BROOKLYN, Mich. --Racing legends Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and hometown favorite Gordon Johncock will participate in the MIS Legends Forum in downtown Jackson, Mich., on Friday, July 30. The forum, which is scheduled to start at 5:00...
BROOKLYN, Mich. --Racing legends Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and hometown favorite Gordon Johncock will participate in the MIS Legends Forum in downtown Jackson, Mich., on Friday, July 30.
The forum, which is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m., will be located at the Indy Racing Stage along Michigan Avenue, and is part of the Jackson RaceWeek Festival downtown street party celebration leading into the Aug. 1 Michigan Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The event is open to the public and there will be no admission charge. After the forum, all three legends will be signing autographs from 6:00-6:30 P.M. Also, all drivers participating in the Michigan Indy 400 and the Paramount Health Insurance 100 will be on hand to sign autographs from 6:00-7:00 P.M. along Michigan Avenue.
Unser, Rutherford and Johncock will be on hand to discuss various aspects of their illustrious racing careers, including their successes at MIS. Robin Miller, the racing journalist who helps cover the sport for SPEED-TV and cohosts the racing show "The Truth" on ESPN Radio in Indianapolis, will moderate the forum.
The three legends made their mark in the sport in general and at MIS in particular. A look at the MIS record book reveals that Johncock and Rutherford share the record for most open-wheel victories at the track with four each while Unser is in a four-way tie with three open-wheel victories.
Unser also has the most pole positions at MIS in open-wheel racing with seven. Because of that factor, the pole position award for the annual IRL IndyCar Series race has been named in his honor.
"Open-wheel racing at Michigan International Speedway is a great show for the fans and a true test for all the drivers and teams," said Unser, a three-time Indy 500 winner and two-time national champion (1968 and 1974). "It's been a very special place to me over the years and as a driver, it was literally one of my favorite tracks. To this day, it's a really fun place for me to visit."
In addition to his success in open-wheel racing at MIS, Unser also won an IROC race here in 1974 and captured the pole for a USAC stock car event the same year. Unser participated in the inaugural open-wheel event at MIS, starting second and finishing 17th. He started second and finished seventh in his final MIS race in September of 1981. Overall, Unser competed in 21 open-wheel races at MIS as well as seven USAC stock car events and five IROC races.
Rutherford, like Unser, was also a starter in the inaugural MIS race when he started fifth and finished 16th while driving for Jackson, Michigan businessman U.E. "Pat" Patrick. Rutherford recorded his first open-wheel victory at Atlanta in 1965, but an accident in a sprint car the following season set his career back for a time.
When he started racing at MIS, he was on the verge of big accomplishments and by 1973, when he joined Team McLaren, he became a force on the circuit. In fact, after qualifying on the pole at Indy that year, he captured his first Indy-car victory in eight years by winning the 100-mile qualifying race at Ontario, Cal. He followed up with his third career Indy-car victory by winning at MIS two weeks later.
By the time he retired, Rutherford had won the Michigan 500 in 1986 and 26 other Indy-car races, including three at Indianapolis. He was also the 1980 national champion, driving Jim Hall's radical ground-effects Chaparral.
In between the MIS victories of 1973 and 1986, Rutherford also won the Norton Twin 200 in 1978 and 1980. In 1984 while substituting for the injured Rick Mears, he also set a new track record at MIS, winning the pole for the Detroit News Grand Prix 200 with an average speed of 215.189 miles per hour.
In addition to scoring the most open-wheel victories at MIS with four wins, Rutherford has the most open-wheel starts with 35 and is ninth overall in average finishing position at 9.14. He is fourth overall in most miles completed with 6,844, fourth overall in laps led with 483 and has the fifth best average starting position at MIS at 6.06.
Johncock has numbers to rival those of Unser and Rutherford, but he also has a special distinction with MIS fans as a native of Hastings, Michigan.
As fast and fearless as they came, Johncock's flat-out style of racing was suited to the high banks of MIS.
"It was my favorite track," said Johncock, the 1976 national champion. "It had the high banks and I liked that. It was the first place you could run flat out. They finally had gotten the cars working to where you could do that so I liked running at Michigan."
A testing accident forced him to miss the inaugural MIS race (after he set quick time), but he came back to win four times, including the 1982 Michigan 500. In all, he made 28 open-wheel starts at MIS, as well as starts in six IROC events, two USAC stock car races and one ARCA race at the track.
He ranks third overall in laps led with 490 and seventh in average starting position at 6.50. Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Gordon Johncock: they don't come any more talented than this trio. If nothing else, the record books at MIS prove that.
For tickets and information on the IRL IndyCar Series/Menards Infiniti Pro Series/NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series weekend at MIS, log on to www.MISpeedway.com, or call the MIS ticket hotline at 1-800-354-1010. Children 12 and under are free the whole weekend and all seats for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 and Paramount Health Insurance 100 are just $40. All seats for the July 31 Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners 200 are just $30 and a combination ticket for both days, which includes three races, are just $50.