Written by Wm. R. LaDow

In 1938, at the age of 15, Ray Nichels, went on the road as a midget car crew chief, racing at tracks across America. From 1938-1948, the drivers of the Ray Nichels prepared midgets (campaigned by his father Rudy Nichels) were Ted Duncan, Tony Bettenhausen, Johnnie Parsons, Paul Russo, Mike O’Halloran, and Ray Richards (All members of the Midget Racing Hall of Fame.)

Rudy Nichels shop at the corner of Cline Avenue and Ridge Road in Highland, Indiana in 1947. Working on the two Nichels owned midgets in the front of the garage is 24-year-old Ray Nichels. In the back on the right in the white tee shirt is Ronney Householder, who at the time was one of the most respected drivers in racing. He went on to manage Chrysler Corporation’s racing operations from 1955 thru 1972 – Nichels Engineering Archives

Hammond, Indiana Speedway 5/8th’s mile track w/two Nichels midgets. The car on the left is the #25 driven by Mike O’Halloran and on the right is Teddy Duncan in the #2. Both drivers eventually were elected to the National Midget Racing Hall of Fame. Kneeling between the Nichels cars are from left: Dale “Tiny’ Worley, Ray Nichels and Rudy Nichels – Nichels Engineering Archives

Following his time midget racing, Nichels moved on to Indy cars and eventually participated in 12 Indianapolis 500 races, as a chief mechanic and crew chief. In those twelve 500’s, Ray Nichels won one Pole (1957 w/Pat O’Connor), garnered 2 top-fives (a 3rd and a 5th w/Paul Goldsmith), and 5 top-tens.

Most notable of his top-ten finishes was the 9th place showing in the 1950 Indianapolis 500 of the Russo-Nichels Special. Paul Russo and Ray Nichels constructed this car in the basement of Russo’s Hammond, Indiana home during the winter of 1949-1950. Qualifying in the 7th row, the Russo-Nichels Special captured the imagination of the American racing public by running with the leaders for much of the day, before the rain-shortened race ended at 345 miles. The Russo-Nichels Special soon became affectionately known as “Basement Bessie” as it campaigned on the AAA Championship Trail during the 1950 season. In December, Nichels with Johnnie Parsons behind the wheel won the first-ever Indy car race at the newly built Darlington Raceway. On the season, Ray Nichels and Paul Russo and their hand-built “basement” creation missed the chance to win the National Championship only after a season-ending injury to Russo in the November AAA Indy car race in Phoenix.

Nichels then toiled as chief mechanic for Johnnie Parsons’ entries in the 1953 and 1954 Indy 500 races. In June of 1954, Ray Nichels joined the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company as its chief mechanic for all race tire testing. In their first test together, he and driver Sam Hanks teamed up to set a new world’s closed-course speed record of 182.554 mph at Chrysler Corporation’s newly built Chelsea, Michigan proving grounds in a Nichels prepared Chrysler Hemi-powered Kurtis-Kraft roadster. It would be the first of many world speed records that Nichels and his cars would set over the next 20 years.

In 1957, Ray Nichels and Indiana-based Nichels Engineering won the pole (w/Banjo Matthews) and won the race (w/Cotton Owens) at the NASCAR Grand National Beach Race at Daytona. Two months later, Nichels traveled to Monza, Italy on behalf of Firestone, and set a series of world speed records on the world’s highest-banked oval with driver Pat O’Connor behind the wheel of the Chrysler Hemi-powered Kurtis-Kraft roadster. Nichels and O’Connor then returned to the United States where they won the Pole position for the world’s most important race, the Indianapolis 500. It is believed Ray Nichels remains to be the only mechanic to ever win the pole at both Daytona and Indianapolis in the same year.

Nichels Pontiac 1957 Nascar Victory – (from left) Ray Nichels, Semon Knudsen, Harley Earl, Cotton Owens, Bill France, Sr. – Photo Credit: Nichels Engineering Archives

With his 1957 Daytona win, Nichels expanded his stock car racing business becoming the “house” racecar builder for Pontiac from 1956-1963. Working directly for Pontiac Gen. Mgr. Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, Nichels managed Pontiac’s involvement in stock car racing from his operations in Highland, Indiana. By 1961, under Nichels’ guidance, Pontiac dominated American stock car racing. Nichels Engineering driver, Paul Goldsmith captured the USAC National Championship with 10 wins, 7 poles and 16 top-five finishes in 19 races. Overall Pontiac performance in USAC was 14 wins, 10 poles and 38 top-five finishes in 22 races. In NASCAR, overall Pontiac performance was 30 wins in 52 races. In 1962, Pontiac’s dominance under Nichels became even further evident as Nichels and Goldsmith won their 2nd consecutive USAC National Championship with 8 wins, 6 poles and 15 top-five finishes in 20 races. Overall Pontiac performance in USAC was 10 wins, 10 poles and 34 top-five finishes in 22 races. Four Nichels Engineering drivers (Goldsmith, A.J. Foyt, Rodger Ward, and Len Sutton) finished in the seasons Top Ten. In NASCAR, overall Pontiac performance was 22 wins in 53 races, with Joe Weatherly winning the National Championship driving a Nichels Engineering built, Bud Moore prepped Pontiac.

In 1961, Nichels Engineering prepared and ran two 1962 Pontiac Catalinas, setting one lap, 500 mile and 24 hour world stock car speed and endurance records at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway. The Nichels Engineering driving team consisted of Rodger Ward, Paul Goldsmith, Len Sutton, Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, and Marvin Panch. Nichels mechanics for these historic speed and endurance runs were Ray Nichels, Dale “Tiny” Worley, Bud Moore, Cotton Owens, and Smokey Yunick.

In 1963, Nichels and driver Paul Goldsmith delivered one of the most lopsided victories in Daytona Speed Weeks history, in the Challenge Cup 250, when Goldsmith piloted the Nichels Engineering #50 Super Duty 421 Pontiac LeMans to victory, beating 2nd place finisher A.J. Foyt by over 5 miles.

In 1963, Nichels Engineering became the “house” racecar builder for all of Chrysler Corporation. Nichels role with Chrysler was identical to his with Pontiac. Working for Ronney Householder, Nichels was commissioned to build the fastest and safest stock cars in the business, disseminate racing knowledge and design technology to all Chrysler teams in support of their collective racing efforts. Working with legendary stock car racers Cotton Owens, Ray Fox, Harry Hyde, Norm Nelson, and Petty Enterprises, Nichels Engineering did just that. It is no coincidence that the most prolific period in Chrysler stock car racing history was 1964-1970. Nichels Engineering-built stock cars won national stock car championships in USAC, NASCAR, ARCA and IMCA, several years running, setting speed records at tracks across America.

Ray Nichels and Nichels Engineering won three (3) National Stock Car Championships in USAC. Paul Goldsmith and Ray Nichels combined to win titles in 1961 and 1962. Then in 1967, Nichels and all-time winningest USAC Stock car driver Don White teamed-up for the USAC national championship.

In 13 years of NASCAR competition, Nichels Engineering campaigned cars raced 223 times, garnering 89 top-ten finishes, 62 top-five finishes, 12 Poles and 11 victories. Nichels Engineering was a winner at tracks such as Daytona, Bristol, Rockingham, Michigan, and Talladega. Nichels also won NASCAR pole positions at Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, Rockingham, Darlington, Michigan, and Riverside.

Nichels Engineering was a seven (7) time NASCAR winner at Daytona from 1957-1970. Winning drivers were Cotton Owens, Bobby Isaac, Paul Goldsmith (2), AJ Foyt, Sam McQuagg and Charlie Glotzbach.

The drivers who piloted cars built by and/or campaigned by Ray Nichels and Nichels Engineering are synonymous with American racing excellence …. they are Bobby Isaac, A.J. Foyt, David Pearson, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Roger Penske, Paul Goldsmith, Rodger Ward, Don White, Tony Bettenhausen, Richard Petty, Dan Gurney, Junior Johnson, Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, Gordon Johncock, Pat O’Connor, Paul Russo, Mario Andretti, LeeRoy Yarbrough,Jim Hurtubise, Fred Lorenzen, Charlie Glotzbach, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, Joe Weatherly, Cotton Owens, Banjo Matthews, Sam McQuagg, Joe Leonard, Len Sutton, Darel Dieringer, Troy Ruttman, Dave Marcis, Richard Brickhouse, Ramo Stott, Ernie Derr, Jimmy Pardue, James Hylton, Butch Hartman, Roger McCluskey, Bobby Johns, Ray Elder, Norm Nelson and Lloyd Ruby.

On April 25th, 1996, Ray Nichels was inducted into Mechanics Hall of Fame within the International Motorsports Hall of Fame located in Talladega, Alabama. On the same day, Indiana Governor, Evan Bayh, awarded Ray Nichels the “Sagamore of the Wabash,” the highest distinguished service honor bestowed upon an Indiana citizen by its governor.

Copyright© 2005 — Wm. LaDow / LaDow Publishing

INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, June 2, 2021) – The BC39 is back.

Exciting United States Auto Club (USAC) NOS Energy Drink National Midget Championship racing will return Wednesday, Aug. 18 and Thursday, Aug. 19 to The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the third Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink. The event is back for its third running after a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a new calendar slot – the week after the NASCAR-INDYCAR tripleheader at IMS.

Tickets will go on sale soon, with information available at IMS.com/BC39. Reserved seat ticket prices for qualifying and the feature event Thursday, Aug. 19 will start at $35, the same price as in 2019.

“Everyone missed the wheel-to-wheel action of the BC39 last year, and race fans have asked us since last summer when it’s returning to the schedule,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “It’s back – and better than ever. We can’t wait.

“This event delivers two nights of some of the most exciting racing you can see anywhere, and it also raises awareness for such an important cause, the Indiana Donor Network and Driven2SaveLives. We also appreciate the continued support and promotion of USAC Midget racing and the BC39 by NOS Energy Drink.”

The event on the quarter-mile dirt oval inside Turn 3 at IMS will continue to honor late USAC champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 starter Bryan Clauson and increase awareness of and participation in the Indiana Donor Network and Driven2SaveLives.

“Everyone at Indiana Donor Network and Driven2SaveLives is thrilled to see the BC39 return to its rightful place on the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget schedule,” said Taylor McLean, Bryan Clauson’s sister and marketing program specialist at Indiana Donor Network. “The Driven2SaveLives BC39 has not only become a destination event for teams but also a place for race fans to honor Bryan and share how their lives have been impacted by organ donation and transplantation. We cannot wait to celebrate not only Bryan’s legacy, but the legacy of all of those who decided to say yes.”

Fans also can visit IMS.com/BC39 for more information about pit passes, camping and prepaid parking.

This year’s Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink also will be the conclusion of nearly a week of exciting action on the road course and The Dirt Track at IMS. The NASCAR-INDYCAR tripleheader takes place Aug. 13-15, with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NASCAR Xfinity Series conducting separate races Saturday, Aug. 14 and the NASCAR Cup Series racing on the IMS road course for the first time Sunday, Aug. 15.

Visit IMS.com for more information on tickets to all IMS events in 2021.

Image  —  Posted: May 29, 2021 in Uncategorized

INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, May 28, 2021) – The logo for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge captures one of the most visible and beloved traditions of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – the winner’s wreath.

The 106th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, 2022.

Bold burgundy and gold colors highlight the design that features the wreath presented to every Indianapolis 500 winner in Victory Circle since 1960, when Jim Rathmann triumphed after an epic duel with Rodger Ward.

The core of the design remains the continuation of the type lock-up introduced with the unveiling in May 2018 of the logo for the 103rd Running of the race. This lock-up creates a strong, consistent annual brand appearance for the event, made unique by various new elements each year.

As in recent years, the wordmark leans forward, representing speed and a never-ending commitment to progress. That design is placed over a new shield of dark red.

A gold line encircles the burgundy shield and white wordmark, with the wreath leaves also in gold. The timeless legacy of the “500” and IMS also is saluted through the inclusion of the famous Wing and Wheel logo of the track.

The original winner’s wreath featured “exotic-looking” dark yellow and brown flowers. It was created by Indianapolis-based florist Bill Cronin, who was a consultant for the Rose Bowl parade and 500 Festival parade.

In 1989, the current wreath design was created by adding 33 ivory-colored cymbidium orchids with burgundy tips (representing each of the cars in the starting field of the race), red, white and blue ribbon, checkered flags and a base of cedar blocks inscribed with “BorgWarner.”

Julie Harman Vance, the owner of the Buck Creek In Bloom flower shop in Yorktown, Indiana, has made the wreath every year since 1992.

INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, May 27, 2021) – Fans attending the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway are encouraged to “Plan Ahead” through IMS.com/PlanAhead, an interactive web page that serves as a home base for fans headed to the track this weekend.

The “Plan Ahead” page features detailed information about the entire fan experience at IMS, including directions, parking, schedule, gate regulations, digital ticket and parking guide, ADA accessibility and much more.

Additionally, IMS.com/PlanAhead highlights several key health-and-safety measures being enforced to protect fans, participants, workforce and the broader community. These measures have been developed in consultation with health experts and city/state officials.

There will be horizontal spacing between customer groups in the grandstands. IMS will have cleaning and sanitation processes in place, with hand sanitizer and washing stations readily available. Face coverings must be worn at IMS per the most recent Marion County Public Health order and the event procedures agreement between IMS and local officials.

More Fan Information

All Speedway patrons should be aware of the following to ensure a successful day at the track:

Public Parking:

Parking for the Indianapolis 500 is available in a variety of locations around the track, and infield parking is not available this year. Parking must be purchased in advance. Race fans can visit IMS.com to purchase available parking passes, limited inventory available.

North Zone parking areas are accessible from 30th Street, Lafayette Road and I-465 via 38th Street exit.

  • Parking areas are: Lot 1A, Lot 1B, Lot 1C, Lot 4, Lot 4 Premium and Lot 7 (North 40)

West Zone parking areas are accessible from Crawfordsville Road and I-465 via Crawfordsville Road exit.

  • Parking areas are: Lot 2, Lot 5, Lot 6, Lot 8, Lot 9 and Gate 1

South Zone parking areas are accessible from 10th Street, Crawfordsville Road and 16th Street.

  • Parking areas are: Lot 3G, Lot 3P and Main Gate

Cashless Operations:

All IMS concession stands and merchandise locations are cashless this year. Tap-to-pay phone payments will be accepted, as will credit and debit transactions. Cash-to-Card machines, which convert paper money onto a temporary debit card, will be located throughout the facility. These funds can be spent inside the venue, outside the venue, online or anywhere in the world where Mastercard/Visa debit cards are accepted.

Pedestrian Gate Entry:

Public pedestrian gates open are: Gate 1, Gate 1B.1, Gate 1C, Gate 2, Gate 3, Gate 4, Gate 5B, Gate 6N, Gate 6S, Gate 6B, Gate 7S, Gate 7 Vehicle, Gate 9, Gate 9A, Gate 10, Gate 10A, Gate 11A, Gate 11B, Gate 11C, Gate 12

IMS Museum:

The IMS Museum, located inside Gate 2 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will be open from 6 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $14 for guests over the age of 62 and $8 for guests ages 6-15. Children 5 and under and Museum members are free.

Race fans can walk to the IMS Museum from the Speedway’s infield, and a free shuttle will run between the IMS Museum and tram stops located at 6th & Hulman and Tunnel 10. Pedestrians on the south end of the racetrack can access the IMS Museum via Gate 2.

IMS Museum visitors must possess an event ticket or credential to enter the Museum. Gate 2 will not be open for parking at the Museum.

Digital Tickets:

Digital tickets can be accessed on the IMS App or on their smart phone’s web browser. Fans are encouraged to ensure the brightness on their smartphone is turned up before approaching the gate for a seamless scanning of their digital ticket. Race fans are also encouraged to visit the IMS Digital Ticket guide to manage their digital tickets and enhance their at-track experience.

Weekend Street Parking:

Race event parking restrictions in the Town of Speedway will be enforced during the Indianapolis 500. No parking will be allowed on the south and east sides of any street bound by 25th Street on the north, Georgetown Road on the east, Lynhurst Drive on the west and Crawfordsville Road on the south from 6 p.m. Thursday through 8 p.m. Sunday. Additionally, race fans will not be able to park on Main Street in Speedway between 10th Street and 16th Street on Race Day starting at midnight.

Road Closures:

Race fans should be aware of multiple road closures before making their way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Race Day. Those include:

  • Speedway Police Department will close Georgetown Road at 7 a.m. on Race Day to all vehicular traffic. Guests accustomed to entering Gate 7 should enter through Gate 2 or Gate 10. Local residents are encouraged to make provisions for the temporary traffic restriction. Georgetown Road will remain closed until approximately one hour after the race.
  • Speedway Police Department also will close 16th Street between Olin Avenue and the roundabout from approximately noon until the end of the race. Additionally, 16th Street will not be accessible from Polco Street, as it will be blocked at 10th Street.
  • The Indiana Department of Transportation is reconstructing the I-65/I-70 interchange between the north split and Washington Street in downtown Indianapolis. I-70 eastbound and westbound traffic will be routed around I-465. I-65 northbound and southbound traffic will be routed through the South Split, I-70 and I-465. Drivers southbound on I-65 will not be able to enter westbound I-70, and drivers northbound on I-65 will not be able to enter eastbound I-70.

Additional Resources and Information

Drivers can learn the locations of work zones and highway restrictions by calling INDOT’s TrafficWise at 1-800-261-ROAD (7623) or viewing an online map at pws.trafficwise.org or visiting @TrafficWise on Twitter.

No coolers larger than 18 inches by 14 inches by 14 inches can be brought into the facility, which will be strictly enforced. Fans will be allowed to bring one cooler and one standard backpack or book bag per person.

For more information regarding access to IMS, visit IMS.com. For additional information, follow on Twitter the Indiana State Police @IndStatePolice, the Speedway Police Department @SpeedwayPD or listen to radio stations WFNI-FM 107.5/WFNI-AM 1070 or WIBC-FM 93.1.

The Speedway Police Department can be reached for non-emergency services by dialing 311 on a cell phone. The goal of 311 is to provide an easy-to-remember number for non-emergency services while freeing up 911 lines for timely emergency response.

… from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Image  —  Posted: May 4, 2021 in Uncategorized

INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, May 3, 2021) – Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser, one of the most colorful, outspoken and popular drivers in the history of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” died Sunday, May 2 at his New Mexico home. He was 87.

Unser won the Indianapolis 500 in 1968, 1975 and 1981. He is one of just 10 drivers to win the “500” at least three times and is a member of numerous motorsports Halls of Fame, including induction into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 1990. Unser and Rick Mears are the only drivers to win the “500” in three different decades.

He was one of six members of the Unser family to race in the Indianapolis 500. Bobby and his brother Al, a four-time winner, are the only brothers to win the race.

Bobby Unser also was renowned and admired for his work in and out of the cockpit before his Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR driving career started and after it ended. He dominated the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb before he ever turned a lap at Indianapolis, and he was a popular INDYCAR color analyst on national telecasts in the 1980s and 1990s after retiring as a driver.

Unser was born Feb. 20, 1934 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the third of four brothers. When he was 1, his family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico – the city forever associated with the Unser family racing dynasty.

In 1949, Unser started racing at Roswell (New Mexico) Speedway. In 1950, he raced at Speedway Park in Albuquerque and won his first championship in Southwestern Modified Stock Cars. After serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1953-55, Unser and his brothers Jerry and Al decided to pursue racing careers in United States Auto Club (USAC) competition.

Bobby Unser raced successfully in USAC Sprint Car, Midget and Stock Car competition. He earned seven career USAC Sprint Car feature victories and placed third in the standings in 1965 and 1966. He also won six USAC Stock Car races and three USAC Midget features.

Unser’s career in Indy cars started in the end of the 1962 season. He spent three years driving Novi-engined cars for Andy Granatelli, including the No. 6 Hotel Tropicana, Las Vegas Kurtis/Novi roadster in which he qualified 16th and finished 33rd and last as an Indianapolis 500 rookie in 1963. Unser’s day ended after completing just two laps due to an accident.

In fact, Unser’s first two career Indy starts gave no indication of his future success. After completing two laps and finishing last as a rookie in 1963, he completed just one lap in 1964 and was credited with 32nd place in the four-wheel-drive No. 9 Studebaker-STP Ferguson/Novi fielded by Granatelli, getting caught in the multi-car accident that claimed the lives of Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs.

Unser earned his first career top-10 finish at Indy by placing eighth after starting 28th in 1966 for Gordon van Liew’s team. In 1967, he moved to Bob Wilke’s Leader Card team for a four-year stint, which resulted in even greater fortune at Indianapolis and on the USAC Championship Trail.

Unser earned his first Indianapolis 500 victory in 1968 in the No. 3 Rislone Eagle/Offy, one of the most iconic and beautiful rear-engine cars in Indianapolis 500 history. His first spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy came after a spirited duel with Joe Leonard in one of Granatelli’s famous STP Lotus cars powered by a Pratt & Whitney helicopter turbine engine. Unser led 118 of the first 191 laps but was running second to Leonard when Leonard’s fuel shaft broke on Lap 192, with Unser powering past for his first “500” victory.

Later that year, Unser won the first of his two USAC National Championships, ending the season with five victories and edging Mario Andretti by a scant 11 points.

In 1972, Unser earned the first of his two Indianapolis 500 poles during his successful five-year partnership with Dan Gurney’s All American Racers. Speeds skyrocketed that year with the legalization of bolt-on wings to chassis, and no one took better advantage than Unser. His four-lap record qualifying average speed of 195.940 mph in the No. 6 Olsonite Eagle was more than 17 mph faster than Peter Revson’s pole speed from the previous year – the largest year-to-year increase in “500” history.

Unser won his second and final USAC National Championship in 1974 after finishing runner-up to Johnny Rutherford in the Indy 500.

In 1975, Unser won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time, driving the No. 48 Jorgensen Eagle fielded by Gurney’s team. Unser led only 11 laps, taking the top spot from Rutherford on Lap 165 and holding it until the race was ended by a downpour on Lap 174 of the 200 schedule laps.

He drove for Fletcher Racing in 1976 and 1977, returning to Gurney’s All American Racers for one season in 1978.

Unser joined Team Penske in 1979 for the start of a three-year stint in which he won 11 races and finished second in the CART standings in 1979 and 1980.

But perhaps his most famous race during his Penske tenure was the 1981 Indianapolis 500, which he won from the pole in one of the most controversial and contentious outcomes in the event’s storied history.

Unser beat Mario Andretti to the finish by 5.18 seconds in the No. 3 Norton Spirit, but USAC officials ruled Unser passed cars illegally while exiting the pit lane during a caution on Lap 149. Unser was penalized one position, with Andretti elevated to the winner.

But after a lengthy protest and appeals process, Unser’s penalty was rescinded, and he was declared the winner of the race Oct. 9, 1981. That victory became the last of Unser’s storied INDYCAR career, as he skipped the 1982 CART season to serve as driver coach for Josele Garza and decided against a planned comeback in 1983 with Patrick Racing.

He finished his career with 35 career INDYCAR victories and two championships among his eight top-three finishes in the season points.

Unser ended his driving career as one of the greatest performers in the history of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

He produced 10 top-10 finishes in 19 career “500” starts. Unser led in 10 races for a total of 440 laps, still 10th on the all-time list.

Unser’s nine front-row starts included poles in 1972 and 1981. His speed in qualifying at the Speedway was exceptional, as he was one of the 12 fastest drivers in 18 of his 19 starts. Fourteen of his 19 starts came from the first three rows.

While those statistics are among the greatest in Indy history, Unser produced even more eye-popping numbers at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, nicknamed “Unser Mountain” due to his family’s success in the longtime race in Colorado Springs. Unser won 13 class titles at Pikes Peak and earned “King of the Mountain” honors 10 times during his career as the fastest driver overall up the famed mountain, tops among the racing Unser family that dominated this event.

Unser also had a keen engineering mind that always searched for a technical advantage over his rivals. He sometimes would call his crew chief well after midnight with an idea for chassis setup or another technical issue, and his prowess as a test driver was highly regarded because he turned every lap at the car’s limit.

Every angle was pursued by Unser when it came to trying to find the edge against his foes. Team owner Jim Hall’s famous Chaparral chassis – the first Indy car with ground-effects aerodynamics underneath the car – got upside-down when Rutherford crashed in 1980 in the CART season finale at Phoenix. Unser learned of a photographer who took pictures of the closely guarded aero channels and tunnels beneath the car, and he obtained the photos, which were used in the development of Team Penske’s 1981 ground-effects chassis.

After his driving career ended, Unser combined his vast racing experience and considerable skills as an outspoken raconteur to become a popular broadcaster on ABC, NBC and ESPN INDYCAR telecasts and on IMS Radio Network race broadcasts. The booth trio of play-by-play announcer Paul Page and the opinionated Unser and the erudite Sam Posey – with Unser and Posey’s styles and comments almost always contrasting and often clashing — was one of the most entertaining and popular in INDYCAR television history.

Two of Unser’s proudest moments in the TV booth came when he called the finish in 1987 with play-by-play announcer Jim Lampley as his younger brother, Al Unser, earned his record-tying fourth “500” victory and again in 1992 when he and Paul Page called the race when his nephew, Al Unser Jr., won Indy for the first time in the closest “500” finish ever.

Unser also was part of the ABC Sports broadcast team that won an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Live Sports Special” for its coverage of the 1989 Indianapolis 500.

After his TV career ended, Unser continued to visit IMS every Month of May. In 1998 and 1999, he served as driver coach and assisted with race strategy on the radio for his son Robby Unser during his two starts in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Robby finished fifth and eighth, respectively, in those two starts with his father’s help.

Fans always flocked to “Uncle Bobby” to get a picture or autograph, to share their memories or to hear one of Unser’s countless colorful stories about his career and fellow racers. He also savored spending time in the Media Center swapping tales with many veteran journalists every May, as Unser was a tireless ambassador for IMS and the Indianapolis 500 until the end of his life.

Unser is survived by his wife, Lisa; sons Bobby Jr. and Robby; and daughters Cindy and Jeri.

By: Stan Kalwasinski

Photography by: Gary Gasper

Northwest Indiana’s Paul Goldsmith raced on the sands of Daytona Beach in 1958, wheeling a 1950 Oldsmobile No. 87.  The vintage stock car was on display Friday at the Griffith-Merrillville Airport in Griffith with Goldsmith, now 95, reminiscing about those racing days. 

Some 63 years ago – February 1958, NASCAR hosted its final stock car races on the 4.1-mile beach/road course at Daytona Beach, Florida.  NASCAR headman Bill France Sr. was busy with the construction of the new Daytona International Speedway, which would be the site of NASCAR’s “Speed Week” in 1959.

Three days of racing, featuring a NASCAR modified-sportsman stock car race, a NASCAR convertible contest and the finale – a 160-mile NASCAR Grand National event on Sunday, February 23, was scheduled. 

Goldsmith, the owner of the Griffith-Merrillville Airport, raced the No. 87 car in the 125-mile modified-sportsman race at Daytona Beach on Friday, February 21, finishing fifth behind winner, Banjo Mathews.  Curtis Turner won the convertible race on Saturday.  Sunday saw Goldsmith, racing out of St. Clair Shores, Mich., at the time, win the last NASCAR stock car race on the famed beach/road course, driving his Smokey Yunick-prepared 1958 Pontiac No. 3 to the win in the NASCAR Grand National event.

“The beach was smooth but the backstretch was rough – a two-lane paved road,” commented Goldsmith years later.  “It was A1A.  If I remember, they called it the ‘jungle road.’    It was so wavy and rough, you had to have some good shock absorbers on your car.  You could feel the wheels spinning.  You could see the tach (tachometer) jumping.”

A native of West Virginia, Goldsmith, a resident of northwest Indiana since the 1960s, was a top motorcycle racer early in his speed career and has the distinction as the only racer to win on the beach at Daytona in both motorcycle and stock car competition.  Goldsmith’s last major American Motorcycle Association (AMA) victory came on the dirt at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind., in 1955.

During his NASCAR racing career, Goldsmith won nine major races – the last coming at Bristol, Tenn., in 1966.

In addition, Goldsmith competed in the Indianapolis 500 six times with his best finish being a third in 1960.

 Paul Goldsmith and the Oldsmobile No. 87 – legends in auto racing.

Image  —  Posted: February 23, 2021 in Uncategorized

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 – The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR are offering race fans a great, entertaining history lesson through rich digital content and exclusive interviews leading up to the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30.

IMS launched today an immersive, in-depth content series chronicling the most iconic anniversaries and milestones of 2021, reminding fans that the Racing Capital of the World is the place “Where Tradition Never Stops,” a content theme with much more to come that celebrates the Indianapolis 500, GMR Grand Prix and all other Month of May events.

The first story honors one of the most recognizable traditions in Indy 500 history: the Borg-Warner Trophy, which celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2021. Each week leading up to the Month of May, IMS will release a new story surrounding some of the greatest moments, traditions and heroes in sports. Subjects include the trailblazing tales of Willy T. Ribbs and Janet Guthrie, the origins of the Indy 500’s most fabled traditions, the memories of beloved “500” heroes A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears, and more.

Fans are encouraged to visit IMS.com/Tradition to preview the full series and read the first installment, as well as to check back weekly as more content is unlocked and great stories are told. The rich, multimedia experience is optimized for viewing on mobile devices, such as phones and tablets, and browsers.

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has one of the richest histories in all of sports, and race fans are in for a memorable 100 days as we relive the moments that have made IMS the place ‘Where Tradition Never Stops,’” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “Digital innovation is a top priority to make sure our fans stay connected to IMS. We are proud to share our heritage and tradition with race fans in Indianapolis and across the globe by offering them more digital content than ever.”

This is just one of several opportunities for race fans to experience never-before-heard stories of the Indy 500 and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, as well as to participate in the celebration.

Welcome Race Fans, IMS’ successful collaboration with the Arts Council of Indianapolis to incorporate Indiana artists and original artwork into the Indy 500, is going digital. Welcome Race Fans 2021 will consist of five artists creating a Welcome Race Fans GIF. These GIFs will be featured on IMS social channels, web properties, and onsite digital locations during the Month of May and around the city of Indianapolis. Interested artists can apply here.

Additionally, IMS will continue its new web series “Behind the Bricks,” hosted by Boles, which provides race fans with insider access through interviews with INDYCAR and IMS drivers, as well as off-track personalities that have helped make the Indy 500 “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Featured guests thus far have included Donald Davidson, Takuma Sato, Bob Jenkins, and others. “Behind the Bricks” can be seen exclusively on the IMS YouTube channel.

IMS also will provide race fans with audio-only storytelling for the first time. Podcasts to come will include “Behind the Bricks Extra,” which will give race fans full, unedited interviews between Boles and his guests. This podcast and more can be found on all major podcasting platforms.

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES also will continue to build upon its “Where Are They Now?” series that offers race fans a chance to catch up with their favorite former INDYCAR athletes and personalities. Drivers already featured include Ribbs, George Mack and Jim Logan. These interviews, as well as “Classic Rewinds” and more, can be found on INDYCAR’s YouTube channel.

IMS and INDYCAR will continue to provide fans with even more exclusive content leading up to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opener Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 30.

Don’t miss two-time Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato unveil his likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy during a special streaming show: “Borg-Warner Trophy Special” at 1 p.m. (ET) today at IMS.com/100Days.