Wednesday, June 12, 2013

1960 - Branson speeds home first in Terre Haute fairgrounds race

Terre Haute, Ind. (June 12, 1960) - Don Branson, about the hottest thing to come out of Champaign, Ill., since Red Grange put that prairie country on the map, “put his foot in it” and held it there to come home the winner in the 30-lap feature race yesterday afternoon at the Terre Haute Fairgrounds track. Branson, defending Midwest champion and a popular driver among speed buffs, had Jim Hurtubise on his tail pipe all the way before the checkered flag went out.

Branson, sitting up front along with pole winner Eddie Sachs, took the lead on the first lap and never completely surrendered it, although pressed hard by Hurtubise on the turns. Hurtubise, a young Californian who won the coveted “Rookie of Year” award at the Indianapolis Speedway last month, never gave Branson rest for a second.
Driving a car powered by a Chevy-Corvette engine, Hurtubise twice pushed the nose of his car ahead of Branson, but each time Branson put daylight between them when they straightened out in the backstretch and main stretch. Hurtubise never backed off and Branson got the checkered flag about five lengths to the good.

Branson’s time was 13:17.19, off the track record of 12:45 set by Sachs in 1958. However, the time was exceptionally good under the conditions. Although Branson and Hurtubise dueled the entire race with the green flag out, the track was rough in spots following heavy rains on Saturday.

For a while threatening weather threatened to spoil the program for a crowd that probably was the largest ever to watch sprint car races at the local oval. But the skies stayed dry as only a light sprinkle was felt during the afternoon. The crowd proved a sporting one, too.
In a show of hands and voice vote, the spectators voted to run the races as programmed.

The spectators were given their choice of running the feature first, and then taking a chance of getting the heats and semi-feature races run afterwards in order to beat the threatening rain

The Branson - Hurtubise duel was not the whole exposure of  the feature race as Sachs and Parnelli Jones hooked up in a hot scramble for better than two-thirds of the race. Jones, another young member of the California racing fraternity, came here billed as one of the hottest of the newer drivers on the United States Auto Club circuit, and he lived up to advance billing.
Jones, who drove his first USAC-sanctioned sprint race only last October, was at the wheel of another Chevy-Corvette powered job. He and Sachs ran almost as a team for about 20 laps, although it was apparent Sachs was having trouble handling his car. Sachs was running close behind Jones when Sachs' car “looped” on the fourth turn of the twenty-second lap. Sachs kept his car under control, but by the time he got straightened out he had lost two positions.

Sachs tried to make up lost time, but the next time around the car “looped” again at the same spot and he lost two more positions. With Sachs then running in eighth position. Jones found himself pursued by the veteran Tommy Hinnershitz. But the 25-year-old Californian had the foot and the car to come in for third-place money.

Hinnershitz finished fourth followed by Bob Cleberg of Tucson, Ariz., Jim Packard of Indianapolis. Shorty Templeman of Seattle, Wash., Sachs. Jim McWithey of Anderson, Ind., and Marvin Pifer of Adrian. Mich., for the next five places.

Branson started the program by winning the first eight-lap heat race with a winning time of 3:24.10. Jones was second and Hurtubise was third. Sachs won the second eight-lapper, followed by Templeman and Cleberg. Sachs' time was 3:24.76.
The third eight-lapper and the semi-feature were run partly under yellow flags and there were no official times. Duke Hindahl of Pekin, Ill., won the third heat race, with Pack second and Bud Tingelstad of Dayton, Ohio, third. Hinnershitz won the semi-feature, with Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., and Carl Williams of Kansas City, second and third.

Sachs posted the fastest qualifying with a clocking of 24.43. Branson's time was 24.84 and Jones was caught in 24.93, giving the field three starters with time trial marks under 25 seconds and close to the one-lap record of 23.70 set by Van Johnson last year.

Except for minor spinouts that brought out the yellow flag in the third heat race and the semi-feature, the program was run off practically without incident. A. J. Foyt of Houston, Tex., had the hardest brush with the fence during the afternoon when the A. J. Watson Special he was driving banged into the wall during the time trials. Foyt “lost” the car going into turn number three when mechanical trouble of some kind caused him to lose control. The right front wheel of the car was badly damaged putting the car out of commission, but Foyt walked away without a scratch.

Templeman was reported to have run into an embarrassing position during the time trials when he raced a rabbit for a short stretch. The rabbit was reported to have jumped out in front of Templeman and the bunny was leading going into the first turn. But Templeman passed the little “critter” going into the second turn, with the match race ending in a draw.

A total of 26 cars qualified during the time trials, setting up the largest field of cars ever available at the local track. The field competed for a purse in excess of the $6,000 guaranteed.

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