17-18 February: This Weekend in Motor Sport History

Discover the momentous motor sports events that took place this weekend in history…..

~17 February ~

1901: The first car named Mercedes, made by Daimler, debuted at the Circuit du Sud-OuestFrance. Maurice Farman recorded his first racing victory, winning in a 24-hp Panhard – his brother, Henri Farman, finished second in a 12-hp Darracq. It was run in three classes around the streets of Pau.

1912: Frank Kulick, driving a modified Ford Model T on frozen Lake St Clair, Michigan, covering a flying mile in 33 2/5 seconds (103.45 mph). A heavy blanket of snow that had fallen the night before was removed and a wide course two miles long cleared. This historic vehicle is sometimes identified as “999 the Second” in memory of the earlier great Ford racing car or “Kulick Racer” for its most famous driver. “999 the Second” was also used in hill climbing contests and established a record on the Algonquin Hill Climb, Algonquin, Illinois.
1927: During the Ninety Mile Beach 5 lap handicap race, a non-competing car hurtled down the beach and collided with racer Bert Fitzherbert’s car, killing its unknown lady passenger. Fitzherbert was at the wheel of a Dort. The race was held in the circuit of Ninety Mile Beach, a beach located on the western coast of the far north of the North Island of New Zealand, west of the town of Kaitaia. In the 30s Ninety Mile Beach was used as the runway for some of the earliest airmail services between Australia and New Zealand.
1957: Cotton Owens driove the Ray Nichels Pontiac to victory in the Daytona Beach NASCAR Grand National event, recording the first NASCAR win for the Pontiac nameplate.
1963: The three-hour Daytona Continental, run at Daytona, Florida, USA, was won by Pedro Rodriguez in a Ferrari 250 GTO.

1974: The 1974 Daytona 500, the 16th running of the event, was won by Richard Petty after three hours, eleven minutes, and thirty-eight seconds of racing at Daytona International Raceway in Daytona Beach, Florida, USA. This was his 5th Daytona 500 victory and his second straight win. During the start of the 1974 NASCAR season, many races had their distance cut ten percent in response to the energy crisis of the year. As a result, the race was shortened to 180 laps (450 miles), as symbolically, the race “started” on Lap 21 and the race is often known as the Daytona 450. The Twin 125 qualifying races (won by Bobby Isaac in a Banjo Matthews Chevrolet and Cale Yarborough in the Richard Howard Chevy prepared by Junior Johnson) were also shortened to 45 laps (112.5 miles).
1979: Auto racer Don Williams was left in a coma as a result of a crash during the Sportsman 300 race at Daytona (US).  The crash began when a car driven by Freddie Smith went into a spin and was struck by a car driven by Joe Frasson, which then burst into flames as he hit the wall. Frasson was then struck at full speed by Delma Cowart. Williams was behind Cowart and tried to avoid the pileup. His #68 Chevrolet Chevelle slammed into the wall and spun onto the infield amid a shower of flying debris. Williams suffered head and chest injuries as well as a fractured right arm and an aneurysm in the right eye. He died nearly ten years later (May 1989) without regaining consciousness.
1980: Buddy Baker won the fastest Daytona 500 in history, at 177.602 mph (285.809 km/h).
1983: During the first of the Twin 125 qualifying races for the Daytona 500, former Indy 500 driver Bruce Jacobi lost control at the exit of Turn 2 and flipped his Chevrolet upon entering the grass infield, eventually coming to a stop near the inside dirt bank. It is speculated that his roll cage failed during the crash. Jacobi suffered extensive head injuries and was in a coma for almost four years before passing away at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
1987: Frank Kurtis (79), an American racing car designer who built midget cars, quarter-midgets, sports cars, sprint cars, Indy cars, and Formula One cars, died. He founded Kurtis Kraft in Glendale, USA, where he built some very low glass-fibre bodied two-seaters sports cars. Ford (US) running gear was used. The Kurtis Kraft chassis midget car featured a smaller version of the Offenhauser motor. The National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame described the combination as “virtually unbeatable for over twenty years.”  Kurtis Kraft created 120 Indianapolis 500 cars, including five winners. Kurtis sold his midget car business to Johnny Pawl in the late 1950s, and his quarter midget business to Ralph Potter in 1962. He has since been enshrined in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
1991: Dale Earnhardt was passed by Ernie Irvan in the 1991 Daytona 500 with six laps to go to score an upset win. Earnhardt spun out with two laps remaining and taking out Davey Allison and Kyle Petty. Irvan cruised on the final lap as the race ended under the caution flag.
2001: Michael Schumacher was faced with potential legal action after deciding to switch helmet supplier from Bell to Schuberth. His contract with Bell was set to end at the end of 2001 but Schumacher wanted to switch to his new brand, which had made a bullet-proof construction. Schumacher claimed the new lid was safer, but when Bell proved that its helmet wasn’t unsafe a Belgian court ordered the Ferrari driver to pay US$115,300 in damages every time he didn’t wear it. Schumacher wasn’t deterred, however, and wore the Schuberth make for the whole season.
2003: BAR boss David Richards played down the significance of an ongoing war of words between his drivers Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button. Villeneuve claimed that Button had to earn his respect and prove his mental resilience to compete in the top flight of F1. Button replied by saying he was not at his new team to earn Villeneuve’s respect and a tit-for-tat battle began between the two ensued. However, Richards said the petty arguments could work to the team’s advantage. “I think if it’s managed properly it can be regarded as healthy competition,” he said. “I was with Jenson the last couple of days in Spain where he was testing and we discussed it. It’s mostly come from Jacques’ side, and Jacques is renowned for his forthright views and speaks his mind about things. Certainly one will be easier than the other, but if there is to be a little bit of friction in the team then I will manage that process.”

2006: Bernie Ecclestone put forward the idea of having a US Grand Prix in Las Vegas in 2007, after concerns over tyre safety for Michelin runners meant the 2005 race at Indianapolis featured just six cars. The relationship between Ecclestone and Indianapolis circuit boss Tony George was on thin ice after the controversy and Ecclestone said he was looking into other options. The last race to be held in Las Vegas took part in the Caesar’s Palace car park in 1982 but the drew small crowds. In the end Indianapolis returned to the calendar for one more season before the US Grand Prix fell off the calendar altogether in 2008.
2013: Danica Patrick became the first woman to win a pole position in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Her eighth place in the race, was the highest finish for a woman in the Daytona 500.

~18 February ~

1900: The first circuit race, the Course du Catalogue, run over two laps of a 45 mile triangular course at Melun in France, was won by Léonce Girardot in a Panhard.

1919: Ralph DePalma, driving Packard ‘905’, powered by a 12 cylinder 905 cubic inch aero-engine, at Daytona Beach, recorded a one-way flying mile at 149.887 mph. Although a world record it was not officially recognised as a new land speed record. In all De Palma set all American speed records from one to twenty miles during February 1919.
1934: “Stubby” Stubblefield won a 250 mile Stock Car race held on a 1.9 mile dirt road course at Mines Field (now the site of Los Angeles International Airport). Stubblefield averaged 62.3 mph in a Ford V8, leading a Ford sweep of the top 5.
1962: After 3 years of being the best driver never to win the Daytona 500, Fireball Roberts came to the 1962 edition race of the 500 on a hot roll, he won the American Challenge for winners of 1961 NASCAR events, the pole position for the 500, and the Twin-100 mile qualifier. In the race, he dominated the race leading 144 of the 200 laps and finally won his first (and eventually his only) Daytona 500 win. Richard Petty, who finished second protested Roberts’ win, claiming the Yunikcs team used more than six pit crewmen during the race. Roberts’ win was upheld three days later.

1973: Richard Petty, the “King of Stock Car Racing,” won the Daytona 500 before a crowd of over 103,000 spectators, marking the first time a stock car race had drawn over 100,000 spectators. No longer would there be questions about NASCAR’s mainstream popularity. On this day in 1979, Petty became the first man to win six Daytona 500s. Winning the most prestigious event in any sport six times is enough to earn the nickname “The King,” but Petty is perhaps most famous for his 1967 season in which he won 27 of 48 races, including a record 10 straight victories. In a sport where mechanical failure is commonplace, Petty’s total domination was seen as superhuman. “The King” came from royal stock. His father, Lee Petty, was the first man to win the Daytona 500.
1979: For the first time in Daytona 500 history, CBS televised the race live flag-to-flag on US national television. A major snowstorm, known as the Presidents Day Snowstorm of 1979, bogged down most of the Northeast and parts of the Midwest, increasing the viewership of the event. Donnie Allison was leading the race on the final lap with Cale Yarborough drafting him tightly. Yarborough attempted a slingshot pass at the end of the backstretch, and Allison attempted to block. With both drivers refusing to give, the cars banged together three times until crashing into the outside wall in turn 3. Third place Richard Petty, running a half a lap behind, sailed by to take the victory. Just before CBS’ cameras picked up Petty, they prematurely followed Buddy Arrington (who was driving a borrowed year-old Petty car) across the line. The cameras then found Petty and Waltrip, who were just coming off of turn 2, and followed them to the checkered flag. Donnie Allison and Yarborough climbed out of their cars and began to argue. Bobby Allison stopped at the scene, and a fight broke out on national television. The story made the front page of The New York Times. It is largely considered the point at which NASCAR arrived as a popular national sport.
1990: After years of trying to win it, Dale Earnhardt appeared to be heading for certain victory in the 1990 Daytona 500 until a series of events in the closing laps. On lap 193 Geoff Bodine spun in the first turn, causing the third and final caution of the race. Everyone pitted except Derrike Cope, who stayed out. On the lap 195 restart, Earnhardt retook and held the lead, only to puncture a tire when he drove over a piece of metal bell housing from the failed engine of Rick Wilson’s car on Lap 199. As Earnhardt’s damaged car slowed, Cope drove past and earned his first Winston Cup (now NEXTEL Cup) victory. It was the first of two victories for the relatively unknown Cope in the 1990 season. In an ironic twist, the local CBS affiliate of Cope, who at the time was a resident of the Seattle suburb of Spanaway, opted to pre-empt the race to telecast a Seattle Supersonics basketball game, and the race was delayed until 3 PM US PST because of the pre-emption, following a CBS NBA telecast.
1998: As the move to make F1 safer rumbled on and against a backdrop of a trial in Italy following the death of Ayrton Senna four years earlier, the FIA announced it was to fit black boxes to all cars with effect from the start of the season three weeks later. “The implications for safety are very encouraging,” said Max Mosley, the FIA president, but not everyone was convinced. “There would certainly have been some additional data gathered,” said Harvey Postlethwaite, technical director of the Tyrrell Formula One team, “but that does not necessarily mean you would be able to tell what caused the accident. Gathering the data is one thing, but interpreting it can be something of a minefield.”

2001: Seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt (49), died in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500. His car, the famous black No. 3 Chevrolet, was hit from behind and spun out into the path of Ken Schrader’s car, before crashing head-on into the outside wall at 180 mph. Earnhardt was the 27th driver to die at Daytona since the track opened in 1959. Earnhardt, whose tough, aggressive driving style earned him the nickname ‘The Intimidator’, was involved in another crash at the Daytona 500 in 1997, when his car flipped upside down on the backstretch. He managed to escape serious injury. In 1998, he went on to win the Daytona 500, his first and only victory in that race after 20 years of trying. Earnhardt, a high-school dropout from humble beginnings in Kannapolis, North Carolina, said all he ever wanted to do in life was race cars. Indeed, he went on to become one of the sport’s most successful and respected drivers, with 76 career victories, including seven Winston Cup Series championships.
2007: Kevin Harvick edged past Mark Martin to win the 2007 Daytona 500. The 2007 race, held exactly six years to the day of Dale Earnhardt’s tragic death, was the first time Toyota, a “foreign name plate” car, entered the Daytona 500. Two of the four qualifying Toyotas completed the race, with Dale Jarrett finishing 23rd and Michael Waltrip finishing 30th. Tony Stewart’s wreck that took him out of the race was strangely similar to the one that claimed Earnhardt, although Stewart was not injured in the crash. One car, the Jack Daniels #07 driven by Harvick’s RCR teammate Clint Bowyer, flipped on its top with another car colliding into him, causing Bowyer’s car to catch fire. Bowyer’s momentum carried him over the finish line, upside-down and in flames, for an 18th place finish. The car then righted itself in the infield grass and Bowyer alertly exited the burning vehicle to walk away unharmed.
2007: Residents of Monte Carlo would have been forgiven for thinking Ferrari had turned up for the Monaco Grand Prix three months early when a Formula One car took to the famous streets in February. In fact the team were recording footage for a Shell TV advert and had recruited Irish drivers Paddy Shovlin and Michael Cullen to drive a F2003 past some of the principality’s most famous landmarks. The final video was cut together with classic Ferrari racing cars from all eras racing around the streets of New York, Sydney, Hong Kong and Rome.
2008: Lewis Hamilton won a prestigious Laureus Award for his breakthrough season with McLaren in 2007. Hamilton came within a point of winning the championship in his debut year and equalled the tally of his double world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso over the course of the season.

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