Archive for December, 2019

By: Stan Kalwasinski

Located on U.S. Highway 30 and about two miles east of U.S. 41, the former Schererville Speedway had a new name—Illiana Motor Speedway—for the 1952 season.

The program cover from the June 1, 1952 race.

The track’s top stock car drivers included Bill Clemans, Bob Perrine, Don Oldenberg, Hal Ruyle, Marion Lowry, Nick Trgovich and “Happy Dan” Walters. Ruyle, who originally was from the St. Louis, Mo., area, wheeled his 1949 Mercury to victory in the 100-lap stock car season finale in October, besting Bob Williams, Eddy Anderson, Jiggs Schieve, Lowry and Kenny Boyer on the half-mile dirt oval.

Three of Illiana’s top drivers of the 1952 season included (left to right) Hal Ruyle, Nick Trgovich and Don Oldenberg.

Speedway owner Harry Molenaar crowned Ruyle Illiana track champion for the 1952 season. Earlier in the year on Sunday afternoon, June 1, Boyer, who raced out of Highland, Ind., drove his 1939 Ford No. 37 to victory in the 15-lap main defeating Whitey Johnson, Bill Carr and Joe Buckley. Some two-dozen entries were on hand for the competition with Griffith’s “Happy Dan” Walters grabbing fast time during qualifications in his ’39 Ford.

Kenny Boyer, pictured here at Chicago’s 87th Street Speedway, was also a top runner at Illiana, winning the track championship in 1951.

In addition to the stock car racing, motorcycle racing was also held at the speedway during the season. Some interesting notes from the program: Wayne Adams was listed as the track announcer and Leo Melcher as the speedway’s official starter.

Indianapolis 500 History Films …

Posted: December 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

Can-Am History Films …

Posted: December 28, 2019 in Uncategorized

Junior Johnson on film …

Posted: December 22, 2019 in Uncategorized

PRI Announces Hiring Of Two Executive Positions — Seeking President and General Manager to Serve Motorsports Industry

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. (Dec. 18, 2019) — As part of Performance Racing Industry’s (PRI) commitment to increase engagement and support for the racing industry, the organization has launched a search for two executive positions, including the new position of President to be based out of Indianapolis, Indiana.

With a focus on building, promoting and protecting the motorsports industry, PRI’s President will oversee the strategic vision, leadership and executive management of all PRI initiatives. Based in Indianapolis, what many consider to be the center of the racing industry, the President will work closely with racing-related businesses, as well as individual racers, race teams, racing facilities, sanctioning bodies, and parts suppliers to develop programs and services to benefit the motorsports community.

In addition to the President in Indianapolis, PRI will hire a General Manager in Southern California who will be responsible for the daily operations of PRI’s Trade Show, Magazine and online media content. Bill Miller, the current General Manager, will continue to support the PRI team while focusing on his responsibilities as Senior Vice President of Operations for SEMA, which has owned and operated Performance Racing Industry since 2012.

“Having dedicated executives leading PRI will ensure that the needs of racing-related businesses and racers are met,” said Chris Kersting, SEMA President and CEO. “The motorsports industry is a unique community filled with passion, innovation and enthusiasm. We’re looking for individuals who share that passion as PRI looks to enhance the resources and programs for the industry.”

Successful candidates will have proven leadership skills and a strong work ethic, and be motivated to serve the motorsports industry. Additional skills and requirements, as well as complete job descriptions, can be found at performanceracing.com/candidates. Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply online.

About Performance Racing Industry

Since its inception in 1986, Performance Racing Industry (PRI) has served as the motorsports industry’s key source for trends, merchandising ideas, new products, business strategies, and more. Through its monthly business magazine, Performance Racing Industry, and the world’s premier auto racing trade show, the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis, Indiana, motorsports industry members from all over the world remain in tune with the worldwide racing marketplace. For more information, visit http://www.performanceracing.com 

About SEMA

SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association founded in 1963, represents the $44.6 billion specialty automotive industry. The industry provides appearance, performance, comfort, convenience and technology products for passenger and recreational vehicles. Association resources include market research, legislative advocacy, training and product development support, as well as leading trade shows such as the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV, and the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show in Indianapolis, Indiana. For more information, visit http://www.sema.orghttp://www.semashow.com or http://www.performanceracing.com 

Top INDYCAR Stories of 2019 …

Posted: December 18, 2019 in Uncategorized


INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 18, 2019) — While INDYCAR enjoyed several intriguing stories during this year’s NTT IndyCar Series season, the blockbuster came after the season when Roger Penske announced that Penske Corporation would be acquiring Indianapolis Motor Speedway, INDYCAR and additional Hulman & Company holdings.

The November announcement was no doubt the most captivating story of 2019 for INDYCAR, but it also ranked among the top stories in all of motorsports with its worldwide interest.

Tony Hulman purchased the Speedway in dilapidated condition in November 1945 and turned it into one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues. Over the past 75 years, Hulman and his family have reshaped the facility and hosted Indy cars, NASCAR, Formula One, MotoGP, major golf tournaments and concerts, among other events.

The official sale is scheduled for early January and most expect the impact Penske will have on the sport and the famed track in the future could be even greater than his record 18 Indianapolis 500 victories.

With the Penske acquisition news leading the way, here’s a look at INDYCAR’s top stories of the year:

Penske acquires IMS, INDYCAR: Tony George, Hulman & Company’s Chairman of the Board, said he first approached Roger Penske about buying the company’s assets on the final day of the NTT IndyCar Series season, which was Sept. 22 in Monterey, Calif., at the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Private, highly confidential meetings were held over the next six weeks, with only a handful of executives included in the negotiations. Penske seemed genuinely pleased that one of the biggest secrets in motorsports history held until the deal was formally announced Monday, Nov. 4, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NBC airs its first Indianapolis 500, becomes exclusive home of the NTT IndyCar Series: The 500 had been on ABC since 1965, so that alone made the switch to NBC newsworthy. But NBC also significantly increased exposure for the NTT IndyCar Series through its first of a multiyear deal. Eight races were shown live on network television, three more than in 2018, and fans enjoyed action of all on-track activity via NBC Sports Gold, a leading direct-to-consumer product. Another positive was the inclusion of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in NBC’s “Championship Season” marketing campaign.

NTT joins as the series’ title sponsor: The signing of a multiyear agreement with the global information technology and communications leader was executed in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The agreement affords INDYCAR the opportunity to benefit from NTT’s digital innovations, including the evolution of the INDYCAR Mobile App and integration of NTT’s proprietary Smart Platform.

INDYCAR introduces Aeroscreen, hybrid technology: INDYCAR announced a partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies during the Indy 500 race weekend for the development and implementation of an Aeroscreen for enhanced driver cockpit protection. The safety innovation, which will make its competition debut at the outset of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, consists of a ballistic Aeroscreen anchored by titanium framework that encompasses the cockpit. The Aeroscreen had its first on-track test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Team Penske’s Will Power, who both considered the initial outing a success. Other tests followed at Barber Motorsports Park, Richmond Raceway and Sebring International Raceway. The Aeroscreen has been described by INDYCAR President Jay Frye as “a game-changer.” For 2022, INDYCAR, in partnership with Chevrolet and Honda, will implement a single-source hybrid system in its race cars. In keeping with INDYCAR’s history of integrating innovation into the sport, the hybrid powertrain will mark the first time that vehicles will depart from the traditional, manual hand-held electric starters to a hybrid component that can be activated by the driver from the cockpit. Additionally, engines are targeted to exceed 900 horsepower.

Pagenaud has a history-making Month of May in Indianapolis: For the first time, the same driver won all three major Indianapolis Motor Speedway events in May: the INDYCAR Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 pole and the 500 itself. In the 500, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud led 116 of the 200 laps and outdueled Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport in the final laps to become the first Frenchman to win the race since Rene Thomas in 1914. Pagenaud also became the first pole winner to win the 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2009.

Juncos/Kaiser bump McLaren/Alonso from Indianapolis 500 field: Who imagined Fernando Alonso, a two-time Formula One World Champion who ran so well in the 500 in 2017, failing to earn a spot in his return? Or revered McLaren, which came to Indy with its own program for the first time in this era of the sport, also going home early with Alonso? But the orange No. 66 Chevrolet was in a precarious position in the final minutes of qualifying, and Kyle Kaiser, driving for the small, part-time Juncos Racing team, ran four laps fast enough to make the show in a thrilling David-vs.-Goliath matchup.

Newgarden wins four races, captures second series championship: Josef Newgarden won a season-high four races en route to his second series crown in three years with Team Penske. He also joined Sam Hornish Jr. as the only Americans to win multiple series crowns since Al Unser Jr. in 1994. Newgarden jumped to the top spot in the standings by winning the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and relinquished the position only once – after Simon Pagenaud won the 500 – to effectively go wire-to-wire against a strong field.

History-setting Herta leads stout rookie class: Colton Herta of Harding Steinbrenner Racing made the first emphatic statement by winning the season’s second race, the inaugural INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas, to become the youngest race winner in INDYCAR history at 18 years, 11 months, 25 days. Herta added another victory in the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing won the season’s Rookie-of-the-Year Award on the strength of two top-three and six top-five finishes while the Indianapolis 500’s top-finishing rookie, Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing, produced three fourth-place finishes in addition to a seventh at Indy. Marcus Ericsson of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports finished second in the second Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix race while Carlin’s Pato O’Ward put on a show at COTA in finishing eighth. Ben Hanley of DragonSpeed, a part-time team making only its third INDYCAR start, delivered a strong effort at the 500, qualifying 27th.

McLaren, SPM merge, hire O’Ward and Askew: McLaren, with its Formula One pedigree and rich history, announced in August its full-time return to Indy car competition in a partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. The team was rebranded Arrow McLaren Racing SP and also announced a partnership with Chevrolet. More change followed with the 2019 driving tandem of James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson being replaced by Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward, the two most recent series champions of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. At 23 and 20 years, respectively, Askew, the 2019 champion, and O’Ward, the ’18 champ, form the youngest pairing in the series.

Rossi re-signs with Andretti Autosport: The 28-year-old Alexander Rossi could have become a highly sought-after free agent with a number of enticing options, but he decided to re-sign with Andretti Autosport in July. In addition to announcing a multi-year deal with Rossi, Andretti Autosport also announced a renewal with Honda. The Rossi-Honda tandem was strong in 2019, with the Californian finishing third in the NTT IndyCar Series championship, which was the top finish for the engine manufacturer. He also delivered dominating wins at Long Beach and Road America, leading an impressive 134 of the combined 140 laps, and a runner-up finish in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Veteran racer Bill Simpson, who made one Indianapolis 500 start and was renowned in global motorsports for his development of groundbreaking safety equipment, died Monday, Dec. 16 in Indianapolis due to complications from recent health problems. He was 79.

Simpson competed as a driver in drag racing, sports car racing and open-wheel formula racing, including in SCCA and USAC Indy-car competition. He made 52 career Indy-car starts between 1968 and 1977. He produced 11 top-10 finishes, including a career best of sixth in the 1970 Milwaukee 200.

Southern California native Simpson qualified 20th and finished 13th in the 1974 Indianapolis 500 in the American Kids Racer Eagle-Offy owned by Dick Beith. It was his only career start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” but competing in that race was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and the pinnacle of his varied driving career.

Another noteworthy highlight of Simpson’s career was providing four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears with a car to make his first career Indy car start, in the 1976 Ontario 500.

Simpson’s racing career ended during an Indianapolis 500 practice lap in May 1977, when he realized he was thinking more about a phone call he needed to make for his racing safety products business than driving a race car at nearly 200 mph. That realization caused him to hang up his helmet for good on the spot, with Formula One veteran Clay Regazzoni taking his seat.

The colorful Simpson started his driving career in drag racing as a teenager in Southern California. His work in motorsports safety started inadvertently when he crashed his dragster as an 18-year-old in 1958, suffering two broken arms. During his recovery time, Simpson devised and developed more sophisticated, purpose-built parachutes – through trial and error on a rented sewing machine in a garage – to slow dragsters after the finish line, starting a company called Simpson Drag Chutes.

Those humble beginnings evolved and grew into Simpson Performance Products and Impact! Racing, highly successful companies that designed, developed and produced more than 200 motorsports safety products used by drivers in all series worldwide, including helmets, gloves, fire-retardant driver suits, seat belts and more.

Perhaps Simpson’s biggest racing safety breakthrough came in 1967. He was introduced to a temperature-resistant fabric called Nomex through NASA astronaut and racing enthusiast Pete Conrad.

Simpson created the world’s first racing suit made of Nomex and brought it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that May, where it became a safety sensation quickly used by nearly every driver in the starting field and now is standard equipment for every race driver. Donning his Nomex suit and a helmet, Simpson set himself on fire during demonstrations to prove the suit’s effectiveness on several occasions over the years.

Those tireless contributions to motorsports safety led to a host of accolades and honors, including enshrinement into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2003 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2014.

Simpson chronicled his colorful and substantial life in racing by writing two books, “Racing Safely, Living Dangerously” and its sequel, “Through the Fire.”

Despite the vast success of his motorsports safety companies, Simpson never forgot his magical year of qualifying for and competing in the Indianapolis 500.

He annually returned to the Speedway during the Month of May for veterans’ activities, including appearances at driver autograph sessions for fans on Legends Day presented by Firestone. Simpson often attended these sessions with fellow colorful motorsports mogul and Indianapolis 500 veteran Chip Ganassi, and he was a passionate supporter of the IMS Museum.

Simpson is survived by a son. He also was a devout animal enthusiast, whose menagerie included his beloved dog, Maia, camels and other pets. A celebration of his life is being planned for this May at the IMS Museum, with details pending.