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THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL

FRIDAY MORNING, JUNE  27, 1969
SCIR Is Curvy Temptress
To USAC's Top Driver

By LARRY REA 

Roger McCluskey before the Memphis 200.

Roger McCluskey wasn't overwhelmed by what he saw.  He's seen tougher courses.  In fact, he's mastered what he considers one of the toughest.

   "This course is tough, I'd have to say that," said the39-year old McCluskey yesterday afternoon as he inspected Shelby County International's 1.7-mile road course.  "I couldn't realistically compare it with another on the circuit, unless it's Wentzville. Mo."

   USAC

McCluskey, the current point leader on the United States Automobile Club's demanding late model stock car circuit, flew into Memphis yesterday for an early look at Sunday's Memphis 200 road race course.

   The tanned Arizona driver took a free ride around SCIR's nine-curve layout.  He was obviously impressed by the rugged course, especially it's tightness, but he wasn't awed. 

"See that hill," said McCluskey as he pointed at the top of the courses only straightaway,  "I'll hit that at about 100 miles per hour and then drop off to about 40 on the turn."

  McCluskey, who'll drive a Norm Nelson-sponsored Plymouth Roadrunner in tomorrow's qualifying for Sunday's 200-mile, 133-lap chase, said that Wentzville has more curves and is one of the toughest on the USAC circuit.

DRIVING ISN'T all there is to automobile racing, as professional driver Roger McCluskey well knows.  There's always the safety factor, such as the three-foot concrete wall being installed at the Shelby County International Raceway for tomorrow's opening action in the Memphis 200-mile road race.  Miss Deborah Barnett, the official hostess for the USAC race as Miss Memphis 200, adds a pretty face, another category seldom missing when automobiles compete.
  Staff photo by Thomas Busler

   And, with a grin, McCluskey added, "I won that one last year."

   When asked if the SCIR course will be tougher on the car or the driver, McCluskey said quickly, "both...It'll be hard on the brakes, particularly if it's a hot day, and I'm sure it'll be, you're going to wear some brakes shoes on these curves."

   McCluskey, who switched from USAC's sprint division to the late model stocks in January, 1968, cast a worried eye at SCIR's pit area.

  "That looks tough," he said.  "There don't appear to be much room to get your car in and out quickly.  That could give some drivers problems."

   McCluskey, whose racing career began in 1949 with roadsters in Arizona, tried his hand at the late model stocks as a substitute driver for veteran Norm Nelson at Phoenix in 1968.

   "Norm called me at home (Tucson) and asked me to come over and substitute for him," recalled McCluskey.  "I had shaving cream all over my face.  I threw everything in a bag  and drove over there just in time to take a few laps."  McCluskey, who won USAC's sprint car championship in 1963 and 1964, placed second at Phoenix.

   Qualifying is an important part of racing, according to McCluskey, who finished in the top 6 finishers 13 times last season.  "If you're far down in the pack, you're in trouble before you start," he said.  "You've got to qualify high, especially on a course like this.  A good start certainly helps.

  McCluskey took time to get a closer look at SCIR's first and second turns.  He inspected the new safety devices required by USAC, particularly the double guard rails and quarter-mile concrete wall along the courses only straightaway.

   William F. Taylor, USAC's stock car supervisor, has inspected the Raceway three times in the last few weeks.  Under his guidance, SCIR officials are installing new double guard rails, twice as many protection poles and the new wall.

   Qualifying opens tomorrow at noon with the fastest 30 cars set to return for Sunday's $20,000 race,  A driver can qualify as long as he wants to , but he must say prior to making his run which lap he wants to qualify.

   McCluskey declined to guess what it'll take to qualify.  "You can't judge what's going to happen without testing the course," he said.

   SCIR is located a the Canada Road exit off Interstate 40.  Pre-race tickets may be purchased at any Coleman-Taylor location, Goldsmith's central ticket office or at SCIR.

 


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

 
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