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« Fresh updates to Marchbanks Speedway/Hanford Motor Speedway history | Main | Hanford through the lens of a teenager »

More great photos from 1968-69 Champ Car races

Regular readers will recall that Ken Durham recently shared four photos he shot at the 1967-69 Champ Car races at Hanford Motor Speedway. 

Well, good news: Durham, a longtime motorsports journalist, has dug even deeper into his files and shared more than a dozen fantastic shots from the 1968-69 Hanford races, including several terrific portraits of Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Joe Leonard. 

I've included Ken's captions pretty much verbatim because he's provided nice detail that kinda puts you at the track and draws on his experience as a racing journalist. And remember, Durham was only a teen-ager when he snapped these images, setting the stage for a future career. 

Thanks again to Ken and GearHead Photography for allowing us to share these treasures. 

Bobby Unser leading in '69. I'm including it for the view of the main grandstands, which sat all the way down at the entrance to Turn 1. [Promoter J.C.] Agajanian rented temporary bleachers for the rest of the seating. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

Johnny Rutherford, November '68. What's crazy is that I did numerous interviews, articles and columns on Rutherford when I was writing the motorsports column for the Dallas Morning News, and never realized I had this shot sitting around. It would have been fun to give him a copy. Rutherford is one of the most decent people I've ever worked with. One of his last years at Indy, he had promised me a phone interview -- and called me at 1 a.m. his time, from a phone booth in the RV parking lot. How many drivers would do that? (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham, of '68, Greg Weld in the Lesovsky Offy dirt car that Gary Bettenhausen drove to 10th in the March Hanford race. Weld finished 14th. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham, Unser's car, post-race, November '68 (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham, Unser immediately after finishing second to A.J. Foyt in Nov. of '68. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham, really like this image of Bobby Unser from the 250-mile race in November 1968.

You can see the dirt on Unser's face as well as the imprint of his goggles  after a tough race. The black and white adds a depth to the image, which captures the face of an American icon that you'd still recognize today. 

Same goes for the shot above of a very innocent-looking Rutherford, who was still carving his path in Champ Car racing at the time. 



This is Al Unser in Nov. of '68, in a turbocharged Lola Ford. He DNF'd in 15th. Sorry for the graininess. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

George Follmer signs an autograph for a young fan post-race in Nov. of '68. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

Mike Mosley after the Nov. '68 race. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

Ken's portraits of Mike Mosley, right, and Joe Leonard, below, are almost like paintings. 

Like the images of Rutherford and Unser above, they catch both drivers in moments of reflection. 

Leonard had a full career as a motorcycle racer before taking on Champ Cars, and this photo captures a strength that I bet opened up more than a few doors during his time. 
Joe Leonard, November of '68. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

This is in '69 -- Andretti, Al Unser, and Lloyd Ruby -- and one gutsy photographer. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

Art Pollard spinning the #20 STP turbine in the 1969 race, with George Snider just missing. This was it for the turbine (hence, the infield shot posted previously). I know the race summary says "fire" -- but I never saw one. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

Bakersfield's George Snider in the #99 Ewing Offy, getting lapped by Mario. Snider finished 14th. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

Lloyd Ruby passing Bobby Unser en route to 2nd place in '69. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

Gary Bettenhausen after crashing out late in '69. He finished 10th. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

I took this through the front stretch fence the day before the race. You could walk in for free, and go virtually anywhere but on the track. You could stand with your nose against the fence while the cars went by at 180 mph a few inches away from your toes. No security, no cops, no hassle. In the background you can see the exit of Turn 2, where the racing groove arcs up away from the apex of the turn. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham,

The parking lot at the speedway was mostly mown fields, and somebody threw a lump of grass on this car as they passed by on their way to the race. Lots of others (including our group) followed suit, and this was the outcome. I really miss real race fans. (Photo Copyright ©2011 Ken Durham, 

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."

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