Friday, May 13, 2016

The Racing Associates team in 1961

The Racing Associates team in 1961
"Rocky" Philipp stands behind #86 in dark paints 
with Herb Porter to the right of Philipp
Author's Collection

This faded photograph taken 55 years ago, shows the Racing Associates team for the 1961 Indianapolis 500-mile race posed behind the paddock grandstand. The photo commemorated the team placing all three cars into the starting field. The drivers from left to right are Roger McCluskey, Ebb Rose, and Paul Goldsmith. 


The author was fortunate enough to have one of the surviving team members, Paul Goldsmith, autograph the photo at the 2016 Bench Racing Weekend banquet. 
Left to right Ms. Musetta Yeager, Paul Goldsmith and the author


The Racing Associates team was originally formed in 1955 by three men:  Indianapolis attorney Arthur B. "Art" Lathrop, Nelson G. Johnson an Indianapolis businessman, and D. Coleman Glover from Moline Illinois. Through the years, the team compiled an impressive record with drivers that included Bob Sweikert, Johnny Thomson, and Jim Hurtubise. 

After the 1960 United States Auto Club (USAC) season, the trio of Lathrup, Johnson and Glover sold the Racing Associates operation to Jesse E. "Ebb" Rose from Houston Texas, and team’s mechanics, Hubert “Herb” Porter and Robert "Rocky" Philipp came along in the deal.   


Roger McCluskey's official 1961 IMS photograph
courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection 
IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies 


Roger McCluskey

Roger McCluskey’s 1961 ‘500’ mount was the red and black #22 “Racing Associates Special” Moore “laydown” chassis so called because the 270-cubic inch 4-cylinder Offenhauser racing engine was laid nearly flat on its side just 17 degrees from horizontal.  

Chief Mechanic Denny Moore built the roadster in the John Zink Racing Tulsa Oklahoma shop and it debuted in the 1959 ‘500,’ formally entered by Ellen McKinney Zink, team owner Jack Zink’s wife at that time. California midget standout Bob “Traction” Veith finished the 1959 ‘500’ in twelfth place. The Moore-built Zink roadster was entered for rookie Ebb Rose in the 1960 ‘500’ after Rose alleged received it in trade from Tulsa’s John Zink in exchange for some property according to author Joe Scalzo.

Roger was a 30-year Indianapolis rookie who had driven in six USAC championship races during the 1960 season, first in Arthur Koopman’s Lesovsky dirt car, and then behind the wheel of Phoenix plumbing supplier Harlan Fike’s Offenhauser-powered Kuzma dirt car.  McCluskey born in San Antonio Texas but raised in Tucson Arizona was a long-time racing veteran who began racing locally in 1948 at the Gilpin Sports Stadium and the Tucson rodeo grounds in a jalopy he had built with Hank Arnold. Besides the love of cars, both men shared several other things in common; both wound up in Tucson after their families moved there because of their mothers’ health and both men were accomplished welders and car builders. 

By 1950, Roger became a regular winner in jalopies, and before long he moved into California Roadster Association (CRA) roadsters which soon morphed into sprint cars. His success with the CRA led to racing sprint cars with USAC ‘back east” then onto USAC championship racing. Just days after he was officially entered for the 1961 ‘500,’ Roger won his first USAC feature on April 23 at Williams Grove Pennsylvania driving for Elmer George. On April 30 McCluskey finished second to AJ Foyt in the 30-lap USAC sprint car feature on the high-banked half-mile at Salem Indiana after Parnelli Jones was black flagged for an oil leak on lap 23. 

McCluskey started the 1961 ‘500’ from 29th position after qualifying with an average of 145.038 miles per hour (MPH) for his ten-lap run. Roger started so far back in the field because he qualified on Saturday May 20, the third day of time trials with 24 cars already qualified for the starting field. Roger quickly passed his 135 MPH rookie test during the first week of practice but then the team struggled to get the car to break above a 144 MPH lap speed.
 
According to a May 19 1961 article in the Tucson Daily Citizen, the Offenhauser engine in Roger’s car ran backwards, and had blown up twice in practice, which had caused minor wall contact once. Roger was quoted in the Citizen article prior to the second weekend of time trials that the reverse running engine caused odd vibrations in the car but that the crew was addressing that issue with new shock absorbers.

As shocking as it might seem to modern race drivers, but many of the stars from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were in action on May 28 at the inaugural race at the 5/8-mile dirt track at Indianapolis Raceway Park in nearby Clermont Indiana. The entry list included five drivers that had failed to qualify for the ‘500’ and three drivers schedule to start the ‘500;’ AJ Foyt, AJ Shepherd, and Roger McCluskey.

After he recorded the quick time during time trials at 27.57 seconds, Roger flipped Mari Hulman George’s “H-O-W Special” (Mari Hulman-George Ober-Roger Wolcott) sprint car in his heat race but escaped with only bruises.  Two days later during the ‘500,’ Roger was involved in one of the most spectacular chain-reaction crashes in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. 

The accident on McCluskey’s 52nd lap began when Don Davis crashed his “Dart-Kart by Rupp Special” Trevis-Offenhauser on the brick main straightaway and the car came to a stop in the middle of the track. Apparently dazed from the crash, Davis crawled out and walked towards the pit dividing wall. A.J. Shepherd in the “Travelon Trailer Special” crashed to avoid hitting Davis, and then Roger McCluskey and Bill Cheesbourg in the Dean Van Lines Special” came onto the scene, their cars collided and both hit the pit dividing wall.

The author's copy of the press photograph that showed the lap 51 carnage


Lloyd Ruby swerved towards the outside of the track to avoid the carnage and Jack Turner ran over the right rear wheel of Ruby’s “Autolite Special.” Turner’s “Bardahl Special” flipped end-over-end down the main straightaway, as Johnny Boyd and Dick Rathmann miraculously avoided Turner’s flipping car.  When the dust finally settled, all the cars except Ruby’s were eliminated and McCluskey finished his first ‘500’ in 27th position.

The 1961 race marked the first of eighteen Indianapolis 500-mile races for Roger, and when he led in 1962, he became the 100th man to lead the Indianapolis ’500.’  During his career, Roger captured the USAC national sprint car championship twice, in 1963 and 1966, was the 1969 and 1970 USAC stock car champion, and won the 1973 USAC national driving championship, the year that Roger recorded his best Indianapolis ‘500’ finish of third place.  

Roger was a versatile driver, as he also raced in the 1967 Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am series), the 1966 and 1967 24 hours of LeMans as part of the Ford team, and the inaugural International Race of Champions (IROC) series in 1974. Roger retired from driving in 1979 and went to work for USAC as its competition director and later became the club’s Chief Operating Officer until he passed away in 1993, just five days after his 63rd birthday.



Ebb Rose's official 1961 IMS photograph 
courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection 
IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies 


Ebb Rose

In the center of the photograph is Ebb Rose seated in his pink and black #86 “Meyer Speedway Special” a Porter “laydown” chassis. Rose born in Huntsville Texas on February 27 1925 was the son of the founder of JH Rose Trucking Company.  Fascinated by fast cars, Ebb owned and raced midget race cars and stock cars at Houston area tracks that included Playland Park and Joseph F. Meyer Speedway.

In addition, Ebb also provided race cars for Lloyd Ruby and others. Midget driver Cecil Elliott, the assistant manager at JH Rose trucking, died at the 1/5-mile Dallas Fair Park Speedway on the Texas State Fairgrounds while driving Ebb’s midget on November 10 1957, shortly before that track closed forever to make way for a new livestock coliseum.

Rose also owned a fleet of sports cars: English built AC Ace, the second of three Chevrolet Corvette SR-2 racers which he later sold to John Mecom, and a pair of Maserati sports cars - a 300A and a 450S, and a Kurtis Kraft 5ooS sports car which he raced nationally as the “Micro Lube Special.” Despite a lack of previous championship racing experience, Ebb was allowed to enter the 1960 Indianapolis ‘500’ based on his three years sports car racing experience mainly in the Southeast. After he failed to qualify for the 1960 ‘500,’ Ebb appeared at four other USAC championship races during the 1960 season also without success.

Rose’s 1961 ‘500’ the Porter laydown was essentially a copy of the Racing Associates Ludwig “Lujie” Lesvosky-built laydown which had qualified for the 1959 ‘500’ pole position. Porter and Phillip, the Racing Associates mechanics built the new car over the winter of 1960-1961 after Ebb Rose had purchased the team.

When Racing Associates was first formed by the triumvirate of Lathrop, Johnson and Glover, the team’s initial chief mechanic was Danny Quella, who was later replaced by Roy Sherman. Herb Porter had come to work for Racing Associates after the end of the 1959 USAC season after eight years of running the Roger Wolcott racing team. 

Wolcott’s history of race car ownership stretched back to 1949 when he was a partner in Indianapolis Race Cars Inc. the group which purchased the assets of the Boyle Racing Team after Harry ‘Cotton” Hennings’ death. During the years, Wolcott employed drivers that included Ed Elisian, Jim McWithey, Len Sutton, and Rodger Ward.

Team owner Roger Gould Wolcott an Indianapolis investment broker was found dead on November 1 1958 after the deputies that responded to citizen calls found Wolcott’s Mercedes Benz sedan rammed into a light pole adjacent to the entrance to Marion College on Cold Springs Road in Indianapolis. Although Wolcott’s throat was found badly cut, the Marion County Coroner ruled Wolcott died from a coronary occlusion, and that the cut occurred postmortem. 

The coroner surmised that Wolcott sensed trouble, and leaned across the interior get his bottle of nitroglycerin pills out of the glove box when he was fatally stricken and that the glove box door cut Wolcott’s throat as he was thrown forward after the car’s impact with the pole.  For the 1959 USAC season, Wolcott’s cars were entered by Porter and raced under the banner of the “Roger G. Wolcott Memorial Racing Team.”

Bob “Rocky” Philipp who lived in Culver City California also worked for Racing Associates when it was still owned by Lathrop, Johnson and Glover. “Rocky” notably worked with driver George Amick on apple orchard owner Norm Demler’s team in 1958  but was fired by Demler after the  1958 ‘500’ after the owner was angry that his car finished second 27.65 seconds behind Jimmy Bryan’s similar laydown machine.

In 1959, “Rocky” worked on the new shocking pink colored Racing Associates Lesovsky laydown that Johnny Thomson qualified for the pole position for the Indianapolis ‘500,’ and finished in third position after running much of the last half of the race of three cylinders. Philipp was credited with the creation of the first in-car drinking system for the 1959 ‘500’  by rigging a rubber hot water bottle next to Thomson’s knee which by pressing against the bottle, fed water up to Thomson’s mouth through a tube.

Team owner and rookie driver Ebb Rose qualified for his first USAC race, the 1961 ‘500’ from the 19th starting position after he posted a four-lap qualifying average of 144.338 MPH as the last car to make a run on the first day of time trials. The “Meyer Speedway Special” had an undistinguished run in the 1961 ‘500’ as it retired from running in 13th place when a connecting rod in the Offenhauser engine broke on lap 93 and Ebb Rose was scored as the 23rd place finisher. 

For the 1962 ‘500,’ Ebb Rose drove the same Porter laydown chassis dubbed the “Rose Truck Line Special” to the final race distance to a fourteenth place finish which earned him membership into the Champion Spark Plug 100 MPH club. Don Davis drove the Lesovsky laydown to a fourth place finish only 48 seconds behind winner Rodger Ward.

In the 1963 ‘500,’ the Porter chassis with Sheraton-Thompson sponsorship was driven by Bob Veith but the car retired early with an engine problem. Ebb Rose meantime had purchased a new Watson chassis for the 1963 ‘500’ which shockingly failed to qualify. Rose then jumped into AJ Foyt’s backup “Sheraton-Thompson Special” Watson chassis and bumped his way into the field and finished the ‘500’ in fourteenth place.

The 1963 ‘500’ unfortunately proved to be Rose’s last 500-mile race at Indianapolis.  Absent from the Speedway in 1964, Ebb’s Watson roadster was qualified by Johnny Rutherford and raced as the “Bardahl Special.”  Rose crashed the 1964 “Rocky" Phillip built rear-engine car in practice during May 1965, while Rutherford made the field in the team’s Halibrand–Ford and Bobby Grim missed the field in the Racing Associates Watson roadster. 

Rose was entered for the 1966 Indianapolis ‘500’ but never appeared before USAC officials. Meanwhile the Racing Associates Watson roadster painted “Fontana Rose,” a 1963 Cadillac factory color and now powered by a turbocharged Offenhauser made the starting field driven by Bobby Grim. Considered the last roadster to start the Indianapolis 500-mile race it was eliminated in the pile-up on the main straightaway and never completed a lap.

Ebb Rose returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1967 in the gold with black trimmed Mallard “roadster” built by Jim Hurtubise but crashed in practice in his final appearance as a driver at the Speedway and the final hurrah for Rose’s Racing Associates team at the Speedway.  Ebb Rose died in Houston Texas on August 27 2007.  

Paul Goldsmith's official 1959 IMS photograph
 courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection 
IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies 


Paul Goldsmith

The driver in the car at the far right  of the photograph is 35-year old Paul Goldsmith ready for his fourth Indianapolis ‘500’ behind the wheel of the #10 black and gold “Racing Associates Special” Offenhauser-powered Lesvosky laydown roadster. Goldsmith’s first career was as a successful American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Grand National motorcycle racer during the late 1940s through the mid-1950s as he scored five career AMA national wins.

His first AMA national victory came in 1952 aboard a Harley-Davidson at the Milwaukee Mile but his most famous victory came at the 1953 Daytona 200 held on the original beach course.  By the time Paul won his final AMA event at Schererville, Indiana on August 7 1955 he had started his stock car racing career, and in 1956, he became a full-time Chevrolet NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Racing) racer teamed with car owner and mechanic Henry “Smokey” Yunick.

Goldsmith won his first NASCAR race at Langhorne Pennsylvania on September 23 1956 after he led 182 of the 300 laps. Paul notched four NASCAR victories in 1957 and in the final Daytona 500 stock car race held on the beach course in 1958 he started from the pole in Yunick’s “Best Damn Garage” 1958 Pontiac and led all 39 of the 4-mile laps on his way to victory, five years after his Daytona motorcycle win.  

1958 also marked Goldsmith’s first appearance in the Indianapolis 500-mile race as he drove Yunick’s “City of Daytona Beach Special” Kurtis Kraft 500G2.  Unfortunately, after he qualified sixteenth, Goldsmith in the black and gold #31 roadster was swept up in the massive accident in the third turn of the first lap of the race.  Jerry Unser ran over the back of Goldsmith’s car which launched Unser’s “McKay Bulldog” over the outer retaining wall and Paul finished in 30th place.  Goldsmith became the first and perhaps only man to compete in the Daytona Beach motorcycle race, the Daytona Beach stock car race and the Indianapolis ‘500.’

Goldsmith returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 1959 and 1960 500-mile races behind the wheel of Norm Demler’s Quinn Epperly-built laydown roadster and scored fifth and third place finishes respectively. In 1961 driving for Ebb Rose, Goldsmith qualified at 144.741 MPH and started from 17th position the best starting spot of the Racing Associates team in 1961. Paul’s #10 car was eliminated from the 1961 ‘500’ with the same failure as Ebb Rose’s car, a broken connecting rod on lap 160 and he placed fourteenth only because of the high level of attrition, as only twelve cars finished. 

Beginning in 1960, Goldsmith directed his efforts towards USAC stock car racing with car owner and mechanic Ray Nichels and was the 1960 points runner-up before he captured the USAC stock car championship in 1961 and 1962.  Goldsmith and Nichels still ran the occasional NASCAR race, and it was Goldsmith’s appearance in the November 3 1963 NASCAR race on the Riverside International Raceway road course led to Goldsmith becoming famous or infamous depending on one’s point of view.

NASCAR and USAC had a long-running feud that dated to the formation of NASCAR and NASCAR’s sanctioning of sprint, midget and championship racing events during the early 1950’s. In May 1954 the dispute reached the boiling point when Indianapolis Motor Speedway guards escorted NASCAR founder “Big Bill” France off the Speedway grounds. “We have a long-standing disagreement with NASCAR on what constitutes good racing,” explained Harry McQuinn, the AAA chief steward.

The USAC and NASCAR organizations briefly called a truce in 1961 after a group of drivers, headed by Curtis Turner and Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, met with the Teamsters union organizers. According to an article published in National Speed Sport News in August 1961 the drivers met to explore the formation of a “union of all professional drivers cutting across NASCAR, USAC, IMCA and other boundaries.” Of note in the article was the attendance at the Chicago area meeting by “several Indianapolis race drivers including Don Branson and Paul Goldsmith.”

The war escalated in 1962 when USAC refused to allow USAC drivers to compete in the 1962 Daytona ‘500.’ USAC had granted Goldsmith a special exemption in 1961 but refused to do so in 1962 despite the fact that the Daytona 500 was sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) international sanctioning organization. 

Goldsmith took the refusal personally, telling reporters “the Daytona 500 is FIA approved….I see no reason why USAC should not allow us to run. I can’t understand why USAC doesn’t get up to date. They are living in the past.” Rodger Ward the two-time Indianapolis ‘500’ champion told the same reporter that “USAC should amend our rules to allow all of our drivers to drive in FIA recognized races regardless of the sanctioning body. Our organization must grow with the times.”

USAC had a 1963 season agreement with NASCAR and the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) so USAC drivers were free to compete in NASCAR races for most of the season.   The night before the November 3 1963 NASCAR race at Riverside, USAC issued a warning to its drivers that there would be consequences if they appeared in the 148-lap race, as USAC claimed the agreement had expired at the beginning on November. Drivers Dan Gurney, who had qualified on the pole in the Wood Brothers Ford, AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Rodger Ward and Roger Penske all heeded the USAC warning and withdrew from the event.

Goldsmith did not withdraw from the “Golden State 400,” as he believed he was protected by his FIA international license. On November 5 1963,   Goldsmith was proved wrong as he was suspended by USAC for a period of one year for competing in a race that was not USAC sanctioned and all the points that he has accumulated during 1963 were suspended.

This was not an unprecedented action by an open-wheel sanctioning body, as drivers received lengthy suspensions from the American Automobile Association (AAA) Contest Board for driving in unsanctioned (non-AAA) races. For example 1949 Indianapolis ‘500’ winner Willard “Bill” Holland was suspended for a year after driving in  3-lap Lion’s Charity two-car match race at a Florida dirt track in November 1950.  Holland’s AAA suspension was extended another year after he publicly challenged the AAA and competed in several other “outlaw” races while he was under AAA suspension during 1951.

In early 1964 Goldsmith filed a lawsuit against the United States Auto Club, USAC chairman Thomas Binford and USAC Competition Director Henry Banks for $75000. Goldsmith’s suit also asked for issuance an injunction against the USAC ban that would allow him to compete in the May 3 USAC Stock car “Yankee 300” at Indianapolis Raceway Park and the Indianapolis ‘500.’  

On May 7 1964 Judge Henry Stickler denied Goldsmith’s request for an injunction and dismissed portions of the suit against Binford and Banks but left alive the suit against the USAC organization. Thwarted by the legal system, Goldsmith pressed forward with his fight through international racing politics through his FIA membership.  Later in May 1964 the head of Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS) Charles Moran (a onetime Indianapolis driver)  stated that ACCUS, as the United States representative of the FIA would not permit any foreign drivers to compete in the 1965 Indianapolis ‘500’ unless Goldsmith was reinstated.

In June 1964 there was a contentious meeting of ACCUS members. Tom Binford not only the USAC chairman but also a member of the group of 15 businessmen that owned the Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP) wanted ACCUS to recommend that the 1965 US Grand Prix be held on the IRP road course instead of at Watkins Glen in upstate New York. The other members of the ACCUS which included NASCAR, the SCCA and the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) would not agree until Goldsmith was reinstated by USAC. USAC refused and the US Grand Prix remained at Watkins Glen for 1965.   

Goldsmith continued to race in NASCAR events during 1964, and based on precedence, USAC could have extended the suspension which ran out on November 5 1964 around the same time that Goldsmith’s appeal of Judge Stickler’s ruling was denied. It took time, but the eight-man board of USAC directors finally caved into the international political pressure and Goldsmith was reinstated with full competition privileges by USAC on March 23 1965.

Goldsmith returned to USAC stock car action on May 2 and finished second at IRP in the “Yankee 300” driving Ray Nichels’ Plymouth. Goldsmith was entered for the 1965 Indianapolis ‘500’ as the driver of the new Halibrand “Shrike” chassis owned by first-time ‘500’ entrants Jack Adams, Jack Walls, and Robert Carr with sponsorship from Jack Adams’ Aircraft Sales Corporation.

Paul practiced in the Shrike but encountered problems with the durability of the car’s odd “short stroke” 240-cubic inch Offenhauser engine and never got comfortable in the rear engine machine. The Halibrand chassis which like all eight built in 1965 used 67 individual castings, at least 50 of which were magnesium was formally withdrawn on May 22 and subsequently sold as a roller to Dan Gurney’s All American Racers for use as a back-up car.


The day before the 1965 Indianapolis ‘500,’ Goldsmith started from the pole and led all 150 laps of the USAC stock car race held on the IRP road course. During the course of the 1965 USAC stock car season, Paul won three more races and again wound up the series runner-up. 

Thereafter, Goldsmith concentrated on NASCAR Grand National competition with only an occasional USAC stock car appearance until he retired from driving during the 1969 season. Goldsmith, 90, a longtime pilot, owns and operates a small regional airport, the Griffith-Merrillville Airport south of Chicago will be inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame on May 26. 

2 comments:

  1. I have a picture of Cecil Elliott and my Uncle Howard Dewey when Cecil raced for Dewey and Hendrix Motor Co. A Plymouth dealer on old Hwy 90. Don't know how to get it to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marti Moser This is Mary from the Facebook group .... I would love to have that picture of My grandpa Cecil Elliott if you are giving it away... I don't have but one of my Grandpa Elliott.... you can email me mlmgrisham@gmail.com if you would like...

      Delete