Tuesday, June 16, 2020

1963 - All Records Fall as McCluskey Wins

Roger McCluskey 

Terre Haute, Ind. (June 16, 1963) - It was only fitting that with records being set for everything from one-lap to hot dogs that the Terre Haute Fairgrounds Action Track would also get a new sprint car champion.

So, Jim Hurtubise, with five straight victories under his belt here, abdicated his throne when a magneto failed on the 13th lap and Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., the current United States Auto Club sprint point leader, picked up the victory in Sunday’s record-setting sprint car program ever run anywhere.

Over 11,000 fans who paid a $10,695 purse and ate 9,000 hot dogs – all records – saw new records set in every race in which time was kept and saw the old track one-lap record broke by five different drivers.

They also got a new set of heroes for later races. Probably the guy who is going to grab the biggest share of attention from the local buffs is 22-year-old Steve Stapp, son of former racing great Babe Stapp and protégé of A.J. Foyt.

Stapp startled everyone – including himself – as he set a new track record of 23.42 seconds and he was the fifth from last qualifier.

In grabbing the new standard, Stapp earned a $25 special prize from the hands of Chuck Hulse who first broke Roger McCluskey’s old track record of 23.60 seconds with a best lap of 23.44 seconds on the day’s first qualifying run.

During the racing itself, Stapp took third in the first heat behind McCluskey and Hulse.

Then in the feature he held off Hurtubise in a brilliant wheel-to-wheel dual through 13 laps until Hurtubise dropped out. Foyt, who has been Stapp’s teacher along the rugged USAC trail, took up the chase at that point and pupil and teacher went at it hammer and tong until Foyt finally got around him on lap 25.

After the race A.J. told his pupil, “Buddy, you got your last lesson out there today. You get any better and I won’t get around you.”

As for the feature race itself, it was McCluskey’s when he beat Hulse and Hurtubise into the first turn on the green flag start. “Hercules” starting on the outside of the second row, tried to go high and beat both McCluskey and Hulse. He almost got the job done, but as he put it,” I ran out of brave pills” and wound up about sixth coming into the back stretch.

After that one brief challenge, no one seriously pressed McCluskey – or second place Hulse for that matter. Both were decidedly faster than anyone else on the track Sunday afternoon.

McCluskey’s winning time for the 30 laps was 12 minutes and 26 seconds, set by Eddie Sachs in 1958.

Heat race winners were Hulse, Hurtubise and Al Miller with Jiggs Peters picking up the semi-feature. Hulse shattered the old 8-lap record of 3 minutes and 16 seconds with a new mark of 3 minutes and 8 seconds.

The purse of $10,695 is a USAC-AAA record for a race on a half-mile track. The old mark was $9,100 set by the championship cars in a special race at Dayton, Ohio.

McCluskey picked up $2,422 for the winner’s share and Hulse didn’t go home empty-handed either with his take $1,578 as the first four places paid better than $1,000.

The track itself was in the best condition it has been in at least three years thanks to Kermit Nees and Bob Smith of Pittsfield, Ill. Hurtubise said after the race, “If I had ordered the track. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”

Results –

1. Roger McCluskey
2. Chuck Hulse
3. A.J Foyt
4. Steve Stapp
5. Don Branson
6. Al Miller
7. Bob Mathouser
8. Chuck Engel
9. Bobby Black
10.Billy Earl
11.Ted Pfeiffer
12.Snooky Bullock
13.Jiggs Peter
14.Jim Hurtubise
15.Mickey Shaw

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