalma became the first driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 at more than 100 miles per hour. In 1923, Tommy Milton broke the record by more than 8 mph.
New records were usually broken in a subtle manner, but in 1972 things went nuts. Joe Leonard ran more than 185 mph to break Peter Revson’s record by 7 mph. Mario Andretti then ran a 187.6-mph lap and Gary Bettenhausen improved the track record by lapping the 2.5-mile superspeedway at 188.9 mph.
Then Bobby Unser wiped them all off the map with a 195.940 circuit, which earned him the pole.
Today, the track record stands and likely will never be broken at 237.498 mph set by Arie Luyendyk in 1996.
Newsmaker – John Cooper
As the United States Auto Club and Championship Auto Racing Teams battled for control of Indy car racing, veteran marketing and motorsports executive John Cooper was named president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mary Hulman, chairman of the speedway’s board, made the announcement in October 1979 as Cooper replaced Joe Cloutier, who had served as president of the legendary track since Tony Hulman passed away in 1977.
“I accept the responsibility of guiding an American institution that has endured since 1911,” Cooper said of his new role of overseeing the Indianapolis 500. Cooper previously served as president of Ontario Motor Speedway and most recently was a marketing executive for Coca-Cola.
Chris’s Column – April 4, 1979
“USAC sprint coordinator Tommy Nicholson drove over to New Bremen, Ohio, last week and saw the breaking up of the asphalt surface on the historic track — probably Ohio’s oldest. As Earl Baltes’s ads state, the opening race later this summer will be back on dirt. Ken Fowler, the recently retired USAC flagman, drove his first race there in 1928. Nicholson is said to have a chunk of the paving on his desk as a paperweight.”