Here’s a little bit of racing trivia you may not have known. In addition to getting a check with a couple of commas in the amount, the winning driver of the Indianapolis 500 is also awarded the pace car for that year’s race. I’m not talking about one of the thousands of replicas they sell at the dealers or even one of the dozens of courtesy cars with pace car graphics that they use at the race. I’m talking about the actual vehicle used to pace the drivers as they come into formation for the flying start and then functions as a safety car when yellow flags are unfurled. That means that racers driving for Roger Penske’s team have won sixteen of those pace cars.
Apparently those drivers’ contracts give the team the right to buy the pace car if they win because Roger owns all sixteen paces cars from the years that his team has won the 500. To celebrate this year’s edition of the massive Woodward Dream Cruise, the Penske organization paraded their collection of authentic Indy 500 pace cars from the Penske Corp’s hospitality tent in Royal Oak all the way up to Pontiac and back, with the spiff that many of the cars were being driven by current and former Penske racers. (Read More…)
A couple of my recent posts on the Lotus Cortina and Ford GT40 covered cars that were part of Henry Ford II’s effort to dominate motorsports in the 1960s. Ford Motor Company’s racing history in fact predates the company. Founder Henry Ford’s “Sweepstakes” car’s 1901 victory, with Ford at the wheel, made it possible for him to stay in the automobile business after the failure of the Detroit Automobile Co. Though racing helped create the foundation for the Ford company, Henry Ford II’s racing efforts in the 1960 actually represented a return to motorsports decades after his grandfather, embarrassed by a very public racing failure, withdrew FoMoCo’s official support for racing. Since that failure took place at the Indianapolis 500 race, and since “the greatest spectacle in racing” is taking place this weekend, it’s an appropriate time to take a look at the front wheel drive Miller flathead Fords of 1935. The cars’ creation involves three of the 20th century’s most fascinating automotive personages and I also happen to think they’re some of the most beautiful cars that ever raced. (Read More…)
Andy Granatelli died this past Sunday at the age of 90. He was a man worthy of note in the world of cars and the world of business. His sponsorships via the STP oil additive company changed the way automotive product companies used motorsports and vice versa. A larger than life personality, and a genuine character, Granatelli’s two Indy 500 wins as an owner were in many ways overshadowed by the near misses at Indy of his revolutionary turbine powered racers. A man of considerable accomplishments in racing and in business, no doubt. It seems to me, though, that his most enduring influence on the automotive world (and the basis of some of the longest enduring automotive speed records) was his popularizing of forced induction, specifically superchargers. (Read More…)
1979 was the first year for the Fox PlatformMustang, and Ford celebrated by grabbing the rights to show off their new machine at the 1979 Indianapolis 500. You could buy a street version of the Indy 500 Mustang pace car, and many did. Many others, a few years later, bought the galloping-horses-and-tape-stripes decal kit for their non-Pace Car Edition Mustangs. I’m pretty sure that this car— which I found in a California self-service yard— belongs in the latter group… but not completely sure. (Read More…)
Having just attended the 97th Indianapolis 500, I’m feeling especially passionate about telling others to get there in person someday. I believe Indy to be one of those special experiences that you have to see in person to appreciate. I’ve attended IndyCar, NASCAR, American LeMans, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and many other sporting events, but the Indy 500 stands out as something special.