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Gordon Smiley's crash in a modern Indy car


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#101 Jim Thurman

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 20:34

FB, with regards to Clark's quote and whether it did or did not happen. A real historian or conscientious writer does not assume either. Not that if you can't corroborate it, it must be true or if you can't corroborate it, it must not be true. Neither. One does not assume period. You're right about having little to work with in many cases, especially those after a great passage of time, but any serious historian or writer can't just decide accuracy by randomly picking out the quotes they like and using them :D

It also might be nice if you would at least acknowledge your factual mistake in post #27 to this thread. That would help your credibility immensely :up:

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#102 fines

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 21:05

Originally posted by Flat Black
Guys like you have to resort to round about explanations and cockeyed theories to dispense with inconvenient evidence.

:lol: Sorry, but this extremely funny, it's exactly what I was thinking of YOU! :lol:

Originally posted by Flat Black
The point is, numerous independent sources went on record--before or after the crash; it really doesn't matter too much--stating that they thought the MacDonald car was dangerous.

WRONG! It is the most important part here! To say so after the accident is very easy, any ape can do it.

Originally posted by Flat Black
Moreover, all three of Thompson's entries crashed in the Month of May. Not a record to inspire confidence. No? The obvious explanation for the accident is that an inexperienced, overzealous driver, caught up in the heat of the moment and driving a beast of a car--lost it. And with tragic results. If I were to quantify--and I am--I would put it at 60% driver error and 40% poor engineering.

Well, I believe there were twenty crashes at Indy in '64, which I would think to be a pretty good average year. If you say all three Thompsons crashed then you're apparently also counting spins without contact, in which case the number is obviously much higher - yes, racing cars crash on a relatively regular basis! Your estimation of 60/40 driver/car causing the crash is certainly debatable, but in my humble opinion is probably quite on the mark. So, you finally agree, the Thompson wasn't excessively dangerous?;)

Originally posted by Flat Black
PS--Good historians use uncorroborated quotes all the time. For certain periods and areas in history, you often don't have much more with which to work. You use the sources that are available to you and weight them according to likely veracity. Elementery historical procedure, my dear fines.

Totally agree, that's why we don't use questionable quotes at all when we have lots of other evidence to work with, like in this case.

#103 PCC

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 22:02

Originally posted by Flat Blac

PS--Good historians use uncorroborated quotes all the time. For certain periods and areas in history, you often don't have much more with which to work. You use the sources that are available to you and weight them according to likely veracity. Elementery historical procedure, my dear fines.

But there is a very important difference between uncorroborated and unfounded. In the case of the Clark quote, no one seems to have any idea what its source is. I'm afraid no historian would touch it with a ten foot pole.

#104 David M. Kane

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 22:26

Buford:

Interesting video, thank you..."will be out of action for at least a month." Amazing the crap they spoon feed the media which then get filtered down to us!

#105 Buford

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 22:39

Originally posted by David M. Kane
Buford:

Interesting video, thank you..."will be out of action for at least a month." Amazing the crap they spoon feed the media which then get filtered down to us!


Like the time they said the Super Vee driver who was killed in Trenton (I won't name him because I have been criticized before for giving the details along with his name) died of internal trauma when actually he was cut completely in half into two pieces, or the time they said AJ Foyt had a broken arm at Michigan when actually it was almost completely severed and held together only by some skin.

In this local Indianapolis news report the video came from they actually did have the report accurate -- multiple fractures to his feet and legs and concussion and it was so severe it took a long time to get him out of the car. So the only inaccurate part actually was that business about out a month and obviously by their own account it would take more than a month to recover from multiple fractures. In those days multiple fractures was the code word for there wasn't a piece of bone in your legs left longer than 1 inch long. Thank God for Dr. Terry Trammell.

#106 Paul Taylor

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 23:21

Originally posted by Flat Black
PT,

The only photography evidence of the Bailey wreck I've seen is one photo of the burned out skeleton of the poor man's car. You're privy to something other than that?


Yes, a friend of mine goes trawling through eBay for rare magazines and he came across a photo of Bailey's car, very much alight, marshalls just standing there watching in their shirts and trousers as though it was only a training exercise and they were waiting for someone to say "Ok, on my mark..." before they tried putting it out.

#107 David M. Kane

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 00:26

Buford:

Thanks for media info, do you live in Indy? If so I trying to reach Ben Bowlby who is the Chief Engineer for Ganassi. He was the Lola Indy car designer at one time before he came to America about 6 or so years ago. I'd love to have dinner with him again to get his impressions on the evolution of Indy car safety!

#108 Buford

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 02:23

No David I used to live near Chicago and I attended Indianapolis every May from 1961 through 1997. I existed all year just for those three weeks in May. From the 80s on most years I arranged to be there the entire month or three weeks as it was, either through vacation time or unemployment. My parents had a motorhome parked at the American Legion lot right across Georgetown Road and they only stayed there on weekends so I lived in the motorhome and on weekends switched to my van. Those were great times but my family and I stopped going after the Tony George fiasco called the IRL after 1997 and I will never go back.

#109 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 02:31

Originally posted by Buford


Like the time they said the Super Vee driver who was killed in Trenton (I won't name him because I have been criticized before for giving the details along with his name) died of internal trauma when actually he was cut completely in half into two pieces, or the time they said AJ Foyt had a broken arm at Michigan when actually it was almost completely severed and held together only by some skin.

Yes, and for every one of those cases, I can probably name two where drivers were far LESS seriously injured than a sensationalistic media reported. Like Rick Mears "Clinging to life" after his Sanair accident or a driver with a clean, simple broken leg also being reported as "near death". You think these same clowns would ever report that about a football player with the same type of broken leg?

Bah! : (not aimed at you Bufe :up: )

#110 Buford

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 02:41

That's probably true nationwide but the Indianapolis media always downplayed injuries in the same way they shilled for the IRL in a McGuire like manner, rewriting history and completely ignoring all reality and on the record facts. They knew where their bread is buttered with the exception of Robin Miller of course who told it like it was, and were afraid to lose access to the Speedway and the press room buffets if they didn't tap dance to the George family tune.

I don't mean they didn't like to show accidents for TV ratings purposes, they most certainly did, but injury reports in the Indianapolis media were traditionally downplayed I think, in the same manner they were in National Speed Sport News and other racing related media. You are talking about the national civilian media and I'm talking about the racing media and we are probably both right.

#111 Henri Greuter

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 06:53

Originally posted by fines
Oh, and back to the thread... :o

No offense meant, but your choices are typically "media era"... or did you mean "ever seen by me at Indy"?;)

I imagine the Sampson/Roberts/Miller accident of 1939 should really rank very high, or the pit accident of the Model A Duesenberg, was it 1937? Also, although relatively harmless in its outcome, what about the flaming Norm Batten Miller in 1927? That could've been REALLY BAD! :(



Hey Fines,

No offence taken. I must have added the sentence "of the ones I've seen footage of".
1939 must heve bben a bad one to see indeed.
I have only read decriptions about the 1937 pittlane accidents but since I rate the Junk formula ass the least interesting ear at Indy ever I can't recall it that weel. Wasn't that a car that killed one driver, was rebuilt, taken over by another driver who then also got killed in that contraption?

Of the ones that could have been a catastrophe as well: how about Johncock spinning into the pitlane in 1984 or Kevin Cogan in 1989.

Henri

#112 Henri Greuter

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 07:03

Originally posted by Henri Greuter




Another one of which you better not look for details is not an Indy crash but it was CART; Jim Hickman at Milwaukie, also in 1982. From what I've understood that was an incident similar to the one Smiley had and alos in the aftermath was much "like Smiley".

henri




Looked up what I have in print about Hickman. Accident happened in a practice session at Milwaukee, He was a DNQ but (because of being Indy's rookie of the year???) added to the field as a promotor's option. (Gee, what a luck to have that one happening to you.)
He hit the wal under an angle of 45 degrees and was actually still alive when taken out of the wreck but died the following day in the early morning.
Some differences after all I guess....


Henri

#113 Henri Greuter

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 07:09

Originally posted by FLB


There are a couple of modern incidents where cars hit the wall at right angles (Piquet, Fox, Jeff Andretti in 1992, etc.), but few where the car essentially climbed and grabbed into the catch fencing above the wall. The two examples I think of are Renna and Zampedri. I won't go into Renna's details (Henri, don't speak to the Dallara guys either...), but Zampedri's front was literally torn apart by the fencing. He was lucky that his impact was basically perpendicular to the fencing and not virtually parallel like Smiley's. You can see in the Hungness sequence that Smiley's car actually rolled on the fencing, vertical to the track.



FLB,

I have no intention to speak anyone of the Dallara guys.
But something was (and is???) very wriong with these current cars,.
Didn't Mario Andretti add to his frequent flyer miles with a Dallara as well in early 2003? The year when the current Dallara and still eligible Panoz was introduced?

As for another driver who'se car desintegrated in the fencing, Didn't it happen at other tracks at the IRL schedule? Like with Davey Hamilton, Kenny Brack and a few others who had to retire from racing after racing IRL cars....


Henri

#114 Russ Snyder

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 13:54

Originally posted by fines
Oh, and back to the thread... :o

No offense meant, but your choices are typically "media era"... or did you mean "ever seen by me at Indy"?;)

I imagine the Sampson/Roberts/Miller accident of 1939 should really rank very high, or the pit accident of the Model A Duesenberg, was it 1937? Also, although relatively harmless in its outcome, what about the flaming Norm Batten Miller in 1927? That could've been REALLY BAD! :(


Hey Michael. I'll take it to another level here..please add any thoughts

Different angels of the Samson/Roberts/Miller accident at the beginning of the backstretch show a visibly thrown around Floyd Roberts as he goes over the wall. His basal skull fracture killed him instantly. It also shows a sprawling Bob Samson coming out of his car onto the backstretch and Chet Miller flipping his Boyle into the infield wall to miss the prostrate Samson. Roberts car bust into flames upon landing, Samsons car was in flames as it hit the wal and Millers car landed upside down and in flames. An incredibly horrific crash, rivaled by the same Vuckovich crash in the 1955 race, at almost the same place in the track.

1919's Louis Lecoq and mechanic Robert Bandini were CREMATED on the track in front of the old grandstand G in turn 2. That may have been one of the first reality deaths, as far as I know, in auto racing. People in the grandstand stood with their mouths opened as this unfolded before them. The car was on fire on the 96th lap, hit the wall, flipped and pinned both underneath. The pics show black marks on the bricks where they had been trapped on the track once the car was righted. I believe the race was not stopped or even yellow flagged at the time. A most horrific crash from the early days of the Indy.

and finally, a thought back to G Smiley...

OPEN WHEEL racing will never change one thing.

The driver will always be unprotected to a degree.

Hans device and crash proof helmets aside, not much can save a driver at the angel/rate of speed that G Smiley hit.

#115 Henri Greuter

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 14:36

Originally posted by Russ Snyder


Hey Michael. I'll take it to another level here..please add any thoughts

Different angels of the Samson/Roberts/Miller accident at the beginning of the backstretch show a visibly thrown around Floyd Roberts as he goes over the wall. His basal skull fracture killed him instantly. It also shows a sprawling Bob Samson coming out of his car onto the backstretch and Chet Miller flipping his Boyle into the infield wall to miss the prostrate Samson. Roberts car bust into flames upon landing, Samsons car was in flames as it hit the wal and Millers car landed upside down and in flames. An incredibly horrific crash, rivaled by the same Vuckovich crash in the 1955 race, at almost the same place in the track.

1919's Louis Lecoq and mechanic Robert Bandini were CREMATED on the track in front of the old grandstand G in turn 2. That may have been one of the first reality deaths, as far as I know, in auto racing. People in the grandstand stood with their mouths opened as this unfolded before them. The car was on fire on the 96th lap, hit the wall, flipped and pinned both underneath. The pics show black marks on the bricks where they had been trapped on the track once the car was righted. I believe the race was not stopped or even yellow flagged at the time. A most horrific crash from the early days of the Indy.

and finally, a thought back to G Smiley...

OPEN WHEEL racing will never change one thing.

The driver will always be unprotected to a degree.

Hans device and crash proof helmets aside, not much can save a driver at the angel/rate of speed that G Smiley hit.



As for shocking experiences:

How about the decapitation of a driver at the Nutley velodrome when (according the stories) the poor guy's head was literally cut off by a wire, the car came to a standstill with a headless body and the head rollong on the track before coming to a rest into the infield.

But to prove that shocking somimes can be hilarious too....

I believe it was Cal Niday but I have heard a bout a one legged driver, using an artificial leg wo crashed and came of rather well but was trapped in the car on the side of his artificial leg. The driver, counting his blessings that it wasn't the other leg rhat was stuck, realizing his luck he made the artificial leg loose, stepped out of the car, alive and fairly well. But almost every woman (and some men) in front of him screamed in horror and some of them fainted in the shock.....

Henri

#116 Paul Taylor

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 15:22

What about Eric Forrest-Greene? Rolled his car several times in a crash during the 1954 1000km de Buenos Aires and the car caught fire. He climbed out of the overturned wreck - his clothes completely engulfed in flames - and ran towards the large crowd of spectators for a help. The majority of the crowd simply ran away from him, until two policemen finally put him out with their coats. He died of his burns the following day.

A friend of mine has seen the photographs and says it's like a scene from a horror movie. I have personally declined to see them myself and I hope to never see them, as what he described from the pictures was far more awful than "just" a man running around with his clothes on fire.

#117 TrackDog

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 15:33

Originally posted by Russ Snyder


Hey Michael. I'll take it to another level here..please add any thoughts

Different angels of the Samson/Roberts/Miller accident at the beginning of the backstretch show a visibly thrown around Floyd Roberts as he goes over the wall. His basal skull fracture killed him instantly. It also shows a sprawling Bob Samson coming out of his car onto the backstretch and Chet Miller flipping his Boyle into the infield wall to miss the prostrate Samson. Roberts car bust into flames upon landing, Samsons car was in flames as it hit the wal and Millers car landed upside down and in flames. An incredibly horrific crash, rivaled by the same Vuckovich crash in the 1955 race, at almost the same place in the track.

1919's Louis Lecoq and mechanic Robert Bandini were CREMATED on the track in front of the old grandstand G in turn 2. That may have been one of the first reality deaths, as far as I know, in auto racing. People in the grandstand stood with their mouths opened as this unfolded before them. The car was on fire on the 96th lap, hit the wall, flipped and pinned both underneath. The pics show black marks on the bricks where they had been trapped on the track once the car was righted. I believe the race was not stopped or even yellow flagged at the time. A most horrific crash from the early days of the Indy.

and finally, a thought back to G Smiley...

OPEN WHEEL racing will never change one thing.

The driver will always be unprotected to a degree.

Hans device and crash proof helmets aside, not much can save a driver at the angel/rate of speed that G Smiley hit.


In 1933, there was an accident in the first turn that occurred when Lester Spangler hit and went over a car that had spun in front of him. Spangler's car hit the outside wall upside down directly in the cockpit area. Eyewitnesses said it was impossible to distinguish between Spangler and his riding mechanic.


Dan

#118 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 15:34

If I were an historian writing on MacDonald/Sachs, I would not dispense with the Clark quote. One reason why not is because of the stature of its author; a second is because it fully accords with myriad other statements about the MacDonald car. If it were an outlier that rang false, I would dismiss the quote. This one does not. In citing the quote, however, I would condition the statement by noting that its original reporter is unknown. The reader could then decide for himself how much credence to give the statement.

PS--To dismiss as meaningless "aping" people's suspicions about something after the event takes place because they are a posteriori would be to blot out a colossal mass of data in the historical record. Human beings, for all sorts of reasons, do not always verbalize everything they think. For instance, I have no reason not to believe George MacDonald's after-the-fact statement that his son was uncomfortable with the car and drove it only because of contractual obligations.

PS--What weird verisimilitude that not one but two Bandinis (not the commonest of names) died while trapped under burning race cars. I assume that Robert and Lorenzo were not related.

#119 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 15:38

Somebody mentioned Cal Niday. He participated in the 1955 Indy 500, and at the age of 72, I believe, was thrown from an open-wheeler at a vintage auto race and died from a heart attack. If one counts his as a racing fatality, it produces a total of 17 drivers who participated in the 1955 Indy 500 and later died in racing accidents. The period from the mid-50s through the mid-60s seems to have been particularly treacherous in open-wheel racing.

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#120 David M. Kane

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 15:49

Is there still such a thing as oral history, it worked for Eskimos.

#121 racer69

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 16:11

Originally posted by FLB
I won't go into Renna's details (Henri, don't speak to the Dallara guys either...),


Would Dallara know, or did you mean Panoz?

Ganassi was racing Panoz/G-Force's at the time of the crash, and as far as i know thats the type of car Renna was driving when he was killed. Was Dallara involved in the investigation into the crash?

#122 McGuire

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 16:12

I don't know if I would use the Clark quote or not. (In the interest of full disclosure I am an automotive journalist by trade.) In its current condition I would probably not, as even our secondary sources are shaky at the moment. We don't know very much about the quote at all as things stand, and there is more we need to know to make up our minds. For example, if the quote first surfaced in 1964 or 1965 that's one thing, but if there is no record of it until 1975 or 1980 that sheds considerably more doubt on the matter.

If I did use the Clark quote I would completely explain its history and provenance to the best of my knowledge and make no claims for its validity. To unravel the story of this quote we would need to go back and identify its very first appearance in print or public utterance and then try to determine how that person knew of it. What is the first occassion of this quotation that we know of?

#123 Russ Snyder

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 16:15

Originally posted by Flat Black
Somebody mentioned Cal Niday. He participated in the 1955 Indy 500, and at the age of 72, I believe, was thrown from an open-wheeler at a vintage auto race and died from a heart attack. If one counts his as a racing fatality, it produces a total of 17 drivers who participated in the 1955 Indy 500 and later died in racing accidents. The period from the mid-50s through the mid-60s seems to have been particularly treacherous in open-wheel racing.


Cal Niday crashed hard in turn 4 of the 1955 race, very late in the race I believe. A descriptive account of his accident, and the teams of heart surgeons working in 3's massaging his heart and KEEPING him alive, is in Brock yates book about 1955 and that deadly year in racing. Henri - I do not think it was the 1955 crash that you are alluding too...Niday was unconsious and in cardiac arrest.

Robert Bandini - I too thought the same thing when I researched that 1919 accident at Indy. How odd is it that both would perish that way. Lorezo lived for 3 days afterwards, but just the same.....

I also think, with the absolute dearth of new movie scripts and rehashed TV shows made INTO movies, a movie about the 1919 Indy 500 (or any 500 from the past for that matter) would make a blockbuster of epic proportions, if done correctly. Heck, movie studios could easily build a replica a track circa 1919, even with the pagoda - bricks and cars!

Spielberg, Lucas and the rest...are you out there???

#124 fines

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 16:16

Originally posted by Henri Greuter
I have only read decriptions about the 1937 pittlane accidents but since I rate the Junk formula ass the least interesting ear at Indy ever I can't recall it that weel. Wasn't that a car that killed one driver, was rebuilt, taken over by another driver who then also got killed in that contraption?

Nope. An old Duesenberg-engined junk racer broke its crankshaft on the mainstraight, got out of control and slammed into a group of people working in the pits - remember, no wall between pits and race track until twenty years later! Two were killed, many injured... :( The only good thing coming from the accident was that it once and for all put the junk era to rest! :

#125 MPea3

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 16:17

Originally posted by Flat Black
If I were an historian writing on MacDonald/Sachs, I would not dispense with the Clark quote. One reason why not is because of the stature of its author; a second is because it fully accords with myriad other statements about the MacDonald car. If it were an outlier that rang false, I would dismiss the quote. This one does not. In citing the quote, however, I would condition the statement by noting that its original reporter is unknown. The reader could then decide for himself how much credence to give the statement.

PS--To dismiss as meaningless "aping" people's suspicions about something after the event takes place because they are a posteriori would be to blot out a colossal mass of data in the historical record. Human beings, for all sorts of reasons, do not always verbalize everything they think. For instance, I have no reason not to believe George MacDonald's after-the-fact statement that his son was uncomfortable with the car and drove it only because of contractual obligations.

PS--What weird verisimilitude that not one but two Bandinis (not the commonest of names) died while trapped under burning race cars. I assume that Robert and Lorenzo were not related.


FB, if you wrote about the accident and represented it as you say that would be very different from simply accepting it as truth. You're right, the reader would and could make that decision. If there's anything valuable in the MacDonald/Sachs thread it's the lesson that many things which have been accepted as fact can be called into question and that many seemingly reliable sources can get it wrong.

The most obvious example is the amount of gas MacDonald carried. Another example is the matter of what Jack Brabham said. Here we're talking about a childhood hero of mine and he's still listed on my profile page as my favorite driver. Check out where he was in relation to the accident and you tell me if what he says makes sense. It has nothing to do with his not being honest, it has EVERYTHING to do with seeing things differently after the fact.

One more thing. You and Fines haven't gotten off to the best of starts, but hopefully as you hang around for a while you'll see that he is as knowledgeable a poster as this board has. While many of us talk about what historians could and should do, he IS a historian, and to my mind a damn good one at that. His level of knowledge and collection of data is beyond comprehension to a mere fan like me. I too have been called on the carpet by him on more than one occasion, and have always discovered that I was wrong. That's not saying you are or always will be, but he's proven himself on this board over time, so you may wish to understand that.

#126 fines

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 16:40

Originally posted by Russ Snyder
Hey Michael. I'll take it to another level here..please add any thoughts

Different angels of the Samson/Roberts/Miller accident at the beginning of the backstretch show a visibly thrown around Floyd Roberts as he goes over the wall. His basal skull fracture killed him instantly. It also shows a sprawling Bob Samson coming out of his car onto the backstretch and Chet Miller flipping his Boyle into the infield wall to miss the prostrate Samson. Roberts car bust into flames upon landing, Samsons car was in flames as it hit the wal and Millers car landed upside down and in flames. An incredibly horrific crash, rivaled by the same Vuckovich crash in the 1955 race, at almost the same place in the track.

First things first, we both have the name of midget star Bob Swanson wrong! :blush: Apologies for working from (a defective!) memory here... :blush:

I'm not sure you have the facts right here, for I do not recall any car on fire other than Swanson's - Miller's almost certainly wasn't, as I very clearly recall pictures of it upside-down and no fire damage, whereas I've never seen a picture of the death car after the crash, but since it was rebuilt again very closely to its original appearance, I wouldn't guess it was on fire either - do you have sources? Nevertheless, it must've been mayhem!

Originally posted by Russ Snyder
1919's Louis Lecoq and mechanic Robert Bandini were CREMATED on the track in front of the old grandstand G in turn 2. That may have been one of the first reality deaths, as far as I know, in auto racing.

:confused: How do I have to understand this last sentence? Reality death??? I honestly don't understand that!

But yes, they didn't stop auto races for accidents back then, the MacDonald/Sachs inferno was actually the first instance of this at Indy! And chances are, they only stopped that one because there was no way to continue racing without driving through a ten-foot high wall of fire across the track... :eek:

P.S. I believe the correct spelling of the name would be Louis le Cocq, or LeCocq.

#127 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 16:54

MPea3,

Thank you for the general heads up.

True, fines and I have crossed swords a great deal, which is ironic insofar as he is the lone poster who welcomed me when I posted in the Personal Intro thread. :D

Now in my short time here it's become obvious that he has a wealth of auto racing history knowledge, considerably more than me I daresay, particularly on the technical minutae of cars. I respect that, and it does not surprise me that he is an historian. That said--and I wasn't even going to bring this up (Logic and fact, not credentials!), I do have a doctorate in history and understand historical methodology and argumentation quite well, even if my factual knowledge in the field of auto racing is not absolutely top shelf.

In any event, I will endeavor to play nicely in the future. But it won't be easy!

:lol:

#128 fines

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 16:55

MPea3, you're too kind! :blush:

Flat Black, I don't think we have a problem, have we? Agreed, I throw punches, occasionally, and while I'm not too proud of it, I usually don't hit that hard... I think! :| Also, I don't think I'm a crybaby either when it comes to taking them... :kiss:

#129 Russ Snyder

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 17:42

Originally posted by fines

First things first, we both have the name of midget star Bob Swanson wrong! :blush: Apologies for working from (a defective!) memory here... :blush:

I'm not sure you have the facts right here, for I do not recall any car on fire other than Swanson's - Miller's almost certainly wasn't, as I very clearly recall pictures of it upside-down and no fire damage, whereas I've never seen a picture of the death car after the crash, but since it was rebuilt again very closely to its original appearance, I wouldn't guess it was on fire either - do you have sources? Nevertheless, it must've been mayhem!

:confused: How do I have to understand this last sentence? Reality death??? I honestly don't understand that!

But yes, they didn't stop auto races for accidents back then, the MacDonald/Sachs inferno was actually the first instance of this at Indy! And chances are, they only stopped that one because there was no way to continue racing without driving through a ten-foot high wall of fire across the track... :eek:

P.S. I believe the correct spelling of the name would be Louis le Cocq, or LeCocq.


As always - thanks for keeping me straight. We both had Swanson mispelled and I can't explain it any better than you...overloaded memory!

The 1939 crash is here...I hope it comes out as my posting skillz are as about as good as my spelling skillz lol

http://uk.youtube.co...h?v=5fTAOvgA0oo

The link below has the crash from another angel. it starts about 1 min into the video. You can see Roberts flung around more clearly.

http://uk.youtube.co...h?v=GJfB3Kd2fkk

The Chet Miller car clearly catches on fire AFTER he goes upside down when crashing into the infield fence and he is trapped underneath. He suffered a terrible time of it...Swansons car burst on fire and I believe another angel of this crash, more head on down the back stretch, shows Roberts car in flames at the end of the crash.

The 1919 comment of "reality racing death" goes hand in hand to what we as a public are subject too with all this 'reality' tv on the air now. those folks in grandstand G saw something horrific that day, that few racing fans before them had seen imo. the comment was not meant out of disrespect in any ways.

#130 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 17:49

Originally posted by Buford
I don't mean they didn't like to show accidents for TV ratings purposes, they most certainly did, but injury reports in the Indianapolis media were traditionally downplayed I think, in the same manner they were in National Speed Sport News and other racing related media. You are talking about the national civilian media and I'm talking about the racing media and we are probably both right.

While I didn't see NSSN too much, the regional racing paper had some columnists who would pull back a bit (mainly a Sprint Car columnist), so I know exactly what you are talking about. Kind of a circling the wagons mentality...the general media would blast, some in the racing media would pull back. Yes, it cut both ways at times.

Local and cable TV have always been prone to exaggerate...and that's even no matter how bad or minor it really was.

#131 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 18:22

Trying to catch up here...

I would not use "Of Death And Time" as any sort of reference point, as Yates created a true work of faction there. There are a lot of exaggerations and downright errors. I don't even know that Joe Scalzo would write some of what Yates did. That Yates portrayed seemingly everyone as dying, whether they did or not, reminds me...

Much is made of "half the field of the 1955 Indy 500 died in racing crashes". But that also means 1/2 did not. And many lived to ripe old ages. A few are still with us :up: For comparison, though there were more than 33, check and see how many participants in the 1955 World Series were still around 10 years ago, or better yet, the 1955 NFL Championship game.

Could Niday count in the total?, depends. Johnny Boyd could just as easily, despite living into his 70's.

Re: Cal Niday and the artificial leg. There have been a few drivers with prosthetic legs and everyone one of them seems to have been involved in an accident where they climbed from the car minus their leg (or in one case, the leg was being handed amongst rescue crew members). The one I've seen the most direct reference to in print was Al Miller (the first, not the 50's-60's era Al "Miller" - real name Al Krulac), who joked about it after a crash in a 1930's '500'.

Have there been drivers decapitated or suffer other horrible catastrophic injury?...of course, much like happens in work place or highway accidents. I also know of cases where drivers have not suffered these sorts of injuries, despite mythology and folklore that claims otherwise. I'm not interested in adding what I am aware of just to contribute to a gore factor or morbid curiousity. On the other hand, I will refute cases where exaggerations have persisted.

#132 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 18:50

But Jim, how many 1955 World Series players died from a bloop single?

How many 1955 NFL Championship Game participants died by receiving a pigskin to the nads on a short slant pattern?

The 16/17 1955 Indy 500 drivers all died in racing accidents. There's the rub. And I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of really. I prefer to marvel at the courage of the men who drove back in those days. No other sport can boast that sort of courage.

#133 MPea3

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:13

Was it Hemmingway that uttered the comments about racing, climbing and bullfighting being the only sports? I've always found it interesting that while racing has gotten safer over recent years, climbing has changed from a sport where into the 60's turning around was considered the right thing to do when facing life threatening danger, while in recent time climbers are more prepared than ever to go out on a limb, with rising death rates being the result.

#134 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:20

Originally posted by Flat Black
PS--Good historians use uncorroborated quotes all the time. For certain periods and areas in history, you often don't have much more with which to work. You use the sources that are available to you and weight them according to likely veracity. Elementery historical procedure, my dear fines.

If I were an historian writing on MacDonald/Sachs, I would not dispense with the Clark quote. One reason why not is because of the stature of its author; a second is because it fully accords with myriad other statements about the MacDonald car. If it were an outlier that rang false, I would dismiss the quote. This one does not. In citing the quote, however, I would condition the statement by noting that its original reporter is unknown. The reader could then decide for himself how much credence to give the statement.


Well, I am not sure where you get this sort of nonsense, but I have to take some exception to what you are stating as if it were some sort of gospel.

First, I take a very long, long hard look at the 1964 International Sweepstakes race several years ago as part of a project on the National Championship Trail for that season. Although I dug very deep -- a tip of the hat a heartfelt "Thanks!" to Buford is in order on that count -- and have continued to be very interested in what has surfaced since then, it seems that this topic has the resilence of kudzu in Georgia in that it never seems to quite go away. Part of the reason for this topic having such "legs" was the generally abysmal contemporary coverage in some quarters; part of the reason also being that we now have more information to work with, to sift through, to analyze, to consider.

Second, I looked into the Jim Clark quotation after initially simply accepting it as part and parcel of what we know and accept about the race. However, as I was digging around and questioning more and more, I took a look at the Clark quotation. I will not go through the entire survey I conducted since I don't have the notes at hand, but I came to the conclusion that there is good reason to cast a healthy dose of skepticism towards what Clark allegedly said. That Clark spoke to MacDonald is not at issue since there seems to be plenty of occasions where this could have happened in additon to those where it apparently did happen. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that Clark did express any concerns he had about the Thompson car to MacDonald. However, I could nothing to corroborate that it was something approximating the oft-cited quote. My conclusion was that it was the result of the Gasoline Alley Telegraph syndrome, that is, something that was taken from what may have been said and emerged as something vaguely similar, but not quite the original by any means. Therefore, I could not see using it without a string of caveats and ensuring that this was clearly something that was allegedly said and attributed to Clark, although it may never have actually been stated by him and, perhaps, may have even reflected something he thought.

Third, it is the responsibilty of the historian is to weigh the sources and sort out the levels of veracity that each carries with it, even those pesky items which simply don't seem to fit. One problem with automobile racing and history is that they have more often than not existed in different solar systems if not different galaxies. It is extremely rare in racing that facts have ever gotten in the way of a Good Story. It is rarer still that a Good Story actually turns out to be true, but it does happen. So, while you might "condition the statement" by saying that the "original reporter is unknown," you are implying that the statement is quite possibly true, which is not the same as saying that there is reason to doubt the statement's being made in the first place. In other words, to those who say prove it wasn't said, it is fair to counter with asking to prove that it was said.

#135 HDonaldCapps

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:27

Originally posted by Flat Black
The 16/17 1955 Indy 500 drivers all died in racing accidents. There's the rub. And I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of really. I prefer to marvel at the courage of the men who drove back in those days. No other sport can boast that sort of courage.


Never mistake or confuse courage for expediency or a motivation due to the desire to do something exciting (or potentially financially rewarding) versus the humdrum.....

#136 fines

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:41

Originally posted by Russ Snyder
The 1939 crash is here...I hope it comes out as my posting skillz are as about as good as my spelling skillz lol

http://uk.youtube.co...h?v=5fTAOvgA0oo

The link below has the crash from another angel. it starts about 1 min into the video. You can see Roberts flung around more clearly.

http://uk.youtube.co...h?v=GJfB3Kd2fkk

The Chet Miller car clearly catches on fire AFTER he goes upside down when crashing into the infield fence and he is trapped underneath. He suffered a terrible time of it...Swansons car burst on fire and I believe another angel of this crash, more head on down the back stretch, shows Roberts car in flames at the end of the crash.

There is a flash of flames emerging from under the hood of Miller's car, but it disappears as fast as it comes! No fire as such that I can discern, I'm afraid. I also can't see any fire around the Roberts car, but I have to admit that I can't make it out at all after sailing over the wall - just out of sight. If that's all you have, I think we need more evidence, as I do not recall any reference to fire in the reports I've read. :

Originally posted by Russ Snyder
The 1919 comment of "reality racing death" goes hand in hand to what we as a public are subject too with all this 'reality' tv on the air now. those folks in grandstand G saw something horrific that day, that few racing fans before them had seen imo. the comment was not meant out of disrespect in any ways.

I understand that now, but I don't think it's quite correct. With regards to fatal accidents happening in full view of grandstand spectators, ottomh I do recall the 1916 Uniontown opener, when three men were killed in a single accident on the mainstraight - in fact one of the cars ran straight into the jury's stand! Also, the Limberg/Palotti accident earlier the same year in New York/Sheepshead Bay, I believe it also happened in full view of the grandstands. No fire involved in either accident, but gruesome all the same, I'd think.

#137 fines

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:54

Originally posted by HDonaldCapps
It is extremely rare in racing that facts have ever gotten in the way of a Good Story. It is rarer still that a Good Story actually turns out to be true, but it does happen.

Truer words have rarely been spoken! But then again, as I have found out, the "True Story" (*) often turns out to be far better than the invented "Good Story", if mostly not as simple and elegant!

(*) If, in fact, there is such an animal at all! But that's another problem, altogether...

#138 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 19:58

Capps,

Seems to me that you are just as guilty as me when it comes to preaching the Gospel.

In any event, I'm inclined to believe that Clark's statement, or one that carried much the same meaning "is quite possibly true." I would not, thefore, be burdened with supplying the string of caveats you suggest. But no two historians are alike. And in areas like this where the onion must be peeled exceedingly thinly, it often comes down to personal preferences, antipathies and sympathies.

PS--Drivers may be motivated by financial need or a lust for the exciting, but that hardly precludes courage. You are talking about motivation; I am talking about character. And you had to be pretty damned brave to strap yourself into a Ferrari, a Watson roadster (or especially a Mickey Thompson contraption :p ) back in those palmy days.

#139 Russ Snyder

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 20:10

Originally posted by fines

There is a flash of flames emerging from under the hood of Miller's car, but it disappears as fast as it comes! No fire as such that I can discern, I'm afraid. I also can't see any fire around the Roberts car, but I have to admit that I can't make it out at all after sailing over the wall - just out of sight. If that's all you have, I think we need more evidence, as I do not recall any reference to fire in the reports I've read. :

I understand that now, but I don't think it's quite correct. With regards to fatal accidents happening in full view of grandstand spectators, ottomh I do recall the 1916 Uniontown opener, when three men were killed in a single accident on the mainstraight - in fact one of the cars ran straight into the jury's stand! Also, the Limberg/Palotti accident earlier the same year in New York/Sheepshead Bay, I believe it also happened in full view of the grandstands. No fire involved in either accident, but gruesome all the same, I'd think.


I will scour the net as best I can to locate the other angel(s) of the 1939 crash. I might have it on an old VHS tape at home come to think of it !?!...I do remember this....its looking directly down the backstretch and you can see Chet Miller coming out of turn 2 as Swanson burts into flames when hitting the wall and Roberts going over the wall. the report(s) we read tell of Roberts being dead from the basal skull fracture before his car crashes into its final destination (chain fence?)

One thing is for certain, Mike Boyle racing had a rough time in that 1939 race. The eventual winner was a Boyle team member (W Shaw), however, Chet Miller was in pretty bad shape and I think most of the drivers visited him in the hospital later that night. Mike Boyle may have eschewed the victory party too be with Chet that night.

The 1919 fatal crash of LeCocq & Bandini may not be the first horrific disaster in racing to be viewed by thousands in a grandstand...I just can't think of another one of that magnitude from the timeframe.

As always - I enjoy the back'nforth!

the great Benny Hill once said, in his broken dutch accent for the character he was playing..."zee learning all zee time"

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#140 Buford

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 20:30

My parents -- almost a decade before they became my parents -- were guests of Mike Boyle for the 1939 Indianapolis 500 and sat in his box in turn one and they went to the victory party in a downtown hotel that night after the race. They are gone now or I would ask if they recall whether Mike was at the party but they never said that he wasn't when they described their day nor did they mention that the team driver was injured badly so the gloom did not trickle down to their level as guests anyway, or they had simply forgotten when they described what they remembered.

#141 FLB

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 20:35

Originally posted by racer69


Would Dallara know, or did you mean Panoz?

Ganassi was racing Panoz/G-Force's at the time of the crash, and as far as i know thats the type of car Renna was driving when he was killed. Was Dallara involved in the investigation into the crash?

You're absolutely right that Renna was killed in a G-Force. AFAIK, the investigation and the results were shared between the league and the manufacturers. I had the conversation in 2005, so it's entirely possible the guy I spoke to was with G-Force in 2003-2004.

#142 Jim Thurman

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 21:51

Originally posted by Flat Black
But Jim, how many 1955 World Series players died from a bloop single?

How many 1955 NFL Championship Game participants died by receiving a pigskin to the nads on a short slant pattern?

The 16/17 1955 Indy 500 drivers all died in racing accidents. There's the rub. And I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of really. I prefer to marvel at the courage of the men who drove back in those days. No other sport can boast that sort of courage.

You're taking my examples out of the context they were meant (well, that and perhaps I didn't explain it that well :lol: ). I was suggesting a comparison between the average years of life between racers and those in other sports. That was the point. That would be a surprise to most.

It's also nothing to be proud of or glorify either.

No matter how "deadly" a period of racing was, the majority will still die from heart attacks and cancer, just like the rest of us :(...and that's the real point.

It's not what I was referring to (as I would have brought it up had I planned on it :) ), but I'm sure even you would be shocked at the number of football fatalities compared to racing.

#143 Flat Black

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 22:03

Yeah, I know a lot of players--mainly high school kids--die playing football, but my guess is that the actual odds of dieing in a racing crash were much higher than dieing while playing football. That may not be the case now, though.

#144 David M. Kane

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 00:52

Racer69 as I said previously Tony Renna was a protege of Derek Daley. I was one of Derek's sales people at the time. He started as an instructor at the Derek Daley Academy in Las Vegas. Derek business was headquarter in Indianapolis. At the previous 500 he had been very impressive all the month of May is a 2nd tier team. Chip Ganassi seized the moment and signed him up. It was his big break, so he was very, very pumped up about the opportunity and very determined to impress everyone how fast he was. The day he was killed was one of the first times he had been in the Ganassi Team car. It was early in the morning on a chilly October 22nd during the off-season. The accident happened around 9AM. There was still dew on the grass. On the 2nd lap, I believe, on what he thought were warmed-up tires he tried to go a bit too fast, got too low slid on the damp grass a bit out of sorts, the car went back on track air got under it, it go high enough to clear the wall. By now it was on its side, it ripped trough the fence and it hit one of the poles with the exposed canopy and his exposed body.

There was no video evidence and no eyewitnesses since it happened in turn 3 which can't seen from the pits and it was a private test. On 12/23/03 the IRL said they had found a bird in that area, but they couldn't prove that it was involved in the accident. It was just lying on the track. It's degree of injury was not described. The on-board telemetry said Tony was going 227mph at the time of the accident.

Our Accountant's girlfriend was a nurse at Methodist Hospital and she verified the devastating nature of his injuries.

We never doubted that it was anything other than 100% over-enthusiasm. The person who would know is Ben Bowlby, Ganassi's Chief Engineer; I just don't have the balls or bad taste to ask him what he thinks happened. I will say this I never say any sheepish or guilty behavior, much like Rahal-Letterman after Paul Dana died. Paul was well known to ignore yellow flags on more than one ocassion; but he was a bright and wonderful guy.

#145 Henri Greuter

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 09:28

Originally posted by racer69


Would Dallara know, or did you mean Panoz?

Ganassi was racing Panoz/G-Force's at the time of the crash, and as far as i know thats the type of car Renna was driving when he was killed. Was Dallara involved in the investigation into the crash?



I think that you won't find many G Force-Panoz engineers at the IRL tracks nowadays to begin with for any chat about whatever....
But I wouldn't be surprised if the Dallara guys were tol somehow, even if it was just for the exchange of relevant info reagrding the safety in the future. You can learn about what befell others.
But given the description of the accident as given by David Kane, I don't think it really mattered for poor Tony if he was in a Dallara, Panoz or (whisper it...) a Falcon....
Or a CART spec 2003 Lola or 2003 Reynard for that matter.

Given the fact that the car did end up in the grandstands, praise the Lord for this accident not to happen on Race Day, that would have been LeMans 1955 another time, if not worse....

Originally posted by David M. Kane


There was no video evidence and no eyewitnesses since it happened in turn 3 which can't seen from the pits and it was a private test. On 12/23/03 the IRL said they had found a bird in that area, but they couldn't prove that it was involved in the accident. It was just lying on the track. It's degree of injury was not described. The on-board telemetry said Tony was going 227mph at the time of the accident.


Ah, another "1946 job" again?


Henri

#146 Henri Greuter

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 14:25

Something else about the accident.

In his March book, Alan Henry tells that Smiley crashed in a 82C, but I've read that it likely was an 81C.

Anything known about this and if it was an 81C, a car with '81 Indy 500 history?


henri

#147 TrackDog

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 15:06

Originally posted by Henri Greuter
Something else about the accident.

In his March book, Alan Henry tells that Smiley crashed in a 82C, but I've read that it likely was an 81C.

Anything known about this and if it was an 81C, a car with '81 Indy 500 history?


henri


According to the Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500 by Donald Davidson and Rick Shaeffer, it was an 81C.


Dan

#148 Flat Black

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 15:31

The only three Marches to qualify for the '81 Indy were driven by Bill and Don Whittington and by Tom Sneva. Don Whittington crashed--don't know if the car was destroyed--so perhaps Smiley's car was the one driven in 81 by Bill Whittington or Sneva.

#149 Little Leaf

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 11:27

In answer to the initial question, I would guess it would be survivable (not saying 99 times out of 100 but it would be possible IMO). Looking at F1 and Indycars from the early 1980's really brings it home how the safety has improved since then. Piquest crash looks terrible in those pictures.

Don't know much about Gordon Smiley at least it would have been over pretty quickly.



#150 Direct Drive

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 11:51

That image of Piquet is virtually identical to the one which killed Gordon. Nelson was very lucky.
Smiley was a great old friend and I had the pleasure of accompanying him to England in 1974 when he raced FF/FAtl and saw him win in the Surtees at Silverstone, oddly the last time any American won an FIA sanctioned F1 event.
At Indy that year he was beside himself with rage and aggression and confusion that he couldn't match the (cheating) Whittington team in his March. His car never worked right, was a real handful at Atlanta earlier, and Gordon simply forgot his observation of the Ongais accident about turning down away from a spin. He and the team could never get the March to work correctly and handle, and he made the classic road racer mistake of trying to correct a ground effect car going 200 mph at a track 80 feet wide.

The only three Marches to qualify for the '81 Indy were driven by Bill and Don Whittington and by Tom Sneva. Don Whittington crashed--don't know if the car was destroyed--so perhaps Smiley's car was the one driven in 81 by Bill Whittington or Sneva.


The March he crashed was the Fletcher racing chassis driven previous year by Bob Lazier and which had the same "snap" oversteer at Watkins late in 1981, Lazier driving. Very odd thing that no one could correct. The team had a brand new 82C built and nearly ready but Smiley was convinced he could carry the evil chassis, by himself, into the front row.
There was no way he was on any drug, he was a fitness fanatic and conservative and almost violently against them. He simply made a mistake in an car that as AJ said "just hit wrong," exploded and killed him. Sometimes crashes at Indy edd oddly and they are all different in nature.
It was a bloody, stinking nightmare in the garage afterwards, all our team in tears while the USAC officials pulled bits out of the pile of parts to "examine." I thought at the time they were just ghouls.
Gordon was a fearless and aggressive driver, and perhaps that style didn't fit well with the concrete walls of the Speedway, but he did lead the event the previous year in a car identical to Johncock's and Mario's and was always very quick. Quite impressive in UK FF races and in the AFX finale in 1979.
One of he funniest men I've ever met, although with an underlying anger and impossible impatience. I miss him to this day. He was spectacular in smaller formula cars and one of the fastest FF drivers of all time.

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Edited by Direct Drive, 07 May 2009 - 12:36.