Jeff Gordon looks to pass early leader Danny Smith (56) at Florence (Ky.) Speedway. (John Mahoney photo)

Mahoney’s Memories: Florence Speedway 1989

Editor’s Note: In this monthly photo essay feature, National Sprint Car Hall of Fame photographer John Mahoney shares his memories and images from some of the most amazing and historic sprint car and midget races.


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Jeff Gordon celebrates his first USAC triumph, which came in a winged sprint car at Kentucky’s Florence Speedway. (John Mahoney photo)

USAC Sprint Cars, Florence (Ky.) Speedway, May 20, 1989

Somehow, Dick Jordan and I got crossed up on our meeting place and I missed my ride. I mulled whether or not to make the trip and decided to go ahead and head south.

It was a lucky move as USAC’s first visit to the half-mile dirt Florence Speedway in Kentucky proved historic. Seventeen-year-old Jeff Gordon scored his first USAC victory in the 30-lap winged sprint car feature.

Kevin Briscoe established an automatic track record of 16.818 seconds to pace the 28-car field in qualifying.

Ten-lap heat races went to Danny Smith, Jim Moulis, Gordon and Brian Tobin. Dave Feese paced the last chance 12 lapper.

Bob East looks on as Steve Stapp and others work on the No. 7x sprint car. (John Mahoney photo)

Smith, the fifth-fastest qualifier, took the lead at the green flag and led until Gordon made his move on the 18th lap. Gordon paced the final 13 laps to the checkered flag. Tray House got by Smith to finish second.

Fourth through 10th were Moulis, Tobin, Feese, Briscoe, Bob East, (Indiana) Andy Hillenburg and Greg Staab.

By virtue of his victory, Gordon took the lead in the USAC Loctite/Crestliner Vans Sprint Car Series standings. He would lead again briefly later in the schedule as Rich Vogler earned his final USAC title.

The 1989 season was the third of USAC’s venture into winged sprint car racing. Winged shows made up seven events on dirt while the non-winged sprinters staged two dirt races. There were 11 pavement races. USAC eventually pulled the plug and the sprint cars ran wings for the last time during the 1991 campaign.


This story appeared in the May 17, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.

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