15-16 February: This Weekend in Motor Sporting History

Discover the momentous motor sports events that took place this weekend in history …………

~15 February~

Percy Lambert

1913: Driving a 25 hp, 4.5 litre ‘Invincible Talbot’ at Brooklands, Percy Lambert became the first man to exceed 100 miles in one hour, covering 103.84 miles. There is a film of his exploits at the Brooklands Museum which was made on that day. Percy Lambert’s record was a huge publicity coup for Clement Talbot, and generated much public interest. He achieved it in a car with a fairly standard chassis and an engine of only 4.5 litres displacement, whereas the only other attempts on the record that had come close were in monster racing cars of 9.1 and 15 litres. He was tragically killed some time later in a further attempt at speed records.

1948: A week before the organisation was officially incorporated, NASCAR held its first race for modified stock cars on a 3.2 mile-course at Daytona Beach. In the 150-mile race that featured almost exclusively pre-war Fords, Red Byron edged Marshall Teague to become NASCAR’s first champion. Stock car racing would become a tradition at Daytona, but pre-war Fords would not. By 1949 the Olds 88 had become NASCAR’s dominant vehicle.

1953: Bill Blair, gaining the lead after race long leader Fonty Flock ran out of gas, won the 160 mile NASCAR GN race on the Daytona Beach and road course. Flock held a 65 second lead when the gas tank ran dry in his Olds 88. Teammate Slick Smith pushed Flock’s disabled car back to the pits, where he took on fuel and peeled out to finish 26 seconds behind Blair’s Olds. Chicago’s Bob Pronger won the pole at 115.77 mph, but went sailing and rolling off the North turn on lap 1 while trying to beat Flock into the turn. He continued 4 more laps before retiring. Lee Petty missed the race due to illness and two-time defending race winner Marshall Teague had left for the AAA circuit.

1959: Art Chrisman broke the 180 mph barrier in a supercharged nitro dragster when his “Hustler” did 181.8 mph in the 1/4 mile.

1973: Buddy Baker and Coo Coo Marlin won the twin 125 mile NASCAR GN qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway.

1974: Having announced that it would be his last race, Mark Donohue won the first International Race of Champions Final. The 25 lap race, on the 3.81 mile Daytona International Speedway oval/road course, matched 6 drivers in identically prepared Porsche Carreras. Since the first two races at Riverside in October, 7 of the 15 brightly colored Carreras had been sold with the remainder shipped back to Germany for overhaul and then back across the Atlantic for a week of extensive testing in the hands of Peter Gregg and Al Holbert. Stiffer coil springs, adjusted brakes and a new lip to the rear spoiler were changes made to the cars. 2 of the 8 Carreras were set aside as practice machines and 2 more were used for qualifying. Donohue won the pole over Peter Revson, David Pearson, George Follmer, Bobby Unser and A.J. Foyt. An hour before the start, drivers selected their cars for the race in reverse order of the grid, with Foyt choosing first. The full oval was used only for the first lap, and heading onto the backstraight, Follmer began to pull clear only to have NASCAR star Pearson’s car catch the draft and pull Donohue, Foyt, Revson and Unser along behind. On lap 2, Foyt’s car trickled down the banking with a smoking engine, his race over. Before Foyt could coast around to the pits, Pearson too was in trouble, sounds indicating a loss of 3rd gear that squelched his attack and relegated him to an unhappy cruise to the finish. By lap 3, Donohue had towed himself past Follmer and the two of them had broken away from Revson and Unser. By lap 6, the two 2 car duels were 6 seconds apart and the leaders were pulling out nearly a full second a lap. Follmer kept his car right on the tail of Donohue’s. On the 9th lap, while tucked tightly in the slipstream of Donohue, Follmer reached for a gear change and found the selectors jamming. Follmer spun off in a cloud of blue smoke, leaving Donohue in a comfortable, unchallenged lead. Follmer pressed on, still ahead of the Revson-Unser battle, but crept into the pits after 13 laps with the gearbox now truly broken. While Donohue cruised, Revson and Unser hooked up in a great position swapping battle for 2nd. Donohue took the checkered flag and Revson popped out and around Unser with less than a hundred yards to the flag to take 2nd by inches. Pearson finished 4th, 2 laps down with the gearbox trouble. Having already announced his retirement, Donohue planned on the race being his last, but he would return to racing with Roger Penske’s Formula 1 effort.

1976: After years of misfortune, David Pearson finally won the Daytona 500 in spectacular fashion. On the final lap, Richard Petty led Pearson down the backstretch. Pearson attempted a sling-shot pass, and took the lead into turn three. Petty picked up the draft, and returned the favour in turn 4 to take the lead back. Exiting turn four, the two cars touched, and spun out of control. Both cars slammed into the outside wall, and Pearson spun into the tri-oval infield. Petty continued sliding towards the finish line, and appeared as if he would cross the line spinning backwards. The car hit a grassy rut, and slid to a stop 50 yards short of the finish line. Pearson refired his wrecked car, and headed for the finish line. Petty’s car was stalled, and Pearson idled by to win the race. It is often regarded as the greatest finish in Daytona 500 history.

1981: Richard Petty and crew gambled by not changing tires on the last pit stop and it paid off with Petty taking his 7th Daytona 500 win. Petty’s Buick was in 5th with 25 laps left when crew chief Dale Inman made the call to only take on fuel. Petty came out of the stops with a 10 second advantage and held on to take the checkered 3.5 seconds ahead of Bobby Allison’s Rainier Pontiac. Allison had dominated the race, leading 117 laps. It was the first win in GN competition for Buick since 1955. Petty’s longtime crew chief Dale Inman quis two days later to accept a job with the Rod Osterlund/Dale Earnhardt team.

1984: Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the new 2.38-mile Grand Prix circuit in Dallas, Texas, US.

1986: Jimmy Horton won the final race in the DIRT Modified Florida Tour at the Volusia County Speedway, Barberville, Florida, US.

1987: Bill Elliott qualified for the pole position at an all-time Daytona record of 210.364 mph (338.532 km/h). He had already won convincingly in the 1985 race, and won his second Daytona 500 in 1987 in dominating fashion.

1996: The Ferrari F310 F1 racer (cover image) was unveiled. This car was notable as being the first Ferrari F1 car to use the then more conventional V10 engine format. The name F310 refers to the engine type, a 3 litre, 10 cylinder (V10) – a nomenclature consistent with that used for Ferrari’s F1 cars from 1966 to 1980 (the 312, 312B and 312T), and similar to that used for the 2006 Ferrari 248. The engine was also called the 310. The F310 proved to be a front-running car, but without the outright pace or superb reliability which led to the Williams FW18s dominating 1996. Schumacher was able to win three Grands Prix, but the F310’s shortcomings were shown by Irvine’s run of eight consecutive retirements, most of them mechanical, as well as three straight double retirements. Development also proved troublesome, with the cars having to use the 1995 car’s parts early in the season whilst structural problems were cured.

1998: Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500 after 20 years of trying. Though Earnhardt had usually been a strong competitor in the Daytona 500, mechanical problems, crashes or bad luck had prevented him from winning the race. In 1998, however, Earnhardt was leading when Lake Speed and John Andretti made contact on Lap 198, causing the race to end under caution. After his victory, a joyous Earnhardt drove slowly down pit road, where members of other race teams had lined up to give him handshakes and high-fives. The victory was widely celebrated, even by people who weren’t his fans, and was a defining moment in Earnhardt’s career and legacy.

2004: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., became the third son of a former Daytona 500 winner to capture the checkered flag at “The Great American Race.” The previous father-son winners were Lee and Richard Petty and Bobby and Davey Allison.

2005: A massive crash during testing for Kimi Raikkonen meant the team had to cut short its running programme due to a lack of replacement suspension components. A brake failure caused Raikkonen’s car to snap violently across the Circuit de Catalunya track and smash into the barriers. The accident completely demolished the left hand-side of the car, meaning the team couldn’t continue testing that day. McLaren called for the doctor to see the dazed Raikkonen who had a badly bruised thumb. The car he was testing, the MP4-20, turned out to be incredibly competitive and went on to score ten victories that season, despite appalling reliability.

2006: Max Mosley faced a critical reception after proposing a football-style promotion and relegation system in Formula One. “What ought to happen, and we are nowhere near sorting this out, is that we should have a feeder formula for Formula One, like a sort of F3000/GP2, but properly regulated for that purpose,” said Mosley. “And then have some of system where the best from that had an opportunity to go up and the worst of the F1 teams had to consider going down.” The main fault in the plan was the huge gap in budgets between GP2 and F1 teams. Mosley suggested that Bernie Ecclestone should distribute the prize money in F1 more evenly, but unsurprisingly the plan was met by deaf ears.

2007: Formula One edged further away from the threat of a breakaway series as Renault announced it was leaving the Grand Prix Manufacturers’ Association (GPMA). The organisation had been in meetings about the future of the sport with the FIA and Formula One Management but had backed down on a plan to create an alternative series. Renault followed Toyota out of the group, leaving just BMW, Daimler-Mercedes and Honda in the GPMA.

2008: American racer Jerry Karl (66) died in a accident in Maryland (US). Jerry was a 6 time Indianapolis 500 Starter. He started racing at Freeport Stadium on Long Island in 1957. Jerry competed in ARDC, ATQMRA, URC, and USAC in the Midget, Sprint, Silver Crown, Formula 5000, and Indianapolis Cars. Jerry raced in the Indy 500 in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980 and 1981.

~16 February ~

1961: Marvin Panch won the Daytona 500 driving a year-old Smokey Yunick Pontiac.

1962: Fireball Roberts and Joe Weatherly won the twin 100 mile NASCAR Grand National qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway. In race 1, Dan Gurney finished 4th in his first GN start. Darel Dieringer, who won the pole in a special 10 lap pole position race held on February 11th, was involved in a 6 car crash in the early going of the second qualifier. Following the race, Dieringer was replaced in the primary Ray Fox Pontiac by David Pearson, leaving Dieringer on the sidelines for the ‘500’.

1962: Mel Kenyon won the Midget race at the Memorial Stadium, Daytona Beach, Florida, US.

1964: The Porsche Carrera GTS made its racing debut, at Daytona Beach, US.

1967: Mario Andretti, in only his second Daytona 500, won the race. Fred Lorenzen was the only other driver on the lead lap at the end.

1973: Bobby Allen powered his Emrich Chevrolet to win the 30-lap Super Sprint car race at the Jacksonville Speedway, Jacksonville, Florida ,US. Dick Gaines was second followed by Bob Kinser, James McElreath, Sam Swindell, Rob Smith, Barry Camp, Bobby Johns and Eddie Hank

1975: Benny Parsons slipped by a spinning David Pearson with 2 laps to go and went on to win the Daytona 500. Parsons had closed on Pearson with drafting help from Richard Petty, who was 8 laps down. While attempting to pass the lapped cars of Richie Panch and Cale Yarborough on the backstretch, Pearson and Yarborough tapped fenders, sending Pearson spinning across the grass. Parsons’ DeWitt Chevy went on to finish over a lap ahead of Bobby Allison in the Roger Penske AMC Matador. Wrecks and mechanical troubles put many contenders well off the pace. Parsons started 32nd in the field.

1978: A.J. Foyt and Darrell Waltrip won the twin 125 mile NASCAR GN qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway.

1979: Richie Evans won the eighth night Modified feature of the World Series Of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at the New Smyrna Speedway, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, US. Charlie Jarzombek was second followed by George Kent, Dave Nichols and Satch Worley.

1986: Geoff Bodine won the Daytona 500, picking up his first career superspeedway win. Bodine and Dale Earnhardt were dueling for the win when Earnhardt ran out of fuel with three laps to go. Earnhardt blew his motor while peeling out of the pits after the splash and go stop. Terry Labonte was second, 11.25 seconds behind the winner.

1992: Davey Allison dodged several wrecks and finishes a car length ahead of Morgan Shepherd to win the Daytona 500. A 14-car crash crippled or took out nine of the 16 cars running on the lead lap.

1997: Twenty-five-year-old Jeff Gordon claimed his first Daytona 500 victory, becoming the youngest winner in the history of the 200-lap, 500-mile National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) event, dubbed the “Super Bowl of stock car racing.” Driving his No. 24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo for the Hendrick Motorsports racing team, Gordon recorded an average speed of 148.295 mph and took home prize money of more than $377,000. According to NASCAR.com, Gordon was “a veritable babe in a field that included 27 drivers older than 35, 16 at least 40.” Gordon’s Hendrick teammates Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven finished the race second and third, respectively.

2000: Jenson Button narrowly avoided injury when his Williams hit a bird during testing in South Africa. He was travelling at over 160mph on the Kyalami track when the bird flew across his path and smashed into the car’s airbox, directly above Button’s head. He immediately returned to the pits where he parked up the car completely unhurt.

2001: Formula One teams agreed on lifting the ban on traction control that had been in place since 1994. The controversial technology, which prevents wheel-spin, was believed to be fitted to a number of cars but was not being detected by the FIA’s scrutineers. To ensure a level playing field the technology was made legal and became an important technological battle ground for the teams. In 2008 it was finally banned for good when the FIA introduced a standard Engine Control Unit.

2008: Jerry Karl (66), a former driver in the USAC and CART Championship Car series, died in a car crash at Baltimore, US. Starting out in midget car racing and sprint car racing, he made his Champ Car debut in 1969 and qualified for his first Indy 500 in 1973 driving an Eagle chassis powered by a twin-turbo Chevrolet V8 engine fielded by legendary car owner Smokey Yunick.[1] He raced for another team in 1974, but returned to drive for Yunick in 1974 and finished 13th at Indy. In 1980 he entered the CART series and began modifying his own McLaren chassis that he dubbed the McLaren-Karl. In the final race of the 1980 season at Phoenix International Raceway, Karl and his chassis ran at the front of the field in second place until engine trouble dropped him back to 9th. In total, Karl raced in the 1969-1984 seasons, with 74 combined career starts, including the 1973-1975, 1978, and 1980-1981 Indianapolis 500. He finished in the top ten 8 times, with his best finish in 7th position in 1974 at Ontario Motor Speedway. He later owned a racing products distributor in Wellsville, Pennsylvania.

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