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History of Marchbanks Speedway/Hanford Motor Speedway

RELATED STORIES: Read more about Marchbanks Speedway and Hanford Motor Speedway in my Marchbanks section, including the regularly updated "History of Marchbanks Speedway, aka Hanford Motor Speedway."


 

Sunday
May152016

John Isom photos from 1967-68 Champ Car races

Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Art Pollard in the infield at the 1968 Champ Car race at Hanford Motor Speedway. Note Unser’s heeled dress shoes. (Photo courtesy of John Isom). Drivers’ meeting at the Hanford Speedway Champ Car Race on March 17, 1968.  From left:  Billy Vukovich, Jr., Chuck Hulse, Mario Andretti, Art Pollard, Bobby Unser, &  Unidentified driver.  (Photo courtesy of John Isom). CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW LARGER SIZEPiecing together this history of Marchbanks Speedway and Hanford Motor Speedway has been rewarding thanks to the wonderfully detailed memories so many people have shared of the track and the wildly diverse forms of racing there. 

That includes John Isom, who photographed three races at Hanford: the 1967 and the spring and fall 1968 Champ Car races. What’s special about Isom’s photos is they were shot with a Rolleiflex twin-lens 2.8E2 professional camera, utilizing medium format (2-1/4-inch x 2-1/4-inch 120 film. For those who aren’t shutterbugs, the Rolleiflex is a tidy camera with a unique design

As Isom told me in an email, “Where the twin-lens Rollei shined was in shooting close-ups of the cars and drivers in the pits, and the configuration of the hooded ground glass screen on the Mario Andretti in the Dean Van Lines Special at the ‘California 200’ National Championship Indianapolis Car Race at Hanford Motor Speedway on Oct. 22, 1967. (Photo courtesy of John Isom) CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW LARGER SIZEcamera permitted me to easily obtain photos when the subjects were totally unaware of my presence!” 

Indeed. 

While the Rolleiflex was not ideal for shooting track action, the vivid color and crispness of Isom’s photos is amazing, moreso considering they were taken nearly a half century ago. These images capture wonderful moments between drivers, race prep in the pits, and rich detail of the design and technology of Champ Cars. 

“I can vividly recall taking many of the shots, and talking and joking with the drivers, many of which are no longer with us,” Isom said. 

A.J. Foyt’s Sheraton Thompson Special in 1968, one of his first Coyote chassis, March 17, 1968, Hanford Speedway. (Photo courtesy of John Isom) CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW LARGER SIZEIsom got his start shooting races at a CRA sprint-car race at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in 1956, where he later captured on film the aftermath of a horrific 1962 Champ Car accident when a car catapulted over the front grandstand cyclone fence and plunged into the crowd, injuring 29 people. He also has terrific photos from1960s-70s race action at Phoenix International Raceway and the California State Fairgrounds in Sacramento, as well as many more images from the Hanford races.  You can reach him at charissa789@sbcglobal.net

Gordon Johncock and Bobby Unser. Check out the huge ring on Unser’s right hand. Hanford Speedway, March 17, 1968. (Photo courtesy of John Isom)

March 1968 at Hanford: Al Unser in the No. 5 Retzloff Chemical Special prepped by famed mechanic George Bignotti. Note the muddy infield. (Photo courtesy of John Isom)

Bobby Unser strapped into the #6 Rislone Special, Leader Card Racers, at the October 22, 1967 race at Hanford Speedway. (Photo courtesy of John Isom)


Bill Vukovich Jr. smiles wide in the Agajanian Rev 500 Special, while chatting with Parnelli Jones, prior to the October 22, 1967 Champ Car Race at Hanford Speedway.The interesting details on the chassis are the duct tape covering the mirrors, the pitted paint and the 1st Air Cavalry Division sticker. (Photo courtesy of John Isom)Joe Leonard had success as a motorcycle racer before transitioning to Indy Cars. (He won the A.M.A. Grand National Motorcycle Championship in 1954,1956 and 1957!)  This photo of Joe was taken at Hanford Speedway on November 3, 1968. (Photo courtesy of John Isom) 

GALLERY: To see 30 of John Isom's photos full frame and with detailed captions, view this gallery of images from the 1967-68 Hanford Champ Car races. Or skim the slideshow below for a sampling. 

 

 

Sunday
May152016

Table of contents 

I've posted several dozen different "chapters" on the history of Marchbanks Speedway, aka Marchbanks Stadium and Hanford Motor Speedway, so have decided to put together a Table of Contents to help readers find topics of interest, particularly the interviews with racers who knew the track first-hand, including legends like Andretti, Unser and Kenyon.

These are listed in the order I originally posted them (some, particularly the main history, have been updated multiple times). 

  1. History of Marchbanks Speedway, aka Hanford Motor Speedway
  2. 1967 Champ Car race program
  3. More photos from the 1967 Champ Car race
  4. 1970 stock plan tried to keep Hanford Motor Speedway alive
  5. March 1968 Champ Car race program
  6. Second death at Marchbanks/Hanford speedway
  7. November 1968 Champ Car race program
  8. April 1969 Champ Car race program
  9. Additions to Marchbanks Speedway history
  10. "The Fabulous Mr. Marchbanks"
  11. Cool photos of the Marchbanks road course
  12. Reader: Hanford 250 "the best auto race I have ever seen"
  13. My interview with Gary Marchbanks
  14. My interview with Tommy Trader
  15. Details of 1957 death at Marchbanks
  16. Updates to Marchbanks history
  17. Readers share recollections of racing at Marchbanks, Hanford
  18. My chat with racing legend Mel Kenyon
  19. My chat with Bobby Unser
  20. My interview with George Benson
  21. My interview with Mario Andretti
  22. Hanford through the lens of a teenager
  23. More great photos from 1968-69 Champ Car races
  24. Fresh updates to Marchbanks Speedway/Hanford Motor Speedway history 
  25. 1967 George Snider feature story
  26. Marchbanks inducted into West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame
  27. Video of 1968 Champ Car race at Hanford
  28. Map of Marchbanks road course, circa 1960
  29. Sept. 1960 Road Race Program
  30. Interviewed by "Valley Edition"
  31. Poster from 1964 USAC stock car race
  32. Video from 1961 NASCAR race
  33. Photo of 1951 NASCAR race
  34. John Isom photos from 1967-68 Champ Car races
Wednesday
Dec232015

Photo of 1951 NASCAR race

For way too long, it was very hard to find information and photos abouty Marchbanks online, which is what inspired me to start this project to begin with.

Thankfully, the world is digging deep and beginning to share stuff on social media. And it was on Facebook that I stumbled upon Marchbank-related posts that help supplement my History of Marchbanks Speedway, aka Hanford Motor Speedway.  

First is this post from A História da Nascar that includes a photo of Danny Weinberg in the 1951 NASCAR Grand National race at the relatively new Marchbanks Stadium track. 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jun222015

Video from 1961 NASCAR race

I just ran across this cool video showing "Fireball" Roberts at the 1961 NASCAR Grand National race at Marchbanks. 

The only detail shared by YouTube poster Richard Trivette, Roberts' son-in-law, is that the video is 8 millimeter film with no sound. It shows Glenn 'Fireball' Roberts in the Fresno Pontiac during practice, and later being interviewed by famed broadcaster Chris Economaki. 

The quality isn't great but there are some terrific views from within the infield showing cars shooting down

Click to read more ...