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THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL

MONDAY, JUNE  30, 1969

The Field Was Off And Running Before 13,453 Yesterday Afternoon At Hot Shelby County International Raceway - Staff Photo by Robb Mitchel
The Field Was Off And Running Before 13,453 Yesterday Afternoon At Hot Shelby County International Raceway.

McCluskey Wins The 200; Calls Course The Toughest

By LARRY REA 

   Roger McCluskey, looking for a water hole, discovered the end of the rainbow with two laps to go in the Memphis 200 yesterday afternoon at Shelby County International Raceway.

   The 41-year-old McCluskey, of Tuscon, Ariz., grabbed the lead from A.J. Foyt with less than three miles to go to capture the race's $2,300 top prize.

   Foyt, a five-time winner of the United States Automobile Club's point chase and three-time champ of the Indianapolis 500, blew a tire coming out of SCIR's turn six and finished second.  Until the blowout, the 34-year-old Foyt appeared to be a sure winner.

   That's just a break of the game," said McCluskey.  "All I thought about was getting a drink of water.  This must have been the hottest day of the year."

   A crowd of 13, 453 watched in the near 100 degree temperatures as 26 of the nation's top stock car drivers competed in strength-draining heat.  The Red Cross reported that more than 50 spectators were treated for heat exhaustion.

   "It was beyond your wildest imagination," said McCluskey, who overcame a near disastrous fender bumping 10 laps into the 118-lap race.  "You never give up hope, but when it's as hot as this you're thinking primarily about just finishing what you came here to do."

   The heat took its toll on the drivers.  Foyt collapsed and had to be given oxygen after the race.  He was pulled from his 1969 Ford Torino.

   "I talked with A.J. and he's OK now," said McCluskey, who added another 400 points to his No. 1 spot on USAC's score board.

   "This course is the toughest I've ever raced on," said the red-faced McCluskey, who literally bathed in champagne moments after reaching the winner's circle.  "I don't think there's another course I can compare it with.  I though it was something like Wentzville (Mo.), but I've changed my mind.  It's the toughest."

   Foyt, who started on the pole, enjoyed an eight-second lead on McCluskey when the tire blew.  Foyt's crew got him back into action in time to preserve second place and earned the Texan $1,800.

   McCluskey, driving a 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner for Norm Nelson, covered the 200 miles in 2:24:59 at an average speed of 73.08 miles per hour.

   Don White of Keokuk, Iowa, was third in a 1969 Dodge while Butch Hartman of Anexville, Ohio, was fourth, also in a Dodge.  Fifth place went to Jack Bowsher.

   "Roger did a masterful job," said Nelson.  "He handled the car like you're supposed to.  We never gave up.  You can't in this sport.  Anything can happen."

   Nelson, who signed McCluskey to his first stock car race in January, 1968, praised his pit crew.  "This is a matter of seconds," he said.  "We didn't have a real bad pit stop, except maybe for that first one."

  McCluskey rubbed fenders with another racer 10 laps into the race.  He pitted unexpectedly.  "Sometimes an early pit is beneficial," said Nelson.  "It gives you an early stop and you know the other fellows are going to have to pit somewhere down the line.

   Foyt, who carried a 94.241 qualifying speed, jumped to a slight lead of a tenth of a second after the first 20 laps with an elapsed time of 1:13.64.  White was second at 1:13.74.

  White, who yielded to the extreme heat and swapped out with fellow driver Verlin Eaker, and McCluskey jockeyed for second in the early part of the afternoon.  Temperatures in the cars were estimated at 130 degrees.  Drivers tossed ice water on their faces to keep alert.

  The caution flag went out for six laps (51-56) when several drivers and their mechanics collapsed from the heat.

   Foyt yielded the lead for the first time on the 91st lap, when McCluskey beat him out of the pits.  White replaced Eaker on lap 88, leaving only nine cars remaining in the field.

   McCluskey, who arrived two days before most of the drivers to get a sneak preview of SCIR, lost the lead to the scrambling Foyt after 100 laps.  The boiling temperature sliced the elapsed time for Foyt to 1:74.17, compared to McCluskey's 1:74.28.

   "It was so hot you couldn't see for the sweat pouring down your face," said McCluskey.  "I didn't know if I could make it across that finish line.  I felt sorry for A.J.  He made the mistake of cutting a tire.  That's happened before.  It was a bad break.  I was fortunate."

   Parnelli Jones, who started his Holman-Moody Ford beside Foyt in the first row, had to quit after 12 laps when the cooling system in his car went bad.

Driver Car

Purse

Laps Cp.

Roger McCluskey Plymouth $2,300 118
A.J. Foyt Ford $1,800 117
Don White Dodge $1,225 116
Butch Hartman Dodge $1,000 114
Jack Bowsher Ford $   800 112
Terry Nichols Dodge $   700 108
J.J. Smith Ford $   675 101
Paul Fledner Ford $   650 96
Glen Bradley Dodge $   625 69
Jim Perry Mercury $   600 66
Fred Zach Ford $   575 59
Dale Koehler Chevelle $   550 48
Dick Beinlick Ford $   535 47
Bill Shirley Plymouth $   525 40
Roger Regeth Plymouth $   520 38
Don Hill Chevrolet $   510 26
George Rondelli Chevrolet $   500 21
Ray Bolander Chevrolet $   485 13
Bob Haack Chevelle $   475 12
Parnelli Jones Ford $   450 11
Ed Hoffman Chevelle $   300 11
Gene Farmer Ford $   300 10
Roban Hinkle Ford $   300 8
Dave Whitcomb Dodge $   300 6
Ron Goodrow Dodge $   300 1
Verlin Eaker Dodge $   300 1

 


The preceding article is Copyright The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN.  
Thanks to David Rubenstein for supplying this article.

 
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