Racing History Minute-Riverside 500 at Riverside Raceway

Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
5 years ago
3,119 posts

Let's begin this return of the Racing History Minutes with a hearty "Happy New Year" to all. We are happy to be back to bring back some memories of racing from the past as well as to bring the attention of these events to some youngsters who may not be familiar with the early days of the sport. For the month of January, we are concentrating on the Riverside, California races that started off several seasons.

Today we go back to 1963 for what was then the FOURTH race of the 1963 season , The Riverside course was a 2.7 mile road course with nine turns. Through the years, the track produced a number of spectacular accidents which always seemed to make the highlight reels for sports shows on television and at least one movie, "Red Line 7000" featured some good racing scenes from early events there.

Today's event saw Paul Goldsmith, in a Ray Nichels Pontiac, qualify at a speed of 99.590 mph to win the pole. A.J. Foyt in another Nichels Pontiac would start second, Fireball Roberts in a Banjo Matthews Pontiac would roll off third. Len Sutton would start fourth in yet another Ray Nichels Pontiac, and Joe Weatherly in a Bud Moore Pontiac would start fifth. Ned Jarrett would start 8th in a Ford, the first non-Pontiac starter.

A. J. Foyt would lead the first 2 laps before giving way to Paul Goldsmith. Parnelli Jones in a Bill Stroppe Mercury moved to the point on lap 6 and would stay there until lap 36. Fred Lorenzen then took over in a Holman-Moody Ford and led six laps before Dan Gurney, a 31 year old west coast driver more commonly known in other forms of racing, took over in a Holman-Moody Ford. Parnelli took over again on lap 61 and stayed in front until lap 70. Dan Gurney went back out front on lap 71 and he was fighting off Fireball Roberts who had moved his Pontiac to the point but Dan would push his Ford back in front on lap 101 and lead the remaining laps to take the checkered flag at the completion of 185 laps. The race finished under caution, erasing what was a 36 second lead for Gurney over second place A. J. Foyt.

This was only the third NASCAR start for Gurney and he took home $14,400.00 for besting the NASCAR regulars. Second place A.J. Foyt was not a NASCAR "boy" either, but he finished second and it was yet another non-NASCAR regular, Troy Ruttman who finished third. Fireball Roberts, in fourth place, was our first NASCAR "good guy" to the line. Odd thing here is that 18 year old JOE Ruttman, Troy's younger brother, drove his first NASCAR race and came in tenth!

Richard Petty had started his Petty Engineering Plymouth with an automatic transmission. One can only surmise Petty believed allowing the transmission to shift itself as on the highway, would minimize chances of destroying a clutch or transmission on the demanding course. However, the automatic transmission gave up on lap 27 relegating Petty to a 41th place finish after starting 15th. As Richard was coasting into the pits, Danny Weinberg entered turn six and lost it, flipping his Pontiac three times but was uninjured.

Points leader coming in, Jim Paschal, lost the brakes in his Plymouth and his car began a wild series of flips (more than a dozen), causing Jim to lose the point lead with his 36th place finish. Paschal left Riverside in 14th place in the points. Jimmy Pardue, with his eighth place finish assumed the points lead. Billy Wade, a rookie driver for Cotton Owens' Dodge team out of Spartanburg, SC, would finish 7th in a 1963 Dodge.

A crowd of some 52,000 race fans spent almost six full hours watching the race, which was slowed 6 times by caution, to finish with an average speed of 84.965 mph.

Finishing Order:

1. Dan Gurney, Holman-Moody Ford, winning $14,400.00

2. A. J. Foyt, Ray Nichels Pontiac, winning $6,570.00

3. Troy Ruttman, Bill Stroppe Mercury, winning $3,980.00 (1 lap down)

4. Fireball Roberts, Banjo Matthews Pontiac, winning $2,630.00 (1 lap down)

5. Bobby Johns, Shorty Johns Pontiac, winning $1,750.00 (3 laps down)

6. Ned Jarrett

7. Billy Wade

8. Jimmy Pardue

9. Danny Leitner

10. Joe Ruttman

11. Ron Hornaday

12. Dave McDonald

13. Bob Perry

14. Bob Ross

15.Rex White

16. John Rostek

17.Art Watts

18. Wendell Scott

19. Richard Brown

20. Hal Beal

21. Scotty Cain

22. Fred Lorenzen

23. Marshall Sargent

24. Joe Weatherly

25. Carl Joiner

26. Jim Cook

27. Jim Hurtubise

28. Jack Norton

29. Eddie Pagan

30. Don Noel

31. Clem Proctor

32. Sal Tovella

33. David Pearson

34. Bill Clifton

35. Bill Foster

36. Jim Paschal

37. Parnelli Jones

38. Marvin Porter

39. Paul Goldsmith

40. Len Sutton

41. Richard Petty

42. Danny Weinberg

43. Curtis Crider

44. Lloyd Dane

PERSONAL NOTE: As I will probably mention several times during these Riverside Memories, the only way to be a part of the race back then was to listen on the AM radio station that carried the races here in Columbia. Even in daylight the station was not known for a strong signal. When the sun went down, as required by the FCC, the AM station had to cut its power. I remember listening to several of these races from Riverside where I fought the static on the air to hear what was going on. I always hung in there 'til the end although my mother was less than happy that this would usually cause me to miss dinner as our dinner time (we called it supper back then) was 5:30 EVERY day.

I could only imagine what the racing was like as, at that time, I had only seen still photos of Riverside. I came to really love road course racing when I finally got to see it in news clips and finally on television. I clearly remember how much I hated that track when it took Joe Weatherly from us. I finally forgave the track and learned to appreciate road course racing when I attended the road race in Augusta, Georgiain November, 1963.

Honor the past, embrace the present, dream for the future.


updated by @tim-leeming: 12/05/16 04:00:58PM
bill mcpeek
@bill-mcpeek
5 years ago
820 posts

Great report Tim. Love to read your history reports as I learn so much....

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
5 years ago
9,126 posts

Thanks, Tim. Just as you describe, I'd listen to Riverside on an A.M. station that cut power to zilch at sundown.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,992 posts

Jim Paschal in traffic before his rollover.

Annnddd... Jim Paschal getting into a bit of a problem.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 01/20/17 11:16:05AM
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,992 posts

Race program

And the Henry Ford Arte House has several really neat photos from its collection on-line here:

http://thehenryford.artehouse.com/perl/collection.pl?collectionID=2824&productTypeID=62&ckon=leftNav&sessionID=197ea7c86c8a5099daa77d8300781aa8

A sampling...

Dan Gurney

Parnelli Jones

A.J. Foyt

Ron Hornaday Sr.

Fred Lorenzen

Fireball Roberts

Troy Ruttman

Jim Paschal

Richard Petty




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 01/20/17 11:17:07AM
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,992 posts

In addition to early rounds of qualifying, a 25-lap qualifying race was held to set the starting line-up for the race. From Spartanburg Herald.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Charles Ray Stocks
@charles-ray-stocks
5 years ago
222 posts

its great to have the minutes back on here tim and thanks to all that added to the post as well this is really great stuff

TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
5 years ago
3,992 posts

Race report from Daytona Beach Morning Journal.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
Andy DeNardi
@andy-denardi
5 years ago
365 posts
I kept wondering why the showed Lorenzon's #28 when they were talking about Gurney. I wasn't following racing before Fred took that number. Although I heard Dave Pearson mentioned among the great drivers present, I don't recall hearing anything about Richard Petty. It's an interesting thing to view a time when there was no King. I recognized the names of all the other drivers except Len Sutton - 4 NASCAR races in 1963 and a middle of the pack runner in Indycars.I liked Riverside, it seems more wide open than today's road courses, more straightaway. I doubt that today's cars could handle an off-track excursion like they had back then. Cars actually had working suspensions back in the day.
Tim Leeming
@tim-leeming
5 years ago
3,119 posts

Andy, the fact that Fred Lorenzen was driving the number 21 Wood Brothers car (name is clearly visible on the door) and Gurney driving the 28 threw me too. I was not aware of that switch up of numbers. Lorenzen was always associated with the 28 all the years he drove in Grand National as I recall. Guess things in California just got jumbled up for some reason.

Those off-track excursions were something to watch although it was only on TV that I got to see them. Don't remember who it was, may have been Richard, said he had raced 4 races there at Riverside before he found out the "S"ess weren't dirt.

Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
5 years ago
9,126 posts

I'll join that club, too, of being confused over Fred in #21 and Gurney in #28.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
5 years ago
9,126 posts

In 1963, Pure Firebird Racing Gasoline was still the "Official Fuel of NASCAR." However, they had no west coast distribution until purchased by Union Oil of California.

In the 1963 Riverside video, you'll see Richfield gasoline banners strung across the track as well as Richfield gas tanker trucks.




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
Dave Fulton
@dave-fulton
5 years ago
9,126 posts

The January 19, 1963 Daytona Beach Morning Journal carried the Associated Press Wirephoto below of 1963 Riverside 500 qualifying:




--
"Any Day is Good for Stock Car Racing"
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
3 years ago
3,992 posts




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
3 years ago
3,992 posts

USAC / Indy regular Roger McCluskey tried his hand at qualifying for NASCAR's Riverside 500. He wrecked the car during time trials, the car had to be withdrawn from the rest of the weekend, and McCluskey missed the show. He didn't make the first of his four career GN/Cup starts until 6 years later in the 1969 Motor Trend 500 at Riverside.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
3 years ago
3,992 posts

Danny Weinberg wrecked his Pontiac after completing only 27 laps. The race was his 16th of 17 career GN starts - all on the west coast at tracks such as Riverside, Gardena, Sacramento and Hanford.




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
3 years ago
3,992 posts

Link to The Henry Ford / Dave Friedman collection of photos on Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/thehenryford/albums/72157636912631994




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.

updated by @tmc-chase: 01/20/17 11:18:29AM
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
3 years ago
3,992 posts

Updated link to Henry Ford Arte House photos:

http://thehenryford.artehouse.com/perl/collection.pl?productTypeID=62&collectionID=2824&pgNumber=2&seeAllImages=1&sortBy=createdDate




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
2 years ago
3,992 posts

Bump




--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.
TMC Chase
@tmc-chase
one month ago
3,992 posts

I'm guessing the Petty crew was glad to put that Riverside race in their rear view window. Richard fell out with his AT problem, and Paschal destroyed his #41 Plymouth. A few days earlier during practice on January 15, both cars had issues even before qualifying. The future King lost a wheel and sailed through two sections of guardrail. Paschal clipped the discarded wheel and did some damage to his Plymouth. Who knows, that hit may have led to his brake failure on Sunday.

1963 Riverside Petty Paschal wreck 011663LATimes.png



--
Schaefer: It's not just for racing anymore.