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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!” 


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

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. 



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Reader Comments (1)

Very amazing spectacle of photographs!!! It is hard to imagine that some of those pictures were taken so long ago! The color is so rich and vivid; much better quality than a lot of the pictures that we so often are exposed to in present day. The layout and descriptions are very well put together! Fantastic work and it is so great to see these priceless photographs presented and given the exposure they deserve!

June 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCharissa Isom

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