Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jerry Unser’s contributions to safety 
part one

Jeremy Michael “Jerry” Unser Junior was the first member of the Unser family to compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1958.  Jerry had a younger (by ten minutes) twin brother Louie, who worked as Jerry’s crew chief and brothers Al and Bobby who would be rookies at the Speedway in 1963 and 1965 respectively. Though his two younger brothers would score seven Indianapolis ‘500’ wins between them, Jerry contributed to the safety of future race drivers.

Jerry was born in Colorado in 1932 the son of a race car driver and grew up Albuquerque New Mexico but in 1958 lived in Lakewood California. After he won the 1956 stock car race on the family’s playground, the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, he joined Peter DePaolo Engineering’s United States Auto Club (USAC) stock car racing team. In 1957 driving a factory supplied Ford Unser won the USAC stock car championship.  

The bespectacled 25-year rookie had anything but an easy time to make the 1958 Indianapolis 500-mile race starting field, as the car that Jerry finally qualified, the “McKay Special” Kurtis Kraft 500 G was his third car of the month. Jerry was originally nominated as the driver for Southern California building contractor Harry V Duncan Junior’s  Kurtis Kraft 500 A. In an era when Indianapolis was  dominated by the four-cylinder Offenhauser engine the Duncan entry was powered by a DeSoto stock block hemispherical (hemi) head V-8 engine built by dry lakes racer Tony Capanna.  

Capanna who with his partner, Guy “Red” Wilson ran Wilcap a machine and engine shop in Los Angeles built several Dodge and DeSoto engines with Duncan’s financial support used to set records at Bonneville in 1954. Tony focused on Indianapolis in 1955 and built a 270-cubic inch Dodge Red Ram “hemi” engine that was fitted into Al Dean’s Kuzma upright which had won the 1954 American Automobile Association (AAA) season title.

Encouraged by Jimmy Bryan’s practice laps timed at over 140 miles per hour, the team put rookie Bob “Caveman” Christie in the car to make a qualifying attempt on May 22 the last day of time trials. As Christie headed the backstretch on his last warm-up lap, the Dodge engine’s crankshaft broke and the Kuzma crashed.

For 1958, Capanna and Duncan bought a Kurtis Kraft 500A, built in 1953 specifically to use a Chrysler “hemi” V-8 stock block engine. There is some dispute whether this car was originally built for Roger Wolcott or Murrell Belanger. Both of those cars were tested extensively at the Speedway during 1953 powered by Chrysler factory built 335 cubic inch engine that reputedly produced 400 horsepower.

After a United States Auto Club (USAC) rule change reduced the allowable displacement of “stock block” engines to only 271 cubic inches both teams found the car uncompetitive and later sold to other car owners. Wilcap employee Dean Murray modified the KK 500A chassis so that the DeSoto engine was mounted so far to the left side of the #51 Duncan Special chassis that the left cylinder head actually extended past the Kurtis’ left side frame rail.

Capanna built up the 255 cubic inch DeSoto “hemi” engine in 1958 with a number of custom made parts made at Wilcap. Capanna machined his own 3-inch stroke crankshaft from a billet of 4340 steel, while the connecting rods were crafted from 6145 steel. The engine used needle bearings for the camshaft and rocker arms, and Forgedtrue pistons supplied by 1946 Indianapolis ‘500’ winning crew chief Art Sparks.

The DeSoto heads were fitted with larger valves and re-worked achieve a 14:1 compression ratio. In dynamometer testing with straight methanol run through the Hilborn ram-air injectors, Capanna reported 340 horsepower at 6500 revolutions per minute (RPM) as compared to the typical Offenhauser engine that developed at 360 horsepower at 6000 RPM on straight methanol.

Jerry arrived at the Speedway recovered from a broken collar bone that he suffered in January after his midget flipped on the eighth lap of the race at Riverside International Raceway. Unser was one of nine raw rookies entered for the 42nd annual 500-mile race, a list that included AJ Foyt, Paul Goldsmith, 51 year-old local sports car dealer Jack Ensley, Carroll Shelby, and Len Sutton. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened on Thursday May 1 and by May 10 the Long Beach Independent Telegraph reported that Unser who lived in nearby Lakewood California was “working on the final phase of his driving test.”

On Sunday May 19 while Jerry practiced on the Indianapolis 2-1/2 mile oval the DeSoto engine broke a connecting rod, and the catastrophic damage sidelined the Duncan entry for the rest of the month. Tony Capanna never returned to Indianapolis and according to Richard Parks, Tony would later remark that it was too costly a proposition to do that kind of racing.

On Monday, Jerry was one of several drivers along with Eddie Sachs and Dick Rathmann that changed rides. Sachs moved into the seat of Peter Schmidt’s bright red Kuzma creation, while Rathmann moved into Lee Elkins’ newly purchased “McNamara Motor Freight” Watson chassis. Jerry became the third driver for Chapman Root’s Sumar Racing team assigned to the team’s backup #48 Kurtis Kraft 500C chassis. The Sumar KK 500 C had made the ‘500’ four straight years

However, Unser did not find the speed needed in the Sumar entry and after the Offenhauser engine had problems, he moved to Youngstown Ohio building contractor Roy H McKay’s Kurtis Kraft 500G2. The McKay KK500G2 was the car in which California standout Don Edmunds had driven to 1957 ‘500’ Rookie of the Year of the honors then crashed in practice earlier in the month in 1959. Unser qualified the repaired #92 “McKay Special” for the 1958 ‘500’ starting field on Saturday May 24 at 142.775 MPH to start 24th in the 33-car field.  Unser was one of eight rookies to make the field along with Foyt, Goldsmith, Sutton Jud Larson, Art Bisch, George Amick, and Dempsey Wilson who bumped his way into the field on Sunday May 25.

The start of the 1958 ‘500’ was a mess. Instead of starting from the main straightaway, for the second year in a row officials decided to start the cars in single file from the new concrete pit lane and for the second year the start was a disaster. In 1957, as Elmer George (track owner Tony Hulman’s son-in-law)  tried to cut through the field to reach his ninth starting spot on the pace lap he rammed into the tail of Eddie Russo’s Sclavi & Amos entry and knocked both cars from the race.

In the confusion of the 1958 start, the three front row starters Dick Rathmann, Ed Elisian, and Jimmy Reece let pit lane early and were half a lap ahead of the Mercury pace car driven by 1957 ‘500’ winner Sam Hanks. An extra pace lap was required to straighten the order as the three front row starters caught the tail of the field and then sliced through traffic and reached the head of the field as the field rolled through the fourth turn. The start was ragged with the front row single file and cars four abreast further back.     
Jerry Unser took flight over the turn three wall

At the drop of the green flag, pole sitter Rathmann took the lead with Elisian in close pursuit. After they raced through the second turn nose to tail, Elisian dove low to take the lead as he entered turn three but he was traveling far too fast. Ed’s Zink #5 spun and collected Rathmann and both cars hit the outside retaining wall. Behind them thirteen other cars became involved in the crash, among them Unser. Jerry’s #92 McKay Special ran over the tail of Paul Goldsmith’s 16th place starter and used Goldsmith as a ramp, as the “McKay Special” flew over the third turn retaining wall.
The McKay KK 500G2 after the first lap crash
Notice the shoulder harnesses

While Pat O’Connor lost his life in the crash, Unser was fortunate in that there were no vehicles parked below turn three outside the track. Reportedly the McKay Special flipped end over end eight times and the Kurtis 500G chassis was seriously bent, but Jerry Unser suffered only a dislocated shoulder which was popped into joint at the infield Medical Center. Certainly Unser could credit his lack of serious injury to his use of a relatively new innovation in 1958, shoulder harnesses in addition to his seat belt.

In August 1958 Jerry attempted to qualify the Sumar Blough-built chassis entry for the one-mile dirt races at Springfield and DuQuoin Illinois and Milwaukee without success.    
All the photographs that accompany this article appear courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection in the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The history of Phoenix International Raceway from 1973 to today


The Bricklin car was born and died quickly

In June 1973 Malcolm Bricklin enticed the Canadian province of New Brunswick to build a factory and give him $6.5 million and a $3 million loan guarantee and purchase 51% of Bricklin Canada stock to get started on the production version of the “safety car.”  Bricklin told the New Brunswick government that he would begin producing cars in September 1973, and he expected to sell 10,000 cars the first year, 18,000 the second year and 35,000 cars a year by the fifth year.  Meanwhile, Bricklin signed up new dealers at $5,000 apiece and in July moved to Phoenix where he sported Western attire from head-to-toe as he told the press he was “just a cowboy at heart.”

After two years of delays, the Bricklin SV-1, complete with integrated safety cage, and gullwing doors was unveiled at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City on June 24 1974. It was announced that the Bricklin SV-1 would sell for $6,000 with features that included a colored acrylic body, a breathable suede interior, and a “European instrument panel.” Bricklin claimed the 130,000 square foot plant in New Brunswick would produce 1000 cars a month by October 1974.    

The first Bricklin rolled off the production line on August 6 1974, after which Malcolm Bricklin extracted more money from New Brunswick government up to a total of $11 million in grants and $3 million in loan guarantees. The 772 1974 Bricklin cars built with either manual or auto transmission were powered by an American Motors Corporation (AMC) 360 -ubic inch engine, while the 2,100 1975 Bricklin cars built were powered by Ford Windsor 351-cubic inch engine mated to Ford C-4 automatic transmission.

A "safety green' 1974 Bricklin SV-1 from the Bricklin brochure
author's collection

The May 1975 issue of Car & Driver magazine compared a 1975 Chevrolet Corvette and the first 1975 Bricklin built head-to-head at Willow Springs Raceway. The Bricklin was sticker priced at $9,780 versus the Corvette’s $8,350 price. Performance results were close; on the skid pad the Bricklin scored a .67 G result while the Corvette scored .68 G. On the quarter mile the Corvette recorded an elapsed time of 16.1 seconds with the Bricklin half a second slower.

Writer Don Sherman found the Bricklin’s braking better than the Corvette's but faulted the car’s gullwing doors- the design meant little headroom and the thick A-pillars made it hard to see out. Alarmingly, there was no interlock to prevent the driver and passenger from attempting to open and close their doors simultaneously which would burn up the electric pump that powered the hydraulic system. The cabin was noisy at cruising speed and overall, Sherman said the Bricklin’s “suede-like” interior suffered from poor fit and finish that he compared to a kit car.

The lukewarm Car & Driver review did not seem to damage Bricklin sales as the Consumer Report review had killed the Subaru 360, but in fact General Vehicle Inc. was not much longer for this world. On September 24 1975 the New Brunswick government refused to issue any more funding, apparently $23 million was their limit. Two days later Bricklin Canada, the car assembly division entered receivership, and filed for reorganization on October 1 1975, the same day that Malcolm Bricklin left General Vehicle Inc.  

Even with Bricklin bankrupt FasTrack lived on
 Bricklin 150 program cover

While the parent firm was struggling for survival, FasTrack International Raceway held two USAC ‘Phoenix 150’ races during 1974 won by Mike Mosley and Johncock. The March 16 1975 USAC FasTrack race held under the regime of new general manager and promoter Russ Kurtz was dubbed the ‘Bricklin 150.’ By the second USAC date in November 1975 Bricklin Cars was already on its way to oblivion and the race returned to it earlier ‘Phoenix 150’ moniker.  

Kurtz cancelled the planned November 30 1975 ‘Desert 150’ NASCAR Winston West stock car race, which would have been the track's first NASCAR event, on November 25 and cited “a lack of financial support, as preliminary ticket sales were insufficient.”
At the same time, NASCAR vice-president Lin Kuchler told United Press International (UPI) that the race was cancelled and not rescheduled that the promoters, Kurtz and Ron Ails had failed to meet the terms of their sanction agreement. It would 1988 before NASCAR would visit the one-mile dogleg oval.

Bricklin and General Vehicle Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 2 1976, with Bricklin personally $34.6 million in debt, which included a $2.4 million federal court judgement against him awarded to FasTrack LeisureLand investor Leon Stern. Members of the gallery reportedly laughed after Malcolm Bricklin told Federal Bankruptcy Judge Edward Davis that his name was a personal attribute not for use by or sale by the bankruptcy trustee.

Outside of FasTrack International Raceway, General Vehicle Inc. had little in assets left other than leftover parts in the factory bought by automotive liquidator Consolidated Motors from which thirty-four Bricklin cars were built and sold as 1976 models. In a January 12 1976 hearing Judge Davis declared General Vehicle Inc. bankrupt with $31.9 million of debt unsecured, but he agreed to allow FasTrack International Raceway to continue to operate in an effort to pay off creditors. 

Robert Jarrett, the bankruptcy trustee, named Jerry Ballah as the interim track operator. Ballah, the part owner of Beeline Dragway from 1965 to 1969, was an interesting choice as he was awaiting trial in the state of Missouri on a charge of drawing a check with intent to defraud .
FasTrack International Raceway held the 50-mile ‘Copperstate Sprint Classic’ on February 15 1976 but the outcome of the race was not declared final until two days later, after three drivers complained that their last laps were not properly scored.

Jerry Miller of Speedway Indiana a future championship car entrant was still the winner with a $1250 share of the purse, followed by Rick Ferkel. Jim McElreath who had been initially scored as the third place finisher was dropped to seventh in the final results.

The March 14 1976 ‘Jimmy Bryan 150’ was a milestone event in three ways. For the first time in three years, the name of the 3-time national driving champion, the “Arizona Earthmover,” was restored to the title of the March Phoenix race. Second, the race marked JC Agajanian’s 251st USAC promotion, his first having been a midget show at the 1/3-mile Saugus Speedway in Santa Carita California held on January 29 1956.  ‘Aggie” proudly told the Arizona Republic that he had paid out $1.75 million to competitors in his previous 250 USAC promotions.

The third milestone was the appearance in the starting field of a woman - the first of her sex to drive in a USAC championship race. Arlene Hiss who ran over 1000 test miles under the watchful eye of Lloyd Ruby was granted a conditional license by USAC President Dick King. Hiss started 21st in the 22-car field in Mike Devin’s Eagle and finished 14th, the last car running twenty-two laps behind winner Bobby Unser who was fairly blunt in his judgment of Hiss’ race driving skills.  After the race, Hiss’ conditional USAC license was withdrawn and she lost her chance to become the first woman to qualify for the Indianapolis ‘500.’    

FasTrack up for sale

During the spring of 1976, the Federal Bankruptcy Court accepted offers to purchase FasTrack International Raceway after the First Pennsylvania Bank agreed to lift its $2.5 million lien on the property. After appraiser Robert E. Francy set the fair market value of the facility at $434,000, Judge David rejected a bid of $200,000 from an unidentified bidder. 

On May 3 1976, Tempe Arizona Recreation vehicle dealer Bill Moore withdrew his apparently successful offer of $375,000, as his attorney told Judge Davis that Moore and his two partners had changed their minds. Judge Davis then set a hearing on his calendar on May 11 at 8:45 AM to hear “any and all” additional offers. The following day the Scottsdale Progress newspaper reported that Davis had rejected an unidentified offer of $280,000.

In August 1976 Owen Kearns in his ‘Checkered Flag’ column in the Bakersfield Californian newspaper shared that Chris Economaki had reported in the July 28 NSSN that JC Agajanian “was attempting to buy FasTrack International” but “isn’t getting any answers from the trustee.” Kearns reported that Agajanian was “seriously considering moving the November 6 USAC finale to Hanford (Speedway) if something isn’t done soon.” Kearns closed the piece by admitting that his attempts to reach “Aggie” failed to get either confirmation or denial of Economaki’s claim.  

courtesy PIR

Per the 2014 PIR 50th anniversary media guide: “1976 - Dr. Bob Fletcher, Dr. Tom Taber, Dr. David Lehman, Dr. Robert Stevens and Bill hard purchase FasTrack International Raceway. Changed the name back to Phoenix International Raceway.”  Once again, the media guide is inaccurate.  On August 18, 1976 the UPI wire service  carried the story. “A group led by Dr. Tom Taber and Bob Fletcher yesterday purchased FasTrack.

The terms of the deal were not announced. The group immediately announced the facility will be given its previous name.” At the time the purchase was finalized, former track owner Nancy Hogue was married to Robert ‘Bob’ Goldwater, to whom she remained married until she passed away in 1982. 

Dr. Tabor, who like all three of the physicians, was an orthopedic specialist was also identified in an article in the Arizona Republic as the President of the Phoenix Racing Association (which sanctioned Phoenix area supermodified racing) and the owner of a supermodified driven by his son Tom Taber III, and stated that Taber would be the new President of Phoenix International Raceway.

Taber told the Associated Press (AP) “I don’t think it’s any secret that our group has worked hard the past year trying to get involved in auto racing.” Taber indicated that the next race at the renamed facility would be the $50,000 Bobby Ball 150 on November 6 promoted by JC Agajanian.   

The 2014 PIR media guide misidentified Bob Fletcher as a doctor; Robert L. Fletcher was the president of the Cobre Tire the largest Firestone tire distributor in the Southwest, and the owner of a USAC Indianapolis race car team since 1973. “Bill hard” was actually contractor Bill Hardy, owner of WJ Hardy Concrete Construction.

On August 27 the Scottsdale Progress reported that the owners of PIR had hired Dennis Wood who had been the manager of Manzanita Speedway since January as the track’s new general manager. A former modified stock car driver and sportswriter for the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette, Wood served in many capacities at PIR over the next 23 years which included seven years as majority owner.  

Wood cut prices at PIR for the 1977 Jimmy Bryan 150 - parking was free, beer was 35 cents, and a pack of cigarettes 50 cents. “It’s not that things weren’t worth what the previous owners charged we’re just trying to recapture the sports dollar.” There were six different priced tickets offered that ranged from $5 to $14, and the track had its largest pre-sale revenue in its 14-year history.

Phoenix International Raceway played one final important role in USAC championship racing only a couple of years into the new group’s ownership. On December 11 1978, Bob Fletcher awarded two PIR 1979 race dates to the newly formed Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc. (CART) of which he was a member, instead of USAC,. The last USAC championship car race held at PIR, the ‘Miller High Life Bobby Ball Memorial 150,’ was held on October 28 1978 and the first-ever CART race sanctioned by SCCA, the ‘Arizona Republic Jimmy Bryan 150’ was held at PIR on March 11 1979.

Malcolm Bricklin after his car company failed 

As he left the General Vehicle bankruptcy hearing in January 1976, Malcolm Bricklin told reporters he was working on an exciting new automobile engine. The following day he founded Bricklin Motors Inc. to build the “Bricklin Power Plant.”  In 1982 another new Bricklin company,  International Automobile Importers (IAI) imported Bertone (formerly known as Fiat) X19 mid-engine sports cars before he set up a new deal for importation of a cheap car in 1984.

Bricklin’s YugoAmerica division imported Yugo vehicles which were introduced to the American public at the Los Angeles Auto Show in May 1984, promoted with a price of only $3,990 and a 10 year - 100,000 mile warranty with free maintenance. Nearly 150,000 Yugo cars, considered among the worst quality cars ever built, were sold in the United States over the next eight years, but Bricklin sold out after four years for what he reported was $10 million.
In 1991, Bricklin seated on the patio of his Scottsdale home in cowboy boots told the Arizona Republic that he had lined up $60 million in financing for a series of fifty “Auto Ranches” which he said would revolutionize the car buying experience.  Bricklin said the ranches would be “used-car Disneylands where cars will be made over and then sold as "new experienced cars."

At the Auto Ranch, Bricklin’s crew would put new tires, belts, hoses, brakes, batteries, mufflers, shock absorbers and spark plugs on a used car and “fix anything else it needs” before they repainted it. “We're going to be able to offer you things much, much cheaper than you'd ever think," Bricklin said, "Cadillacs for under $10,000, BMW’s under $15,000 and Mercedes under $20,000.”

In 2003 Bricklin tried to market a lineup of Chinese cars the Chery. In a 2009 interview with Car & Driver magazine, Bricklin said of Chery Motors “they decided to see if they could screw me. Thought they would see if they could take it all back, and they did, and we’re suing them for $14 billion.”
Bricklin’s largest lawsuit filed in federal court in 2008 against Chery and other defendants, sought $26 million to recover his initial investment and at least $1.1 billion to account for the loss of projected earnings.  In 2013 Malcolm Bricklin’s company, V Cars, was awarded $2 million by a Detroit jury in his suit against a former executive Dennis Gore for fraud and other offenses.

More than thirty years after the last car rolled off the assembly line, Bricklin SV-1 cars are rare, as it is estimated that only 1,500 of the gullwing cars survive, but they do not have much collector value as they sell for an average of $14,000 per the Hagerty website.

Postscript-the later history of Phoenix International Raceway

Emmett “Buddy” Jobe bought PIR from Dennis Wood in 1985, and in 1987 the original grandstands were struck by lightning and burned to the ground. New Aluminum grandstands to seat 30,000 fans were built, just in time for the first National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) event in 1988, which drew a reported crowd of 63,000 fans. In 1991, a new infield road course was built and the old outer road course and drag strip abandoned.

In 1997, Jobe sold the track to International Speedway Corporation (ISC) which is owned by the France family and the track began to change to meet the requirements of NASCAR stock car racing. The characteristic ‘dogleg’ at the exit of turn two was revised first in 2003 and then changed again in 2011 such that the original layout of the PIR oval is no longer recognizable to fans before ownership by ISC/NASCAR. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The history of Phoenix International Raceway continues………..


In their January 1969 meeting the United States Auto Club (USAC) Board of Directors voted to require race promoters increase the guaranteed minimum purse for races on one-mile tracks from $10,000 to $30,000. In response, Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) promoter JC Agajanian and track owner Nancy Hogue claimed that the proposed increase “would drive Indy racing out of Arizona” and canceled the scheduled ‘Jimmy Bryan 150’ race dates. Agajanian’s promotions in previous years PIR had paid out 40% of the spectator gate receipts, which meant the typical purses had totaled out closer to $20,000. 

After weeks of negotiations, it was announced at the end of February that the Jimmy Bryan 150 race date was re-set for March 30 with a guaranteed purse of $25,000. “When the USAC board agreed to come down from their original demand,” ‘Aggie’ told the Tucson Daily Citizen “Mrs. Hogue graciously agreed to underwrite the new schedule.”  It appears that part of Mrs. Hogue’s “underwriting” meant that Agajanian had to cancel his “Open Competition Supermodified and Caged Sprint Car Race” originally scheduled at PIR for March 2 and direct all his promotional efforts on the Jimmy Bryan race.   

A month before the Bobby Ball Memorial Race in November, Agajanian told the Arizona Republic that Nancy Hogue spent $100,000 (nearly $700,000 today) on renovations over the past two years on the Phoenix International Raceway oval track. Changes included moving the guardrail and crash wall in front of the main grandstand back ten feet and crews had widened the pit area. According to ‘Aggie,’ the track had spent $30,000 on new paint alone, built new bleachers and crash walls, resurfaced parts of the track, and built larger concession stands and restrooms. 

Charlie Alexander

Courtesy PIR

The history timeline in the 2014 Phoenix International Raceway 50th anniversary media guide states that in 1969 “Track owners Dick & Nancy Hogue sell PIR to Phoenix hotel magnate C.A. Alexander.” The author’s research found that Nancy Hogue did NOT sell PIR to Charles Max “Charlie” Alexander. Charles Max Alexander started his career in furniture and television sales then became a custom home builder developer before he and partner Wayne L. Romney built the landmark Kon Tiki Hotel in Phoenix in 1961. 
A vintage postcard from the author's collection

Built on Phoenix’s “Hotel Strip” on East Van Buren Street, the exotic Kon Tiki, designed by noted Phoenix architect James Salter, featured a torch-lit Polynesian bar, giant tiki masks, ‘goggie’ architecture and guest rooms with waterbeds. With the advertising slogan “a Little Bit of Waikiki in the Heart of Phoenix,” the Kon Tiki became isolated when the freeway system was built, closed in 1993 and was demolished in 1997.

Alexander signed a three-year lease for PIR which ran through 1973, and articles in the Arizona Republic from 1970 through the end of the 1972 racing season refer to Charlie Alexander as the racing director or promoter. Under Alexander’s leadership, PIR moved the “Copper State 200” USAC stock car race from the road course the one-mile oval for April 1970, but the USAC stock cars never returned to PIR, despite a crowd of over 10,000 fans and 34 cars that vied for a 24-car starting field.  Alexander’s single greatest promotion appears to have been the 1971 Bobby Ball Memorial when television star Peter Graves of “Mission Impossible” was the special guest and race fans mobbed Graves for an autograph.

The PIR racing surface was reportedly deteriorating during 1971 which exacerbated the track’s long-standing traction problems created by blowing sand. For 1972 Alexander had “a treated tire surface” applied that created problems for team during winter tire testing. Bobby Unser told the Arizona Republic that “we tested too soon after the track had been treated and the car’s side-mounted radiators started gumming up.” That problem was rectified through the use of a different tire compound, and in March Unser described the track as “solidified” though lap speeds were slower. 

On September 16 1972 PIR hosted an odd event organized by 30 year old Phoenix area home builder and developer Frank Braggiotti in support of former Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The singer and his wife were then involved with the Immigration and Naturalization Service in deportation fight over Lennon’s marijuana conviction in 1968. Braggiotti claimed he “became a born again Democrat the day the Republican administration decided to deport John Lennon and Yoko Ono."

Braggiotti spent over $15,000 to rent the track and he expected 2000 to 5000 people but less than 300 people showed up.  The crowd listened to marijuana decriminalization speakers John Sinclair and Lee Otis Johnson before John and Yoko called from New York City but the small crowd could not hear the pair because the organizers could not get the telephone call to play on the track’s public address system.

Nancy Hogue actually did sell PIR

The Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) 50th anniversary press guide identifies 1975 as the year that “Bricklin Cars purchases PIR changes name to FasTrack international but the parent company goes bankrupt within the year Nancy Hogue regains control.” Once gain the PIR press guide is wrong, as Bricklin’s purchase of PIR occurred three years earlier, in 1972.

On Wednesday morning December 6 1972, readers of the Arizona Republic newspaper read that Nancy Hogue, “described as the sole owner of PIR” had sold the track to Paul O’Shea of Newport Beach California for an undisclosed price. O’ Shea was identified as the owner of California Automotive Research in San Bernardino, a company which “deals in car and accessory testing.” The article stated that Charlie Alexander would “continue to present the two Indianapolis-type races in 1973 as in the past” in addition to O’Shea’s plans to use the track for automotive testing.  

Paul O'Shea was a former Sports Car Club of American (SCCA) race car driver who had started his racing career in 1949 driving an 331 cubic inch V8 Cadillac powered Allard J2X. O’Shea had a tremendous run of success from 1955 in 1956 behind the wheel of a Mercedes Benz 300SL “Gullwing,’ as he won twelve national races and the SCCA D/Production national title both years. In 1957 O’Shea won four national races and repeated as the SCCA D/Production champion behind the wheel of a Mercedes Benz 300SLS roadster. In 1972, O’Shea was described as an “automotive research consultant and professional auto safety witness.”
O'Shea's patent drawing
click to enlarge

In 1971 O’Shea received United States patent number 3608210A for his invention, the “O’Shea Traffic Hazard Simulator,” described as a system for testing the driving ability of an automobile driver.  At a given distance, the tested driver approached in the car and after the car passed over a cable, red, yellow and green lights displayed which if any of three lanes was open. The driver of the car would then make a decision as to which lane is open, within the time period determined by his speed and the given distance. The author could find no record that O’Shea’s device ever found any commercial uses.

Just over a week after the PIR sale was announced it was revealed that O’Shea was NOT the new owner of Phoenix International Raceway that O’Shea had “helped finalize the purchase” and the actual purchaser was revealed to be General Vehicle Inc.  The December 14 1972 article also revealed that 1950 Indianapolis 500-mile race winner Johnnie Parsons, and employee of O’Shea’s California Automotive Research would be the track’s new racing director. 

General Vehicle Inc. was an umbrella holding company for several companies controlled by entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin, who during 1971 had decided to build and sell his own “Safety Car” to the public. General Vehicle Inc. would eventually grow to include four divisions: Bricklin Vehicles Inc. to market the cars, Bricklin Canada to build the cars, Bricklin Northeast to operate dealerships, and FasTrack, the murkiest of all the Bricklin businesses.

Who was Malcolm Bricklin?

It is difficult to separate facts from the legend regarding the famous (or infamous) Malcolm Bricklin. Born in Philadelphia in 1939 he was working in his father’s building supply business in 1958 when he started selling a system of franchise hardware stores known as “Handyman America”. For $15,000 a franchisee bought the rights to use the name in single store or for $250,000 could obtain “territorial rights.” 

Legend has that Bricklin sold the nationwide Handyman America Company in 1960 and became a millionaire before the age of 25, but the book The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic claimed that actually Bricklin’s Handyman America Company went bankrupt in 1965 after several lawsuits.  Bricklin then became a “business consultant” and sold Italian “Cine Box” jukeboxes and Lambretta scooters until 1967 when he negotiated a deal with Fuji Industries to import and sell their scooters in the United States. His ‘Rabbit’ scooter success led to talks with Fuji for the US importation of their small light car known as the Subaru 360.

The Subaru 360 was so lightweight (under 1000 pounds) that it was exempt from US federal automotive safety standards.  Subaru awarded Bricklin and his partner Harvey Lamm a four-year exclusive contract to import the 360 at $650 apiece with a guarantee that the pair would take 2000 cars the first year, a number which was to increase by 1000 cars more each additional year of the contract. The pair formed Subaru of America in February 1968 with a total investment of $75,000 and set out to sell not cars themselves but dealerships for the car that Car & Driver magazine called one of the ugliest cars in history.

According to Jason Vuic’s book a Subaru dealership cost $1000 with each car delivered to the dealers’ lot for $950 each that sold for $1357 retail.  After they sold 80 dealerships, Bricklin and Lamm sold shares in Subaru of America on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange which raised one million dollars.  The combination of money pouring in from franchise fees, stock sales, and bank loans enabled the pair to live the good life – huge new corporate headquarters in New Jersey, private jet, yachts and luxury apartments.


In April 1969, Consumer Reports tested the Subaru 360 and found among that it took 37 seconds for the 360 to reach 50 MPH and that the car could not reach 60 MPH.  Bricklin claimed that it could travel over 60 miles on a gallon of gasoline but the Consumer Reports observed fuel economy was 25 to 35 miles per gallon of gasoline which had to be mixed with two-cycle oil like an outboard boat motor.

With rear-hinged “suicide doors” with weak latches, “scarier” emergency handling, “disorienting” brakes, a “board-like” front seat that slid forward under heavy braking, and an inside mirror that vibrated so much at 50 MPH that it was useless, Consumer Reports rated the Subaru 360 “not acceptable.” The article sounded the death knell for the 360; by early 1970, Bricklin’s company had 2000 Subaru 360’s rusting away in stock and was millions of dollars in debt. Malcolm Bricklin came up with a new franchise idea – ‘FasTrack’ to save the day.    

The concept of ‘FasTrack’ was a pay-by-the-lap go-kart type racing experience which killed two birds with one stone; new franchise would get Bricklin out of debt and also get rid of the leftover Subaru 360’s. To replace the rusted sheet metal Bricklin enlisted Bruce Meyers, creator of the first Volkswagen dune buggy the Meyer Manx, to build “race car type” fiberglass bodies for the leftover 360 chassis. 

For $25,000 a ‘FasTrack’ franchisee got 10 cars, 20 uniforms and helmets, lighting, fencing, and signs. The first ‘FasTrack’ was built outside the Subaru of America headquarters, and the franchise sales literature told investors that by charging $1 per lap, they could make $135,000 annually operating their ‘FasTrack’ just 27 hours each week.

The corporate entity of “FasTrack International Inc.” was formed in Pennsylvania on December 6 1971 and the following day Bricklin formed “FasTrack LeisureLand Inc.” The goal of  ‘FasTrack LeisureLand’ was to create a series of franchised resort vacation destinations where visitors could stay and race ‘FasTrack’ cars.  According to author Jason Vuic, a Florida man named Leon Stern traded a large Pocono mountains resort property to Bricklin in exchange for $1.25 million in ‘FasTrack’ stock and $1000 a week salary as Stern would line up new resorts and investors. Bricklin then borrowed heavily against the Pocono property to invest in new ventures and around the same time sold Subaru of America in a deal which included a three-year $120,000 a year consulting contract for Bricklin. 

Malcolm Bricklin then started on his next venture; General Vehicle Inc. to build his “safety car.” The Bricklin concept car built by Bruce Meyers had a colored acrylic over fiberglass body powered by a Valiant “slant six” engine and was completed in the later months of 1972.  Bricklin had no money to manufacture the car, so he set out to find the financing from various Canadian governments to build the car, while at the same time General Vehicle Inc. bought Phoenix International Raceway in a heavily leverage deal. Nancy Hogue held the first mortgage of $250,000 on the track property and First Pennsylvania Bank held the $500,000 second mortgage.

The turbulent early days of Bricklin’s track ownership 

Early in January 1973 the Arizona Republic published the rumor that Malcolm Bricklin was one of the three persons interested in buying the mansion and grounds of the estate of the late Pittsburgh oil man Samuel Walker McCune Junior. McCune built the home for his new wife, Carol, who left him during construction then he died in April 1971 never having lived in the uncompleted 52,000 square foot mansion located on hilltop six acres in Paradise Valley. The three-story home, one of the ten largest homes in the United States, which featured 14 bedrooms, 30 bathrooms, a movie theatre, an indoor ice rink, and a 14-car garage  eventually was sold at an auction to satisfy IRS liens to Arizona fitness magnate Gordon Hall.


At a January 23 1973 press conference, Anthony “Tony” Kopp the track president announced Phoenix International Raceway had been renamed “FasTrack international Raceway,” and that the USAC championship race scheduled for March 17 would become a two-day program, with time trials held on Saturday March 16 and the 150-mile race which no longer carried the Jimmy Bryan name would be held Sunday March 17 1973.

Kopp also announced new construction of an extension of the pit entrance and exit, a new pit wall, the addition of 2000 more seats to bring the total to 12,000, and the renovation of restroom and concession areas.  After previously published reports to the contrary, the track cancelled JC Agajanian’s scheduled $50,000 purse 50-lap “Open Competition Supermodified and Caged Sprint Car Race” scheduled for the weekend of February 16 and 17 1973, so the track could be prepared for the scheduled March USAC date.  

On March 12, 1973 during a private practice session, Robert Dale “Bob” Criss a USAC sprint car driver from Newport Beach California died after he crashed. The 1970/71 Eagle chassis he drove was the same car with which David ‘Swede’ Savage won the Phoenix 1970 Bobby Ball 150. After All American Racers Inc. sold the car to Mary and Tom Page’s Page Racing Enterprises, Mike Hiss drove the car with a turbocharged Offenhauser engine in eight 1972 USAC races, including his seventh place finish in the 1972 Indianapolis 500-mile race which earned him the Stark Wetzel Rookie of the year honors. 

Criss, 34, who had driven a Brabham BT23 in three rounds of the 1972 SCCA Formula B championship, completed less than 10 laps when he spun and the car crashed into the inside wall at the exit of turn four with tremendous impact. The Eagle split in half and caught fire, but there were no fire trucks or an ambulance on site as the Pages rented the facility. Driver Billy Shuman and his crew were also at the track to test and helped put out the flames as the Phoenix Fire Department and an ambulance was called. Criss was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital from his internal injuries. USAC spokesman Donald Davidson was quoted in the Anderson Herald newspaper that “Criss was not a registered USAC driver and I don’t think he had made an application for a license yet.” Criss was laid to rest in his hometown of Terre Haute Indiana.

The March 17 1973 ‘Phoenix 150’ was never held. Shortly after Criss’ death the Phoenix area received heavy rains which caused the Salt River to flood and cut access to the track. The date was rescheduled twice but the flooding continued and then on March 31 Tony Kopp canceled the event, as the USAC championship schedule with two April races left no open dates. Kopp told the Arizona Republic that the $50,000 in advance sales, the largest in the track’s history would be refunded or could be applied to other tickets. Kopp added that he was working for two November USAC race dates.

In our final installment on the early history of Phoenix International Raceway we will see Malcolm Bricklin lose it all- including FasTrack International Raceway. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Early racing at Phoenix International Raceway

PIR opens for racing

At the September 1963 groundbreaking ceremony, developer Richard Hogue pledged to the Arizona Republic newspaper that “we'll be racing by late November or early December." Hogue planned to have “everything complete” when the track opened which besides the oval, the 10-turn 2.75-mile long road course and the dragstrip included the main grandstand with seating for 8,000, a hillside grandstand seating for another 2,000 above “one closed track curve,” a hilltop restaurant, a grandstand observation area over the drag strip and road course, an asphalt parking area for 5000 cars, and a four-lane access road from 115th Avenue.
The "old" PIR original layout with the road course and dragstrip

The first sports car races were initially scheduled for December 14 and 15, 1963 but unspecified construction delays during November forced the first races to be rescheduled to early January.  Despite the construction delays on December 21, PIR announced that the first “100-mile race for Indianapolis type cars” was scheduled for March 22 1964.
The PIR road course opened on January 5 1964 for a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) regional sports car race won by Wichita oil man and former American Automobile Association (AAA) championship division car owner Jack Hinkle in his Cooper Monaco. This was followed by five SCCA divisional races on February 16, and then PIR hosted back-to-back SCCA regional and national races over the weekend of April 18 and 19.

The 1964 SCCA national PIR race program cover
note the billing as "The Indianapolis of the West" 

The SCCA national event featured a number of well-known road racers on the entry list: Chuck Parsons, Ronald ‘Skip’ Hudson, Dave MacDonald, Jerry Titus, George Follmer, Dick Guldstrand, Rick Muther, and Bobby Unser who drove Dick Hogue’s Lotus 23B Ford. The featured 60-lap 250 kilometer race on Sunday was won by Dave MacDonald in the Shelby-American “King Cobra” over Skip Hudson in the Nickey Chevrolet Cooper Monaco.   

After a New Year’s Day open test, the first drag race at the PIR complex was held on Sunday afternoon, January 12, 1964. Drag races on the unlighted 70-foot wide strip were held infrequently as the PIR strip fought with the better known and established Bee Line Dragway which opened in Mesa in early 1963. The PIR drag strip suffered a severe blow less than three months after it opened when on March 1 1964, Robert Snyders III, driver and co-owner with Larry Reimer of the “Snyders-Reimer Special” dragster died in a crash.

At the end of his final 187 mile-per-hour (MPH) pass, the parachute failed to deploy and Snyders’ car struck the retaining wall where the shutdown area blended into the oval at an estimated speed of 130 MPH.  After it hit the wall, the “Snyders-Reimer Special” flipped over several times and came to a stop upside down.  Snyders, a 27 year old father of two daughters from Chicago was taken from the wreckage and transported to St. Joseph's Hospital nearly 45 minutes away where he was pronounced dead on arrival. 

Harry Redkey takes over PIR

With the PIR drag strip and road course open in January 1964, the oval became active soon after and hosted its first USAC championship car race, the “Phoenix 100” held on Sunday March 22 1964, which was won by AJ Foyt who led every lap in Bill Anstead and Shirley Thompson’s Watson roadster. Tony Briggs, the first Phoenix International Raceway General Manager, had a short reign in July 1964, Dick and Nancy Hogue announced they had hired the track promotion and management team of Tucson’s Bob Huff and the legendary Harry Redkey. 

Redkey, the son of a municipal court judge in Muncie Indiana had been involved in the racing business for nearly thirty years, as a mechanic, driver, owner, and promoter primarily with stock cars. Redkey’s first race promotion dated back to 1950 at the high-banked Cincinnati Race Bowl and then in 1951, Harry and his partner Charles E. Schaff had established the touring Championship Stock Car Racing Club (CSCRC), which became the Society for Autosport, Fellowship and Education (SAFE) “All-Star Circuit of Champions.” In addition to running SAFE, Redkey also leased the 16th Street Speedway across from the gates of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1954 and promoted stock car racing on the ¼ -mile paved oval.

During 1955, SAFE ran a 32-race all-convertible schedule of races across the United States, under director of racing Bill Holland the 1949 Indianapolis 500-mile race who had retired from race driving the year before.  In late December 1955, Redkey and Schaff formally merged the SAFE organization with the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR), and SAFE became the NASCAR Convertible Division. Redkey served as a NASCAR Vice-President for some time, but moved on to Las Vegas and tried unsuccessfully to promote a series of USAC races at the Las Vegas Park thoroughbred track.

In August 1959 Redkey with partners Chuck Hud and RD Mole announced a pair of 250-mile races to be held on successive Saturdays, November 21 and 28, with the first race for stock cars and the next weekend a 250-miler for championship cars.  AAA had staged a promotional disaster championship car race the ‘Silver State Century’ at the same Las Vegas Park thoroughbred track in 1954.  On October 20 Competition Director Henry Banks announced USAC had granted a sanction for a 250-mile championship race on Saturday November 28. Somewhere all the way, plans changed and USAC and the ARCA co-sanctioned a 250-mile stock car race at Las Vegas Park on November 29 which was called due to darkness with 147 laps completed with Hoosier Fred Lorenzen in the lead.

In 1961, Harry Redkey and partner Nick Roberts signed a five-year lease for Manzanita Park Speedway located at the corner of Broadway and 35th Avenue in Southwest Phoenix. Originally started as a dog track, disgruntled racers from South Mountain Speedway started auto racing there and eventually added a ½-mile track to augment the original ¼-mile track. The track sat idle through the early part of the 1961 season, but Redkey reopened it and promised a guaranteed $1000 purse or 40% of the spectator gate receipts versus the original $400 purse. Redkey’s promotional skills saved Manzanita Speedway and eventually South Mountain Speedway closed.     

Redkey attempted to schedule a pair of weekend USAC midget races at Tucson Speedway and Manzanita in early April 1963, but both races were canceled just a few days prior when Redkey was unable to obtain satisfactory insurance to meet USAC standards. It appears from news reports that at least one of the races were rescheduled for October 1963 as Billy Cantrell won the 40-lapper on the half-mile at Manzanita Speedway over Mel Kenyon.

In turning over the operation of Phoenix International Raceway to Redkey, Dick Hogue was quoted in the July 9 1964 issue of the Arizona Republic that “he wanted to be free to concentrate on other business interests.” Redkey and Huff, the promoter of Tucson Dragway promised “major improvements” for the PIR facility which included building a roof over the grandstand, and the addition of 2000 box seats which would bring the main grandstand to a total capacity of 10,000 fans. This grandstand remained unchanged until lightning sparked a fire in 1987 and burned the structure to the ground.

Redkey and Huff’s first PIR promotion, the USAC championship 200-mile Bobby Ball Memorial in November 1964 drew an estimated 16,000 to 17,000 fans, a huge success that created an hours-long traffic post-race nightmare for fans, a problem that PIR suffered with for many years. 

Redkey and PIR drag racing

After lights were added in May 1965, the Phoenix International Raceway drag strip began to host a regular program of weekly Sunday night drag races. When he announced the purchase of the lights in April, Harry Redkey claimed that he was negotiating with both the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and the American Hot Rod Association (AHRA) but he had made no choice of a sanctioning body. When the weekly races began they were unsanctioned.

On the night of August 22 1965, a seventeen-year-old Tucson High School junior, Phil Miner, was killed when the “Valley Auto Parts” AA/fuel dragster he was driving left the pavement, touched the soft dirt shoulder, dug in, and cartwheeled to a stop.  Rescuers found young Miner still alive, strapped into the cockpit of the destroyed dragster and removed him, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Joseph's Hospital.

The Arizona Republic sports columnist Gerry Pierson asked the following day “what rules allowed a 17 year old to race a car capable of over 200 MPH?  The two top-ranked national sanctioning drag racing organizations, the NHRA and the AHRA have definite rules where the qualifications of competitors are concerned. PIR is unsanctioned by either group.” Pierson’s editorial also questioned whether the PIR drag strip was unsafe. “People will bring up the fact that Bee Line Dragway has successfully staged over 105 meets and has yet to have a fatality while PIR has had two drag strip deaths in seven meets.”

Sports columnist Bob Crawford writing in the Tucson Daily Citizen a few days later responded to Pierson’s editorial that “witnesses agree that anyone who places the blame on Phoenix International Raceway for Phil Miner’s death is wrong.” Crawford’s column quoted Miner’s mentor, Gary ‘Red’ Graeth “if a similar accident occurred in the Midwest, Miner could have taken a couple of dozen spectators with him. We’re lucky to have a strip as safe as PIR.”  Likely due to the publicity associated with the two tragedies, it appears that drag racing at PIR did not continue for long after the Miner tragedy, if at all.

Changes on the horizon as “Aggie” returns

Redkey continued to promote both PIR and Manzanita Speedway through 1965, and in late November 1965 that Redkey was elected to a three-year term to replace Bill Lipkey as the promoter’s representative on the USAC Board of Directors. In January 1966, former driver and wholesale auto dealer Keith Hall bought out the final year of Redkey’s lease on Manzanita Speedway and bought the track grounds from owners Rudy Everett and Larry Meskimen. While Redkey had saved Manzanita Speedway, Hall would take the track to greater heights. 

Beginning in 1965 Redkey landed a second annual PIR date on the USAC championship trail, the season opener and the season finale for the next three seasons. Redkey also managed to obtain FIA/ACCUS “full international” sanctioning status for the March 1966 Jimmy Bryan 150-mile race which he hoped would attract foreign drivers and thus more fans, but no international stars joined the USAC regulars.  

Harry Redkey had his first hiccup after five successful races when a lack of entries forced cancellation of a 250-mile USAC late-model stock car race at Phoenix International Raceway just days before the January 15 1967 race date. The $23,600 purse race, which would have been the first stock car event ever held at PIR, was to have opened the 1967 United States Auto Club USAC late model stock car racing season. "We simply had no other way to go," Redkey told the Tucson Daily Citizen. "We waited as long as we could and went as far as we could go before calling it off." Redkey said he had only seven signed entries and nine verbal commitments and that “we could hardly put on a decent race with seven cars.” 

USAC stock car supervisor Emil Andres pointed out “there’s a football game on television that day isn’t there” (referring to the first ‘Super Bowl’) but claimed that he had “nineteen bonafide entries and four vebals.”  Andres told the Arizona Republic newspaper he thought “the promoter was a tittle hasty in calling this thing off. I don’t think he ever wanted this race,” a claim Redkey vehemently denied. “If Mr. Andres would have spent as much time trying to get entries as he did talking to the press we would have a race.” 

At some point during the period from 1965 to 1967, track owners Richard and Nancy Hogue divorced and by 1967, Nancy Hogue moved in her new home at 7347 Red Ledge Drive in Paradise Valley and was in total control of the Phoenix International Raceway. On February 3 1967 an article in the Arizona Republic announced that JC Agajanian had been named to the PIR Board of Directors and would be an ‘advisor’ to Nancy Hogue, the sole owner of the speedway. The press release stated that Harry Redkey would remain as the director of racing at PIR, but that quickly changed.

On February 16 1967 readers of the Arizona Republic read reporter Dennis Woods’ article that revealed that 47-year old Harry Redkey was out at PIR, replaced by JC Agajanian as promotions director a rumor which “Aggie” had denied less than two weeks earlier. Jerry Raskin, identified as Nancy’ Hogue’s “business manager” told Wood “we have no reason for the dismissal to give to the press.”

Redkey read Wood a prepared statement “Myself and Robert Huff have been informed by the President and majority stockholder of PIR that we are removed from the board of directors. I have also been informed that I am no longer a corporate officer or the general manager. We will no longer participate in the active management of PIR; however Mr. Huff and I still remain as minority stockholders.”  

Charges and countercharges

Two days later, Nancy Hogue filed for an injunction against Redkey and Huff to obtain PIR property, papers and business records in their possession. Nancy’s suit also revealed her reason for the firing of the pair as she said there were “extended extravagant amounts of money for travel, hotels, entertainment, telephone calls, salaries etc.”  In apparent response to Redkey’s claim of minority ownership Agajanian told reporter Dennis Wood that “no one owns stock in PIR besides Nancy Hogue.” Agajanian stressed in his interview that “Mrs. Hogue dismissed Redkey, not me,” but added “it was obvious that there was dissension; otherwise there wouldn’t have been a dismissal.”  

In early March 1967 Redkey and Huff filed a $200,000 suit against Nancy Hogue which made several claims; first that “false representations were made with the intent to deceive and defraud” the pair. Redkey claimed that he had loaned PIR $10,000 for operating expenditures and his suit claimed that that loan came after “Nancy Hogue removed money for the PRI operating fund checking account without notice for no apparent reason. Finally, their suit claimed that Nancy Hogue “refused to have stock issued to Redkey and Huff as agreed,” and that their firing was a breach of their three-year contract with Hogue signed in October 1966. The pair asked the court to award them both compensatory and punitive damages.  

On January 28 1968, JC Agajanian as the new track promoter presented the first stock car race at Phoenix International Raceway, a 250-mile race held not on the oval but on the 2.73-mile long road course. The race, sanctioned by the United States Auto Club (USAC) featured several of USAC’s top Indianapolis star drivers- Foyt, McCluskey, Pollard and Jones and was won by USAC stock car stalwart Don White before more than 7,500 fans. In February, Jerry Raskin described as a former advertising executive and real estate developer was first quoted as the “track spokesman” when the raceway offices were opened at Dick Hogue’s former office at 511 East Culver Street in Phoenix.     

Redkey in Tucson

By June 1968, when Redkey and Huff announced their purchase of Tucson Raceway and a surrounding 300-acre parcel on Houghton Road as the site of the multi-purpose facility, their $200,000 lawsuit against Hogue was still active. The pair announced their plans for the initial construction of 2.7-mile paved road course which would eventually be joined by a 1-1/2 -mile high-banked oval, a half-mile oval, and a quarter-mile oval that would include a figure-eight. "That's all in the plans,” said Huff, "but it's also somewhere in the future. For right now, we are going to complete the road course and be ready for a November 3 USAC race with seating for about 16,000 with initial outlay for the road course and stands of "about a quarter of a million dollars."

"We'll have to start construction at least within the next couple of weeks," Huff told Pete Erickson of the Tucson Daily Citizen "and go fast." Huff claimed that with the road course is completed it would require “only a little work” to complete the big oval and the half-mile track. A large part of the existing Tucson drag strip was be used, and that the road course would be unique. “Every fan with a seat should be able to see a wheel turn anywhere on the track," according to Huff “I don't think there's a road course in the country at which you can see everything from your seat. Because of the contour of the land and the fact that it slopes slightly away from the grandstands -- which will be raised, by the way -- you'll be able to see the entire track."

The audacious plan for the road course was never completed, and on Redkey and Huff’s  planned race date November 3 1968, USAC held its second 250-mile championship car race promoted by Ken Clapp at the 1-1/2 mile Hanford Motor Speedway (originally known as Marchbanks Speedway) in Hanford California.

 A bizarre incident

Jerry Raskin Mrs. Hogue’s “business manager” became the PIR general manager and in September 1968 told the Arizona Republic that the dogleg on the oval had been “removed.”  "What happens now," Raskin said, "the cars will be able to drift coming out of the second turn and won't have to adjust again entering the straightaway." Raskin said renovation of the facility, cost $5,000. "We had to move in several tons of earth to bank the turn about 16 degrees but it’s well worth it.” The author could not find any information to confirm Raskin’s claim.

Later during 1968, Mrs. Hogue fired Raskin and he filed a lawsuit that asked for $17,100 in back wages and commissions.  The next turn of events on December 4 1968 came when Raskin was reportedly physically assaulted in his lawyer’s office prior to his scheduled deposition. Raskin’s attorney Rod Wood  told the Arizona Republic that Mrs. Hogue’s lawyer, Marvin “Mike” Johnson reportedly greeted Raskin and repeatedly referred to him as “big man” After Raskin refused to shake hands, Johnson allegedly struck Raskin four or five times in the face.

Raskin was treated for bruises on the left side of his face and shoulder at St Joseph’s Hospital and Phoenix Police patrolman Ernie White took a report on alleged attack by but no charges were apparently filed in the incident, and the Arizona Republic reported in a front page story that attorney Johnson could not be reached for comment.  
The incident was treated in a light-hearted way as in his January 5 1969 Arizona Republic “On the Town” column Vic Wilmot listed a number of items that he wished “the New Year may bring” that included “a suit of armor for Jerry Raskin.” The source of the friction between the two men became evident when in September 1971 Nancy Hogue married her lawyer in the Raskin case, Marvin Johnson in Santa Monica California.

In the next installment of the Phoenix International Raceway story, we will review the operation of the speed facility up to its purchase by entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin