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40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE RAFAELA INDY 300 AT THE AUTODROMO DE RAFAELA, SANTA FE, ARGENTINA
2011 marks the 40th anniversary of Al Unser Sr.'s back to back victory at the Indy 500, but it also marks the 40th anniversary of his victory at the Rafaela Indy 300. 1971 found USAC (the United States Auto Club) acquiring a decided international flavor and joining forces with the Club Atletico Rafaela as the season opened with the Rafaela Indy 300 at the Autodromo de Rafaela in Rafaela, Santa Fe, Argentina. Built in 1952, the Autodromo Ciudad de Rafaela previously hosted the 500 Millas Argentinas organized by the Club Atletico Rafaela. Improvements to the road course and widening the track along with many other improvements took place to meet the safety requirements of USAC, the largest racing category in the United States. Challenging the notion that his ride was no longer competitive, Unser raced the same PJ Colt Turbo that took him to his first Indy 500 in 1970. The Rafaela 300 consisted of 2 -150 miles- 53 laps of the 2.874 mile course. Racing for separate championship points, a single purse was offered based on the combined results. Dueling with many of the great racers of the era, including his brother Bobby, Al avoided mishaps that befell other drivers and found himself in the lead on the most important lamp in each heat -the final one- winning both races.
 
Source Unser Racing Museum
Author Seth McFarland
Date 2011-06-29
The Greatest 33
732 drivers have raced at the Indy 500. 100 drivers were selected as the top competitors of all time, and of those only 33 drivers were selected as the greatest drivers of all time. This year marks the Centennial anniversary of the start of the Indianapolis 500 race. Fans from around the world were asked to submit their favorite choices to determine ''The Greatest 33'' of their dream lineup of the 33 greatest drivers of all time. Sunday, May 15, the final lineup was announced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The three four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500 - A.J.Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser - will be starting from the front row of ''The Greatest 33'' after earning the most votes. Of course, Al Unser will not be the only Unser present in the top 33 drivers. Bobby Unser will be in the second row, followed by Al Unser Jr. in the fourth row. Only three of the current Indianapolis 500 competitors are among The Greatest 33, Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchiti, and Scott Dixon.
 
Source Unser Racing Museum
Author Seth McFarland
Date 2011-05-16
PLAYING IN THE SNOW
In 1927, the first patent for the ''snowmachine'', was issued to Carl Eliason, (1899 - 1979), a mechanic, steam engineer, blacksmith and general store owner. He lived in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and suffered with a foot deformity that kept him from using snowshoes or skis on his ventures into the back country. While there were track conversions for early automobiles and wind sleds available in the 1920's, they were too large and heavy to follow the narrow trails cut into the woods by his friends and neighbors.

At age 25, Eliason began trying to build a machine that could propel him through those narrow trails and over the deep Wisconsin snow pack. The machine was built on four snow skis and fitted with a curved front section similar to a toboggan. The two small skis mounted at the front were used for steering with a rope while two longer skis extended to the rear of the machine and served as a platform for the seat which held the track drive system. He used bicycle chains, sprockets and wood slide rails to guide the endless track that was fitted with wood cross links and conveyor belt webbing to provide flotation and traction.

Mounted on the front of the sled was a 2.5 hp outboard motor. A section of a Ford Model T radiator cooled the little engine and there was no transmission. The operator simply cranked the track drive system up off the snow under the seat and warmed the engine, then slowly lowered it back down onto the snow to get moving.

In 1958, Joseph-Armand Bombardier, (1907-1964), designed the modern snowmobile and is considered the father of snowmobiling by beginning commercial production and marketing of the Ski-Doo snowmobile. At age 19, Bombardier opened a garage in Quebec and made a living repairing tractors and automobiles. However, in 1935 at age 27, he developed his rubber covered drive sprocket design which led to the development of many successful track drive systems, to more than 40 Canadian, US and British patents and to his financial success.

Using this technology, his oldest son was working on a seamless, wide track machine for grooming ski trails when Bombardier hit upon a design of what would become the original Ski-Doo. While his son received the patent on the seamless rubber track, it was the father who designed and built the vulcanizing mold that made production of the seamless rubber track possible. Two hand-built ''Snow Dogs'' were unveiled in 1958 and full production of the Ski-Doo began in 1960 with 225 units being produced.

The ''sleds'' of 2011 are a far cry from the ''motorized toboggan'' of 1926. And while necessity may have been the mother of Eliason's invention, snowmobiling today appeals to those who have become skilled riders, to those who are always looking to engineer a better ''ride'', as well as to those who just enjoy a day playing in the snow.
 
Source Unser Racing Museum
Author Susan Unser
Date 2011-01-21
THIS BEAST IS A BEAUTY
No matter one's aesthetic sensibilities, there can be no denying the striking visual impact of Jeff Brock's Bonneville Bombshell upon first seeing it. And regardless of whether you think it (with apologies to Walt Disney) beautiful, beastly, or just plain cool, no one can argue with its accomplishments - three world speed records for its class at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2009 and 2010! While it may appear incongruous sitting amidst the sleek cars in the Unser Racing Museum, its trophies are not the only thing it has in common with those racers, for what ultimately defines all these machines are the drivers behind the wheel. To know their stories is to recognize that the same spirit that led the Unser family to automotive fame and success is shared with Jeff Brock.

That such an unorthodox appearing vehicle has been so successful is a credit to Brock, its builder and owner, a ''Renaissance-style'' man in his own right, and a fellow New Mexican from Abiquiu, where he makes a living as an artist and sculptor along with his wife, Star York. A former nationally ranked motorcycle racer, Jeff saw the derelict 1952 Buick Riviera at an abandoned lumber mill in Arizona in 2008. Always partial to what he describes as the ''lead-sled'' style of automotive design, Jeff purchased it and dragged the behemoth home. Further inspiration struck while at a Hot Rod show in 2009, and recollecting the story of Burt Munro, the legendary Bonneville speed-bike racer portrayed in the movie The World's Fastest Indian, Jeff decided to combine his need-for-speed with his artistic talents and transform the Buick into a Bonneville racer!

Enlisting the help of two young local men as part of his and his wife's community outreach efforts, Jeff formed Rocket Heads Racing, and the newly minted team began the massive undertaking to convert the Buick into a suitable craft for sailing the famous salt flats. The list of modifications would fill pages, but Brock was undeterred as he used his artistic and mechanical skills to chop, channel, narrow, graft, weld, retrofit, modify, and create what some might call a Frankenstein. But oh, what a monster, powered by a bored-out 324 cubic inch straight eight heavily modified by Doug Anderson of Automotive Machine Service in Albuquerque. The visual crowning touch was the 750 cfm carb atop an outrageous shop-built intake manifold, but the engine was only one element in Brock's amazing transformation of his once forsaken Buick, which necessitated his and his team working long hours six and seven days a week to get the XO-GCC class (that's straight eight-cylinder inline engine - Gas Competition Coupe) car ready for the salt.

Finishing only one day before the mandatory check-in for Speed Week, the largest land speed record event in the world, Brock and one of his assistants, Sergio Juarez, then drove all night to timely arrive at Bonneville. Jeff's next hurdle was to undergo, as he put it, the longest tech inspection in Speed Week history. Race officials poured over the car, questioning Jeff's vision, his methods, and his results. Because of the car's uniqueness, coupled with the somewhat subjective nature of the various rules and requirements, Jeff and Sergio were required to continue to tinker with and modify the car to satisfy race officials of the car's worthiness on the dangerous salt flats. Eventually the car was given its official blessing, and now it was finally time for Brock to see if his creation would in fact match his vision, his expression of himself via this form of art, both sculptural and kinetic.

Brock related a frequent inquiry from people. ''Was I scared? There is fear, but when they drop that flag and you've got to go, your fear is gone. You satisfy some primal need that is very close to sex. It's euphoric. You feel like a gladiator.'' Team member Sergio's thoughts at the time were a bit more subdued and phlegmatic. ''I was just thinking, Jeez, I hope it makes it down the track.''

The Bonneville Bombshell did indeed make it down the track that hot August day in 2009, the requisite multiple runs culminating in a new class world speed record of 130.8 mph. Returning in October for the ''World Finals'', Brock built upon his previous success and beat his own record - an impressive 134.054 mph, justifying the attention the Bombshell garnered when it was first rolled out onto the miles-long stretch of dazzling white salt.

Fresh from its latest 141.29 mph record-setting run in October 2010, the Bonneville Bombshell now rests, its thunderous engine only temporarily quieted. Contrasting dramatically with the Indy, Pikes Peak, and other racing cars in the Unser Racing Museum, Jeff Brock's vision in steel has nonetheless earned its place in the limelight. Standing back, contemplating everything that went into the making of this racer, one will recognize that it harmonizes with not only the spirit of the Unser Racing Museum, but perhaps more fundamentally, ''Pop'' Jerry Unser's original garage on the old Route 66. One has only to look at the many photographs of the Unser boys building or working on their own cars in the back of dad Jerry's repair shop to recognize, that the same desire and love for the sport that the Unsers have exhibited for generations, beats and lives with Jeff Brock. While their recipe for success sounds simple - hard work, determination, perseverance, guts, talent, and a pinch of good luck - deep down we all know it's not that easy, which is why we admire all those who do in fact succeed.
 
Source Unser Racing Museum
Author Wayne Mara
Date 2010-01-07