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What year did they start the pit stop contest? – Mark Battershell, via Facebook
It dates all the way back to 1977 when it began life as the Miller Pit Stop contest, and it has been a crowd favorite ever since, although the 2008 finals were washed out by rain.
The original set of regulations, which have remained pretty much unchanged over the years except for some tweaking, were drawn up by the colorful former riding mechanic and crew chief Frankie Del Roy, who since 1969 had been Technical Chairman for the United States Auto Club. One of his stipulations, still enforced, was that the car’s assigned driver had to be in the cockpit for every round. Tragically, Frankie, who was a wonderful story teller and a much treasured link with the past (he rode with Floyd Roberts in 1936 and was on the pole with Bill Cummings in 1937), would not even be around for the second contest in 1978, being one of the eight officials who perished when a chartered aircraft went down near Indianapolis on its way back from a USAC National Championship event at Trenton, New Jersey, on April 23.
During the Miller Brewing days, artist Ron Burton was commissioned each year to produce an oil painting depicting the pit stop finals, the artwork available to race fans in the form of posters and so forth. The first one featured Dave Klym’s Fred Carrillo team crew members in 1977 (driver: Jim McElreath) defeating the George Bignotti-led Patrick Racing team squad with driver Wally Dallenbach.
Who are the drivers still living that drove a front-engined car in the “500”? – Steve P., Evansville
There are only 11 still around who can make that claim, namely Chuck Weyant, Don Edmunds, A.J. Foyt, Paul Goldsmith, Chuck Hulse, Parnelli Jones, Jim McElreath, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Bob Harkey and Gordon Johncock. There are a few others who drove a front-engined car during practice and so forth, with perhaps the real surprise to many being that Dan Gurney actually took his 1962 “rookie” test in a John Zink Watson/Offy “roadster.”