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Don Capps
5th April 2011, 20:35
It was interesting to notice that in The Winners Book by James O'Keefe (Racemaker Press, 2010) that the United States Auto Club (USAC) Road Racing Championship was omitted from the various sports car championships that were listed. The United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) that the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) established in 1963 and its events are listed, but not the USAC RRC and its events -- at least not as such.

The four events for 1958 were:

7 September / First Annual Lime Rock International Open / Lime Rock Park / Lime Rock, Connecticut
Distance: 93 laps of 1.53-mile road circuit for 142.29 miles
Organizers: Lime Rock Park, Incorporated / Attendance: 7,200 / Purse: $2,750
1st / George Constantine, No. 49, Elisha Walker, Aston Martin DBR2

21 September / Marlboro Grand Prix / Marlboro Raceway / Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Distance: 40 laps of 1.7-mile road circuit for 68.0 miles
Organizers: Lavender Hill Mob / Purse: $2,950 / Attendance: 1,500 (estimated)
1st / George Constantine, Elisha Walker, Aston Martin DBR2

28 September / International Formula Libre Grand Prix / Watkins Glen Grand Prix Course / Watkins Glen, New York
Distance: 81 laps of 2.3-mile road circuit for 186.3 miles
Organizers: Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation / Purse: $5,000
1st / Joakim Bonnier, No. 11, Joakim Bonnier, Maserati 250F

12 October / I United States Grand Prix for Sports Cars / Riverside International Raceway / Riverside, California
Distance: 62 laps of 3.275 mile road circuit for 203.05 miles
Organizers: Los Angeles Times-Mirror Company and the California Sports Car Club / Purse: $13,900
1st / Chuck Daigh, No. 5, Reventlow Automotive Incorporated, Scarab Mark II Chevrolet

The champion for the 1958 season may surprise a few:
1st / Dan Gurney / 616 points, $2,700
2nd / George Constantine / 542.5 points, $1,750
3rd / Bruce Keesler / 499 points, $1,240
4th / Vic Meinhardt / 402 points, $720
5th / Chuck Daigh / 400 points, $5,000
6th / Bill Rutan / 388 points, $660
7th / Joakim Bonnier / 370 points, $2,000
8th / Allen Markelson / 359 points, $630
9th / Robert Kuhn / 305 points, $410
10th / Bill Krause / 280 points, $1,000
11th / Jean Behra / 240 points, $1,500
12th / Richie Ginther / 200 points, $500
13th / Ray Saidel / 190.5 points, $110
14th / Roy Salvadori / 160 points, $250
15th / Bob Said / 138.5 points, $655
16th / Art Bunker / 120 points, $610
17th / Max Balchowsky / 120 points, $150
18th / Phil Hill / 111 points, $75
19th / Bill Pollock / 100 points, $75
20th / Ken Miles / 80 points, $750
21st / Herb Swan / 75 points, $110
22nd / Rodger Ward / 75 points, $110
23rd / Lloyd Ruby / 60 points, $110
24th / John Herrera / 60 points, $100
25th / Bob Drake / 60 points, $500
26th / Masten Gregory / 40 points, $75
27th / Paul Kaperonis / 37.5 points, $0
28th / Jack Ensley / 37.5 points, $110
29th / Loyal Katskee / 37 points, $0
30th / John Reimer / 22.5 points, $0
31st / Gordon Glyer / 20 points, $250
32nd / Jim Rathmann / 15 points, $0

For 1958, USAC opened the RRC to three classes:
• Class 1 – for cars with engine displacements over 2,000 cc but less than 8,000 cc, the maximum allowed displacement., for modified sports racing cars.
• Class 2 – for modified sports racing cars with engine displacements under 2,000 cc.
• Class 3 – for “GT” or “sports type” production cars, but no displacement limit.

The first two events in the RRC were very low key, even minor events, but were held in the backyard (in the case of Lime Rock, this being almost literally true) of the SCCA, the epitome of amateur racing in the United States. Although the Sebring Grand Prix of Endurance events sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and then the USAC had been professional events, that is prize monies being offered, professional road racing in the United States during the first decade of road racing being re-introduced in the post-war period was a controversial topic. The SCCA was very much against the sport becoming "professional" in the sense of prize monies being offered, but there was less support for this notion among a number of both drivers and entrants, especially those at the tip of the spear, the upper end modified classes in particular. To be sure, there was less to the notion of being an "amateur" than SCCA wished to admit, money being passed about for "expenses" and various "services" leading to a certain degree of cynicism regarding the SCCA and its self-proclaimed purpose of being solely pour le sport.

There was another motivation for the USAC to stick its nose into what had been the balliwick of the SCCA besides the obvious response to a perceived need: In the aftermath of the departure of the AAA from being the national sanctioning body for the United States and its representative to the CSI, the USAC had made the assumption that it would simply step into the shoes of the AAA Contest Board and replace it as both the national sanctioning body and the US representative to the CSI. Others, however, had other ideas, to include the CSI. The CSI did not accept the USAC as the US representative in the place of the departed AAA. Between 1957 and 1959, the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS)-FIA was formed, organized, and assumed the role formerly filled by the AAA Contest Board on the CSI.

Between 1956 and 1961, it was largely open season in the US when it came to automobile racing. Each of the three major sanctioning bodies in the US -- SCCA, NASCAR, and USAC -- scrambled for leverage and position both nationally and internationally, as well as on the ACCUS board of course. USAC snactioned the largest international road race in the US, Sebring and its 12-hour Grand Prix of Endurance, not the SCCA. Despite overture and some often not so subtle pressure from the SCCA, Alec Ulmann, the promoter of the Sebring race, stuck with USAC because without prize money being offered (as well as some appearance money) the international entry for the event would suffer.

At any rate, during the Spring of 1958, USAC decided to create a Road racing Division which would then create a professional road racing series that Fall. As alluded to, the first two flew pretty much under the radar, but the event at Watkins Glen was the first step in a plan by Cameron Argetsinger to bring the United States Grand Prix to Watkins Glen. It should be noted that during 1957 Ulmann had discussed the notion with the ACCUS and the CSI of holding a "United States Grand Prix" at Sebring during the 1958 season, initially early in the season, being held in conjunction with the 12-hour race or later in the season after the last European event -- which actually held in Africa -- was held in Morocco. Howver, the deal could not be made and the idea was shelved for futire consideration.

The Watkins Glen "Formula Libre" event was a success, Bonnier singing the praises of the track and its organization when he returned to Europe. This would lead to two further "Formula Libre" races, 1959 and 1960, which saw an increased European, to include the presence of Stirling Moss, which led to a situation which allowed Argetsinger to be able to within the space of literally just a few weeks organize and produce the 1961 USGP when Ulmann finally relented his sanction for the event in August 1961.

The Riverside event was promoted by Ulmann and was both an artistic and financial success. Its official title was the "I United States Grand Prix for Sports Cars," although it was usually called the "Times Grand Prix" due to the role of the Los Angeles Times in helping promote the event, any profits being channeled into various charities that it supported. When Ulmann finally managed to get the sanction for a United States Grand Prix, he dubbed it the "II United States Grand Prix," which was overlooked by many then and later, of course.

All in all, the inaugural season of the USAC RRC was a modest one in some respects, but a rousing success in others, the latter being due to the Watkins Glen and Riverside events, the latter in particular.

The 1959 RRC season can be summed up in one word for the historian: Nightmare.

The final three seasons of the USAC RRC, 1960, 1961, and 1962, witnessed increased international participation in several of the events, notably those of the West Coast, Riverside and Laguna Seca. What emerged from the the RRC was not only the SCCA's USRRC, but what would be known as the "US Fall Pro Season," and eventually the Canadian-American Challenge Cup Series, the Can-Am.

D-Type
5th April 2011, 21:12
If anybody wants [full] results they can be found at http://wsrp.ic.cz/usacrrc.html Martin Krejki's labour of love

Don Capps
6th April 2011, 01:14
If anybody wants full results they can be found at http://wsrp.ic.cz/usacrrc.html Martin Krejnik's labour of love

I must caution that this site -- nor any other site on the Web for that matter -- has anything close to the "full results" for the USAC RRC during its five year tenure. Nor does this site have the full points tables for each season. Plus, we now know the the Sebring 12-hour Grand Prix of Endurance was a round in the 1959 USAC Road Racing Championship. That this is the case and we never realized it until very recently should indicate the rather iffy nature of our scholarship regarding such things. After all, there were these oddities in the 1959 points standings that USAC released that should have led us to this conclusion years ago. I completely missed it although it was staring me in the face.

There is another site (Racing Sports Cars (http://www.racingsportscars.com/championship/USAC%20Road%20Racing%20Championship.html)) that actually does a better job in some instances, but....

This is yet another case of of information being dumped into the ether with little to nothing explaining anything that one might be casting one's eyes upon. For instance, USAC did not award points for the "overall" position if there were heats in an event, but rather each heat was a separate race and points were awarded on that basis. While a promoter might choose to award some -- or all -- of the prize money on the basis of the "overall" standing of the two heats, USAC did not award the points on that basis.

Nor can any site even begin to claim to have the "full" results given the rather hopeless mess of the Meadowdale events. It is hoped that somewhere out there someone has the results to the numerous races -- heats, remember -- that composed the Meadow events. Although I keep hoping to crack that case some day, I am not going to hold my breath in the expectation of that being any time soon.

Bob Riebe
25th May 2011, 21:18
It strikes me as a bit sad, that among that first list of drivers, only ten years later, only three of them were still full-time drivers with a few others competing occasionally.