Monday, October 22, 2012

1969 - Ford to Back Two IMCA Drivers

Jacque Passino

Des Moines, Iowa (October 22, 1969) - Two International Motor Contest Association stock car drivers - still unselected - will get backing from Ford next season. But Ernie Derr shouldn’t worry too much about an eleventh championship - Ford isn't giving a full ride.

“We will provide technical assistance and parts to two people,” Jacque H. Passino, special vehicles manager for Ford’s Product Development Group (which means he’s in charge of the company’s United States racing activities and some in Canada), said here Tuesday.

Passino was en route to Ames, where he spoke to the Iowa State University Society of Automotive Engineers Tuesday night. Passino explained his job is to see that Fords win races, which sells cars.

He said Ford has 30 stock cars competing in three circuits - 20 in NASCAR, six in the United States Auto Club (USAC) and four in the Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA).

Ford has not had a car in IMCA since Dick Hutcherson of Keokuk won the championship in 1963 and ‘64, although the firm did loosen its purse strings somewhat this season, apparently for Ron Hutcherson, Dick’s brother, and Ole Brua of Albert Lea, Minn. Derr, also of Keokuk, has won the last five championships with Dodges.

Passino said he would like to find another driver like Dick Hutcherson, who went on to be a NASCAR star. Hutch is now crew chief for David Pearson, one of NASCAR’s top drivers.

“There just isn’t anyone like Dick around,” Passino said. “He was ideal. Not only was he a good driver, but he and his father worked as a team and they had a construction firm, so Dick could devote considerable time to racing.”

“He worked at it.”

“Worked at it” are the key words in finding someone in IMCA who can rise to challenge Derr and his Dodge, represent Ford off the track as well as on and go on to be a big-time star. Youth is another prime requirement.

Passino said Ford wouldn’t provide a fully backed factory team in IMCA (at least at first) because a driver wouldn’t “work at racing if he had everything provided.” So just how much Ford does kick into IMCA, particularly in the future, depends upon the drivers it selects.

The company definitely wants someone in his mid-20’s. This limits the field and definitely eliminates Lenny Funk of Otis, Kan., who campaigned with Fords for several years and was among the top drivers each season. “Lenny is a good driver,” Passino said, “but he must be in his 40’s. That's too old.”

Passino apparently has a good scouting system. He was familiar with several drivers in IMCA. Although there are no Dick Hutcherson’s around, there are Ron Hutcherson, Fred Horn of Marion and perhaps Irv Janey of Cedar Rapids.

These were mentioned to him but he still was non-committal about Ford’s choices for help.

Ron made a bid in IMCA in the mid-sixties but wrecked his car then came back this year with a Dave Pearson car provided by Dick. Ron put up a good challenge to Derr but wrecked his car early in August and again was sidelined. Horn is presently second in IMCA standings. Janey turned in several creditable jobs this year.

Ernie’s son, Mike, who made his racing debut this year, probably would be a prospect except for his and Ernie’s ties to Chrysler- Plymouth.

Passino said Dick Hutcherson is doing a great job as a crew chief for Pearson. “He’s an elder statesman of racing now,” the Ford official said.

He added, “Dick has the ability to listen to a racing driver and look at a car and tell what’s wrong. He can communicate with drivers and that’s what is needed. Some people don't have that ability.”

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