Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 1975: USAC's Trenton Twin Bill

On April 27, 1975, the NASCAR Cup teams raced on the half-mile paperclip at Martinsville. King Richard won the Virginia 500 to claim his 14th victory at the track.

About 450 miles northeast of Martinsville in New Jersey, USAC ran a twin bill at the famed, kidney-shaped Trenton Speedway billed as the World Series of Auto Racing. (I'm curious as to how they may have secured the rights to use the name World Series. Or did they?)

From Motor Racing Programme Covers
The day featured two 100-lap, 150-mile races for the 'champ' cars and USAC stock cars. The races had short fields - 12 in the Indy car event and 10 in the stock car race. Apparently this was by design. Long before the days of NASCAR's The Winston but akin to the early years of IROC, participation in the WSoAR was by invitation only.

Johnny Rutherford won the open wheel race with a one-lap victory over second place Gordon Johncock.

In the stock car race, Super Tex A.J. Foyt continued to show his versatility in all forms of auto racing. The skills he'd honed on USAC's stock car circuit as well as his periodic starts (and wins) in NASCAR paid off again at Trenton. Driving a #28 Hoss Ellington prepared Chevy, he led all 100 laps and cruised to the victory.

What interests me about the race, however, is the SECOND place finisher. Bobby Unser - known more for his champ car results than his stock car career - drove a Norm Nelson 1972 Plymouth to a second place finish, the only car on the lead lap with Foyt. Unser's sponsor? You got it - a Bench Racing fave - Schaefer Beer.

Source: Reading Eagle via Google News Archive 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Don't we all Desire Schaefer?

The 2014 Indy Car season is well under way with two races already in the books at St. Petersburg and Long Beach. On deck for this weekend is Barber Motorsport Park in Greenbow, AlaBAMA ... I mean, Birmingham.

While I'm primarily a NASCAR fan, I have a limited interest in other forms of motorsports. Indy Car has interested me over the years for a few reasons:
  • The legacy of the heroes from the 1960s and 1970s such as Super Tex A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, the Unsers, Gordon Johncock, Mario, Andy Granatelli from STP, etc.  
  • The sensational speeds from the cool-looking cars at the Brickyard as well as the pageantry of the Indy 500.
  • The ever present drama within the sanctioning body's ownership and management team. Year over year, they make NASCAR's operations look like they're run like a well-oiled machine.
  • Schaefer beer's sponsorship of Pocono's Indy race in the track's trying years of the 1970s.
My knowledge of Schaefer's sponsorship of Al Loquasto and Joe Ruttman in NASCAR has been well documented here. I've also learned a bit over the past couple of years about Schaefer's sponsorship of Josele Garza and Kevin Cogan in CART's days.

Until recently, I did not know of Desiré Wilson from South Africa.

Wilson was an F1 hopeful who ran in several undercard series in Europe. In the early 1980s, she made her way to the US and raced in about a half-dozen or so CART events in 1983. She was hired in 1986 as a teammate to Garza by Andy Kenopensky, who managed the Machinsts Union / Schaefer-sponsored team. In Wilson's first race with the team in the Escort Radar Warning 200 Mid-Ohio on August 31, however, Garza was seriously injured in an accident.

While running in the top five as the race neared its conclusion, Garza spun off the track and suffered a vicious wreck on lap 77 of the 84-lap race (begin around 1:17 of the following video).

Garza was conscious following the accident as he was loaded into the ambulance. Long-term, he eventually recovered from his injuries. Near-term, however, the Schaefer team's top driver was sidelined. Suddenly, Desiré Wilson with fewer than 10 CART races under her belt became the team's number one driver.

Being elevated to the top team driver, however, did not mean instant success. Wilson only raced in two more CART races in 1986 - Road America and Laguna Seca - and earned deep-teen finishes in both. 

Photographer Mark Windecker kindly shared these photos from the 1986 Mid-Ohio race and allowed me to include them here. Desiré Wilson is #59, and Garza is #55.

Though Desiré did not have a stellar CART / Indy car career, she did honorably carry the Schaefer brand aboard her car and uniform. For that - and for Mark Windecker's great photos - the Schaefer Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor raises a cold one to each of them and exclaims Scha-LOOT!