Tuesday, August 15, 2023

1965 – Rutherford Wins USAC Sprints

Johnny Rutherford receives a victory kiss from Miss Patty Poynter after winning the United States Auto Club 30-lap sprint car feature. 

Terre Haute, Ind. (August 15, 1965) – Johnny Rutherford of Fort Worth, Tex., passed Carl Williams on lap 18 and never relinquished it, winning the 30-lap USAC sprint car feature at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon.

Although Rutherford started the feature in the pole position, Kansas Citian Williams grabbed the lead on the first lap and held it until trouble forced him out.

Don Branson of Champaign, Ill., finished second; Roger McCluskey of Tucson, Ariz., third; Bobby Unser of Albuquerque, N.M., fourth and Greg Weld of Kansas City, fifth.

Rutherford and Williams both broke the old one-lap qualification record set last year by A.J. Foyt. Rutherford turned the half-mile in 22.76 seconds, the day’s fastest time. Foyt’s old record was 22.95 seconds.

Rutherford broke Roger McCluskey’s new track record of 22.87 seconds, collected the $500 prize money up for grabs for the fastest time in qualifications between International Motor Contest Association drivers and USAC pilots, won the first heat race of the afternoon and copped the 30-lap feature event.

For his hot summer afternoon’s chores, Rutherford, whose winning time was 12 minutes and 30 seconds, collected $1,571.25 and was kissed in victory lane by Miss Patty Poynter, the reigning queen of the Wabash Valley Fair.

A crowd estimated at 6,000 on hand for the speed contest was disappointed with the failure of A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti to appear. Both competed at Milwaukee on Saturday and sent in an official entry for Sunday’s races at the fairground track.

The board of directors of the Wabash Valley Fair Association issued a statement explaining they had acted in good faith in announcing the two drivers present for the Sunday program.

“It is the responsibility of the policymakers of the United States Auto Club to see this is done – as it was not done today. If the fans of racing…are to regard the official entry form in good faith, then the obligation should be fulfilled.”

Although Rutherford sat on the pole at the start of the feature, Carl Williams charged into the lead on the second turn after the green flag and stayed there with Rutherford in pursuit until a disintegrating left rear tire forced William s to relinquish an almost half-stretch lead during the 18th lap. Rutherford’s win came in 12 minutes and 30 seconds.

Rutherford took over and stayed in front for the rest of the race, with Don Branson and McCluskey finishing about a half-straightaway behind him for second and third-place money, Bobby Unser finished fourth, Greg Weld, the current USAC sprint car point leader, moved up from a twelfth place start to finish fifth and Red Riegel copped sixth position.

Williams stayed in the race with his frayed tire until it finally collapsed in front of the grandstand during the 22nd lap.

Results –

1. Johnny Rutherford
2. Don Branson
3. Roger McCluskey
4. Bobby Unser
5. Greg Weld
6. Red Riegel
7. Dee Jones
8. Ronnie Duman
9. Chuck Engel
10.Gary Congdon
11.Carl Williams
12.Bud Tingelstad
13.Jud Larson
14.Ralph Liguori

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