Wednesday, July 10, 2019

1966 - McCluskey Sweeps Winchester Clean

Roger McCluskey

Winchester, Ind. (July 10, 1966) - It was Roger McCluskey Day on the hallowed, high-banks of the Winchester Speedway yesterday afternoon.

McCluskey, who is starting to make a runaway of the United States Auto Club’s sprint division, set fast qualifying time, won the first 8-lap heat race and came back to win the 30-lap feature. This is Roger’s fourth win out of the five sprint races.

It wasn’t really that easy racing Roger. Don Branson, USAC’s racing grandfather, got the jump on McCluskey from his (Branson’s) outside, front row starting position and Roger was running a distant second for the first few laps.

McCluskey said after the race, when asked why he fell back so far at the start, “I was just getting ready to get on it when someone bumped me in the back end. My foot slid off the throttle and Branson took off.”

Grandpa Branson “took off”, as McCluskey said, as if he wanted to win his 29th USAC sprint feature, but Roger went to work on his lead and at the end of six laps was nose-to-tail with Branson.

On the seventh lap, Grandpa slid high in number four turn and bounced his right rear wheel off the steel guard rail. This was the opening McCluskey had been working for and he drove into first place.

Roger proceeded to build a healthy lead as Al Smith, sitting in the Wynn’s Friction Proofing Special for the injured Johnny Rutherford, moved up to challenge Branson for his second-place spot.

Again, number four turn was Grandpa’ s downfall, he bounced off the rail a second time and Smith was chasing the fleeing McCluskey with Branson running third.

This was the order of finish for the first three. Bobby Unser started 10th but when the checkered flag fell he had moved the Chevrolet-powered K.E.Y. Special to fourth place and was closing on Branson.

Time for the 30-lap, 15-mile, feature was 9 minutes and 1 second, which is just a shade off the track record.

Dee Jones and Norm Brown finished the second heat race in a wheel-to-wheel battle which had the fans standing at the end of the eight laps. Jones was declared the winner, but it was by a matter of inches.

Al Smith won the third eight-lapper and Bobby Unser set a new track record for the 10-lap consolation. Unser ran the five miles in 2 minutes and 59 seconds, half a second faster than the old record, and figures out to 100.11 miles per hour. (That’s going around a half-mile oval fairly fast.)

A patient crowd of 5,500 race fans enjoyed the action. . .which got underway nine minutes early.

Results –

1. Roger McCluskey
2. Al Smith
3. Don Branson
4. Bobby Unser
5. Bud Tinglestad
6. Sam Session
7. Ronnie Duman
8. Ron Lux
9. Dave Lundy
10. Arnie Knepper
11. Dee Jones
12. Norm Brown
13. Greg Weld
14. Bob Pratt

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