Fast Masters

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Fast Masters was a made-for-television auto racing series, broadcast on ESPN in 1993 that featured notable drivers over the age of 50, most of whom were retired from professional racing at the time. The Fast Masters series was a summer-long elimination competition, with identically-prepared, $750,000, TWR, Jaguar XJ220s racing on Bridgestone RE71 high-performance street tires. The races took place under-the-lights at Indianapolis Raceway Park, in conjunction with ESPN's Saturday Night Thunder. The cars carried the sponsorship of Havoline, and the series was officially sanctioned by USAC.

Close and intense racing ruled each night as championship winning veterans from Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR, NHRA, Endurance racing and more, some who were well into their 70's, fought hard for every position. Considerable attention focused on the event, as many came out to witness the impressive and unprecedented lineup of legendary drivers.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser won the championship, claiming the $100,000 top prize.

Course and race details[edit]

The races took place at the 5/8 mile paved oval at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The course was modified to include a dog-leg chicane in place of turn one. The car would go down the mainstretch, divert off the oval to the infield "road course" section, consisting of consecutive 90-degree left-right-left corners. The cars would come back on to the oval in turn two, and complete the rest of the lap.

The program was scheduled for six weeks - five preliminaries culminating with the final round.[1] The Fast Master races were held in between heats of the weekly Saturday night sprint car races. The original plan called for each round to have two ten-lap heats amongst ten drivers. The starting lineup for the first heat would be determined by a blind draw. The finishing order for the first heat was reverted to set the lineup for the second heat. The drivers were to earn points based on their finishing position in each heat:

Finishing position 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Points 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

The top two drivers based on points from each round would advance to the final championship round. In all heats, caution laps did not count. A $1,000 bonus was given to the driver who led the most laps each week.

The original plans had called for two heats per week, with the first heat utilizing the full oval track and the second heat using the "road course" layout. However, those plans were scrapped after the very first weekend when several cars were wrecked in high-speed crashes on the oval. The resulting damage to the cars created costly repair work, and at least two machines were said to be totalled. Starting in week 2 a retooled format was introduced, dropping the oval race and the points structure. Instead, each week would feature smaller fields, one "heat race," and a single "feature" main event on the road course layout.

Participants[edit]

Race results[edit]

Round 1: Saturday June 19[edit]

The first preliminary round was held Saturday June 19. The nine drivers conducted a blind draw for the starting positions, with Bob Akin drawing the pole. A tenth driver, Gary Bettenhausen, withdrew after crashing during practice on Friday afternoon. The race marked the return of Bobby Allison to a race car, exactly five years to the day he suffered his career-ending injuries at Pocono.[2]

The first heat consisted of ten laps on the oval. At the start, polesitter Bob Akin missed a shift, and precariously shuffled to the back of the pack. Ed McColluch took the lead from Fred Lorenzen down the backstretch, and led the first lap. The first of many crashes that would happen during Fast Masters came as the cars were completing the second lap. Jim McElreath tried to go three-wide coming out of turn four, but lost control, collecting Dick Trickle. On lap 3, Troy Ruttman attempted a diving move passing two cars in turn three, however, he spun and crashed. McColluch led wire-to-wire, and took the first heat.

Heat 1 Results - Oval
Fin.
Pos
St.
Pos
Car
No.
Driver Laps Status
1 4 8 Ed McCulloch 10 Running
2 2 7 Fred Lorenzen 10 Running
3 6 3 Bobby Allison 10 Running
4 1 2 Bob Akin 10 Running
5 7 5 Jerry Grant 10 Running
6 3 6 Dick Greer 10 Running
7 8 10 Troy Ruttman 3 Crash
8 9 11 Dick Trickle 2 Crash
9 5 9 Jim McElreath 3 Crash
DNS - - Gary Bettenhausen - Practice crash

The second heat lined up with only six cars. McElreath, Trickle, and Ruttman all were out due to crashes during the first heat. Dick Greer lined up on the pole. The modified "road course" layout was used, and the race was scheduled for 10 laps. Going into the road course dog-leg for the first time, Greer led, but Jerry Grant locked up the brakes and ran into the back of Bobby Allison. Both cars spun out, and Grant was out with damage to the front end.

The race became a three-way battle between Greer, Akin, and McCullcoch. Bobby Allison was charging in fourth. With three laps to go, Greer suddenly spun out in turn one, handing the lead to Akin. On the restart, Akin held the lead, but drag racer McCulloch shocked the establishment by taking the lead with two laps to go and sweeping both heats for the night.

Heat 2 Results - Road Course
Fin.
Pos
St.
Pos
Car
No.
Driver Laps Status
1 6 8 Ed McCulloch 10 Running
2 3 2 Bob Akin 10 Running
3 4 3 Bobby Allison 10 Running
4 5 7 Fred Lorenzen 10 Running
5 1 6 Dick Greer 10 Running
6 2 5 Jerry Grant 1 Crash
DNS - - Troy Ruttman -
DNS - - Dick Trickle -
DNS - - Jim McElreath -
DNS - - Gary Bettenhausen -

Ed McColluch was the winner in points for the night with 20 total.[3] Bob Akin also advanced to the finals.

Round 2: Saturday June 26[edit]

A retooled format was introduced starting with the second week of competition. After major crashes in the first week (which totaled two of the $750,000 machines), the heat on the oval track was dropped. The racing moved exclusively to the modified "road course," the number of participants for the week was reduced to eight, and the points system was scrapped. Instead of a blind draw to set the lineup, time trials were held, and the field would line up in single-file to take the green flag. The top four qualifiers were locked-in, and automatically advanced to the eight-lap "Feature" event. A last-chance, five-lap, "Heat Race" was held between the other four drivers, with the winner alone advancing to the Feature.

During time trials, Harry Gant was the fastest qualifier, turning in a lap of 33.33 seconds.[3] Brian Redman, Donnie Allison, and Pete Hamilton also qualified for the Feature. Gant won a $1,000 bonus for winning the pole.

In the Heat Race, pole-sitter Elmo Langley took the lead going into turn one. Langley drove side-by-side with David Hobbs for two laps, and Benny Parsons was close behind in third. Hobbs took the lead going into turn one on lap 3, and held off Parsons at the finish line to win the heat and advance to the "Feature" event.

During the 8-lap Feature, David Hobbs jumped the start passing two cars before the start/finish line, and officials waved off the green flag. On the ensuing start, Harry Gant took the lead into turn one, but missed a shift in the dog-leg, and fell to 3rd. Brian Redman slipped by to take the lead going down the backstretch. On lap 2, Gant missed the turn into the dog-leg, slid sideways, and dropped out. Redman pulled out to a large lead, with Hamilton second, and Hobbs third at the white flag. On the final lap, Hamilton overshot his braking point, and spun out in turn 1. Hobbs slipped by to take second place as Redman won the Feature.

Redman and Hobbs advanced to the Finals.

Round 3: Saturday July 10[edit]

The third preliminary round was held Saturday July 10. Parnelli Jones and Eddie Hill advanced to the finals.

Rodger Ward, Marvin Panch, and Lennie Pond failed to advance from the heat race.

Round 4: Saturday July 17[edit]

The fourth preliminary round was held Saturday July 17. George Follmer and David Pearson advanced to the finals.

Paul Goldsmith, Jim Rathmann, and Jody Ridley failed to advance from the heat race.

Round 5: Saturday July 24[edit]

The final preliminary round was held July 24. The last-chance heat race saw Gene Felton started first and lead all five laps to advance to the Feature. On the final lap, Bill Simpson locked up the brakes and missed turn one, handing over third place to George Snider.

Bobby Unser was the fastest qualifier, and started on the pole for the Feature. Unser took the lead into turn one, while Gene Felton quickly moved up to third place by lap 2. Unser pulled out to a large lead. The battle of the race was for second, with Felton all over the back bumper of Johnny Rutherford. On the final lap, Rutherford had a small bobble in the dog-leg section, and Felton was able to get his nose underneath. Felton nudged Rutherford and the two cars went side-by-side coming out of the dog-leg. Rutherford took him into the next turn, the two cars came together, and Felton spun a complete 360 in oval turn two. Unser went on to win comfortably, and Rutherford held on to second, with those two drivers advancing to the finals.

Championship Finals: Saturday August 21[edit]

The final championship round was held Saturday August 21. The ten drivers who advanced to the finals participated in time trials, which set the field for two 8-lap heat races. The qualifiers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) participated in Heat #1. The even qualifiers (2, 4, 6, 8, 10) participated in heat #2. The top three finishers from each heat would advance to the 12-lap main event, and race for the overall championship.

In Heat Race #1, George Follmer started on the pole and took the lead into turn one. On lap 2, David Pearson made a daring move for third place on the outside in turn 1, but had to back off. On lap 4, Ed McCulloch locked up the brakes at the end of the mainstretch, and missed turn 1. He re-joined the race, but dropped from contention. With Follmer leading, and Parnelli Jones comfortably in second, the battle of the race was for third between Bob Akin and David Pearson. With two laps to go, Pearson made a fast move to pass Akin on the outside coming out of turn four. At the checkered flag, Follmer, Jones, and Pearson advanced to the main championship feature.

In Heat Race #2, Bobby Unser started on the pole and took the lead into turn one. won Heat #2. Unser led wire-to-wire, and Brian Redman finished second. The attention focused on third place David Hobbs, the final transfer spot. On lap 6, fourth place Johnny Rutherford was on Hobbs' back bumper exiting the dog-leg when he spun out in the transition to the oval. Hobbs held on to third, and Unser, Redman, and Hobbs advanced to the main championship feature.

The championship main event feature was scheduled for 12 laps, and would decide the $100,000 Fast Masters championship. The final six cars lined up double file for the start, with George Follmer on the pole, and Bobby Unser second.

At the start, Follmer and Unser went side-by-side into turn one, and battled into the dog-leg. Unser slipped by in the right-hander, and led going into the oval segment. Parnelli Jones went to the outside in turn four to try to pass Follmer. Down the frontstrech thew two went side-by-side, and Jones locked up the brakes as he tried to make the pass into the dogleg. Follmer held on, and Jones stayed in third.

A yellow came out for debris, which set up a restart on lap 5. Unser and Follmer battled 1st-2nd, while Jones tried to hold off David Pearson for third.

The second yellow for debris set up a restart on lap 9. As the cars were going through turn 3 anticipating a green flag, 6th place David Hobbs jumped the restart, passing two cars and went three wide with Follmer and Jones. The scuffle sent Jones into the outside wall in turn four. Follmer was also damaged and out of the race.

The ensuing restart saw Unser leading, and Pearson second with four laps to go. Redman and Hobbs battled for third. Unser pulled out to a comfortable lead, and wrapped up the championship in dominating fashion. With Unser winning, Pearson second, and Redman third, the top three were an Indycar veteran, a NASCAR veteran, and a road racing veteran.

Results - Championship Main Event
Fin.
Pos
St.
Pos
Car
No.
Driver Laps Status Purse
1 2 5 Bobby Unser 12 Running $100,000
2 5 3 David Pearson 12 Running $25,000
3 4 6 Brian Redman 12 Running $10,000
4 6 4 David Hobbs 12 Running
5 1 10 George Follmer 8 Crash
6 3 7 Parnelli Jones 8 Crash

The 1993 championship would end up being the only season contested for the Fast Masters.

Footnotes[edit]

Works cited[edit]

References[edit]