Greatness Ignored - 5 Great Forgotten Moments in American Motorsport #BlogPost

America has a long and rich motorsport history, stretching back to the late 19th Century. Throughout American motorsport’s history, however, many moments have been forgotten. Whether it be an amazing comeback drive, an underdog drive, a milestone, or just an amazing lap, these moments deserve the recognition that not many people know about. Here are 5 Moments in American Motorsport that have been forgotten.

1987 Camel Grand Prix of Southern California - Willy T. Ribbs' Comback Drive

The IMSA GTO class ran its final race of the 1987 Season on October 24th, 1987 on a temporary street circuit at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego, California. Ribbs started in the 4th position in his Toyota Celica, and the start of the race saw Scott Pruett in a Ford Mustang shoot out into the lead with Jack Baldwin slotting his Camaro into 2nd. As they went through the first corner, Ribbs made contact as he went for 3rd position, which knocked the valve stem off his right front tire. Ribbs limped the car back to the pits and eventually came out in 25th position.

Ribbs began his drive to the front immediately. As team owner Dan Gurney took the lead, Ribbs was picking off car after car. Ribbs’ All American Racing Toyota was dominant, but it would take a miracle to get into the Top 5. However, Ribbs was capable. He drove his heart out, and ended up finishing the day in 3rd position, capping off one of the most underrated comeback drives in the history of motorsport.

1985 Firecracker 400 - Greg Sacks' Amazing Underdog Win

Bill Elliott had dominated the high speed superspeedways in NASCAR. The Ford Thunderbird had proved itself and absolutely dominated over the Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks. Elliott had his own comeback drive at another high banked superspeedway at Talladega in May, coming from two laps down to pass Cale Yarborough with nineteen laps remaining. In total, Elliott had made up 5.32 miles on the field, showing true dominance, and when NASCAR arrived at Talladega’s sister track, Daytona, in July, he was the man to beat.

Two weeks before Daytona, Greg Sacks bought a Chevy Monte Carlo off Henry Lanier to run at Daytona. Sacks was working then as part of a development team with DiGard Racing, and had a rag-tag crew in which some had never worked on a stock car before. The only thing different in Sacks’ car compared to the other Monte Carlo’s, was a modified steering system. The team originally wanted to start the race and park the car after only a few laps, to get the prize money and not spend as much servicing the car. However, Sack qualified ninth out of forty-one cars, and the plan was made to try to run the full race.

Sacks used the draft at the start of the race and was able to stay with the front pack, but the amateur pit crew hurt him. He would lose time whenever he pit. However, Sacks’ car was fast enough to stay with the pack. Late in the race, Elliott had pulled away to a large lead, but Sacks’ car was incredible. The aerodynamically disadvantaged Monte Carlo caught Elliott and passed him with nine laps left. Sacks then left Elliott in the dust, pulling out to a 23.5 second lead in nine laps, and pulling off maybe the greatest underdog drive in NASCAR history.

1979 United States Grand Prix East Practice - Gilles Villeneuve's Separate Level

As practice began for the 1979 United States Grand Prix East, the skies opened. Rain fell heavily, enough to scare most of the field into staying into the garage. However, six cars did venture out onto the Watkins Glen circuit. Jody Scheckter had sealed the championship up at Monza, and decided to venture out, as the race forecast also called for rain. Scheckter scared himself enough to pull in on the soaking circuit, saying that there was no way anyone could go faster. The next car out was the #12 car, Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari.

Media members rushed out to watch, as Gilles was spectacular in the wet. Gilles ran a few laps and came into the pits for a shocked crowd of drivers, media members and mechanics. Gilles had gone eleven seconds faster than Scheckter’s lap. Jacques Laffite sat in the pits in disbelief, saying “..why do we even bother.” Villeneuve then revealed that his Ferrari was actually having a misfire, which cost him at least 600 RPM. He could have gone even faster, no one could believe it.

2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - Youth Rules

After the reunification of the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series, Graham Rahal and the Newman-Haas Team went to Homestead-Miami Speedway with hopes of competing for a win, but after issues in practice he missed the race due to a lack of parts to repair the car, as the Champ Car team did not have the full supply of parts for the differing Dallara IR-05. By the second round in St. Petersburg, Florida, they had all the parts they needed.

Rahal started down in the ninth position, but the first laps would start under the caution flag. After ten laps had been completed, the race started. It was apparent after this that the race would end under the two hour IndyCar time limit for road races. Rahal battled to the front until Lap 37, when he was tapped by Will Power, resulting in a spin. Rahal was put down to twenty-third, but battled back for the rest of the race. On a restart on Lap 65, Rahal took the lead, and never looked back. Rahal became the youngest winner in IndyCar history, at just nineteen years and ninety-three days.

1997 Phoenix 200 - Jim Guthrie's Great Upset

In 1997, the IRL had started its second second. The newly specified chassis cost teams a lot of money, one of those teams was Blueprint Racing, Jim Guthrie’s own team. Guthrie took out a second mortgage on his home to pay for the new chassis, taking a major risk. If he didn’t finish at Phoenix, he may have been out of the sport, and out of a place to live. His unsponsored car showed up in Phoenix on a flatbed trailer behind Guthrie’s RV, it seemed impossible for him to even finish the race, much less compete.

However, Guthrie shocked everyone by qualifying second to Tony Stewart. Guthrie ran under Stewart’s rear wing for the first half of the race. Stewart pitted on Lap 95, and Guthrie took the lead until he pitted on Lap 119. When Kenny Brack crashed on Lap 146, Guthrie regained the lead. On Lap 180, Sam Schmidt crashed, and Stewart pitted for tires, while Guthrie stayed out. For the rest of the race, Stewart hounded Guthrie, but he hung on. Guthrie had won. The car that was dragged there behind an RV became a winner.



You just did what i was planning to do about belgian motorsport. Great post.

12/01/2017 - 21:39 |
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KPS Lucky - Inactive

1987 Toyota Celica IMSA GTO? Instant upvote.

Also Zac, you probably should change the introduction. Specifically the end: you say 10 moments, while in the title you say 5. Other than that this is a brilliant post.

12/01/2017 - 22:07 |
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Eh, I can’t count. It’s been a long week.

12/01/2017 - 22:18 |
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