Auto Racing Highlights
Hollywood stuntman Stan Barrett
drove a 48,000-horsepower rocket car, with 6,000
pounds of added thrust from the engine of a
Sidewinder missile, to a top speed of 739.666
miles per hour to set an unofficial land speed
record at Edwards Air Force Base on December 17.
It was the first record under a year-old
International Motorcycle Federation rule that
records could be established in one run rather
than in two runs in opposite directions. The
rocket car was able to "compete" as a
motorcycle because it had three wheels.
USAC - CART
A number of car owners from the
United States Auto Club (USAC), the sanctioning
body for the Indianapolis 500 and similar races,
formed Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART),
which conducted a separate series of races with
Indy-style cars. The CART owners wanted a larger
voice in USAC, and opposed USAC's plan to limit
engine power so that lower-budget teams could
compete with high-budget teams.
CART drivers returned to USAC for the
Indianapolis 500, which was run on May
27. A series of rules changes resulted in
a starting field of 35 cars, rather than
the usual 33. CART cars won four of the
first five places, the lone exception
being A. J. Foyt, who finished second.
Rick Mears won in a Penske-Cosworth.
Total purse was $1,271,954.
Rick Mears, and Mario Andretti drove
Penske-Cosworths to the first three places,
respectively, in the $294,000 California 500 on
September 2, at Ontario, California.
Rick Mears won the CART Driver
Championship, A. J. Foyt won the USAC title.
Jody Scheckter won the drivers'
championship, the third for Ferrari in five
years. Scheckter won three of the 15 races and
finished in the top six a dozen times.
Gilles Villeneuve drove a
Ferrari to victory in both Grand Prix races in
the United States.
Alan Jones drove a
Saudi-Williams to victory in the Canadian Grand
Daytona 500, held on February 18, was
televised in its entirety for the first
time, and television viewers (as well as
grandstand spectators) were treated to
some last lap drama. Second-place Cale
Yarborough tried to pass Donnie Allison
on the inside on the final turn, but
Allison cut down to block. Yarborough
went off the track, came back on, bumped
Allison, bounced off, and then rammed
him. Both cars hit the outside wall and
spun down into the infield grass.
Meanwhile, Richard Petty,who had been a
ways back in third, drove through the
fracas to get his sixth Daytona 500 win.
While Petty celebrated his win, Cale and
Donnie were engaged in a fistfight, with
Donnie's brother Bobby teaming up against
Cale. Petty got the lion's share of the
$595,000 purse, while the three fighters
were fined $6,000 each and placed on
probation for six months.
won seven races, but lost the Grand National
Championship to Petty, who won five races on the
way to his seventh championship. Waltrip did end
the year at the top of the earnings list with
$465,870, compared to Petty's $430,650.
In the Year 1979
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