Hoosier Hundred retrospective

The Hoosier Hundred - A Look Back With the resurrection of the Hoosier Hundred, the Track Enterprises staff thought this would be a good time to take a look back at some previous runnings of the Hoosier Hundred to help race fans and competitors...

The Hoosier Hundred - A Look Back

With the resurrection of the Hoosier Hundred, the Track Enterprises staff thought this would be a good time to take a look back at some previous runnings of the Hoosier Hundred to help race fans and competitors gear up for the 54th edition of this great dirt track championship event.

Five Years ago - the 51st Hoosier Hundred was washed out on it's original May date two nights before the 500, and again the following day when heavy rain turned the mile into a quagmire. The Foyt group once again rescheduled the event on the US Grand Prix weekend in late September, and on a cool Friday night an excellent crowd returned to the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Young Michael Lewis wowed the crowd by backing his car into turn one and cutting quick time for the night at over 114 miles an hour in qualifications, but arguably Johnny Parsons stole the show with a pleasing rim ride to the front in the last chance race, then duplicating that rim ride from 2lst to the lead by midway, only to have the car go away resulting in a 5th place fmish. When the checkered flag flew Indiana native Tony Elliot had his second Hoosier Hundred trophy in hand for car owner Gene Nolen, taking the lead from Jerry Coons, Jr. on the 83rdlap. Fellow Texan Paul White nailed down his first USAC Silver Crown title with a 7th place run. The race marked the dirt car debut of fellow Texan A.J. Foyt IV, the grandson of six time Hoosier Hundred winner A.J. Foyt. The race also marked the last Hoosier Hundred appearance of three-time winner Jack Hewitt.

Ten Years ago - the Hoosier Hundred actually took place in May of 1996, when it was actually scheduled for September of 1996. A.J. Foyt had taken over promotion of the May Hulman 100 and the September Hoosier Hundred in 1991. Foyt canceled the September date during the summer, citing attendance as a factor. As a result, the officially recognized Hoosier Hundred is the 100-miler run at the fairgrounds in May of 1996.

Rains forced the postponement of that event until the next afternoon, when cars took to a somewhat sloppy Indiana State Fair oval. George Snider looked as if he had captured his first ever 100-mile race on the Indiana State Fair oval when he brought the Skoal Beast across the finish line first, however in the post race tech inspection the Snider-Foyt car was found to be eleven pounds underweight, disqualifying the run and handing Dave Darland what would be his second win in the Hoosier Hundred.

Twenty years ago - A warm September morning saw track preparation one of the main items of note for the 34th Hoosier Hundred, as a reworked surface and an attempt to cut the track deeper and water heavier made for an interesting surface. From the drop of the green flag in practice it was quite evident that the only way around was the pole, as deep holes and ruts a car length off the pole made running any higher in the corners quite an adventure.

Larry Rice in the Lefevre 5 won the pole, but to no one's surprise it was Jack Hewitt, who had dominated the entire season, capturing the $12,500 first prize. Several red flags stopped the event, including a spectacular wreck in turn three in which Warren Mockler flipped, and his fuel tank caught fire destroying several yards of canvas used to keep dirt from flying out of the track.

Twenty-five years ago - It was warm and humid on September 12, 1981 for the 29th Hoosier Hundred as some familiar names graced the pit area. Mel Kenyon had picked up his first champ car ride in years with the Blackie Fortune team, while Al Unser, Jr. took over the cockpit of the Gary Stanton 75. Winner of the very first dirt track divisionlSilver Crown event at Nazareth in 1971, Jim McElreath also appeared on the Hoosier Hundred entry list. One name that was expected but failed to appear was A.J. Foyt. Of course, A.J. had good reason, Defending USAC Dirt Car champ Gary Bettenhausen, 1977 titlist Larry Rice and Rich Vogler were locked in a battle for the first Silver Crown title in 1981. The Hoosier Hundred, usually run off at about 2, had the entire schedule moved back in order to accommodate far traveling race fans. Heavy watering moved the start back further and led to a race track that had a cushion in hot laps, but quickly developed into a very slick oval. Rice won the pole in the Pizza Hut 55 with a slow lap at just over 100 miles an hour, while Bettenhausen put himself in the 14 originally slated for Foyt, and put Steve Chassey in his own #1. Rice proceeded to lead all 100 laps on his way to an emotional $11,000 win, but that wasn't the whole story. He was dogged the entire distance by Vogler and by crowd favorite Bettenhausen. G.B. had clipped the inner rail early on, and the left front went flat by lap 30, meaning G.B. three wheeled the car for the last 70 miles.

Thirty years ago - the Hoosier Hundred held on the bi-centennial played to a full house in September of 1976, and featured an entry list with names like Parsons, Foyt, Hurtubise, Engelheart and Carter. Parsons, driving Tassi Vatis' Ol Herman dirt car, rode the cushion to the pole position. Fans witnessed a multi groove race track and some spectacular cushion rides until tragedy struck on lap 51. Parsons, Bubby Jones and Jan Opperman were all locked in a classic duel for the lead. Parsons slowed suddenly in turn thriee and opperman rode over a rear tire flipping the Longhorn 12. As Opp was climbing from his stalled machine, his car was hit in the roll cage by another car, essentially ending the career of the racing Hippie. The race resumed under a pall as Opp was carted away, but the show put on by Foyt and Joe Saldana quickly perked up the crowd. Saldana beat Foyt to the checkers as A.J. 's car went sour in the closing laps. This race also marked the last Hoosier Hundred for P.A. announcer Sid Collins, as the Voice of the 500 would pass away the next May.

Forty years ago - The Beatles were two years removed from a 'smashing' appearance at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, and a young man from across the pond who would take the auto racing world by storm was in his second season of championship racing, entering 1966 as the defending National Champion. Mario Andretti was well settled with the Dean Van Lines crew by the time September 1966 rolled around, he had won the 1965 title as a virtual rookie on the championship trail, won the pole with blazing speed for the 1966 "500" and had won on virtually every type of race track that existed.

Except for a dirt mile. Because of his slight build it was thought that the dirt might be Andretti's weakness, but surprisingly it turned out to be one of his strengths. Thanks to the invention of power steering, and the mechanical work of Clint Brawner, Mario was able to put the Dean Van Lines Kuzma dirt car on the outside of the front row next to arch nemesis Foyt. Before an overflow crowd of nearly 25,000, Foyt took the lead from the pole followed by Andretti and Arnie Knepper. A.J. 's Sheraton Thompson Meskowski led Andretti for 97 circuits around the slick one mile oval, before the brake pedal broke giving the win to Mario. A philosophical Foyt tossed the brake pedal out on the mainchute during the cool off lap, while Andretti took the points on the way to his second national title.

Fifty years ago - Nineteen hundred and fifty six mean that Elvis was on the verge of taking the music industry by storm, poodle skirts and flat top haircuts were in style, America and Russia were in the midst of the 'cold war' and the '56 Chevrolet Bel Air was a hot rodder's dream.

On the championship race tracks of the United States, it meant that fans came out in droves to watch the exploits of the "Arizona Cowboy", big Jimmy Bryan. Car owner Al Dean and chief wrench Clint Brawner won the first Hoosier Hundred in 1953 with Bob Sweikert wheeling their Kuzma built dirt car. After Sweikert left the team, Bryan became the driver of choice. Bryan finished second in the dirt car to Bill Vukovich at Indy in 1955, won the Hoosier Hundred and the national title. He repeated as Hoosier Hundred winner in 1955 but lost the national title to Sweikert. Bryan came into the 1956 race on the verge of a second national title, helped by the misfortune suffered by Indy 500 winner Pat Flaherty who suffered season ending injuries on the dirt at Springfield, an event Bryan won. Unfortunately, Sweikert was also missing, the victim of a fatal accident at Salem earlier in the year. Big Okie Jud Larson introduced himself to championship fans in a big way when he broke the track record in John Zink's dirt car. Larson broke from the pole and led the first 71 circuits before Bryan, who started tenth overhauled him. The "Cowboy" would not be caught beating Hoosier favorite son Pat O'Connor, Rodger Ward and a fading Larson to the checkers.

The 54th running of the Hoosier Hundred promises to add to the legend and excitement of Amenca's grand 100-mile national championship races. The 54th running of the Hoosier Hundred takes place at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Friday night, May 26 two days before the 90th Indianapolis 500 and in conjunction with the National Indianapolis 500 Memorabilia Show. Tickets for the Hoosier Hundred are on sale now at 217-764-3200 or at 317-927-1482.

-jh-

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About this article
Series HISTORY , USAC
Drivers A.J. Foyt IV , Mario Andretti , Pat Flaherty , Michael Lewis , Dave Darland , Jack Hewitt , Johnny Parsons , Paul White , Jim McElreath , Bill Vukovich , Jerry Coons , Rodger Ward , A.J. Foyt , Al Unser