Well, you pretty much repeated what I said: IMCA and UMCA were at best stepping stones to USAC, and those drivers you mentioned drove there on their way up. You could, of course, add the names A. J. Foyt, Don Branson or Billy Cassella, actually many more. The point is, the Chet Wilson "Offy Killer" did, at best, "kill" second or third division Offies, cars that were built from leftovers of the USAC teams (read up stuff about the Dizz Wilson Offies!), unlike Joe Barzda for example who didn't shy away from running with the big boys. That's what I meant by "hillbilly legend", and I stand by what I said!
Originally posted by REDARMYSOJA
I would say the contempt is evident in your post , and you can poo-poo these drivers all you want , but they had as much talent as many of the USAC guys . I never said UMCA or IMCA during that time was totally on par with USAC , but you seem to be offended at even a slight innuendo that it might have been . They were both stepping stones to USAC and Indy , but many a great driver competed there , and started their careers there .
Johnny Rutherford got his start in IMCA and I never said Jan Opperman was a regular , but they did compete there . Jud Larson hated all sanctioning bodies and was never a true "regular" anywhere , unless he had to be . Just as the ASCS or All-Stars today can lead a driver to the WOO or USAC and unfortunatly to NASCAR now , UMCA and IMCA was a path in their day . But their drivers are every bit as good as any sanctioning body , and race just as hard and with equal enthusiasm .
If you go to the Sprint Car Hall of Fame , the list there is full of UMCA and IMCA regulars . But anyone who knows Sprint Cars knows these drivers have always been gypsies , moving about from one sanctioning body to another regularly . That's how Steve Kinser won so many WOO titles , he stayed there . If Doug Wolfgang or Sammy Swindell had stayed and ran all the races for all the years as Kinser , Steve wouldn't have won as many .
And to say drivers like Gordon Wooley or Jerry Blundy didn't have the guts to "prove themselves" against the best just shows a lack of understanding of the sport and certainly doesn't indicate that they are not "first division drivers" . Cherry pickers are still common in Sprint Car racing and they still have their detractors , but many drivers can make as good a living running regionally without all the travel and other headaches involved with pursuing a path to Indy or where ever . Gary Wright still runs the ASCS , and see if you can find anyone worth their salt who will poo-poo his ability in a Sprint Car . And he is much more than a "fairgrounds attraction."
You never truly know , unless you are privy to inside info , why a driver doesn't try to make it to the top in the sport , there can be a variety of personal situations , or proffesional , that affects their decisions . It could be as simple as the wife saying , " don't do that " . A fellow I went to school with became a regular with in the Sprint car world and even held his own against the WOO , but his wife got pregnant , and that was the end of his racing career . He said he now had more important issues . It takes more than talent and fortitude to make it to the top in auto racing , particularly Sprint Cars .
And it was the advent of rear-engined cars that killed the "Path to Indy" and short track promotors , such as USAC , that never came up with a rear-engined class as a stepping stone . Nothing more , nothing less . It certainly wasn't the "jaded US motorsports fans" . That's rather a contemptous statement , I'd say .
The other things you said about priorities in racing are all very important, interesting and true, but it's not what we were talking about, is it? Racing is a competitive sport, and by engaging in it you agree to getting "valued" by the fans, the press, yes even the historian. I think it was Niki Lauda who once said something to the effect of: "I'm sure there is a racing driver somewhere in the Brazilian jungle who would blow us all off into the weeds, but unless he comes here and shows us what he can do, I don't care one bit." Beat that!
Oh, and btw, USAC had a rear-engined class as a stepping stone, Super Vee! It's just that the Jan Oppermans, Steve Kinsers and Doug Wolfgangs of this world weren't interested in it. Perhaps because it was "too easy" to make big bucks running big brutes?