31 October- 1 November: This Weekend in Motor Sports History

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


-31 October-

1925: The 1.25 mile board oval Rockingham Board Speedway in Salem, New Hampshire, US, with corner banking of up to 49 degrees, staged its first event, a 250-mile race won by Peter DePaolo in a Duesenberg. Racing was held on the board oval until 12th October 1928, the last race being cut short by Fred Comer’s fatal accident on what was a deteriorating surface. The oval was returned to its 1 mile dirt oval form for 1930, and racing finally ceased in 1932. The venue remained in use for horse racing, although the grandstands for the track were burnt down in the 1970s.

1957: Joe Weatherly stormed to victory on Columbia (South Carolina, US) Speedway’s half-mile dirt track, but Bob Welborn’s fourth-place finish is enough to clinch the second of three championships in the NASCAR Convertible Series. Billy Myers finished second to Weatherly in the ragtop division’s season finale, with Gwyn Staley third, two laps down.

1965: The Rockingham Speedway opened as a flat, one-mile oval. In 1969, the track was extensively reconfigured to a high-banked, D-shaped oval just over one mile in length. In 1997, North Carolina Motor Speedway merged with Penske Motorsports, and was renamed North Carolina Speedway. Shortly thereafter, the infield was reconfigured, and competition on the infield road course, mostly by the SCCA, was discontinued. Currently, the track is home to the Fast Track High Performance Driving School, The track has also been used often for television and movie filming.

1967: The first official Baja 1000 off-road race started in Tijuana, Baja California. The course length was 849 miles (1,366 km) and ended in La Paz, Baja California Sur with the overall winning time of 27 hours 38 minutes (27:38) set by Vic Wilson and Ted Mangels driving a Meyers Manx buggy.

1971: Denny Hulme drove a McLaren M8F-Chevrolet to victory in the Can-Am race at Riverside, California, USA. His Team McLaren teammate Peter Revson finished second.

1999: Mika Häkkinen driving a McLaren clinched the 1999 World title in Suzuka by winning the Japanese Grand Prix. It had been one of the most controversial finales in Formula 1 history. The Ferraris of Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher which had been disqualified at the previous race in Malaysia for using illegal deflectors, but their points from the race had been restored by the FIA’s officials. For Mika it meant he had to win the Japanese Grand Prix to beat championship leader Eddie Irvine to the title. And that’s exactly what the Finn did at Suzuka, despite constant pressure from Michael Schumacher.

-1 November –

1953: Buck Baker surged to victory in the season finale at Lakewood Speedway outside of Atlanta (Georgia, US) as Herb Thomas drove home 14th to become the first two-time NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) series champion. Baker led 22 of the 100 laps at the mile-long dirt track, edging runner-up Fonty Flock and third-place Lee Petty. Both Baker and Thomas would be honored the following year as inductees into the 2013 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

1962: Ricardo Rodríguez, Mexcian racing drive, died aged 20. He competed in the 1961 and 1962 Formula One seasons.

1972: Twenty-year-old Ricardo Rodriguez was killed on this day, probably trying a little too hard to impress in qualifying in front of his home ground at the Mexican Grand Prix. He was also out to prove a point to Ferrari who had not entered the non-championship race, leading to him borrowing Rob Walker’s Lotus. He entered the Peraltada corner too fast, ran out of track and ploughed into a barrier. He died instantly. His brother, Pedro, also a driver, considered quitting but carried on. Nine years later he too was killed while racing.


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