Gordon Johncock

Gordon Johncock

5/8/1937

Gordon Johncock is best known as a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and the 1976 USAC Marlboro Championship Trail.

Gordon Johncock was born in Coldwater, Michigan and is a former racing driver, best known as a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and the 1976 USAC Marlboro Championship Trail.

Johncock's first Champcar victory was scored at Milwaukee, Wisconsin in August 1965, and he won six further races before winning the Indy 500 in 1973.

This was a very bitter-sweet victory as his teammate David 'Swede' Savage was severely injured in a crash during the race, eventually passing away a month later, while Armando Teran, a mechanic for the same STP/Patrick Racing organization, was killed in a subsequent pit lane accident caused by a safety truck headed towards the Savage crash. The race was also shortened to 133 laps (from 200) because of rain.

Johncock won the USAC Champcar title in 1976, but was frustrated at Indianapolis; in 1975 he started the race on the front row but retired with ignition problems on the 11th lap. In 1976 and 1978 he was 3rd, and in 1977 he was leading A.J. Foyt comfortably when the car's crankshaft broke on lap 184.

Johncock had the distinction of winning the first CART sanctioned Champcar race at Phoenix in March 1979, but only won one further race until May, 1982.

Johncock took a second Indianapolis 500 victory in 1982, but by only 0.16 second from Rick Mears. Johncock had been a dominant force in the race but by the closing laps Mears was rapidly closing in. However, at his 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 with Johncock again, but on the 197th and 198th laps came from 3 seconds back to within car lengths. The final lap was one of the most thrilling laps in motorsport history as 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 took another three Champcar wins, including that year's Michigan 500 to complete two legs of what was then known as the Triple Crown (the three 500-mile races on the USAC Marlboro Championship Trail were known as such from 1970 until 1989, when the Pocono 500 was discontinued afterwards), before retiring from racing in 1985. He returned for occasional appearances in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991 and finally quit after the 1992 Indianapolis 500 (also the final '500' for Mears).

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