TIME MACHINE: 1979 - WHITTINGTON BROTHERS SET PACE FONTANA, Calif. (March 17, 2005) --- Racing excitement continued at Riverside International Raceway as the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix was brought back to life under IMSA on April 22, 1979. The...
TIME MACHINE: 1979 - WHITTINGTON BROTHERS SET PACE
FONTANA, Calif. (March 17, 2005) --- Racing excitement continued at Riverside International Raceway as the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix was brought back to life under IMSA on April 22, 1979. The world-renowned newspaper had a long-standing relationship with the raceway and was ready to resurrect its event that had come to life with USAC in the 1950s, SCCA in the 1960s and eventually Can-Am until the series ended in 1973.
With a noon start time, the Sunday afternoon six-hour endurance race saw an estimated 43,600 fans in attendance. Five-time series champ Peter Gregg had claimed the pole position. He and co-driver Klaus Ludwig were heavy favorites for the race win. In the opening laps of what would be a 195-lap event, several cars dropped oil onto the course, making it extremely slippery by the second hour.
Leader Gregg had built more than a one-minute lead by the two-hour mark and was lapping cars. As he tried to over take another entry by the esses, the car changed lanes. He was crowded into the concrete curbing causing a flattened tire and a broken lower right control arm. More accidents took favored racers out, including actor Paul Newman's teammate Sam Posey and Hurley Haywood who tangled in turn two on lap 41.
Brothers Bill and Don Whittington stuck to their game plan, creating a smooth, steady pace as the leaders dropped at alarming rates. They experienced a seat mounting that had come loose allowing the driver, who was 33-year old Don in the closing laps, to slosh around the cockpit like ice in a glass of Pepsi.
The Whittingtons crossed the finish line by more than a minute and a half ahead of John Paul and Al Holbert who came in second. George Follmer/Derek Bell/Brett Lunger finished third and Bob Akin/Rob McFarlin/Roy Woods finished fourth, both cars were six laps down followed by Gregg/Ludwig in fifth and 10 laps down. Only 10,000 fans remained for the finish.
Stay tuned for more great racing moments as California Speedway looks back at Riverside International Raceway's rich history. Next up, John Fitzpatrick wins the 1980 Los Angeles Times/TOYOTA Grand Prix of Endurance en-route to the series title.
Great road racing continues to thrive in Southern California at the home of California Speedway. Join Grand American for the Rolex Sports Car Series 400 and Grand-Am Cup Series 200 on April 1-3, 2005. Tickets are available as both weekend packages and individual tickets. For ticket and event information, call 800-944-RACE  or visit www.californiaspeedway.com.