Tuesday, June 19, 2012

USAC STOCK CAR HISTORY

The history and facts at the bottom of this post came from http://www.ultimateracinghistory.com/usacstock.htm

I would love to find a division bio that included the days of AAA sanction. It is the same series. I would add Dover Delaware to the track list you see near the bottom of this page. NASCAR and USAC both competed at Dover in the year the track opened. David Pearson set a world record for a mile on NASCAR’s visit, and later in the year when USAC ran, Don White broke Pearson’s record by four miles per hour. I mention this not to diminish the great David Pearson but only to show how great USAC and drivers like Don White, and their equipment really were. Literally every Indy Car driving legend competed in this stock car division. These were considered the top drivers in the world at that time. Many NASCAR drivers competed in this series. In addition to Fred Lorenzen and Paul Goldsmith, David Pearson, Richard Petty, Bobby Isaac and many more tried USAC. Out of the sports car ranks Roger Penske drove in The Yankee 300 at the IRP road course. Jim Hurtibise drove USAC champ Norm Nelson’s 1966 Plymouth to victory in NASCAR’s Atlanta 500. Nelson himself won a NASCAR Cup division race in Las Vegas in the early 1960s and finished third in NASCAR’s Riverside 500 road race in 1967. He finished behind Dan Gurney and David Pearson with USAC’s Don White coming home fourth. The parity in drivers and equipment was apparent.

I was fortunate to follow this division as a young fan and then a photographer, from 1963 through its demise in the 1980s. I have made many images of the racing days of this series but unfortunately like much of my older work it no longer exists. I never shot slides of this division but many color negatives and many, many b&w negs.

As a fan I saw them compete everywhere from the Kaukauna ½ mile, to the Milwaukee Mile, to the IRP road course, to the 2 mile Michigan International Speedway, to Chicago’s Soldier’s Field. SF was a ¼ mile track that circled the famous football field. In 1967 they ran 4 or five races there in traditional weekly short track fashion. Heats, dashes, semis and a 30 lap feature. There was over 30 thousand people in the stands the night I watched Norm Nelson beat Don White.

The Milwaukee Mile used to hold four USAC Stock Car races a year. They had to turn away cars. Usually two of the four races were sell outs. The top USAC Stock Car drivers were joined by many of the best of the USAC Indy Car ranks with occasional visits from NASCAR stars. Among the drivers I saw compete here included AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Roger Ward, Lloyd Ruby, Roger McLuskey, Bobby Unser, Al Unser Sr., Gordon Johncock, Tom Sneva, Len Sutton, Curtis Turner, Bobby Isaac, Mario Andretti, Billy Foster, Rusty Wallace and on and on.

Butch Hartman was USAC’s only four time champ.

Some of USAC’s greatest races were held on dirt tracks ranging from ½ mile to one mile in length.   I addition to the fairgrounds tracks in Inianapolis, Springfield Illinois and Duquion Iliinios, Langhorne Pennsylvania and Trenton New Jersey were mile dirts stops until those two were paved.  Milwaukee was a mile dirt in the AAA days but was paved before USAC was formed.


The USAC Stock Car Series
( from Ultimate Racing History)

The United States Auto Club (USAC) began to sanction auto racing in the United States in 1956, after the withdrawal of AAA following the death of Bill Vukovich at the 1955 Indianapolis 500 and a tragic crash that claimed the lives of several spectators at the 24 Hours of LeMans just weeks later. Much like NASCAR's Grand National (now Nextel Cup) circuit at the time, the schedule was comprised mainly of short-track races, both paved and dirt. Several races were also held each year at the Milwaukee Mile.

USAC had an on-again, off-again affair with road racing, with events at Riverside International Raceway in California, Donnybrooke Speedway in Minnesota, Continental Divide Raceway in Colorado, Mid-America Raceway in Missouri, Shelby County International Raceway in Tennessee, Sears Point International Raceway in California, one go-around on the road course at Phoenix International Raceway before switching to the oval track, several races at Indianapolis Raceway Park on the 2.5 mile road course, and, on the international front, at Mosport in Canada.

Eventually, USAC found its way to the big tracks, holding numerous events at Ontario Motor Speedway in California (a clone of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway), Texas World Speedway, and Michigan International Speedway. Events at these tracks were often held along with Indy car races, with several drivers competing in both races on the same track on the same day, usually in 200 mile efforts each. USAC also sanctioned the first four 500-mile stock car races at Pocono, before NASCAR began to compete there. 500-mile stand-alone races were also held at Texas World Speedway.

Several drivers from the USAC ranks eventually found their way into NASCAR. Paul Goldsmith, for example, started out in NASCAR, switched to USAC for a few years, won two championships, and then returned to NASCAR. Fred Lorenzen made the jump after winning his two championships. Drivers in recent memory with origins in USAC include Joe Ruttman (who actually ran two NASCAR races at Riverside in the 60s while still in his teens, then stuck to local tracks for several years before making his national return in the late 70s), Rusty Wallace, and Ken Schrader. There was a fair amount of crossover from the Indy car side as well; A.J. Foyt won 41 races and three championships in his years in the series, while Roger McCluskey picked up two stock car titles before winning the Indy car championship in 1973. Parnelli Jones also grabbed a title in 1964, while Joe Leonard (1971 and 1972 Indy car champion) and Al Unser (1970 Indy car champion in USAC, as well as 1983 and 1985 CART champion) won Rookie of the Year honors in 1964 and 1967, respectively.

Once CART took over the sanctioning of Indy car races in 1980, the stock car series began to lose its lustre. Most of the superspeedway races dropped from the schedule, and USAC began to cosanction many of their races along with ARCA. In 1984, the final season, only two races were held, on the dirt tracks in Springfield and DuQuoin, both open to ARCA competitors as well. A third race, scheduled as part of the annual 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora, was rained out and never held. Many of the former USAC competitors migrated to other midwest-based organizations, including ARCA, ASA, and ARTGO. USAC did replace the stock cars with a short track late model series (mostly dirt tracks, but a few paved ovals thrown in as well) that ran from 1985 through 1988. After the demise of that series, USAC continued to hold one late model event each fall at the 4-Crown Nationals through 1995; In 1996, the fourth crown became the UMP modifieds and USAC late model racing was no more.

From 1956 through 1984, USAC held a total of 451 stock car races. I have obtained complete results of all races from 1971 through 1984, and have full results of a few others prior to 1971. I also have several partial results of earlier races. (In some cases, those results rather depressingly contain only the name of the winning driver.) I now have a complete listing of all races in series history. Click here for a list of USAC Stock Car race results in the database.


USAC Stock Car Championship History

YEAR Champion 2nd Place 3rd Place Rookie of the Year
1956 National Johnny Mantz Marshall Teague Les Snow none until 1963
1956 Pacific Coast Sam Hanks Marshall Teague Les Snow none until 1963
1956 Short Track Troy Ruttman George Seeger Eddie Gray none until 1963
1957 Jerry Unser Ralph Moody Sam Hanks none until 1963
1958 Fred Lorenzen Mike Klapak Norm Nelson none until 1963
1959 Fred Lorenzen Mike Klapak Nelson Stacy none until 1963
1960 Norm Nelson Paul Goldsmith Tony Bettenhausen none until 1963
1961 Paul Goldsmith Norm Nelson Elmer Musgrave none until 1963
1962 Paul Goldsmith Don White Norm Nelson none until 1963
1963 Don White A.J. Foyt Norm Nelson Sal Tovella
1964 Parnelli Jones Norm Nelson Don White Joe Leonard
1965 Norm Nelson Paul Goldsmith Don White Billy Foster
1966 Norm Nelson Don White Billy Foster Butch Hartman
1967 Don White Parnelli Jones Jack Bowsher Al Unser
1968 A.J. Foyt Roger McCluskey Don White Dick Trickle
1969 Roger McCluskey A.J. Foyt Don White Verlin Eaker
1970 Roger McCluskey Norm Nelson A.J. Foyt Billy Reis
1971 Butch Hartman Jack Bowsher Roger McCluskey Joe Booher
Bud Schroyer
1972 Butch Hartman Roger McCluskey Paul Feldner Chuck McWilliams
1973 Butch Hartman Ramo Stott Bay Darnell Irv Janey
1974 Butch Hartman Norm Nelson Ramo Stott Ken Rowley
1975 Ramo Stott Butch Hartman Sal Tovella Len Gittemeier
1976 Butch Hartman Ramo Stott Sal Tovella Wayne Watercutter
1977 Paul Feldner Ramo Stott Sal Tovella Dave Watson
1978 A.J. Foyt Terry Ryan Bay Darnell Joe Ruttman
1979 A.J. Foyt Bay Darnell Rusty Wallace Rusty Wallace
1980 Joe Ruttman Rusty Wallace Bay Darnell Ken Schrader
1981 Dean Roper Sal Tovella Ken Schrader Rick Hanley
1982 Dean Roper Bay Darnell Rick O'Brien Jeff Schwister
Jiggs Lindhorst
1983 Dean Roper Butch Garner Rick O'Brien Roger Drake
1984 David Goldsberry Ken Rowley Jim Hall David Goldsberry

The three images below are not mine.  I did photograph the race in which the third picture  in the series originated. That image however, belongs to Stan Kalwasinski.  The first two images come from Auto Racing Memories.

Jimmy Bryan. 1957 Mercury

Jerry Unser. 1957 Ford. Phoenix, Arizona

#1 Roger McLuskey 1970 Plymouth Superbird....#3 Don White 1969 Dodge Daytona...Taken at The Milwaukee Mile in 1970.


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