Ford Racing celebrates centennial

By David Reininger - motorsport.com DEARBORN, Mich. (October 13, 2001) - In a celebration that could only come once every hundred years, Ford Racing marked their centennial this weekend by inviting racers and race fans from around the world to...

By David Reininger - motorsport.com

DEARBORN, Mich. (October 13, 2001) - In a celebration that could only come once every hundred years, Ford Racing marked their centennial this weekend by inviting racers and race fans from around the world to Greenfield Village, located near Ford's headquarters in Dearborn. The village green came alive today with the thunderous sound of Ford race cars from every facet of the sport.

With so many different types of automobile racing around the world, very rarely do racers get a chance to come together to celebrate the sport as a whole. Ford provided that opportunity this weekend inviting drivers, past and present, from drag racing, stock car racing, grand prix and sports car racing to share their experiences with the fans.

The level of specialization and commitment required to produce a successful racing program today, often means that racers go their entire career without witnessing a form of racing other than their own.

In the public question and answer sessions this morning, Tony Pedregon, driver of one of John Force's funny cars, admitted that, although he enjoys other forms of racing, he had never attended a Winston Cup event. Ned Jarrett, a former Winston Cup champion, and father of current NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett, expressed an appreciation for the career of Lyn St. James, who he had met for the first time the night before at a dinner party.

Instead of facing members of the media in the Q & A sessions, the microphone was passed among the fans, providing for some very entertaining moments. When Carroll Shelby was asked if his racing career was enhanced by anything he learned as a chicken farmer, Shelby answered, I learned to "get the hell out of the chicken business."

Other highlights included Glen Wood talking about Ford bringing the Wood Brothers team to Indianapolis to crew for Jim Clark in a Lotus-Ford. Many still say that Clark won the Indy 500 because of the quick pit work done by the Wood Brothers.

While the question and answer sessions were a special treat for those interested in the oral history of the sport, the celebration also featured some of the fastest race cars ever produced in the United States, from dirt track racers to Indy 500 winners.

The Legends Tent featured cars from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum as well as from the private collection of Parnelli Jones. Also in same tent were two famous cars from the Henry Ford Museum, the "999" and the GT-40 Mk IV driven to victory at Le Mans by A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney.

Ford Racing's Centennial marks the anniversary of Henry Ford's race with Alexander Winton on October 10, 1901. Ford, driving an underpowered car, claimed victory in front of 7,000 people when Winton developed engine trouble on lap seven. In the early days of the horseless carriage, reliability was a key selling point. When Ford's machine outlasted the Winton, it paved the way for Ford to start the Ford Motor Company in June of 1903.

A reenactment of the famous race was staged on the activities field with drivers competing in period garb.

The weekend celebration continues on Sunday with the first question and answer session getting underway at 9:30 in the morning. Sunday's schedule is much the same as Saturday, with four separate sessions each for autographs and Q&A. For more information and a complete schedule visit www.fordracing.com.

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Series Vintage , General
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Dan Gurney , Lyn St. James , Jim Clark , Henry Ford , Alexander Winton , Parnelli Jones , A.J. Foyt