Since its debut in the March 20, 1991, issue of National Speed Sport News, various formats of Looking Back have provided readers with a recap of motorsports history.
Reviving this tradition as part of SPEED SPORT Insider, we recently ventured into the NSSN archives to see what was making headlines 25 and 50 years ago.
Here’s what we found:
25 Years Ago – 1998
Blaney Goes NASCAR Racing: During the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour, National Speed Sport News learned that 1995 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion Dave Blaney would run 20 NASCAR Busch Series races in an Amoco-backed Pontiac fielded by veteran car owner Bill Davis.
“I wasn’t beating down people’s doors for a stock car ride,” said the 35-year-old, second-generation racer from Hartford, Ohio. “My sprint car career was good enough. I wasn’t going to leave and come down here and beg for a ride, but if an opportunity like I have now came up, I would certainly do it.”
Blaney is expected to move up to Winston Cup by the year 2000, but says he needs the extra training in the Busch Series.
USAC Board Sides with IMS: Months of meetings and negotiations failed to produce a merger that would have brought NASCAR and USAC together “in an attempt to benefit racing across the board.”
“We had a continuing dialogue with NASCAR that was good for both our organizations, but it wasn’t going anywhere,” USAC President John Capels said in the Jan. 28, 1998, issue of NSSN. “Everyone thought a deal was coming down, but we decided to carry on.”
Instead, the USAC board unanimously approved a last-minute proposal from Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George that pledged IMS support to USAC in the areas of marketing and series support.
The two organizations will also work closer together to expand opportunities for young drivers in open-wheel racing.
Earnhardt Wins the Daytona 500: NASCAR kicked off its 50th anniversary in grand fashion Feb. 15, when seven-time Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt opened the season by finally winning stock car racing’s most prestigious event.
“The Daytona 500 is ours,” said Earnhardt, his voice cracking. “We won it. We won it. We won it.”
The victory ended 20 years of frustration and disappointment for Earnhardt, who was greeted by a line of well-wishers when he came down pit road.
“It was pretty awesome to see that,” Earnhardt admitted. “Coming down pit road with all the pit crews with everybody coming out and giving me high-fives, and I then I went out and spun around in the grass.”
Earnhardt’s milestone victory was worth $1,059,105.
Adam Petty Makes History in ASA
For more than an hour after the checkered flag waved over the June 27, 1998, American Speed Ass’n late model event at I-70 Speedway in Odessa, Mo., Adam Petty sat on the frontstretch wall and signed autographs.
Earlier those fans had witnessed history as Petty, two weeks shy of his 18th birthday, became the youngest driver to win an ASA event.
A cut tire early in the race put Petty two laps down, but he fought back and tire strategy ultimately proved to be the deciding factor.
“This is awesome,” Petty said. “We planned to run the final 80 laps with the same tires. But Chris (Bradley) made the right call. Fresher tires against older tires are going to win.”
Jimmie Johnson, an off-road racer from Southern California, finished second.
Indy to Host U.S. Grand Prix
Formula 1 racing is returning to the United States for the first time since 1991.
On Dec. 1, 1998, F-1 czar Bernie Eccelstone and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George unveiled plans for the legendary Indianapolis facility to host the United States Grand Prix in 2000.
“Today marks the realization of a personal dream of mine since becoming president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1990: to give the United States Grand Prix a permanent home that it deserves here in Indianapolis,” George said.
In preparation for the Formula One weekend, a 2.55-mile road course that incorporates a portion of the oval track will be built and the Pagoda Tower at the start/finish line will be replaced. Pit road garages and suites will also be added.