22-23 February: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

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

~22 February~

1926: Pete DePaolo won the inaugural AAA sanctioned race with a $30,000 purse was run on the 1.25 mile board Miami-Fulford Speedway, in front of 20,000 spectators. DePaolo’s Duesenberg averaged 129.29 mph in the 300 mile AAA Championship race on the track which had 50 degree banking. Tommy Milton turned a lap of 142.93 mph in qualifying. The track was designed by Ray Harroun, winner of the first Indy 500, and financed by Carl Fisher, who was involved in building the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It would be the only race on the speedway as it was destroyed by a hurricane on the 17th September 1926, the wood and material being used to rebuild the town of Miami Beach.

1959: Daytona International Speedway, the “World Center of Racing,” hosted the first Daytona 500. A field of 59 cars took the green flag for the start of the 500 mile race in front of a crowd of over 41,000. There were no caution periods in the race; making it one of the few “perfect games” in NASCAR history, though it would occur in three of the first four Daytona 500s, as the Daytona 500 also went caution-free in both 1961 and 1962. This would be repeated ten years later with the 1969 running of the Motor Trend 500. Welborn led the early laps in the race but his race ended after 75 laps (of 200) with engine problems. Other leaders in the first 22 laps of the race were “Tiger” Tom Pistone and Joe Weatherly. Fireball Roberts took over the lead on lap 23, leading the next 20 laps before dropping out on lap 57 due to a broken fuel pump. When Roberts went to the pits on lap 43, Johnny Beauchamp, running in second place, became the leader. On lap 50,Piston took over first place and Jack Smith moved into second; Beauchamp was third and Lee Petty was fifth. From lap 43 to 148 the race leaders were Piston, Smith, and Beauchamp. Although Smith and Pistone led most of these laps, Beauchamp led a few times, for example records show he led on lap 110. There is print information about the details of the race, including the leaders of the race in five lap intervals. Pistone and Jack Smith both had dropped out of contention by lap 149 and Beauchamp took over first place. 100 miles (160 km). Richard Petty also had to retire from the race with an engine problem and earned $100 ($821.58 when adjusted for inflation) for his 57th-place performance. Lee Petty battled with Beauchamp during the final 30 laps of the race, and they were the only two drivers to finish on the lead lap. Petty took the lead with 3 laps left, and led at the start of the final lap. Petty and Beauchamp drove side by side across the finish line at the end final lap for a photo finish. Beauchamp was declared the unofficial winner by NASCAR officials, and he drove to victory lane. Petty protested the results, saying “I had Beauchamp by a good two feet. In my own mind, I know I won.” Beauchamp replied “I had him by two feet. I glanced over to Lee Petty’s car as I crossed the finish line and I could see his headlight slightly back of my car. It was so close I didn’t know how they would call it, but I thought I won.” Early leader Fireball Roberts, who was standing by the finish line, said “There’s no doubt about it, Petty won.” It took NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr. three days to decide the winner the following Wednesday. In the end, with the help of photographs and newsreel footage, Petty was officially declared the winner. The official margin of victory was two feet. The controversial finish helped the sport. The delayed results to determine the official winner kept NASCAR and the Daytona 500 on the front page of newspapers.

1963: Junior Johnson and Johnny Rutherford won the 100 mile NASCAR GN qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway. The relatively unknown Rutherford had run a record 165.183 mph in the Smokey Yunick Chevy and beat Rex White’s Chevy by 3 car lengths in winning race 2, his first GN start.

1969: Racer Don MacTavish (36) died when his Mercury Comet crashed during a race at Daytona Beach, Florida.

1970: Pete Hamilton driving a Plymouth Superbird won the 1970 NASCAR Grand National Series Daytona 500 in front of 103,800 spectators at the Daytona International Speedway. Hamilton passed David Pearson with nine laps to go and won by three car lengths. A grand total of 24 lead changes were made with an average green flag run of 22 laps. Exactly 23% of the race was held under a caution flag; blown engines were the primary culprit behind the yellow flags. The race car drivers had to commute to the races using the same stock cars that competed in a typical weekend’s race through a policy of homologation (and under their own power). This policy was in effect until 1975.

1998: Chuck Etchells defeated Ron Capps in the Funnycar finals of the Atsco Nationals at Firebird Raceway in Arizona, US – the first all-Camaro Funnycar finals in NHRA history.

1998: Chuck Etchells defeated Ron Capps in the Funnycar finals at the Atsco Nationals at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Arizona, USA; the first all-Camaro Funnycar finals in NHRA history.

2001: Jaguar boss Bobby Rahal told his driver Eddie Irvine to curb his criticism of the team ahead of the new season. Irvine had openly slammed the car’s lack of pace at a test a couple of weeks earlier and Rahal was keen to put a lid on his brutally honest driver. “I think he was trying to tweak us a bit so we know what we ought to be doing for him,” said Rahal. “I don’t know if the criticisms are Eddie’s way of motivating the team. I’ve seen other drivers do that, but I’ve never felt it was a very positive way of motivating people.”

2001: Ferrari signed a new contract with cigarette company Philip Morris to carry Marlboro sponsorship until 2006. Rumours that the EU-imposed ban on tobacco sponsorship would put Philip Morris off extending its deal were proved unfounded and the branding remained on the car. The two companies then raised even more eyebrows by agreeing on another deal that would extend the sponsorship to 2011. Rumoured to be worth US$1 billion over seven years, the ban meant that from 2006 the car didn’t even carry the Marlboro brand but a series of stripes instead.

~23 February~

1947: The Stockholm Grand Prix at Vallentuna was won by Reg Parnell in an ERA A-Type.

1953: Ernesto Ceirano (79) of Fiat, winner of the 1911 and 1914 Targa Florio, died in Turin, Italy.

1958: Communist guerrillas in Havana, Cuba, one day before the second Havana Grand Prix, kidnapped Argentine racing champion Juan Manuel Fangio. Revolutionary Manuel Uziel, holding a revolver, approached Fangio in the lobby of his hotel and ordered the race-car driver to identify himself. Fangio reportedly thought it was a joke until Uziel was joined by a group of men carrying submachine guns. Fangio reacted calmly as the kidnappers explained to him their intention to keep him only until the race was over. After his release to the Argentine Embassy, Fangio revealed a fondness for his kidnappers, refusing to help identify them and relaying their explanation that the kidnapping was a political statement.

1958: Paul Goldsmith drove Smokey Yunick’s Pontiac to victory in the 160-mile NASCAR Grand National race on Daytona’s Beach-Road course. The event was the final NASCAR race staged on the picturesque 4.1-mile course on the shore.

1964: Driving a potent Plymouth with the new Hemi engine, Richard Petty led 184 of the 200 laps to win the 1964 Daytona 500. Plymouths ran 1-2-3 at the finish. The triumph was Petty’s first on a super-speedway. Petty drove his number 43 to victory in 3 hours and 14 minutes. There were three caution flags that slowed the race for 19 laps. The Chrysler teams debuted their brand-new 426 ci Chrysler Hemi engine in this race; NASCAR ordered the teams who had it to sandbag it during practice and qualifying due to their superiority. During the race itself, Richard Petty, who at the time was known best for his skill on short tracks, led 184 of the 200 laps (a Daytona 500 record that stands to this day) and Chrysler teams took four of the top five spots. The transition to purpose-built racecars began in the early 1960s and occurred gradually over that decade. Changes made to the sport by the late 1960s brought an end to the “strictly stock” vehicles of the 1950s; most of the cars were trailered to events or hauled in by trucks. Bobby Marshman would retire from NASCAR Grand National Series racing after the conclusion of this event. For some drivers, this would be their last Daytona 500, as the 1960s were an especially brutal era for NASCAR. Jimmy Pardue was killed later in the year in a test crash. Billy Wade was killed in a tire test in January 1965. Bobby Marshman killed in a test crash in late 1964 at Phoenix. Fireball Roberts died in July from injuries inflicted while racing in the World 600 and Joe Weatherly was killed at Riverside early that year.

1969: Lee Roy Yarbrough chased down Charlie Glotzbach who had an eleven second lead to win the Daytona 500. Yarbrough passing Glotzbach on the final lap. It was the first Daytona 500 that was won on a last lap pass.

1969: The Stardust International Raceway, Las Vegas, Nevada held it last race. It featured a flat, 3-mile (4.8 km), 13-turn road course, and a quarter-mile drag strip. It was built in 1965 by the Stardust Hotel and Casino to attract high rollers to the hotel. In 1966 it began hosting the season finale of the Can-Am championship and two years later staged a race in the USAC Championship Car series. The hotel was sold in 1969, and the new owners largely abandoned the track. Real estate developers Pardee Homes bought the land and built the Spring Valley community on it.

1975: Richard Petty drove his Dodge to a convincing win in the ‘Richmond 500’ NASCAR GN race. Lennie Pond’s Chevy finished second, 6 laps behind Petty. Point leader Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough all skipped the race.

1983: The Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 4WD rally car was launched on the same day as its two-wheel-drive road version.

1986: At the Miller High Life 400 rivals Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt battled for the win on the half-mile short track for the better part of the race. In the final five laps, Waltrip rode on the back bumper of Earnhardt, bumping and rubbing the whole way. Waltrip finally snuck underneath exiting turn two with three laps to go. Going into turn 3, Earnhardt spun Waltrip out, but lost control himself and both cars crashed hard. The wreck collected Joe Ruttman (3rd place) and Geoff Bodine (4th place), allowing 5th place Kyle Petty to slip by and take his first-career Cup victory. The incident drew a fine for Earnhardt, raised tempers throughout the garage area, and gave Earnhardt the “Ironhead” nickname. The incident was dramatized in the movie 3.

1992: The Jaguar XJR-14 (cove image) made its race debut in the IMSA Camel GT race at Miami, Florida, USA. Davy Jones started it on pole but finished sixth behind the winning Nissan NPTI-91 of Geoff Brabham.

2008: Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race at the Auto Club Speedway , Fontana, California, US.

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