Gordon Johncock: Wikis

  
  
  

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Johncock's car at Pocono

Gordon Johncock (born 5 August 1937, Hastings, Michigan) is a former racing driver, best known as a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and the 1976 USAC Marlboro Championship Trail champion. Johncock was most often simply referred to as "Gordy."

Contents

Early career

Johncock's first USAC Champ car victory was scored at the Milwaukee Mile in August 1965. He won six further races before winning the Indy 500 in 1973.

At the 1973 Indianapolis 500, Johncock was racing for the STP/Pat Patrick team. A major accident at the start involving Salt Walther, coupled with two days of rain, postponed the race until late Wednesday afternoon. When the race was held, Johncock's teammate Swede Savage was severely injured in a fiery crash on lap 58. A moment later, Armando Teran, a pit crew member on the same STP/Patrick team, was struck by a fire truck going northbound in the pits, and was fatally injured at the scene. When the race resumed, Johncock who had led the most laps, was leading when rain fell again on the 133rd lap. Nearing 6 p.m. in the evening, the race was red flagged and declared over. After a short and muted victory lane celebration, Johncock went to visit Savage at the hospital. Afterward, the celebratory victory banquet was canceled. About a month later, Savage died from his injuries.

In the 1975 Indianapolis 500, he started the race on the front row but retired with ignition problems on the 11th lap. Johncock won the USAC Champcar title in 1976, snatching the title from Johnny Rutherford in the final race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway. In 1976 and 1978 he finished third at Indianapolis, and in 1977 he was leading A. J. Foyt when the car's crankshaft broke with sixteen laps to go.

Johncock had the distinction of winning the first CART sanctioned Champ Car race at Phoenix in March 1979, and he won one further race until May 1982.

Johncock took a second Indianapolis 500 victory in 1982, winning by 0.16 second over Rick Mears. Mears was rapidly closing on Johncock in the final laps. In Mears' final pit stop, Mears' team made a miscalculation and filled his car with more fuel than it needed to finish the race. As a consequence Mears had to catch up a significant distance on Johncock, and on the 197th and 198th laps came from 3 seconds back to within car lengths. On the final lap, Mears tried to pass Johncock for the win, with Johncock making a decisive defense of first place in Turn One. Mears would later joke about watching the tape over and over to see if 'this time I get around Gordy'.

Johncock took another three Champ car wins, including the 1982 Michigan 500 to complete two legs of what was then known as the Triple Crown before retiring from racing in 1985 (the three 500-mile (800 km) races on the USAC Marlboro Championship Trail were known as such from 1970 until 1989, when the Pocono 500 was discontinued). He returned for occasional appearances in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991 and retired for good after the 1992 Indianapolis 500.

Johncock competed in twenty-one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events in his career. He earned three top-fives and four top-tens in his limited schedules. The best of those finishes were a pair of fourths in 1973 at Daytona and 1966 at Rockingham.

First retirement

Johncock abruptly retired from Indycar racing during the first week of practice for the 1985 Indianapolis 500, just before qualifications. He served on the IMS Radio Network in 1985, but decided to return to racing in 1986. He planned to enter the 1986 Indianapolis 500, but his funding for a car fell through. He wound up sitting out the race. He attempted another return in 1987. During the first week of time trials, Jim Crawford suffered serious injuries to his feet. Johncock was hired to drive in replacement, and qualified for the race.

Second retirement

Johncock completed a sixth place finish in the 1991 Indy 500. His final race was the 1992 Indy 500, where he dropped out with engine failure. Since his retirement, Johncock has distanced himself from motorsports, and focuses on his timber business in Michigan. He participated in a 2004 interview on ESPN Classic's "Big Ticket" review of the 1982 Indy 500. In the interview, he admitted that his interests in racing were now limited, and was no longer his daily focus. In discussing the tragic 1973 race, Johncock appeared to have made peace with the circumstances. While most discredit the race as being rain-shortened, and for its overall miserable memories, Johncock insisted that his car was undoubtedly the fastest on the track, led easily, and was not simply in front at the time of the red flag by chance.

Awards

Indianapolis 500 results

Year Car Start Qual Rank Finish Laps Led Retired
1965 76 14 155.012 20 5 200 0 Running
1966 72 6 161.059 8 4 200 0 Running
1967 3 3 166.559 3 12 188 0 Spun T3
1968 4 9 166.775 9 27 37 0 Rear End
1969 12 5 168.626 5 19 137 0 Piston
1970 5 17 167.015 13 28 45 0 Piston
1971 7 12 171.388 14 29 11 0 Crash T3
1972 24 26 188.511 8 20 113 0 Exhaust Valve
1973 20 11 192.555 13 1 133 64 Running
1974 20 4 186.287 5 4 198 0 Flagged
1975 20 2 191.653 2 31 11 8 Ignition
1976 20 2 188.531 3 3 102 18 Running
1977 20 5 193.516 6 11 184 129 Crankshaft
1978 20 6 195.833 8 3 199 0 Flagged
1979 3 5 189.753 5 6 197 0 Flagged
1980 20 17 186.075 15 4 200 11 Running
1981 20 4 195.429 7 9 194 52 Engine
1982 20 5 201.884 5 1 200 57 Running
1983 20 10 199.748 13 14 163 0 Gearbox
1984 20 5 207.545 5 25 103 0 Crash T4
1987 2 18 207.990 12 22 76 0 Valve
1989 91 23 215.072 19 31 19 0 Engine
1991 92 33 213.812 33 6 188 0 Flagged
1992 92 31 219.287 32 29 60 0 Engine
Totals 3158 339
Starts 24
Poles 0
Front Row 3
Wins 2
Top 5 8
Top 10 11
Retired 14
  • Johncock ranks 3rd on the list of laps completed at Indianapolis.

References

Preceded by
Mark Donohue
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1973
Succeeded by
Johnny Rutherford
Preceded by
Bobby Unser
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1982
Succeeded by
Tom Sneva







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