Gordon Johncock took advantage of a late mistake by Bobby Unser to win the USAC Championship season opener, the ‘California 200’ at Hanford Motor Speedway


Sunday 17th March 1968

Gordon Johncock took advantage of a late mistake by Bobby Unser to win the USAC Championship season opener, the ‘California 200’ at Hanford Motor Speedway. Johncock was running a distant 3rd with 14 laps to go when Unser went too hard into turn 1 in an effort to beat Roger McCluskey into the turn. Unser spun up the banking and 2nd running Art Pollard hit the wall trying to avoid. Unser restarted after losing a lap, but Pollard was out. Having been in a lengthy battle for the lead with both McCluskey and Pollard, Unser apparently wasn’t aware that McCluskey had lost a lap after a recent stop for fuel. Joe Leonard escaped injury after his new Brawner-Ford hit the wall and burst into flames on lap 53. Unser won the pole in his turbocharged Offy powered Eagle with a speed of 155.709 mph on the 1.5 mile banked paved tri-oval. Sonny Ates and Gary Bettenhausen both made the starting field in upright dirt cars, as did a front engined roadster. It was Johcock’s 2nd straight win at Hanford, both coming in the waning laps. In the Fall 1967 race, Pollard ran out fuel while leading and Leonard crashed with 3 laps left to give Johncock the win.


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