1958 – Foyt’s Rookie Year

Most people remember 1958 for just one thing- the first lap accident in which popular driver Pat O’Connor lost his life. An overlooked aspect of the 42nd Indianapolis 500 is that it is the first 500 in which both a Foyt and an Unser started the race. Both were rookies.  A. J. Foyt started 12th and Jerry Unser started started 24th.  Neither would finish the race. It would be five more years before the names Foyt and Unser again appeared in the same 500.

I purchased a 1958 program at the Legends Day memorabilia show this past May. It seems odd to say I was disappointed, but this was one of the few programs I have bought there that does not contain a starting lineup sheet or notes by the original owner. The program is in good condition with just some minor wear and tear. Nevertheless, I found it fascinating.

Two photos caught my attention. The first one below shows a young Bill Vukovich, Jr. talking with 1949 winner Bill Holland. Vukovich had to be in his mid teens at the time. The second photo below shows Tom Carnegie in an ad for Genatt Photo, a local photo store which filmed the 1958 500.


Raise your hand if you recall Tom Carnegie looking like this.

An ad in the program is for Casite, a product that looks similar to STP. It was produced by Hastings Manufacturing, which manufactured piston rings. Otehr companies no longer in business that bought ad space in 1958 were Eastern Airlines, Bear, which performed wheel balancing and alignment for the cars in the race; Stark & Wetzel, a local meat company; and L. Strauss & Company. Strauss presented a trophy to the winner of the race.




The program contains several feature articles written by local sportswriters. One is about the Speedway museum, which was celebrating its second year. One thing I had forgotten is that admission was free at that time. It wqas a small space with just a few cars and lots of photos and trophies. Besides the Borg-Warner Trophy, the Wheeler-Schebler trophy also had a place of honor.

Another story looks back on the 1928 race. It was the first of Louis Meyer’s three victories. Echoes of today’s racing world were evident even in 1928.  Meyer drove a car that wilbur Shaw had hoped to race. Shaw couldn’t get enough money to buy the. Alden Sampson put up the money to get Meyer the ride.  Shaw started on the last row. He qualified on race morning in a car Pete DePaolo had wrecked attempting to qualify.

The 1958 race got off to a horrific start. There was some confusion among the front row drivers, mainly between  pole sitter Dick Rathmann and second place starter Ed Elisian. each accused the other of starting the accident. From what I have read, Elisian tried to jump the start. Five of the six cars in the first two rows were out on the first lap. O’Connor was killed instantly when his rolled over. Three cars from the last three rows also became involved.  Unser went over the wall in what would be his only 500 appearance.

Jimmy Bryan, who started seventh, led 139 laps and won by 27 seconds over rookie George Amick.  Foyt finished 16th after spinning out on lap 148. he went on to have a decent career. Unser, out after the first lap melee, died of injuries suffered in a practice crash at the Speedway the following May.  The total purse for the race was a record at the time- $304,000. Bryan won a third of the total.



Hybrids, Rumors, Trophies on Vacation

Just a few notes and comments today:

Reaction has been mixed, to put it mildly, about the new hybrid technology coming to Indycar in 2022. I still think it’s a good thing for the series. Eventually every racing series will employ some form of hybrid technology. From what I’ve seen, the Indycar version will not be full blown electricity. The engines will still be loud, and, I hope, faster. I’m hoping that the use of the KERS system for push to pass limits the ability of the lead driver to defend. I would rather have drivers pass on pure speed and ability. Those days may be gone for the most part.

We won’t know for several months what the new system will look like or what it will do on the cars. Let’s just wait and see what happens. If it opens the door to a third OEM, or even better, a second chassis, I’m all for it. As Paul Dalbey pointed out yesterday in his post on The Field of 33,  first year costs  may affect car counts, especially at the Indianapolis 500. You can read his post at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/92400962.

The McLaren Puzzle

If you thought Silly season ended with Alexander Rossi and Honda staying with Andretti Autosport, think again. The latest talk is that McLaren is looking to join Arrow Schmidt Peterson. My understanding is that the team would switch to Chevy. This deal would not add cars to the grid. There are questions that make this deal iffy. ASPM has another year on its contract with Honda.  James Hinchcliffe’s contract runs through the end of 2020.  If Hinchcliffe drives a Chevy, he also loses the Honda commercials.

We know contracts can be bought out. As we’ve seen recently with drivers, contracts aren’t ironclad. Gabby Chaves and Pato O’Ward are two recent examples. There are lots of things in play here. Pop some popcorn, sit back and watch.

My opinion is that McLaren is cutting corners trying to enter Indycar. Rather than establishing a team through a technical alliance with another team, they are trying to buy a team instead. It seems the lessons of May have not gotten through to them. If they do become part of Schmidt organization, I hope they are willing to listen to the people there who know what they are doing this time.

There is also talk of Marcus Ericsson moving to Carlin and Felipe Nasr, who recently tested with ASPM replacing him. Nasr is a former F1 driver who is doing very well driving for Action Express in IMSA.

Pagenaud Reveals His Borg Warner Likeness…in France?

It appears another Indianapolis 500 tradition has gone by the wayside. In the past, the new 500 winner’s face on the Borg Warner trophy was unveiled at an early December ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Yesterday Simon Pagenaud’s image on the trophy was revealed in Paris.  I hope this is a one time occurrence.

The December event brought some attention to the race and the series in what is a slow news period for the NTT Indycar Series and the Speedway. I wonder if IMS is still planning something for December. The unveiling was the night before the PRI show opens at the Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. It was a nice lead-in to the show.


I’ll be back in a couple days to look at the 1958 Indianapolis 500 program.

SVRA Weekend Finale: Miller Wins TA2

Photo: Marc Miller drove the Dodge Challenger to a flag to flag win in Sunday’s TA2 race.

Marc Miller narrowly won the pole for Sunday’s Trans Am 2 race which ended the SVRA weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  He left nothing to chance during the race, however, leading all 42 laps in an easy victory. Early in the race he was gaining a second per lap on second place.

Rafa Matos started second, but he didn’t hold the spot long. Third place starter Scott Lagasse, Jr. passed him  in turn 1. Matos seemed to slow more each lap and dropped quickly through the field. He retired after completing just 10 laps. Dillon Machavern got by Lagasse for second and went on to finish as runner up. Lagasse also dropped out of the race after 22 laps.

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The start of the Trans Am race. Rafa Matos (first yellow car) has already dropped from the front row of the grid.

A Weekend Full of Racing

For someone who just like to watch race cars of any kind, an SVRA weekend is perfect. There are three days of nonstop action with practices, qualifying , and races. There are very short breaks between each track session. Their next event is next weekend at Mid Ohio. It’s a great value for people who can’t get to or afford a weekend at a major racing event.

Formula Ford Reunion Brings Back the Nostalgia

The tiny cars with tiny engines really struck a chord with me. While all the cars ran 1.6 liter engines, there were ten (10!) different chassis on the grid. It took me back to my earliest 500s (not 1911) when there were several different types of chassis, each with a distinct look. Sigh. I talked to a couple of the drivers before the race. They are passionate about racing and love what they are doing to preserve the sport. This is a hobby for them, but I think many of them would trade their regular jobs to race full time in a heartbeat.

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Jeremy Treadway won the second Formula Ford race Sunday in a 1981 Van Diemen

A few of the other chassis:

Left: 1972 Crossle25; Top Right : 1980 PRS RHO1  Bottom Right: 1970 Titan

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1969 Winkelman WDF 1

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The 1.6 liter powerplant


I’ll be back this week with more on the proposed Indycar engine plan for 2022 and some news and rumors. Might throw in an old program as well.  Thanks for following along this week.

Ribbs Wins VROC; Dyson Takes Trans Am GT;

It’s supposed to be for fun, but the veteran drivers in the Vintage Race of Champions raced hard. The charity event benefits the Morgan Adams Foundation, whose goal is to help find a cure for childhood cancer. The race lead changed several times. 80 year old Johnny Rutherford led a couple laps.  But Willy T. Ribbs went on to win after a spirted battle with Geoff Brabham.

The most serious incident in the race involved Lyn St. James, who spun coming off turn 14 and made contact with the outside wall in the  front stretch.

In today’s Trans Am race, Chris Dyson won, leading the rest of the way after passing   Ernie Francis Jr. about a third of the way through the contest. It was Dyson’s second straight win in the Mustang.  Francis’ Mustang held on to second Adam Andretti finished third in a Corvette and Amy Ruman was fourth.

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Chris Dyson leads Ernie Francis, Jr.  Trans Am race. Adam Andretti is the next car.  Dyson  led to the finish.

In SGT Tim Kezman won the class riving a Porsche 991. Mark Boden  finished second, giving the Porsches a sweep of the top two spots.

The crowd seemed decent for this event.  I thought there more fans at the track today than there were for this event last year.

Here are some photos of drivers before the Pro-Am race:

Geoff Brabham
Lyn St. James
Roberto Guerrero
Davey Hamilton
Boris Said ( I know he’s not an Indycar driver. I’ve always thought he was cool)

Tomorrow’s schedule includes the Formula Ford Reunion races at 11:35 am and 1:00 pm and the  Trans Am 2 group race at 2:45 pm. Racing begins at 8 am with two 60 minute enduro races. The 9:10 race features historic GT and GTP cars. Back tomorrow with a wrap up of the day’s action and some more photos.



SVRA- Classic Cars, Indy Veterans

It has been a hectic morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the SVRA race day began with the first race at 8 am. Action on track has been continuous. In about 10 minutes the TA2 class will have their final practice before they qualify at 3:50 this afternoon.

At noon pre-race activities begin for the VROC Charity Pro Am Race begin. The 50 minute race starts at 1:15.  I will be on the grid pre race and will live post photos to both Twitter and Facebook. Check out @PitWindow on Twitter and The Pit Window on Facebook.

Here are some photos from this morning including some from the Hagerty Cars and Caffeine show and a former 500 winner who is racing in the Pro Am later today.

Row 1: 1939 Sprint car

Row 2:  Johnny Rutherford;  1960 Imperial; I think my grandfather owned one of these; My favorite car ever- 1957 Chevy bel Aire

Row 3:  Cobra; Winner of Class 2b race; Cars at speed on the backstretch

SVRA Returns to IMS with Busy Weekend

Photo: A car from SVRA Group 2- pre 1973 formula cars. Photo from SVRA website

The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association returns to the Indianapolis motor Speedway today and tomorrow with a full program of races in all classes.

Fourteen groups will race, some together in split races, as well as Trans Am cars. Sunday’s program begins with two Enduro events, one for Vintage Classic cars and the other for Historic GT/GTP cars.  Each will have a 60 minute race.  The Trans Am races are 75 minutes.

Today’s highlights are the Hagerty cars and Caffeine Car Show at 100 am and the VROC Charity pro-Am Race at 1:15 pm.

Today’s schedule:

Saturday, August 3
7:30am-3:00pm Registration
7:30am-12:00pm Tech Inspections
Hagerty Cars & Caffeine Car Show
Groups 1, 3, 4 Feature Race 1**
Group 2a
Feature Race 1
Groups 10, 12a Feature Race 1**
Groups 5, 7, 11 Feature Race 1**
Group 9
Feature Race 1
Group 2b
Feature Race 1
Groups 8, 12b Feature Race 1**
Practice 30 min
12:00pm—1:00pm LUNCH BREAK
12:00-12:30 – Jaguar Laps, 12:30-1:00 – Prewar Exhibition Laps
VROC Charity Pro/Am Pre-Race Festivities – Pit Lane
Driver Introductions/Fan Walk)
VROC Charity Pro/Am Feature Race
TA/SGT/GT Feature Race 75 min
Qualifying 20 min
Group 6
Feature Race 1
Prewar Exhibition Laps
Hagerty Car Show Exhibition Laps
Former Indycar driver Rafa Matos will drive in the Trans Am race tomorrow afternoon.
Former Indycar drivers Lyn St. James, Roberto Guerrero, and three time 500 winner Johnny Rutherford are some of the stars entered in today’s Pro-Am race. Dick Simon is the Grand Marshall for the event.
The Pit Window will be on site today and tomorrow covering the races and plans lots of pictures of classic cars.