Gordon Johncock

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Johncock's car at Pocono

Gordon Johncock (born 25 August 1936, 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."

Early career[edit]

Johncock's first USAC 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 STP/Patrick Racing. 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 cancelled. Instead, Johncock and his crew went to a local fast-food joint for hamburgers. 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 national 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 took a second Indianapolis 500 victory in 1982, winning by 0.16 second over Rick Mears. This remains the fourth-closest Indy 500 finish in history. (Al Unser Jr.'s 0.043-second victory over Scott Goodyear in 1992 was the closest, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay's 0.0600-second[1] victory ahead of Helio Castroneves in 2014, and Sam Hornish Jr's 0.0635-second victory ahead of Marco Andretti in 2006.) 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. Johncock's tires were deteriorating by the lap, and with each turn the car understeered more severely. 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, during a live interview on ABC years later, offered that if the dramatic duel had occurred two or three years later -- when Mears had additional experience -- the Californian would probably have pulled off the winning pass.

Johncock took another three Indycar races, 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, and again since 2014 (there was a Triple Crown of Indianapolis, Pocono, and Fontana in 2013, but Pocono was a 400-mile race in 2013)). Legend holds that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway held off resurfacing the bumpy concrete pit lane until Johncock retired, as he was known for his high-speed trips through the pit lane. 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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Johncock chose not to attended the 2011 Indianapolis 500, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first race. Despite the fact that all living former participants, and particularly living former winners, were invited, Johncock did not attend any of the festivities, seemingly by choice. A year later, Speedway officials again invited him to attend, and he did return to the Speedway and participated in pre-race festivities at the 2012 race.

Awards[edit]

PPG Indycar Series[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Rank Points
1979 Patrick Racing PHX
1
ATL
4
ATL
9
INDY
6
TRE
3
TRE
5
MCH
1
MCH
4
WGL
3
TRE
16
ONT
15
MCH
13
ATL
2
PHX
4
3rd 2211
1980 Patrick Racing ONT
3
INDY
4
MIL
3
POC
DNS
MDO
2
MCH
5
WGL
21
MIL
23
ONT
23
MCH
24
MEX
19
PHX
24
6th 1572
1981 Patrick Racing PHX
6
MIL
16
ATL
4
ATL
4
MCH
36
RIV
2
MIL
6
MCH
5
WGL
10
MEX
3
PHX
3
4th 142
1982 Patrick Racing PHX
5
ATL
2
MIL
1
CLE
5
MCH
1
MIL
11
POC
6
RIV
26
ROA
22
MCH
15
PHX
23
4th 186
1983 Patrick Racing ATL
1
INDY
14
MIL
23
CLE
26
MCH
26
ROA
POC
RIV
MDO
MCH
CPL
LAG
PHX
16th 20
1984 Patrick Racing LBH
11
PHX
10
INDY
25
MIL
6
POR
9
MEA
12
CLE
18
MCH
4
ROA
9
POC
11
MDO
10
SAN
17
MCH
DNQ
PHX
13
LAG
CPL
DNS
14th 39
1985 Patrick Racing LBH
INDY
Wth1
MIL
POR
MEA
CLE
MCH
ROA
POC
MDO
SAN
MCH
LAG
PHX
MIA
NC -
1986 Machinist Union PHX
LBH
INDY
Wth2
MIL
POR
MEA
CLE
TOR
MCH
POC
MDO
SAN
MCH
ROA
LAG
PHX
MIA
NC -
1987 American Racing LBH
PHX
INDY
22
MIL
POR
MEA
CLE
TOR
MCH
POC
ROA
MDO
NAZ
LAG
MIA
NC 0
1988 Granatelli Racing PHX
LBH
INDY
DNQ
MIL
POR
CLE
TOR
MEA
MCH
6
POC
6
MDO
ROA
NAZ
LAG
MIA
21st 16
1989 Hemelgarn Racing PHX
LBH
INDY
31
MIL
DET
POR
CLE
MEA
TOR
MCH
21
POC
15
MDO
ROA
NAZ
LAG
NC 0
1991 Hemelgarn Racing SRF
LBH
PHX
INDY
6
MIL
DET
POR
CLE
MEA
TOR
MCH
DEN
VAN
MDO
ROA
NAZ
LAG
20th 8
1992 Patrick Racing SRF
PHX
LBH
INDY
29
DET
POR
MIL
NHA
TOR
MCH
CLE
ROA
VAN
MDO
NAZ
LAG
NC 0
1 Johncock was listed as the primary entry and participated in practice; prior to qualifying, Johncock announced he was withdrawing, and announced a retirement from driving.
2 Johncock announced he was coming out of retirement, and was preparing to drive a back-up car for the Machinst Union racing team, but funding fell through during the second week of practice.

Indianapolis 500 results[edit]

  • Johncock ranks 3rd on the list of laps completed at Indianapolis.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Garrett, Jerry. "Daring pass produces narrow victory at Indy". New York Times, May 25, 2014. Retrieved on May 27, 2014.

External links[edit]

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