by Vadim Stepanov, Formula143.org
The Vintage Series of dirt cars was produced by Georgia Marketing and Promotions (GMP) in the beginning of 2000s. Many midget, sprint car, and dirt champ car models of 1950s – 1960s were manufactured by GMP in 1/18 scale. In 1/43 the series includes only 4 limited edition car sets, each consisting of three cars from early 1960s – dirt champ car (“big car”), sprint car and a midget. The sets are:
– Parnelli Jones 3 Car Set
– A.J. Foyt / Bowes Seal Fast 3 Car Set
– Wynn’s Special 3 Car Set (cars driven by Don Branson)
– Konstant Hot Spl. 3 Car Set (cars driven by Roger McCluskey)
US dirt car racing in 1940s – 1960s
The open-wheel racing in the USA in 1940s – 1960s was structured in four major types of cars and races. The highest level was open-wheel roadsters raced at Indy-500 and some other paved ovals. Dirt champ cars (known also as “big cars”), sprint cars and midgets were three classes of open-wheel dirt track racing cars differed in size and in racing distances.
Midget car racing was born in the USA in 1930s. Midgets, very small cars with a very high power-to-weight ratio, were intended to be driven for races on ¼ mile ovals of relatively short distances, usually 2.5 to 25 miles. The technical regulations for midgets changed often, but mainly concerned the wheelbase and engine parameters. They should have been shorter and less powerful than sprint cars, which, in its turn, should be in between midgets and big champ cars. Midget races were held almost every week, usually in weekdays. Many regional championships and a National Championship sanctioned by American Automobile Association, AAA (until 1955), and then by United State Auto Club, USAC (since 1956) provided a racing opportunities for many professional and semi-professional drivers. Midget cars of the 40s – 50s are usually referred as Offy midgets because the Offenhauser V8 engine was a standard for this type of racing cars. Chassis manufacturers usually not mentioned in race results and in season official statistics. But the major manufacturer of the midget cars in 1940s – 60s was notorious Kurtis Kraft. From around 1946 to 1962, Kurtis Kraft produced 550 completely assembled midgets and another 600 examples in kit form.
Midget racing at that period was usually a first step in the open-wheel racing career for many drivers. Number of those, who were promoted further, continued to race midget simultaneously with sprint cars and big champ cars. The schedule of races of the National Championships for big cars, sprint cars and midgets was spread over the days of the week, and prize money in small classes was not superfluous. The most popular venue for midget racing was the first purpose built speedway at Gilmore Stadium in Hollywood, CA, opened in 1934 and demolished in 1951. The most well-known race held at Gilmore, annual “Turkey Night Grand Prix” has been held on Thanksgiving night and was a round of the AAA National Midget Championship.
Sprint cars were of larger size and more powerful than midgets and were used mostly on 1/2 and 5/8’s mile tracks. The distance of sprint car races was also longer – usually 15 to 50 miles. Since 1956, when AAA withdrew from auto racing, the Sprint Car National Championship is sanctioned by USAC. In 1956–1960, USAC’s National Sprint Car Championship was divided into two regional divisions in the Midwest and in the East, and since 1961 a single championship is held. As in midget races, chassis manufacturers usually not mentioned in race results and in season official statistics. The cars were built by many small workshops, some of which also had manufactured big cars and / or midgets. The power units of sprint cars were usual Offenhauser of Chevrolet stock block engines.
Dirt Champ Cars (Big cars)
The highest level of open wheel racing in the USA is the National Championship. It was sanctioned by AAA in 1916 – 1955, then by USAC in 1955 – 1980. Then it survived several sanctioning organizations, several divisions and unifications, and is now known as IndyCar Series. Until 1970 the National Championship included races both on dirt tracks and paved ovals or courses. In 1950s the majority of races were on dirt tracks, but then they began to be replaced by races on paved tracks. As a rule, different vehicles were used on dirt tracks and paved speedways. First were usually called ‘”big cars”, or dirt champ cars, the latter – roadsters. Actually, before 1950, the name “big car” included both the sprint and Championship type racing vehicles but thereafter the “big cars” were of just the National Championship level racing cars only. The big cars were built by few small workshops, garages or car repair shops run by private craftsmen, mechanics or small entrepreneurs. Among the name of champ car and roadster builders of the 1950s – 60s there were such names as Eddie Kuzma, Quin Epperly, A.J. Watson, Lujie Lesovsky, Wally Meskowski, Jud Phillips, George Salih, Floyd Trevis and others. The name of Frank Kurtis stands out among them – his Kurtis Kraft was the most prolific manufacturer of dirt cars of various categories. Since 1971, all dirt races were split from the National Championship. From 1971 to 1980, the series was named National Dirt Car Championship, and then renamed Silver Crown Series in 1981.
GMP 1/43 Vintage Series models identification
The series contains no information on the year, events, and chassis names of the cars.
So the questions are the same as for “Gilmore Stadium Midget Series”:
– What is chassis manufacturer(s) of the cars?
– When it raced – what year represents each model?
– Where it raced – what championship or event represents each model?
The car/model identification looks as an easy task because the detailed statistics of the USAC National Championship, as well as lists of winners for USAC National Sprint Car Championship and USAC National Midget Championship are available. However there are many ambiguities. First of all, according US motor racing tradition, official names of the cars are sponsor or team names, but not the chassis manufacturer. Second, in a “Big Car” National Championship drivers usually used different cars under the same “Special” team or sponsor name during the season. Third, official USAC winners’ statistics did not record chassis manufacturer for sprint car and midget racing. Fourth, only winners list are available for sprint cars and midgets. Fifth, contemporary newspapers reports usually contain no information on racing numbers and car names for sprint / midget events. Anyway, let’s try to identify each model.
1. Parnelli Jones 3 Car Set:
Willard Battery Special #98 big car
Fike Plumbing Special #1 sprint car
Willard Battery Special #98 midget
1.1. Willard Battery Special #98 big car
Parnelli Jones used #98 Willard sponsored car entered by J.C Agajanian during the 1961 -1963 USAC seasons, and in a single race in 1964. The Willard Spl. was a Lesovsky-Offy chassis / engine combination on dirt tracks, but Watson-Offy car raced under the same name on paved ovals. So, the Dirt Champ Car from this set is Lesovsky-Offy.
1.2. Fike Plumbing Special #1 Sprint Car
Harlan Fike was a Phoenix area plumbing supplier and contractor who owned some very successful sprint cars and sports cars. Parnelli Jones drove his Fike Plumbing Spl. in 1959 – 1963 sprint car seasons. In 1961 and 1962 he raced Fike Plumbing #1, as Midwest USAC Sprint Car champion of 1960 and National USAC Sprint Car Champion of 1961. The cockpit lettering “1960 Midwest Champion” indicates the 1961 season. The car was built by Hank Henry, a master craftsman and sprint car builder of San Diego, California. The car was powered by Chevrolet V8 283 cubic inches stock block engine. So, the Fike Plumbing Spl. #1 is Henry – Chevy sprint car raced by Parnelli Jones in 1961.
1.3. Willard Battery Special #98 Midget
List of victories in National Midget recorded Parnelli Jones wins in midget #98 in 6 season – 1961 – 1966. Photo evidence indicated that midget #98 entered by Marvin Edwards has Willard Battery livery in 1961-64. The car is Kurtis Kraft – Offy midget.
If the set represents a single year, it can be dated to 1961 or 1962. Taking into account that those days a dirt car racer usually was in use for several (sometimes, many) years, the earliest season is the best approximation for the exact attribution.
2. A.J. Foyt / Bowes Seal Fast 3 Car Set
Bowes Seal Fast #1 big car
Bowes Seal Fast #1 sprint car
Bowes Seal Fast #5 midget
2.1. Bowes Seal Fast #1 Big Car
The #1 Bowes Seal Fast was used by A.J. Foyt in 1961 and 1962 USAC Champ Car Series. Racing number 1 was awarded to Foyt as the Champion of the previous season (1960 and 1961, respectively). Again, the different cars raced on dirt tracks and on paved ovals. Dirt racer was Meskowski-Offy, while Trevis-Offy or Kurtis-Offy were raced on paved tracks. So, the big car can be identified as Meskowski-Offy from 1961-62.
2.2. Bowes Seal Fast #1 Sprint Car
Racing number 1 was used by Foyt in Sprint Cars National only in 1961, apart from a single win in 1966. In 1960, Foyt teamed up with car constructor Wally Meskowski to field a machine which took Foyt to his first USAC Sprint Car Championship in 1960. So the sprint car is also Meskowski.
2.3. Bowes Seal Fast #5 Midget
Winning number 5 appears in 1961 and in a single win in 1962. The 1960-61 Foyt’s Bowes Seal Fast midget is on display at the Indianalpolis Motor Speedway Museum, and it is Kurtis Kraft car.
3. Konstant Hot Spl. 3 Car Set (cars driven by Roger McCluskey)
Konstant Hot Spl. #14 big car
Konstant Hot Spl. #2 sprint car
Konstant Hot Spl. #19 midget
3.1. Konstant Hot Spl. #14 Big Car
McCluskey raced with number 14 in 1963 USAC Champ Car Championship. Dirt track car was Philipp-Offy, paved track vehicle – Watson-Offy. So the modeled dirt champ car is Philipp-Offy.
3.2. Konstant Hot Spl. #2 Sprint Car
Roger McCluskey won the 1963 USAC Sprint Car Championship with 7 race victories in this car. The car was built in 1962 by Jud Phillips and was powered by Chevrolet 283 cubic inches stock block engine.
3.3. Konstant Hot Spl. #19 Midget
List of McCluskey wins in the National Midget Championship contains no #19 car. McCluskey was not a frequent midget starter. He has “just” 4 midget wins in his career. In 1963 he competed in 14 midget events, and in most of them in the Bob Homeyer’s Konstant Hot. His best finish was 3rd at at Columbus/IN on August 2. The car is apparently Kurtis Kraft chassis powered by Offenhauser engine. It was built in 1949, but usually midget cars raced for many years changing owners, teams and drivers.
4. Wynn’s Special 3 Car Set (cars driven by Don Branson)
Wynn’s Friction Proofing #4 big car
Wynn’s Friction Proofing #3 sprint car
Wynn’s Friction Proofing #41 midget
4.1. Wynn’s Friction Proofing #4 Big Car
Don Branson raced with Wynn’s Friction Profing sponsorship in 1964 and 1965. This combination of the car name and race number was used by Don Branson only in 1965. Branson drove this Bob Wilke owned Watson-Offy dirt champ car to victories at Phoenix, Du Quoin, and Sacramento.
4.2. Wynn’s Friction Proofing #3 Sprint Car
Wins in Sprint Cars National for Don Branson carrying #3 are recorded only in 1964. The Branson’s sprint cars were entered by Jud Phillips, sprint car racer, builder, and owner. The car is 1964 Phillips – Offenhauser.
4.3. Wynn’s Friction Proofing #41 Midget
Branson won 15 races in National Midget Championship in 1957-1966, but none of them with #41. According to USAC records, in 1964 he won 2 races in cars #4 and #44 owned by Ralph Wilke. I did not find any info on midget #41 driven by Branson in other sources. Taking into account that he raced with Wyn’s only in 1964-65, the midget is from those seasons. The car is conventional Kurtis Kraft – Offy midget.
Three car sets represent 12 cars for 4 drivers of the beginning of the 1960s. We have 4 dirt champ cars, 4 sprint cars, and 4 midgets to identify.
Dirt Champ Cars
To find out what is a dirt champ car machine is the easiest task of 3 because of the availability of detailed racing records and pictorial sources.
Parnelli Jones Willard Special #98 is Lesovsky – Offy of 1961 (raced also in 1962).
Bowes Seal Fast #1 is Meskowski – Offy raced by Foyt in 1961 (also in 1962 and 1963).
Wynn’s Friction Proofing #4 is Watson-Offy raced by Don Branson in 1965.
Konstant Hot Spl. #14 is McCluskey’s Philipp – Offy from 1963.
For Sprint Cars identification there is fewer data – no detailed race statistics, fewer photos – but still enough to identify the season and the chassis builder.
Parnelli Jones’ Fike Plumbing Special #1 is 1961 Fike car built by Hank Henry and powered by Chevrolet engine.
Foyt’s Bowes Seal Fast #1 is 1961 Meskowski – Offy.
Branson’s Wynn’s Friction Proofing #3 is 1964 Phillips – Offy.
Konstant Hot Spl. #2 raced by McCluskey in 1963 is Phillips – Chevrolet.
Fewer details are available for this class of dirt cars. Many races were held each year with race reports restricted to basic results. Two midgets were identified without doubt as Kurtis Kraft – Offy cars – 1961 Bowes Seal Fast #5 Midget by Foyt and Konstant Hot Spl. #19 by McCluskey. All 4 Midget in this GMP series are identical scale models, so two other cars are also Kurtis Kraft. Willard Battery Special #98 by Parnelli Jones can be attributed to 1961 (first season which corresponds to model details), and Branson’s Wynn’s Friction Proofing #41 is from 1964 – 1965.
Cars and drivers details
Rufus Parnell “Parnelli” Jones, famous US racing driver and team owner, started his racing career in 1950s from different classes of stock car racing. He won 15 races in the regional NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model Series. In 1956-60 Parnelli Jones also started in some races in the highest stock car championship – NASCAR Grand National, scoring 3 victories. In 1958 he graduated to sprint car racing sanctioned by California Racing Association (CRA), and in 1960 debuted in his Fike Plumbing Special in the USAC Sprint Car Championship winning the Midwest series, while A.J. Foyt claimed USAC’s Eastern title. The 1960 was also his first season in Big cars – Jones was 18th in the USAC National Championship. In 1961 Parnelli Jones took part in all 4 major USAC series. He focused mostly on the USAC Sprint Car Championship and USAC National Championship, but often raced in the USAC National Midget series and occasionally started in the USAC Stock Car Championship.
1961 Kurtis Kraft – Offenhauser (Willard Battery Special) Midget Parnelli Jones
Midget series always had a very busy schedule. So in 1961 there were as many as 58 races in the USAC Championship calendar. Parnelli Jones was able to start only in 18 of them winning 2 rounds. First, he won at Milwaukie Mile, unusual midget race held on 1-mile paved oval, in Chuck Benda owned car #89. His second win was in his regular Willard Battery Kurtis Kraft midget owned by Marvin Edwards. Jones won the last race of the season held on 31 December at Ascot Stadium., Gardena, CA. In the final standing of the USAC 110 Offenhauser Championship (the official name of the National Midget series) Parnelli Jones was 6th with 593.5 points. The winner, Jimmy Davies, won 11 out of his 48 races, and scored 1265.2 points. Parnelli’s major rival, A.J. Foyt, was in 7th position, just behind Parnelli, but with 9 wins of just 13 starts.
1961 Henry – Chevrolet (Fike Plumbing Special ) Sprint Car Parnelli Jones
Harlan Fike was a Phoenix area plumbing supplier and contractor who owned some very successful sprint cars and sports cars. Parnelli Jones drove his Fike Plumbing Spl. in 1959 – 1963 sprint car seasons. In 1961 he raced Fike Plumbing #1, as Midwest USAC Sprint Car champion of 1960. Interestingly, there were two #1 cars in the 1961 Sprint Car series – A.J. Foyt also earned #1 as the Eastern series champion of 1960. The Fike Plumbing car was built by Hank Henry, a master craftsman and sprint car builder of San Diego, California. The engine was Chevrolet V8 283 cubic inches stock block unit. Jones started slowly in the sprint car season. After first 4 out of 24 races he was in fifth place in the standings, almost 80 points behind the leader, A.J. Foyt. However then he won 5 races in a row. Second and third place in “Twin-Fifties” at Langhorne, two longest 50-mile races with the most points, in August, powered him into the lead, which he never relinquished. In the final part of the season Jones took 4 more wins (at Salem, New Bremen, Williams Grove, and Indianapolis) increasing the lead over Jim Hurtubise and A.J. Foyt, second and third in the standings. So Parnelli Jones became the first USAC Sprint Car Champion after famous Midwest and Eastern circuits were combined in1961.
1961 Lesovsky – Offenhauser (Willard Battery Special) Dirt Champ Car Parnelli Jones
The 1961 USAC National Championship included 12 races. Five of them were held on paved ovals, and 7 on dirt tracks. J.C. Agajanian’s team used Watson-Offy roadsters for paved superspeedways at Indianapolis 500 and Milwaukie 200, and Lesovsky – Offy big car for shorter (usually, 100-miles) races on short dirt or paved ovals. Both cars were officially named Willard Battery Special. The dirt car was manufactured by Los Angeles based car builder Ludwig “Lujie” Lesovsky. Of Czechoslovakian blood, he ran his L.A. Lesovsky Race Car Engineering garage which mostly dealt with modifying Kuzmas, Kurtis Krafts, Epperlys, and Watsons, than in constructing his own vehicles. Lesovsky build just 5 Indy-500 roadsters and some dirt big cars. The owner of the car was Joshua (J.C.) Agjanian, a businessman of Armenian origin, one of most influenced and famous persons in US motor racing of the 1950s – 60s. He ran his family’s refuse collection and hog ranching businesses in California, but promoting of motor races and his own cars was actually his main and most loved activity. The money for his team came from Willard Storage Battery Corporation, an early leader in the development and manufacture of automobile batteries, founded by Theodore A. Willard in Cleveland. In 1961 its factory in Cleveland shuts down and the company goes bankrupt. In his Willard Battery Specials Parnelli Jones was not very successful on paved ovals, but showed much better performance on dirt tracks. He drove his Lesovsky – Offy dirt car to 2nd places at Langhorne 100, and Golden State 100 at Sacramento before taking his first championship race win at the final round of the 1961 season, Bobby Ball Memorial at Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix. In the final 1961 USAC National Championship standings Jones was 9th. The Champion was A.J. Foyt, who lost the Sprint Car title to Parnelli, but excelled in the most prestigious and most money-earning series.
Anthony Joseph, or A.J., Foyt is a racer with one of the most impressive and longest career in motorsport. His active driving career lasted more than 40 years – since 1953 till 1996, and he still continued to be an important figure in motorsport running his teams in IndyCar series. Foyt is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (which he won four times), the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His career in IndyCars (USAC and CART), the highest level of American open-wheels racing, lasted over 5 decades – from 1950s to 1990s. Foyt holds the records on most National Championships titles (7) and most Championship races won (67). In 1961 he was just in the beginning of this long way in motorsport, but already won his first USAC National Championship, as well as the titles in sprint cars and midgets.
1961 Kurtis Kraft – Offenhauser (Bowes Seal Fast) Midget A.J. Foyt
Foyt started his career in midget racing in 1953, at age 18. In 1956 he began racing in USAC National Midget Championship, winning his first races in 1957 (at Olympic Stadium in Kansas City and at Kil-Kare Speedway in Xenia, OH) and finishing 7th in the season points standings. Foyt left regular midget car driving after the 1957 season to drive in sprint cars and championship cars. However, he did occasionally compete in midget car events until 1970, scoring 20 wins in the Midget National races. Foyt won the most important midget race, the Turkey Night Grand Prix, in 1960 and 1961, the first two years that it was held at Ascot Park. In the 1961 midget season Foyt won 9 events, including Turkey Night Grand Prix, out of just 13 starts. In the season point standings he was seventh with 583.4 points. Six of Foyt’s wins were achieved behind the wheel of Bowes Seal Fast midget owned by Jack London, which was 13th in the car owners point standings.
1961 Meskowski – Offenhauser (Bowes Seal Fast) Sprint Car Foyt
A.J. Foyt began his sprint car career in 1956 in International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) championships. On august 25 he won his first sprint car race, running away with the IMCA feature at the Red River Fair in Fargo, N.D. In 1957 he won IMCA sprint car race at Salem, Indiana, and switched from the IMCA to USAC sprint cars later that season. In 1960 Foyt won the USAC Eastern Championship and following season joined the first combined USAC National Sprint Car Championship. Foyt achieved 6 sprint car victories in 1961 and finished the season in 3rd position in the point standings, behind Parnelli Jones and Jim Hurtubise. His 1961 sprint car was built by Wally Meskowski, was powered by Offenhauser engine, and was owned by Foyt himself. The official car name, Bowes Seal Fast Special refers to the sponsor, the company founded by Robert M. Bowes in Indianapolis, and specialized in tire repair equipment and radiator liquid. Foyt continued to race sprint cars long after he was firmly established as one of the top drivers at the Indy 500, and eventually won 28 USAC National sprint car feature races, including 23 races in united USAC Championship in 1961- 1974.
1961 Meskowski – Offenhauser (Bowes Seal Fast) Dirt Champ Car Foyt
Foyt debuted in the Big Car National Championship in 1957, and won his first title out of record 7, in 1960. In 1961 Foyt raced Meskowski – Offy dirt car and Travis – Offy roadster. He won his first Indy-500 race in Trevis, and then scored 3 more victories on dirt tracks (at Langhorne, Du Quoin, and Indiana State Fairgrounds) to defend his USAC National Championship title. By wining 4 races and the Championship Foyt collected $153,168. For instance, the total prize money of Parnelli Jones for 1961 Sprint Car National Champion was $16,432, while Jimmy Davies, 1961 USAC Midget national Champion, purse was $9,882.
During his lengthy career Roger McCluskey won championships in three different divisions of the United States Auto Club – Sprints, Stocks, and Champ Cars, and started in 18 Indy-500 editions. Born in Tuscon, Arizona, McCluskey began his career at 19, in 1949, with modified stock car racing in his hometown. He raced in the West Coast Midgets and Sprints in the mid-1950s and joined the United States Auto Club in 1960. McCluskey won the USAC National Sprint Car Championship twice, in 1963 and 1966. Then he made an accent to USAC stock car racing, where he won the title in 1969 and 1970, and was 2nd in 1968 and 1972. He raced in champ cars in the major USAC division, the National Championship, in 1960 – 1979, and took the title in 1973. McCluskey earned five USAC Champ Car National Championship wins, including his last start at Milwaukee in 1979, 23 USAC Sprint Car wins, 23 USAC Stock Car wins and four USAC Midget Car wins.
1963 Kurtis Kraft (Konstant Hot Spl.) Midget McCluskey
McCluskey was not a frequent midget starter during his USAC career. His best year in USAC National Midget Championship was 1962 when he won 4 races. In 1963 he competed in 14 midget events, and in most of them he raced the Bruce Homeyer owned Konstant Hot Spl. Kurtis Kraft machine. His best finish was 3rd at Columbus,IN on August 2. In the final 1963 Offy 110 Midget point standings McCluskey was 34th.
1963 Phillips – Chevrolet (Konstant Hot Spl.) Sprint Car McCluskey
In 1962-63 McCluskey raced in Bruce Homeyer team sponsored by Konstant Hot, manufacturer of water heating and dispensing units. Homeyer owned some racing cars in various divisions – midgets, sprints, dirt champ cars and roadsters – all purchased and paid from Konstant Hot, Homeyer’s family enterprise. Bruce had a reputation of a connoisseur of on-the-edge living, and his style of life made him dead in 1965 when he being very drunk crashed his small private Cessna airplane. In 1962 Homeyer teamed up with McCluskey as a driver and Jud Phillips as a car builder and chief mechanic. In 1963 McCluskey won his first USAC Sprint Car championship driving Bruce Homeyer’s Konstant Hot Spl. He won 7 of the 22 races he competed in, was second five times, third on four occasions, and 4th three times. The car was built in 1962 by Jud Phillips and was powered by Chevrolet 283 cubic inches stock block engine.
1963 Philipp – Offenhauser (Konstant Hot Spl.) Big Car McCluskey
Roger McCluskey started the 1963 USAC National Championship in Bruce Homeyer’s team driving Watson-Offy roadster on paved tracks and Philipp-Offy big car on dirt ovals. The dirt racer was built by mechanic Bob “Rocky” Philipp (not to be confused with Jud Phillips). Rocky replaces Jud as chief mechanic for Homeyer’s outfit, spicing up a Konstant Hot Watson for Roger McCluskey for Indy-500 and superspeedways, and preparing his own chassis for dirt track races. McCluskey used #14 Philipp-Offy in four races (at Trenton, Langhorne, Springfield and Du Quoin) with best finish on 4th place in Springfield. After Du Quoin race McCluskey moved to Gordon Van Liew’s team and changed Philipp-Offy dirt car to Meskowski-Offy. In the final point standings of the 1963 USAC National Championship McCluskey was 8th with 750 points.
Don Branson was born in 1920 and started racing midgets just after the World War in 1946. He works for 13 years as truck driver, and when raced, in the off-season pumped gas and drove taxi-cabs. In 1952 Branson moved to International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) big cars. In 1952 – 1954 he won 5 IMCA races and finished 8th in 1952 and 10th in 1954 overall IMCA points, as well as 5th in the National Speedways circuit points both in 1952 and 1954. In 1956 Branson switched to USAC starting in all 3 national series – Midget Championship, sprint cars and USAC big cars National Championship. He scored 15 wins in the National Midget Championship in 1957 – 66. Branson won the 1959 USAC Midwest Sprint Car series, was runner-up in both 1960 Midwest and East regional standings in 1960, and took the 1964 USAC Sprint Car Championship. In USAC sprint cars Branson won 15 events in the regional Midwest and East series in 1957 – 1960, and 13 events in 1962 – 1966 in united National Championship. He debuted in USAC big cars National Championship in 1957, competed in 128 USAC Championship events, winning six. His best position in the Championship was 3rd in 1960. He was killed in 1966 in a crash at a sprint car race at Ascot Park in Gardena, California, along with fellow driver Dick Atkins. 1966 was to be his last year of competition, and the fatal crash occurred with only a few races left in the season for the USAC series.
1964 Kurtis Kraft (Wynn’s Friction Proofing) Midget Branson
In 1961 – 1964 Branson raced in the USAC Midget National Championship for Ralph Wilke, Kurtis Kraft dealer in the Midwest. The team was sponsored by Wynn’s Friction Proofing company, the manufacturer of car lubricants. In the 1964 season Branson won two midget races – at Champain-Urbana Fairgrounds and 100-miler at Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.
1964 Phillips – Offenhauser (Wynn’s Friction Proofing Special) Sprint Car Branson
After being quite close to USAC National Sprint car title (3rd in 1960, 12th in 1961, 4th in 1962, 3rd in 1963), in 1964 Don Branson finally managed to win the Championship at age of 44. He finished ahead of Jud Larson, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, and Jim McElreath. Branson piloted Jud Phillips built and owned Offy-powered Wynn’s Frition Proofing Special to wins at Phoenix, Indianapolis Raceway Park, Terre Haute, New Bremen and St. Paul.
1965 Watson – Offenhauser (Wynn’s Special) Big Car Branson
In the 1965 USAC National Championship Don Branson raced with Wynn’s Special Watson-Offy car owned by Bob Wilke. The car was built by A.J. Watson, mechanic who ran his tiny repair shop and racing car building garage in Glendale, California. Watson-built roadsters won Indianapolis 500 six times between 1956 and 1964. Watson also built big dirt cars, as well as sprint cars (one of them won the 1960 Midwest championship with A.J. Foyt driving). In 1965 Branson in Watson-Offy won three Championship races – on paved oval at Phoenix and on dirt tracks in Du Quoin and Sacramento. He took the 4th position in the final Championship points standing.
Thus the Vintage Series by GMP represents unique car sets in 1/43 scale which opens up an amazing and diverse world of American open wheel racing. Dirt track racing is the origins of the American motorsport. All the great American racing drivers of the past grew up on it, and it was dirt ovals that made American motorsport what it is today.