In this new monthly photo-essay feature, National Sprint Car Hall of Fame photographer John Mahoney shares his memories and images from some of the most amazing and historic sprint car and midget races in history.
The USAC sprint series visited Earl Baltes’ Eldora Speedway on September 4, 1966. Besides being one of the earliest races I’ve shot, it was also my first visit to the historic half-mile. With the bulk of the season in the record books, Roger McCluskey had already clinched the ‘66 title with a phenomenal record of nine wins, six seconds, four thirds, three fourths, a sixth and a 10th in the 24 races he’d run. Most features that season were 30-lappers, but this day they raced 50 for a $5,820 purse. In trials, McCluskey would clock one of his six fast times of the season. When the feature checkers flew, Mario Andretti was first, followed by Don Branson and the new champ.
Unfortunately, 1966 proved to be the most lethal in history, as five drivers lost their lives in competition. Prior
to the visit to Eldora that day, Jud Larson and Red Reigel had perished at Reading and Ron Lux at Oklahoma City. Don Branson and Dick Atkins would die at Ascot in November.
At season’s end, Mario would finish second to Roger in the final points, with Bobby Unser third.