Barely shaving, A.J. Foyt won the USAC 100-lapper at Salem in 1959. Joining him and the huge trophy are Boyd Smedley (far left), Marge Muir (second from left) and promoter Stan Hicks (far right). – Marge Donnella Collection
Salem, Ind. (September 13, 1959) – A.J. Foyt of Houston, Tex., won the 100-lap Joe James – Pat O’Conner Memorial race on Sunday afternoon, outlasting Don Branson in one of the most thrilling finishes ever seen on the high banks of Salem Speedway.
However, many in the crowd of approximately 5,500 felt Branson would be entitled to a “foul claim” if auto racing made provisions for it as horse racing does.
Foyt, who led all the way, was almost caught at the finish by the hard-charging Branson, a Champaign, Ill., chauffeur who clinched the Midwest sprint title with his second-place finish.
Coming out of the final turn, Foyt’s Watson Special on the outside, cut across into Branson’s Estes Special, hitting its front wheel. It forced Branson to back off, and the Watson car won by five car lengths.
Foyt, who held a comfortable lead of over a quarter of a lap with five circuits to go, said he momentarily lost control entering the stretch turn. Branson said he felt Foyt squeezed him out.
Finishing third was Bud Tingelstad of Dayton, Ohio, in the Park Special. Tom McClellan of Dayton was fourth in the and Red Amick of Muncie, Ind., claimed fifth. Sixteen cars started and 12 finished.
1. A.J. Foyt
2. Don Branson
3. Bud Tingelstad
4. Tom McClellan
5. Red Amick
6. Jim Packard
7. Red Renner
8. Bruce Jacobi
9. Curly Boyd