Wednesday, November 13, 2019

RETRO: Some of Arizona's more Noteworthy Racing Drivers

A somewhat more Sedate, Kinder A.J. Foyt behind the wheel of the 2011 Indy 500 Pace Car for the race track's 100th Birthday. (The Tomaso Collection)
And, Nah, Ain't Talking 'bout Transplanted Racers like The Gasman', Queen Dan-Dan-Danicker', Thee Thrill from The West Hill, 'Ol PT', Lyn St James or HELL! The Speed Freaks...

Whale' Gollee! Guess what Kiddoes? Yep, your venerable No Fenders Scribe Tomaso's Off upon another Gory Holiday! Again, already? As I'm off to The Valley of The Sun for a little R & R'; Err Business Meetings with Ye Blogmeister Miguel and Artiste Daye; Yeah, that's the ticket, Righto?

Hence, I began ponderin' what famous Racers were from Arizona? Preferably Open Wheel Racing Drivers, albeit I suppose Thars' a bevy 'O Sprint Car and Dare I say it? Good 'Ol Roundy-round Taxicabland Bomber Wheelmen too...

Although the following names are just what I gleamed during a cursory look on Ye Intrawoods', nee Internet and therefore I Don't claim these to be everybody of Motor Racing Fame Hailing originally from Ye State of Arizona...

Arse-sumin' Y'all know that thou 2004 Indianapolis 500 Winner Buddy Hot Rod' Rice Hails from Phoenix, AZ, El Correctomundo? But can Y'all name the other two  Indy 500 winners from Arizona?

Nah, it Ain't The Flying Dutchman, aka Arie Luyendyk, who's lived in Arizona a long time now, and I Arse-sume' he's still residing in Paradise Valley? Or was it Fountain Hills? but Arie was born in Thee Netherlands, hence his nickname..

And speakin' of 'Luyendyk, how could I forget 'bout one of my favourite Indy Racing League Drivers; CRIKEYS! ACK! But Phoenix's Billy Boat forever sticks in thoust Cranium for Driving for one of Open Wheel Racing's most colourful Driver-Owners, 'Ol SuperTex, nee A.J. Foyt.

As Foyt is famous for Back-handing Arie in the Winners Circle at the 1997 True Value 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, (TMS) the series inaugural event Thar, along with the IRL's Debutante Night race.

With Foyt celebratin' over His new charge Billy who'd Done Won the Race! For which AJ's still got the original winner's trophy, even if it eventually cost him $20k! Thinking his Boy had won by 2-laps!

Although it was following this fracas when Luyendyk's team owner Fred Tredway filed 
an Appeal over the race results for which Arie was vindicated over his perceived slight of USAC's Scoring malfunction he'd been Cussing 'bout during the race! And was ultimately Declared the race's Official Winner. Having won by 1-lap ahead of Boat and his team-mate Davey Hamilton scored P3.

William Leonard "Billy" Boat made his IRL Debut at the 1997 Indianapolis 500 for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, one race before that Rumble at TMS! With his Breakout season coming the following year. When Boat won his lone IRL victory at Texas Motor Speedway in '98, along with claiming six of his nine Indy Racing League Pole Positions that season. As Boat reeled off Five Pole Positions in-a-row at season's end.

Yet ironically, it was Billy's team-mate Thee Brackster', nee Kenny Brack who won that year's Pep Boys Indy Racing League Championship with a modest three victories vs. Boat's one.   
Whilst Billy's son Chad Boat has also tried making a name as an Open Wheel Racer, mostly in Sprint Cars and other Roundy-Round endeavours, albeit believe I spotted Chad's name on this year's Indy Lights Drivers roster?

And then continuing on with Phoenix, AZ natives, how could I forget the 1998 Indy 500 Winner who'll forever be remembered as "Eddie Who?" Y'all know when Edward McKay Cheever, Jr., more fondly known here in Nofendersville as Eddie The Mouth! Piloting the RachelsSpuds-machine' won the 82nd running of the Indianapolis 500.

While Cheever also holds the record for most Formula 1 Career Starts by a Yank', with an amazing 132 Starts between 1978-1989, which presumably won't ever be Broken!

Then Thars' a couple of Good 'Ol Boyz', nee Taxicab Bomber Pilots currently contesting RASSCAR's premiere Monster Cup series, with Tucson's Alex Bowman campaigning the famed No. 88 Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

Along with Michael McDowell from Glendale chauffeuring the #34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang. Although I know McDowell better from his ultra brief Champ Car forray for Paul MEATHEADZ' Gentilozzi's Rocketsports Racing Team Wayback in '05.

A few other noteworthy Arizonan's are Jerry Coonz, Jr,, Nick Firestone and Jagger Jones.

As Coonz, who Hails from Tucson is one of Sprint Cars pre-eminent racers, and is One of only six to have won USAC's Triple Crown, i.e.; Sprint Car, Midgets and Silver Crown championships.

Nick Firestone, also from Phoenix is a Great Grandson of that "Firestone," as in a one Harvey Samuel Firestone, founder of Flinstone Tyre & Rubber Company. And for some weird reason, I vaguely recall Nick's brief tenure in Indy Lights during the 1990's.

As Nick actually contested 42 Indy Lights races between 1993-96 for Dick Simon and Brian Stewart Racing, with a pair of runner-up finishes at Nazareth and Milwaukee in '93 being his best results.

While ironically, it was twenty years ago when he failed to Qualify for the 83rd Indianapolis 500 in a McCormick Motorsports entry.

Jagger Jones, born in Scottsdale, is one of the latest generation of those Jones Racin' Gang and currently competes in the K&N Pro Series West driving the No. 6 Ford Fusion.

Jagger's the son of P.J. Jones and Grandson of 'Ol Rufus Parnelli Jones, winner of the 1963 Indianapolis 500.

Another 'Ol School Short Track Championship Car Driver from Phoenix was Bobby Ball, for which I only know the name historically, due to what forever will be Phoenix International Raceway to Mwah, used to run one of its two USAC National Championship Car races, the Fall event between 1964-1978 as the Bobby Ball Memorial race.

Ball cut his racing teeth in Rodsters, before moving to Midgets and winning the Arizona State Midget Association Championship consecutively in 1949-50. He also contested the Indianapolis 500 twice, between 1951-52, with a best finish of fifth as a Rookie.

Yet Bobby's racing career was fairly brief due to suffering Head Injuries at Carroll Speedway in Los Angeles in January, 1953 - before succumbing to infection just over one year later and dying at the age of 28 in 1954.

Indianapolis 500 Diehards will know the name of Tucson's Roger McCluskey, who won multiple USAC Championships in three diverse categories. Winning Sprint Cars titles in 1963 & 1966. The largely forgotten USAC Stock Car Championship in 1969-70, and then Thee Top Banana, the National Championship Cars Crown in '73. Ironically the year he scored his best finish in that ill fated Indianapolis 500, finishing third.

Roger who Died at the age of 63 in 1993, after a long fight with Cancer, is a multiple Hall of Fame inductee. First in Sprint Cars, the year he Died. Then Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002 and finally the Motorsports of America in 2011.

McCluskey also has a few interesting distinctions in his long racing career. First being the very rare feat of winning his final USAC Champ Car race he entered, the 1979 Michigan 500.

While more importantly, he's credited with saving SuperMario's (Andretti) life in the 1967 24 Heurs du Mans, where he was Co-driving a Holman & Moody Ford GT40 MkIIb. Pulling Mario to safety after he'd crashed his GT40 MkIV after Brake failure.

And lastly, keeping Y'all in suspense; BUZZ! Time's Up, put Dem Pencils Down; Hya! The third Indianapolis 500 winner hailing from Phoenix, Arizona is James Earnest "Jimmy" Bryan, winner of the 1958 Indy 500.

Bryan is one of only seven Three-times IndyCar Series Champion, albeit during the AAA and USAC National championship Car era, with 23 Career victories to his credit.

Jimmy was also the inaugural winner of the long forgotten Race of Two Worlds held in Italy from 1957-58. While sadly, he Died from injury during the 1960 Langhorne Champ Car race, the same day when two Formula 1 competitors perished in the Belgian Grand Prix.

And now I'll put my feet up, have a few Adult Beverages in The Valley of The Sun. Possibly traipse over to the Penske Racing Museum and take a break away from thou Keyboard...