Sunday, June 26, 2016


The racing life and times of Jerry Grant


Part three - 1969 to 1971


courtesy  of the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection 


After the 1968 Indianapolis 500-mile race, Jerry Grant’s career went into decline. As Mark Donohue observed in his book The Unfair Advantage, “Jerry Grant peaked and then practically disappeared. Then he came back and almost won Indianapolis.” Donohue’s analysis may seem harsh, but is supported by Grant’s record.

Grant's Friedkin Bardahl DOHC Ford-powered Eagle made just one more 1968 USAC appearance at the two-heat USAC “Indy 200” at the Indianapolis Raceway Park road course, but failed to complete a lap in either heat race.

In late 1968, Grant’s well-financed car owner Tom Friedkin began to curtail his racing activities to focus on a new business. His friend Carrol Shelby introduced Tom to the officials of the Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan. Shelby Racing Company Inc. was building a preparing a pair Toyota 2000GT sports car for SCCA C Production class racing, and Toyota was looking for United States distributors.

Shelby related later that "I turned it (Toyota’s deal) down because I went to Lee Iacocca, and he told me not to take it because the domestic makers were going to push the Japanese back into the ocean." Friedkin struck an agreement with Toyota and founded Gulf States Toyota (GST) with exclusive rights to distribute Toyota cars in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. 

Rather than being pushed back into the ocean as Iacocca had predicted, GST made Friedkin a billionaire several times over; the company generated $6.9 billion in revenue in 2012 according to Forbes magazine.

1969

For the 1969 season, Friedkin contributed the 1968 Eagle chassis to a new partnership with Seattle car dealer Alan Green, who owned a 1966 Eagle which Johnny Rutherford had driven during the 1968 USAC season.  Grant and the team lost the Bardahl sponsorship to Bobby Unser and Wilke Racing. During the 1969 USAC season Unser campaigned the #1 “Bardahl Special” which mimicked the checkerboard look of Grant’s 1968 entry, except in bright yellow and black livery.

The Friedkin & Green Racing team’s older 1966 Eagle was fitted with a turbocharged Offenhauser engine for Indianapolis while the newer 1968 Eagle was fitted with a Chevrolet 320 cubic inch stock-block engine. At the Phoenix “Jimmy Bryan 150” after Grant qualified mid-pack, the stock-block engine overheated and he retired on the 34th lap.

In addition to the second generation turbocharged Ford and Offenhauser engines, which powered most of the entries, the 1969 Indianapolis 500-mile race entry list boasted a number of “stock block” engines. As far as naturally aspirated stock block, Gurney had his next generation 320 cubic inch Gurney Weslake engine while Andy Granatelli’s STP Racing team had the Plymouth 318-cubic inch engine.  

Jack Brabham entered a pair of  eponymous cars each powered by an Australian aluminum Repco V-8 engine and trucking company owner Max Dudley entered a Gerhardt chassis powered by a fuel-injected 320 cubic inch Chevrolet engine.   

Barney Navarro was back with his unique turbocharged 200-cubic inch inline Rambler six-cylinder engine, while Friedkin and Green Racing entered the 1968 Eagle chassis fitted with an experimental 202-cubic inch turbocharged Chevrolet engine. 

Reportedly a first at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, engine builder Jerry Eisert claimed the engine could develop as much as 700 horsepower and 450 ft./lbs. of torque at 6800 revolutions per minute (RPM). The second Friedkin and Green 1969 Indianapolis entry, the backup 1966 Eagle entry, was powered by a turbocharged Offenhauser engine.

Grant tried both the Friedkin and Green Eagle entries in practice without success, and then tried Jerry Eisert turbocharged Ford entry but still could not find enough speed. During the second weekend of time trials, after the first weekend was washed out by rain, car owner Rolla Vollstedt gave Grant a shot in his #17 Bryant Heating and Cooling Special” backup car.

The Vollstedt crew waved off Grant’s first attempt after three laps of the required four laps on Saturday May 24, then the following day in his final chance to “bump” into the starting field, Grant pulled into the pits after two laps, which ended his chance to join the 1969 Indianapolis 500 starting field. The Friedkin and Green team disbanded after the Indianapolis failure and sold the cars and equipment.

Jerry Grant landed with the low-budget team run by Marvin Webster which had purchased the 1966 Eagle and fitted the chassis with a fuel-injected stock-block Chevrolet engine built by Jerry Eisert. Marvin Webster owner of the Webster Gear Company in Mill Valley California had started racing quarter midgets and midgets with his son during the nineteen fifties, then had spent many years in sports car racing. 

The Webster/Grant team appeared at five 1969 USAC road course races and qualified for two of those races. Grant finished in fourth position, six laps behind winner Gordon Johncock in the ‘Rocky Mountain 150’ at Continental Divide Raceway in Castle Rock Colorado, and  then raced in both two heats of “Dan Gurney 200” contested at Grant’s home race track Seattle International Raceway with mid-pack results. 

1970

Jerry Grant wound up the owner of the former Friedkin and Green 1968 Eagle and after fitting it with new modern bodywork and a 159-cubic inch turbocharged Offenhauser engine, entered it for the 1970 Indianapolis 500 with sponsorship from Nelson Iron Works, a miscellaneous and structural metal fabrication company from Grant's hometown of Seattle Washington.

This photo of Jerry Grant in 1970 at Indianapolis appears courtesy of INDYCAR

In what Grant later described in an interview with respected Associated Press auto racing writer Bloys Britt as “the thinnest of shoe strings,” with only “hot dog money,” Grant practiced little during the month of May 1970. On the final day of time trials, May 23, Grant presented himself for qualifying and then posted a 165.983 MPH four-lap average to “bump out” Steve Krisloff and start in the 29th position.

During the 500-mile grind Grant told Britt “the engine lived, that’s about all I can say. You dare not try to pass anyone for fear the acceleration might overtax your engine. All I did was hang in and drive to finish.”   Grant finished the ’500’ in seventh place, two laps behind Al Unser and earned $$26,977.  

Grant appeared in four other USAC races during 1970; three ovals and one road course. His best finish, a sixth place, came at the ‘Rocky Mountain 150’ at Castle Rock Colorado. Jerry qualified a conservative 21st for the inaugural “California 500” at Ontario Motor Speedway, but couldn’t nurse his #89 Eagle/Offenhauser to the finish as the ignition failed on lap 63. 

1971

For the 1971 Indianapolis 500-mile race, Grant, now 36 years old, was entered as the driver for the newest “super team” Shelby-Dowd Performance, owned by Carroll Shelby and his long-time team manager Al Dowd with mechanic Carroll Smith. The entry was the 1969 AAR ‘Santa Ana” Eagle that had been driven to a second place finish by Dan Gurney in the 1969 ‘500.’ In 1971, it was no longer powered by a Gurney-Weslake engine, but by the latest generation 700-horsepower turbocharged Ford V-8 engine. 

The plan for the Shelby-Dowd team with financial backing from Southern California building material manufacturer Norris Industries, was to compete in all three legs of the USAC $2 million “Silver Crown” at Indianapolis, Ontario and the newest 2-1/2 mile oval Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.   

Shelby has originally started the  1971 USAC program for former funny car drag racing star Danny Ongais until a pre-race practice crash at Phoenix, and after Ongais resigned, Grant was selected as the replacement driver. 

Grant still owned the 1968 Eagle/Offenhauser and he entered it as #78 for Connecticut rookie sports car driver Sam Posey with sponsorship from Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor Restaurant chain. 

Jerry Grant spun the Norris Eagle in practice on May 13 as he exited turn three. The car slid a heart-stopping 540 feet into the infield grass undamaged.  Grant qualified the #92 “Norris Industries Special” on the first day of Indianapolis ‘500’ time trials, on May 22 with a four-lap average of 168.492 MPH. 

Unfortunately, that qualifying speed proved not to be fast enough, and Grant was “bumped out” of the on the following Saturday by Sam Posey in Grant’s own Eagle the "Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor Restaurant Special" with a run that was .284 MPH faster.

Later that day, disaster struck again; as rookie Steve Krisloff in Andy Granatelli’s STP-sponsored turbocharged Ford powered McNamara bumped Posey from the field. The next day found Jerry Grant back behind the wheel of Rolla Vollstedt’s #7 “Bryant Heating and Cooling Special” trying to bump into the starting field for the second time in three years. Once again, Grant made two qualifying attempts but the Vollstedt crew waved off each attempt after just one lap.

After the failure to qualify for the Indianapolis ‘500,’ Grant was replaced as the driver for the Norris Industries team’s other two 1971 races by Jim Malloy. The Shelby-led team disbanded and the Eagle did not race again. It was later found still in it Norris livery and purchased by Ray Evernham who restored it to its 1969 Gurney livery on Evernham's Velocity TV program "Americarna."

After a thirteenth place finish in his own car at the Rex May Classic in Milwaukee the week after the Indidnapolis’500,’ Grant dropped out of the USAC racing scene. Truly, Jerry Grant’s racing career had reached its nadir.  

In our next installment, we'll see how Jerry Grant's career rebounded to new heights

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


The racing life and times of Jerry Grant

Part two - 1967 and 1968


1967

For the 1967 racing season Jerry Grant drove exclusively for Tom Friedkin’s Friedkin Enterprises team, which provided cars for Grant during the season in the United States Auto Club (USAC) championship, National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) Grand National, and the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Canadian-American Challenge (Can-Am) series.

Tom Friedkin was then a Southern California-based 31-year old multi-millionaire who had inherited the majority share of Pacific Southwest Airlines after the death of his parents. Friedkin’s first motorsports involvement dated back to 1965, with his entry of a 1963 Ford for Grant at Riverside and Daytona,  followed by the purchase of the 1965 Impala which was campaigned in four 1965 NASCAR races by former Petty Enterprises driver Jim Paschal with chief mechanic Bill Ellis.
In 1966 Friedkin Enterprises bought a pair of 1966 Plymouths, one of which Paschal and Ellis used to participate in NASCAR sixteen races winning a pair. Jerry Grant drove the second Plymouth in three 1966 NASCAR races  

Jerry Grant’s 1967 racing season began in January as he raced Friedkin’s 1967 Plymouth in the “Motor Trend 500” held over the Riverside International Raceway short 2.62 mile road course. Grant was joined by teammate Paschal and fellow USAC drivers Paul Goldsmith, AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Lloyd Ruby, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, and Gordon Johncock. Grant retired on 74 of the 185 laps with a hole in the car’s radiator.

Rather than racing a sports car in Florida as he had the past two years, Grant returned for his second NASCAR Daytona 500-mile race. The engine in Grant’s Plymouth failed on the fifth lap of his qualifying race which meant he started the ‘500’ in 43rd place in the 50-car starting field. At the end of the 200-lap race, Grant finished fifth, just two laps behind winner Mario Andretti.

Grant and Friedkin planned on a 1967 USAC championship program for the pavement and road races with a 1966 All American Racers (AAR) Eagle chassis, with the program set to start at Indianapolis. The 1967 USAC season opened with the Jimmy Bryan Memorial 150 at Phoenix, where Grant qualified in 10th place with John Klug‘s Eagle chassis which he had driven in the 1966 Indianapolis ’500’ and finished in twelfth place,  thirteen laps behind Lloyd Ruby’s new Mongoose.

As remarkable as it might seem for current fans who have become accustomed to only 33 DW12 single constructor  race cars entered to fill the 33-car field, such as for the recent 100th running of the ‘500,’ the 1967 Indianapolis 500-mile race boasted 77 entries. 
There was a wide variety of cars entered, with a mix of twenty-three different chassis designs and eight different power plants. The variety included Mikey Thompson’s 3-valve per cylinder Chevrolet-based engine, two brand-new front-engine machines, one a front wheel-drive, and a four-wheel drive turbine powered entry.  

Jerry Grant qualified the Friedkin Enterprises #78 1966 Eagle powered by a 255-cubic inch Double Overhead Camshaft (DOHC) Ford engine on May 13, the first day of time trials, with a four-lap average of 162.352 MPH. On that overcast cool and gloomy day, Grant’s speed was the 22nd fastest of the 25 qualified cars.

After the second day of time trials on Sunday May 14 were completely washed out by rain, conditions on the following Saturday May 20, the third day of time trials were much more favorable and after another week of practice, the second weekend qualifiers posted much higher speeds than the first day.
After the field of 33 cars was filled, the “bumping” process began with three cars from the first day replaced by fastest cars. When the 6 PM gun sounded that signaled the end of the third day of time trials Grant’s #78 Eagle was “on the bubble” as the next car in line to be bumped with a full day of qualifying left to go.

The Friedkin team clearly needed a back-up plan and overnight, Tom Friedkin bought a new 1967 Eagle chassis from Dan Gurney. The #42 255-cubic inch Ford DOHC powered car already had two qualifying attempts charged against it  as Formula One driver Paul “Richie” Ginther had waved off two runs as too slow on Saturday May 20th.

The Friedkin team’s advance planning paid off as early on Sunday, the ‘500’ defending champion, Graham Hill, who had struggled through the month of May, “bumped” the #78 Friedkin Enterprises entry from the field with a four-lap average of 164.099 MPH. 

Grant in the #42 1967 Eagle purchased from Dan Gurney
courtesy  of the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection 
Grant took some practice laps to familiarize himself with the 1967 Eagle then with the #42 car’s final qualifying attempt, and then he “bumped” Belgian Formula One driver Lucien Bianchi’s Vollstedt/Ford from the field. Grant’s Eagle was the final car to bump into the field and relegated Bianchi, as the fastest non-qualifier to first alternate status,

Grant started the 1967 Indianapolis 500-mile race from the inside of the eleventh row on Tuesday May 30. Rain began to fall after 18 laps which forced the ‘500’ to be halted and scheduled for completion the following day. Grant’s machine retired on Wednesday on lap 162 as the car’s exhaust trailed smoke into the pit area and retirement. The cause of the smoke was later discovered to be the result of broken piston oil rings in Ford 255-cubic inch engine.    

An interesting sub-plot to the 1967 Indianapolis ‘500’ story is the tale of John Klug’s 1966 Eagle which Grant had driven in the 1966 running of the race. It was initially entered in the 1967 ‘500’ for American Formula One and sports car racer Bob Bondurant as a teammate to German/Austrian Formula One driver Jochen Rindt. In practice on May 9, the throttle stuck on Rindt’s brand-new 1967 “Pacesetter Homes Special” Eagle and the resulting crash and fire against the turn one wall virtually destroyed the new car.

Although Bondurant passed the final phase of his rookie driving test on May 10, he was released from the Pacesetter team as Rindt took over the #87 1966 Eagle. Bondurant picked up a ride in George Walther’s “Dayton Disc Brake Special” supercharged Offenhauser powered Lola T90 but the crew never got the ex-Mecom car ready to qualify.

Rindt qualified the #87 Pacesetter Eagle on May 20 with an average of 162.389 MPH but was bumped the following day by his friend Jackie Stewart in the ‘Bowes Seal Fast Special’ Lola/Ford. John Klug meanwhile had arranged a deal with Gurney for Rindt to attempt to qualify the #48 Eagle powered by an early version of the 305-cubic inch Gurney-Weslake Ford engine. Gurney had practiced the #48 car earlier in the month but parked it in favor of a 255-cubic inch DOHC Ford powered Eagle.  

Rindt in the #48 Eagle then “bumped” Gary Congdon in AJ Foyt’s backup Sheraton-Thompson Lotus/Ford out of the line-up and started the race from the 32nd position. On Race Day, Rindt’s Eagle, clearly down on power, circulated around in the back of the pack until lap 108 when a valve in the engine broke. During his interview on the Speedway’s public address system, Rindt expressed bitterness at the whole experience and claimed he would never return. 

Grant appeared in ten more USAC championship races in the Friedkin Enterprises Eagle/Ford over the balance of the 1967 season but recorded only one top-ten finish, in the second 95-mile heat of the “Labatt Indy” race at the Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Canada.

1968

For 1968 Tom Friedkin expanded his motorsports horizons as he sponsored the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) AA/Fuel Dragster of Larry Stellings and Bobby Tapia which briefly held the national quarter-mile record at 6.54 seconds and 230 MPH during 1968.



Friedkin also entered into a partnership for co-ownership of the ‘Miss Budweiser’ unlimited hydroplane team with Florida beer distributor Bernie Little. The Rolls-Royce Merlin-powered “Miss Budweiser” would capture the American Power Boat Association (APBA) high point championship three years in succession between 1969 and 1971 driven by Bill Sterett in 1969, then by Dean Chenoweth.

Despite winning four races during the 1967 NASCAR season, what some might have called a decent season, it paled in comparison to Richard Petty’s 27-win season and team owner Friedkin fired Jim Paschal at the end of 1967 but retained mechanic Bill Ellis.

Friedkin opened the 1968 NASCAR season Jerry Grant and USAC stock car star Norm Nelson at the January 1968 NASCAR race at Riverside and then Grant with Charlie Glotzbach at Daytona. Grant drove in three more NASCAR races through March and April 1968 at Bristol, Tennessee, Atlanta Georgia and North Wilkesboro North Carolina and scored three consecutive top-ten finishes. With the Indianapolis ‘500’ fast approaching, Friedkin hired NASCAR veteran drivers Paul Goldsmith and Curtis Turner to drive his 1968 Plymouth Road Runner stock cars while Grant was in Indiana.

Friedkin Enterprises entered two Eagles for the 1968 Indianapolis 500-mile race, a new 1968 turbocharged Ford-powered #78 “Bardahl Special” AAR Eagle with the team’s 1966 Eagle as the #76 backup car.  Fred Sewell of Needham Massachusetts served as the team’s USAC chief mechanic, and Sewell greeted Grant to Indianapolis in May with a tape label on the dash of the new car which read “this is a race car not a taxi cab” as shown in a photograph in Karl Ludvigson’s book Gurney’s Eagles.   

The five 1968 Eagles built for Indianapolis designed by former Lola engineer Tony Southgate featured a lower flatter nose due to the use of outboard suspension assemblies. The car’s main tub was also lower in profile, with a laid-back windscreen and a body/engine cover which ended with a squared off tail section instead of the earlier rounded tail used in 1966 and 1967 designs.  

The five new Eagles sported a variety of power plants. Roger McCluskey’s car, owned by Coca-Cola millionaire investor Lindsey Hopkins and Bobby Unser’s owned by Bob Wilke used the new turbocharged 159 cubic inch four-cylinder inline Offenhauser engine which was claimed to produce 625 horsepower for qualifying.

Dan Gurney’s personal Eagle used a nitromethane blend with methanol to obtain 525-horsepower for qualifying from his pushrod stock-block Mark 4 Gurney-Eagle Ford V-8 power plant. The second AAR Eagle team car, assigned to the reigning Formula One world champion New Zealander Denis Hulme, was equipped with a normally aspirated 255-cubic inch Ford DOHC V-8 engine.   


A scan of a Champion Spark Plug Highway Safety Team
 jumbo postcard from the author's collection 


Grant’s Friedkin entry resplendent with its striking black-and-white checkerboard livery and the Bardahl logo emblazoned in gold leaf,  was one of six cars entered for the 1968 ‘500’ equipped with the new Ford turbocharged Ford 159-cubic inch V-8 engine. At high boost levels, the Schwitzer turbocharged Ford engine suffered both head gasket and fuel distribution issues which resulted in burned pistons.

Al Unser and Carl Williams both crashed the Ford turbocharged Retzloff Chemical racing team Lola backup car in practice, so only five of the new Ford engines made the 33-car starting field. In qualifying Mario Andretti led the turbocharged Ford contingent in his own “Overseas National Airways Special” Brawner Hawk with a four-lap average of 167.691 MPH to start fourth, followed by Al Unser in sixth starting slot with a 167.069 MPH average.

Grant’s Goodyear-shod Eagle was the slowest qualifier on the first day, was edged by just ¼ of a mile per hour by former Colorado supermodified pilot Jim Malloy in the similarly powered Firestone-shod “Jim Robbins Seat Belt Special.”  The turbocharged Ford pair started alongside one another in the fifth row.


A scanned photo of Grant in the NASCAR Plymouth from the 
1968 Fall Edition of Racing Pictorial 


For Grant and the Friedkin team it had been critical to qualify the first weekend, so Jerry could head to Charlotte Motor Speedway to qualify and race in the NASCAR “World 600” in Friedkin’s 1968 Plymouth Road Runner.  In modern day terms, Grant “did the double,” although in those days, NASCAR didn’t dare schedule their 600-mile stock car race on the same day as the Indianapolis 500-mile race.

Grant qualified the metallic blue #15 Friedkin Enterprises 1968 Plymouth at 155.005 MPH for 13th starting positon, five spots behind his new teammate Curtis Turner. On May 26, the field of forty-four rumbling NASCAR stock cars took the green flag under threatening skies, and the red flag came out on lap 108 for rain. After a two-hour three-minute delay which included the use of low-flying helicopters to dry the Charlotte track, the ‘World 600’ resumed but was quickly halted after just 16 laps when rain fell a second time. The drivers, crews and fans waited another 58 minutes until the track was dried again before racing resumed.

Later on leader Elzie Wylie “Buddy” Baker’s 255th lap, the skies opened up again, and this time the 600-mile race was halted for good. Grant was credited with a twelfth place finish, scored seven laps behind Baker. The actual running of the ‘World 600’ itself took three hours and four minutes, while the rain delays totaled three hours and one minute.     

While Grant was waiting out the rain delays in North Carolina, the Sunday time trials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were completely washed out so the last day of qualifying to fill the 1968 Indianapolis ‘50’ starting field took place on Monday May 27. Carl Williams qualified three-time winner AJ Foyt’s #84 Coyote backup car in 28th position at 162.332 MPH as the fifth turbocharged Ford powered entry in the field.

Also on Monday the 27th, the Friedkin backup Eagle was given to Jerry Titus, a motorsports journalist and part-time racer turned full-time professional racer from Long Island New York, to attempt to “bump” into the starting field.  The Bardahl #76 was Titus’ fourth different car during the month of May 1968. After he passed his rookie test on May 5 in engine builder Carroll Horton’s Marathon entry, a Lotus 29 replica powered by a DOHC Ford engine, Jerry tested Horton’s other car before he left Indianapolis in order to compete in the May 12 SCCA Trans-Am race.

During a practice session on Saturday May 25, Titus crashed Northern California fuel injection wizard Barney Navarro’s six-cylinder 200-cubic inch turbocharged Rambler-powered 1964 Watson rear-engine chassis in turn two.  As qualifying for the 1968 ‘500’ drew to a close on Monday, Titus attempted to qualify the Friedkin Enterprises 1966 Eagle/DOHC Ford, but his laps were too slow to bump into the field.

On Race Day Thursday May 30, 1968 Joe Leonard’s four-wheel drive STP Lotus turbine quickly jumped into the lead, while on the second lap, Andretti’s turbocharged Ford pitted trailing smoke from a burned piston as the first turbocharged Ford retirement.

Al Unser pitted his “Retzloff Chemical Special” turbocharged Ford Lola for routine service on lap 39 and the crew was forced to leap into action and extinguish a fire near the turbocharger. Unser returned to the race but on his next lap, a wheel which had not been tightened fell off and Unser crashed in turn one. Two of the mighty turbocharged Fords were on the sidelines.  

Shortly after Lloyd Ruby took over the race lead from Bobby Unser, Grant made several stops to attempt to remedy an oil leak, but the Bardahl Eagle was retired on lap 60. 

None of the turbocharged Fords finished the ‘500.’ Four laps later, Malloy’s turbocharged Ford withdrew with a broken rear end, the same problem that defending ‘500’ champion AJ Foyt suffered twenty laps later, which left just one of the new Fords in the race, the machine of Carl Williams, who then crashed and the car caught fire on the backstretch on lap 163.

In our next installment, we’ll examine the low points of Jerry Grant’s career from the 1969 through 1971     

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


The racing life and timesof Jerry Grant
part one- his early career



Jerry Grant, born in Seattle Washington in 1935, an All-City football star in high school who played football in college, began racing sports cars in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) regional events in the Northwest in the late nineteen fifties in a Chrysler-powered Kurtis Kraft sports car. In 1960 and 1961, Grant hired on to race in SCCA events on the West Coast in Yakima imported car dealer Richard Hahn’s $14,000 3-liter (183 cubic inch) V-12 Ferrari 250 Testarossa.

During those two seasons, Grant won 27 races, including the first two Rose Cup Grand Prix races and at one point at least nine races in a row. Grant was crowned the 1961 SCCA Northwest Modified Sports Car championship and Northwest Driver of the Year.  

Grant made his first appearance on the national stage as a co-driver with Pat Pigott in a GT class Chevrolet Corvette in the 12 hours of Sebring. 1962 also marked a key point in Grant’s career as he met Seattle oil additive magnate Ole Bardahl and began to carry Bardahl sponsorship on his race cars.  

Later in the 1962 season, Grant continued to race Hahn’s Ferrari, but also competed in West Coast races of the United States Auto Club (USAC) Road Racing Championship (an early precursor to the Can-Am series) in his own Buick-powered Lotus 19 sports car.

Grant’s 1963 racing season opened in February in Florida where he drove Seattle Chevrolet dealer Alan Green’s Corvette Sting Ray at Daytona and Sebring. Grant then returned to the West Coast and raced his Bardahl-sponsored aluminum 215 cubic inch Buick-powered Lotus 19 in the SCCA United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) (the direct predecessor to the Can-Am series) events and Green’s Corvette in SCCA regional events.

Jerry Grant's official IMS 1964 photo


1964

Grant continued to build his national sports car racing reputation in 1964 as the driver of the Nickey Chevrolet-sponsored Corvette Sting Ray and the Chevrolet -powered Cheetah GT sports car built by Don Edmunds and Bill Thomas with support from Alan Green.  Grant made his first international appearance at the famed Targa Floria road race in Italy (the world's oldest sports car race) and won the over 3-liter GT class in a 289 cubic inch Ford powered Shelby Cobra in the first of many pairings with Dan Gurney.

In May, Jerry Grant made his first appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the driver of the new Bardahl-sponsored Gerhardt rear-engine creation. Bardahl Lubricants, the top-selling engine oil additive in the United States during the nineteen fifties, provided sponsorship of race cars in the Indianapolis ‘500’ as early as 1950, first with car owner Tom Marchese, then later with car owners that included Andy Granatelli, Ed Walsh, and Pat Clancy.

Beginning in 1959, Bardahl sponsored cars at the Speedway entered by Fred Gerhardt, usually driven by Northwest racer Jack Turner until Turner retired in 1962 after his third flip in three years at the Speedway.

The Offenhauser-powered machine Grant drove at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1964 was a brand-new rear-engine monocoque design built by Gerhardt at his Commercial Truck Body Inc. plant in Fresno. The new Gerhardt copied many details of the 1963 Lotus 29, except for the driver position. It was by design, or because of his height and bulk, the 6-foot-4 inch tall Grant appeared more exposed and more upright in the Gerhardt cockpit than the Lotus 29 driver position.

Grant made a qualifying attempt on the first Sunday of time trials, but after two laps below 150 MPH, the Gerhardt crew waved off the attempt and the car did not make another attempt to qualify for the 33-car starting field.  

While this first Gerhardt rear engine machine suffered the same non-qualifying fate as several other brand new cars built by Americans such as the cars from Troutman-Barnes and Don Edmunds, nonetheless, Gerhardt received orders for two new rear engine cars from Pete Salemi and Ernie Ruiz for the 1965 ‘500.’  All three new 1965 Gerhardt chassis plus the revised 1964 chassis made the 1965 Indianapolis ‘500’ starting field. 

1965

Early in the 1965 season, Grant co-drove in the Daytona 2000-kilometer race and the Sebring 12-hour race with Dan Gurney in the 327-cubic inch Ford-powered Lotus 19 entered by Gurney's new All-American Racers team with sponsorship from the Lotus' former owner John Klug’s Pacesetter Homes. In early May, Grant returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his second attempt to make the starting field of the most famous race in the world.
Scan of a postcard of Jerry Grant's rookie ride in 1965

For the 1965 Indianapolis 500-mile race, Grant was assigned to drive the #48 “Bardahl/MG Liquid Suspension Special,” one of the three Offenhauser-powered cars built by Joe Huffaker during 1963. Owned by San Francisco imported car importer distributor and dealer Kjell Qvale, these unique machines used components of the MG 1100 sedan Hydrolastic™ suspension system. The car that Grant drove had been entered in the 1964 ‘500’ for Mexican rookie driver Pedro Rodriquez, who had crashed it beyond immediate repair in practice.

Grant’s teammates on the 1965 Qvale team, Walt Hansgen and Bob Veith, had both driven for the team in the 1964 ‘500.’ Both of the veteran drivers assisted rookie Grant with the set up his car for qualifying and the race. Grant easily passed his Speedway refresher test, witnessed by three veteran drivers and USAC Chief Observer Llewelyn “Ike” Welch on May 14.

Grant qualified the yellow with back trim #48  “Bardahl/MG Liquid Suspension Special” in 17th starting position with a four-lap average of 154.606 miles per hour (MPH), the slowest first day qualifier.  Perhaps it was Grant’s weight, reported as 215 pounds that resulted in his car being almost two miles an hour slower than Veith and one mile hour slower than Hansgen.  On race day, Grant’s was the first of the Qvale cars to retire with a broken magneto on lap 30.

1966

Grant raced Tom Friedkin’s red 1965 Chevrolet Impala in the January 1966 NASCAR race and again finished in 11th place. Grant’s performance at LeMans in 1965 in the Cobra Daytona Coupe had  impressed Carrol Shelby enough that he paired Jerry with Dan Gurney in one of the 427-cubic inch powered Shelby American Racing Team-managed Ford GT40 Mark II entries for the 24 hours of Daytona.

Gurney and Grant were leading with just minutes to go when the car’s engine failed and they were scored in second place based on laps completed behind Ford GT40 teammates Lloyd Ruby and Ken Miles. 

At the Sebring 12-hour race, once again the car of Gurney and Grant seemed snake bitten. The pair’s pole-winning Ford GT40 was the last away after it refused to start, but Gurney passed 28 cars on the first lap and quickly seized the lead. 

Grant and Gurney held the race lead in the last hour when unbelievably the engine in their 427-cubic inch Ford engine broke. Based on the number of laps completed, the #3 Ford GT40 would have placed second again just one lap  behind Ruby and Miles, but the car was disqualified because Gurney pushed the disabled car across the start/finish line. 

Grant had a busy May 1966, as in addition to his Indianapolis 500-mile race entry, Jerry was scheduled to race in the SCCA USRRC series behind the wheel of the All-American Racers 305-cubic inch Weslake Ford-powered Lola T70. Jerry had qualified the Lola on the pole for the first two of the three USRRC rounds, but the Lola fell out of all three races with mechanical problems. 
The Pacesetter crew helps Jerry Grant strap in during 1966

At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Grant was entered in Los Angeles area homebuilder John Klug’s brand new 1966 Eagle based on Len Terry’s Lotus 38 design powered by a Ford double overhead camshaft (DOHC) 255-cubic inch engine.  The dark blue with gold trim #88 “Bardahl Pacesetter Homes Special” was tended to by Klug’s long-time chief mechanic Roy Campbell. 

Grant’s practice session was cut short on Saturday May 7 after a piece of debris punctured the radiator of the #88 Eagle. Grant then flew west overnight to race the AAR Lola-Ford in the USRRC event at Laguna Seca Raceway in California. Grant arrived at the track just two hours before the race, started at the tail of field with no practice or qualifying laps, but climbed to fourth place before he retired just before half distance with a blown head gasket in the Ford engine.  

Six days later, on the first day of the Indianapolis ‘500’ time trials, Grant comfortably qualified the Eagle for the starting field with the tenth fastest time of the day, 160.335 MPH, to claim his starting spot on the inside of the fourth row. Although he listed his hometown as Santa Ana California, several local Indiana newspapers claimed Grant was an honorary Hoosier, as his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Grant had recently settled in the Cass County community of Logansport.

With his car safely in the starting field, Grant was free to leave the following weekend to race in the $10,000 purse Vanderbilt Cup race at the 2.86-mile Bridgehampton Road Course set in the sand dunes on Long Island New York. In qualifying on Saturday May 21, Grant set the fastest speed at 103.79 to edge out local racer Sherman Decker’s Lola T-70.

On Sunday Jerry Grant dominated the 200-mile feature race, the fourth round of the 1966 USRRC series, and finished in a track record time of two hours and two minutes. Jerry’s Lola lapped all of the other 34 cars in the race at least once except for second-place finisher Lothar Motschenbacher’ s McLaren.

Days before the Indianapolis 500-mile race, sportswriter Ed Duncklemann handicapped the field for the 1966 Indianapolis ‘500,’ as he noted that pole-sitter Mario Andretti “drives Indy like a dirt track, barrel up to the turn, brake hard, toss the car left and stand on it.”

The writer classified Dan Gurney as “our pick as the best all-round driver in the country, while Jerry Grant was described as an “often non-finishing charger, but fast, faster than Gurney.”  Jimmy Clark “could make it two in a row,” according to Duncklemann, while Graham Hill was “dependable, unlucky, and hasn’t had a winning mood in some time.”
Grant in #88 before the chaotic start of the 1966 '500'
with Jackie Stewart in #43 and Billy Foster in #21 alongside

No one could have predicted what happened at the start of the 1966 ‘500’ with 16 cars involved in the crash that eliminated ten cars on the spot. Grant, whose car had gained fluorescent green paint on the nose for race day, started in the same row as Billy Foster who was later blamed for triggering the accident, but made a clean start.

Gurney’s Eagle was eliminated, with both the left side wheels knocked off, while Leonard, who started alongside, escaped the carnage with just flat-spotted tires and finished the race in ninth place.

Rookie Graham Hill inherited the lead after his teammate Jackie Stewart’s engine broke late in the race and took the checkered flag first although second-place Jimmy Clark was convinced he had won. Jerry Grant’s Eagle was the last car running at the finish, and he was flagged with 167 laps completed and credited with a tenth place finish.

Later in July at the 1966 24 hours of LeMans, Grant and Gurney were again paired as a team, this time in the red #3 Ford GT40 and once again mechanical misfortune befell them. Gurney qualified the car for the pole position, took the race lead on the third lap, and built up a commanding lead during the early hours of the race. 

During the night the #1 Ford GT40 car driven by the team of Ken Miles and Denis Hulme (Miles' regular teammate Lloyd Ruby had broken his back in a plane crash) caught the red #3 and the two Fords traded the lead back and forth throughout the night.

However, in the 17th hour, with 257 laps completed, Gurney and Grant were out as the 427-cubic inch Ford engine suffered terminal overheating due to a holed radiator. Ford GT40s finished in first, second, and a third place but Miles and Hulme were cheated out of the victory in a controversial finish staged by Ford’s racing boss Leo Beebe. 

Jerry made two more USAC starts in 1966; he finished tenth at the special non-championship race held on the Fuji road course in Japan driving the “Harrison Special” for Jerry Eisert, and then fell out after 31 laps with mechanical failure in his first appearance on a short oval at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway in Klug’s #88 Bardahl Eagle.
We'll continue with Jerry Grant's career in our next installment.
The photographs that accompany this article appear courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


The controversial 1948 Milwaukee 100

In recent years, there has been a lot of criticism of INDYCAR’s officiating of races but some recent research has found that head-scratching decisions are nothing new, witness the bizarre events that surrounded the 100-mile American Automobile Association (AAA) championship race held on August 15 1948 at the Milwaukee Mile.
 
 
 

In 1948, the Wisconsin Centennial Exposition held at the State Fair Park in Milwaukee from August 7 to August 29 celebrated Wisconsin’s leadership roles in agriculture, food production, manufacturing, and transportation. Racing of all types was an important part of the Wisconsin Centennial Exposition with a “twenty day program of speed” on the slightly banked one-mile fairground dirt track. .

The racing schedule opened with midget heat races on August 7 with the midget 100-lap feature on Sunday the 8th, followed by ‘hot rod’ races on August 9, with races for the AAA ‘big cars’ scheduled for August 10 and 11.  Motorcycle racing was on tap on August 12, and then on Friday the 13th the track hosted the “Jimmy Lynch and the Death Dodgers” auto thrill show and antique automobile races.  

The 100-lap AAA championship car race was on tap for Sunday August 15. The schedule then called for four days of harness horse racing before Frank R Winkley’s “All- American Thrill Circus” auto thrill show returned the track action to four wheels instead of four legs.

Something new was on the card for August 21 and 22, with stock car races that climaxed in a 100-lap feature before four more days of “Grand Circuit” horse racing. Motorcycle racing returned to the schedule on August 27th and 28th before the grand finale on the 29th, the track’s inaugural 200-mile AAA championship race.

At 2 PM on Friday August 7, the midgets kicked off the racing action with qualifying, followed by a five-lap dash for the fastest qualifiers, and then three-ten-lap heat races to set the 33-car field. Admission into the grandstand for the first weekend of races was 30 cents for children and 60 cents for adults in addition to the 40 cents adults paid to attend the Exposition.
 
 
Paul Russo won the 100-lap midget feature August 8 1948
 

Saturday afternoon, the midget starting field set off for 100 laps around the mile dirt track racing for a total purse of $7500. Ray Neuman’s midget flipped three times after his car flew a front tire and crashed into the outer wall on the 93rd lap. Paul Russo of Kenosha Wisconsin won the feature in a record time of one hour, ten minutes and 11.33 seconds, which bested Ray Richards’ two-year old record by over eight minutes. Neil Carter of Toledo Ohio finished in second place with Henry Banks in third position.     
 
Dick Fraizer won the 'hot rod' races on August 9 1948
 

On Monday afternoon August 9th, the Wisconsin Auto Racing Association Inc. ‘hot rods’ took to the track and Dick Fraizer from the tiny town of Messick Indiana (then as now so small it didn't have a mailing address)  set quick time in qualifying with a lap of 43.72 seconds. Ticket prices for the grandstand were much higher than for the midgets, at $1.00 and $1.50.  Tony Martinek of Chicago won the 10-lap semi-main in 7 minutes and 47 ½ seconds then Fraizer won the 20-mile feature race in 14 minutes and 1.43 seconds over future Indianapolis ‘500’ winner Pat Flaherty and Ray Erickson.

Sadly, the semi-man winner Tony Martinek, a 23-year old three-year veteran of ‘hot rod’ racing would perish in an accident September 25 at the ¼-mile asphalt surface Rockford (Illinois) Speedway. Martinek’s machine ran over the rear of Ronald “Luckless” Kaplan’s car, overturned and slid upside down for approximately 50 feet.  Martinek’s death from a basal skull fracture marked the third fatality at Rockford Speedway during the 1948 season which led to Hugh Deery taking over the track’s operation.        
 
Rex Mays came within one lap of sweeping
both the AAA 'big car' races
 

Unlike the earlier midget races, the AAA Midwest series ‘big car’ races set for August 10 and 11 were run as two stand-alone programs and each offered a $5000 purse. Rex Mays was the fast qualifier on Tuesday the 10th, as he posted a time of 38.72 seconds, then went on to capture the first 5-mile heat race. Leland “Lee” Wallard won the second heat race and Tony Bettenhausen the third heat race while Charles Van Acker won the consolation race. Mays led all 25 laps in the feature race and finished in sixteen minutes and 36 seconds ahead of Dick Fraizer and eventual 1948 AAA Midwest ‘big car’ champion Travis “Spider” Webb. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Mays was again the quick qualifier and he set a new track record of 37.31 seconds on a wet track with Dick Fraizer the second fastest qualifier.   Because of the misting rain, AAA officials elected not to run any heat races, but extended the feature race to 30 laps to give the 12,000 fans a good show. Once again Mays led away from the pole until the race was stopped on the 12th lap after an accident in the third turn.





Paul Russo’s car, formerly driven by Cavino “Kelly” Petillo, had blown a tire and rolled over twice with Russo thrown out of the car but he escaped with minor cuts. For twenty minutes the track crew cleaned up the track then the race resumed with May still in the lead. Mays held the lead until the final lap when his car ran out of fuel which handed the win to fellow AAA Eastern ‘big car’ racer Tommy Mattson in the Culp Offenhauser.  Mays’ #1 Bowes Seal Fast Special coasted across the finish line in fourth place behind Tommy Hinnerhsitz and Lee Wallard.  

Mattson had finished the 1947 AAA Eastern big car season in second place behind Mays, and he would finish third in both the Midwest and Eastern AAA ‘big car’ championships. Tommy, from Wilmington Delaware got a shot at the Indianapolis ‘500’ in 1949, but crashed his car into the pit wall during practice on May 21 in a crash that was described as “driver hit wall in pits as he attempted to go into garage area too fast.”

At the time, there were doubts whether the crew could repair Bill Sheffler’s Offenhauser in time for the final weekend of time trials, but the work was completed on Sunday, May 28. Unfortunately, Mattson spun into the infield during practice and he was replaced by fellow “rookie” Manuel “Manny” Ayulo who bumped Ralph Pratt from the starting field at the last possible moment.

Mattson would become one of the victims of the high-banked Salem Speedway the following year. At the start of their AAA ‘big car’ heat race on July 24 1949 the front-row cars of Erling “Chick” Barbo and Mattson locked wheels then both machines then flew off the banking in turn one and landed on top of several passenger cars parked below.  Barbo died instantly while Mattson was transported to the Memorial Hospital in Bedford, Indiana passed away less than two hours after the crash.

After two days of motorcycle races and the auto thrill show at the end of the second week of August 1948, the AAA contingent reassembled on Sunday the 15th for the championship car race. The day’s first controversy erupted when the AAA race Chief Steward Llewellyn "Ike" Welch rejected car owner Andy Granatelli’s entry of Dick Fraizer as the driver of the Grancor (Granatelli Corporation) Special Kurtis-Kraft 2000-Offenhauser. 


 
 
 
Milwaukee 100 AAA Chief Steward "Ike" Welch
 

“Ike” Welch from Maywood Illinois reportedly attended his first ``500`` automobile race at the Indianapolis Speedway as a ten year old boy in 1911. After college Welch began working as an AAA at the Speedway in 1922 and was elevated to the role of Chief Observer in 1931. The Chief Observer at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was responsible for administering “rookie” driving tests and insuring on-track safety during practice. Welch never told a driver whether he had passed the rookie test; instead Welch walked over to the successful driver and gave him a shiny penny.   

To support Fraizer’s rejection, Welch told Milwaukee Sentinel sportswriter Tony Ingrassia that “as a matter of precedent only drivers that have been competing regularly for the last year on the AAA circuit are allowed to compete.” When pressed, Welch reiterated that the AAA had a rule that said that “championship races are for drivers competing regularly on the circuit.”

For his part, Rex Mays told Ingrassia that he was sure there was no AAA precedent to keep Fraizer from competing and was quoted:  “why, Red Hodges drove at Dallas this year and he is a newcomer.” Historical records show that Mays was correct; Texas “outlaw” driver William “Red” Hodges had driven the “Gabby Hall Special” in the Arlington Downs 100 in his first and only AAA championship appearance.

Ingrassia’s editorial in the following day’s Milwaukee Sentinel questioned whether AAA officials and racers were afraid of the “Hoosier Hotshot,” as Ingrassia heard no legitimate reason to bar Fraizer from racing Sunday.  The editorial refuted Welch’s claim of precedence, as “Johnny Mantz made his first start in a big car championship race at Indianapolis this year, and Mack Hellings (who took over the Grancor #59) had only one championship race on his record according to Mays.” Mays’ memory was correct about Mantz’ record, but faulty concerning Hellings’ record as he had three previous AAA starts, all in 1948.

For his part, Fraizer told Ingrassia that a small clique led by Duke Nalon had led to his ban but that Rex Mays, Tony Bettenhausen, and Mel Hanson were on his side. Ike Welch said “I hate to ban Fraizer since he is a good driver and has done a commendable job, but I had to follow precedent.” Fraizer was certainly skilled and experienced enough as he had won 10 hot rod races in a row during the 1948 season and had finished second to Rex Mays in Tuesday’s AAA ‘big car’ feature. Whatever the reason for the rejection, Fraizer’s name does not appear in the AAA records for this event.

The 23,913 race fans that filled the State Fair Park grandstand watched as hometown driver Myron Fohr qualified the hometown Marchese Offenhauser for the pole position with a lap of 40.11 seconds, followed by Spider Webb and Johnny Mantz. Mel Hanson qualified Paul Weirick’s supercharged Offenhauser powered car fourth fastest, while Hellings, Fraizer’s replacement would start from eight position.  

Five drivers failed to make the 18-car starting field; George Connor, Johnny McDowell, local midget racer Johnny Dietz, Bill Holland and George Lynch.  After qualifying, George Lynch, who resume listed a couple of previous AAA ‘big car’ starts, replaced Charlie Rogers as the driver of the “Jewell Special.” The participation of Dietz and Lynch both seem to have been in direct conflict with “Ike” Welch’s stated reason used to disallow Dick Fraizer. Looking back a historian must ask the question - what did the AAA have against Dick Fraizer?

 At the drop of the green flag, pole sitter Myron Fohr led the first 27 laps before he pitted for tires which handed the lead to Emil Andres in Carmine Tuffanelli's  Kurtis Kraft 2000 entered by mechanic Charlie Pritchard. On the 35th lap, “Mutt” Anderson’s car driven by Ken Fowler from Dayton Ohio broke an axle and the loose wheel jumped the inner retainer wall and rolled into a crowd of 200 fans in the infield. 

Two members of that crowd, 40-year old Alma Hogdson and her 10-year son, Gaylord were struck by the loose wheel but were given first aid and released.  Andres continued to hold the lead until lap 85 despite having problems with his Offenhauser engine. With four laps to go, Ted Horn passed Andres on the backstretch then was first under the checkered flag followed by Mantz, Andres, Rex Mays, and Tony Bettenhausen.
 
Johnny Mantz was declared the Milwaukee 100 winner
 

After the race as Horn celebrated in victory lane, other drivers complained about the results and the AAA scorers rechecked the pair of mechanical scoring tapes. After their check, AAA officials revised the order of finish and moved Ted Horn to third place with Johnny Mantz declared the winner followed by Andres, Mays, and Wallard in fifth. Promoter Tom Marchese of Wisconsin Racing Associates offered reporters no explanation why Horn received the checkered flag, but in retrospect, scorers apparently became confused during the race by the large number of pit stops, which was unusual for a 100-mile race.

With the revised results were posted, Tony Bettenhausen protested his demotion to a sixth place finish while Andres also protested, claiming that the race ended a lap early but both protests were denied by the AAA stewards.  Although Horn was awarded the winner’s trophy in victory lane, Mantz and car owner J C Agajanian received Marchese’s check for $4,053, the winner’s share of the race’s $16,850 purse. Years later, the records vary on this event; some records credit Mantz with leading only the last lap, while other sources credit him with leading 20 laps.  
 
Myron Fohr won the pole for the Milwaukee 100
 then won  the Milwaukee 200 mile race two weeks later
 

Two weeks later, when the AAA championship cars returned to the Milwaukee Mille for the first-ever 200-mile race, Myron Fohr was triumphant, but not without help. At lap 111, third-place starter Fohr pitted and was relieved by Tony Bettenhausen, as his Sparks “Big Six” powered Thorne Engineering entry had retired. Race leader Mantz crashed his Agajanian entry on the 135th lap, and Bettenhausen proceeded to build up a large lead, and then turned the Marchese entry back over to Fohr on lap 178.  Fohr beat Johnnie Parsons to the checkered flag by 16 seconds, with Ted Horn in third a lap behind.

Attrition was high as only nine of the original 22 cars finished, with ninth place finisher Paul Russo was 33 laps behind the winner. Nevertheless, the precedent had been set and the August date for the AAA championship cars at Milwaukee became a 200-mile affair.   

Despite his loss of the disputed victory at Milwaukee two weeks earlier, by finishing in third place in the 200-mile race,  Ted Horn collected enough points to clinch the 1948 AAA National Driving championship, his second of three consecutive titles. On October 10, in the final race of the 1948 AAA season, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds one-mile track at DuQuoin, Ted Horn crashed fatally after a wheel spindle broke on his car during the second lap of the race.  The great champion was just 38 years old.
 
 
The wreckage of Byron Horne's Granatelli FD
car that led to the 1949 AAA "no dentures" rule
 

On May 25 1949, following the violent May 2 near-fatal crash by Byron Horne during his rookie test in which he received severe cuts from his dentures, the  AAA Contest Board issued an order that all drivers with false teeth had to remove their dentures before going out on the Speedway’s racing surface.
To enforce the new AAA rule, “Ike” Welch, as the Chief Observer, was given the unpleasant task to peer in the mouth of each driver before they went out onto the track. Welch continued to work at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the Chief Observer until his retirement in 1963, and he passed away in 1986.

Aside from a few local newspaper articles there was little publicity about “Ike” Welch and the AAA’s mishandling of the August 15 1948 race at Milwaukee. One can only imagine the reaction in today’s social media environment if INDYCAR banned a driver without a clearly stated reason, or fouled up the scoring of a race and awarded the victory to the wrong racer in modern times.
 
All the black and white photographs that accompany this article appear courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies.