(Indianapolis, IN)-- After four decades of racing, a Texas legend will come home for the first time.
John Mecom, Jr.'s name is not widely recognized among racing's new fan base, but he is one of the most respected team owners in the history of motorsports. Based out of Houston, Mecom began his first racing team in 1962. Within two years of its creation, his team was ranked among the top in the nation, and an Indianapolis 500 victory in 1966 cemented their status.
Mecom, Jr. was instrumental in assisting the racing careers of some of the sport's most legendary drivers, including Mario Andretti, Graham Hill, A.J. Foyt, Roger Penske, Parnelli Jones, Jackie Stewart, Rodger Ward and Al Unser, Sr. Mecom witnessed as his legendary team dominated tracks all over the nation and the globe, but he never saw one of his drivers compete professionally in Texas.
"One of my favorite racing memories was winning in England and listening to the national anthem in the winner's circle on foreign soil," said Mecom, Jr. "I've experienced the thrill of racing all over the world, but the closest I came to racing at home was about 800 miles. My teams participated in SCCA events and things like that, but nothing professional. It's nice to be coming home to race."
Finally, after 40 years of motorsports, John Mecom, Jr. of Houston will watch his race team compete professionally in Texas for the first time on June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway. The cars have changed, the crew and driver are different, the team name is now Heritage Motorsports, but his love for the sport, his team and his state has remained unaltered over time.
"Just the fact alone that we're racing at a major track in Texas shows how much the sport has grown," said Mecom, Jr. "It is a wonderful facility, capable of hosting all major racing events. There are a lot of reasons why I'm thrilled to be competing at the Texas Motor Speedway, most important, it's home."
Mecom, Jr.'s connection with Texas extends over three generations. His father was one of the biggest independent oil operators in the world, and he later inherited the family-business, expanding its interests. In 1966, the same year his race team won the Indy 500, Mecom Jr. founded the New Orleans Saints NFL team. John Mecom III, Mecom, Jr.'s son and co-owner of Heritage Motorsports, now oversees the family's diverse portfolio, which includes car dealerships, cattle ranches, real estate, plastics manufacturing, medical technology, as well as oil and gas operations.
"I couldn't ask for a better mentor than my father," said Mecom III. "He has driven himself and everyone around him to perform at a higher level than his competition. I respect his knowledge in business and in racing."
Mecom, Jr. joined forces with his son and the Rathmann family of Melbourne, Florida in January to form Heritage Motorsports, an IRL team with a historic past and a bright future. The team, piloted by IRL veteran Jeff Ward, made their debut March 18, in Phoenix. In the first three races of the season, the team qualified third, first and second, respectively, finishing no lower than seventh. Heritage Motorsports qualified Ward's car eighth for the Indy 500, and was running third mid-way through the race before the car suffered mechanical problems. They also qualified Stefan Gregoire, in the 29th position for the Indy 500. His car was forced to leave the race after acquiring a fatal oil leak. The team finished the day in the 24th and 28th positions.
"Indy was disappointing, but that's just part of racing," said Mecom, Jr. "There are ups and downs, sometimes you smile, sometimes you cry. I've been around this sport a long time, and it's nice to be involved in the racing community, but to feel apart of it is so much more special. It's nice to be coming home to Texas to race."
Practice for the Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway begins Thursday, June 7 with qualifying Friday. The race begins at 8pm and will air on ESPN.