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Indy 500's master mechanic a legend

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George Bignotti, who died Sept. 27, was one of the most successful mechanics to ever turn a wrench at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was, of course, also the winningest.

Bignotti served as the winning mechanic on cars driven by A.J. Foyt in 1961 and 1964, by Graham Hill in 1966, by Al Unser Sr. in 1970 and 1971, by Gordon Johncock in 1973 and by Tom Sneva in 1983.

Foyt won 23 IndyCar races and four USAC national championships in the five years that he spent with Bignotti. Although their relationship was not always smooth sailing, it is pretty  certain each knew their chance for victory were far better together than they would have been apart.

About Bignotti’s passing, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said:

“We’re saddened to learn of the passing of George Bignotti. George is a true legend. He set a standard for mechanical excellence and preparation at the Indianapolis 500 that has yet to be matched and may never be reached.

George’s love and loyalty toward the 500 never waned throughout his wonderful, long life; and he has countless friends and admirers in Gasoline Alley and the IndyCar community. Everyone at IMS extends their thoughts, prayers, and sympathy to the Bignotti family.”

Fund continues to grow

In his years as a competitor in the United States Auto Club, Jason Leffler developed a large circle of friends, and he maintained his relationships with them after moving on to NASCAR.

Even though his NASCAR career came to end, he was a dedicated racer. He continued to race winged sprint cars, even though he almost certainly financed it out of his pocket.

When he lost his life in a sprint-car crash, his friends in USAC, through the USAC Benevolent Fund, established the Charlie Dean Leffler Educational Fund, which is dedicated to financing the post-secondary education of Charlie Dean Leffler, Jason’s son.

The benevolent fund pledged to match contributions up to $25,000. This has brought the amount in the fund up to $64,000 as it continues to grow. Those wishing to add contributions can send them to the Charlie Dean Leffler Educational Fun c/o The United States Club Benevolent Foundation, 4910 West 15th St., Speedway, Ind., 46224.

Leffler was one of Pete Willoughby and Keith Kunz’s first midget racers for their Columbus-based team.

Excitement at ’Da Burg

Lawrenceburg Speedway ended its season Sept. 28 with the City of Lawrenceburg Fall Classic featuring the USAC National Sprint cars, often referred to as the Thunder and Lightning division for obvious reasons. At least in Indiana, sprint-car fans widely believe that USAC sprint-car racing is the best that motorsports has to offer.

A total of 37 sprint cars were unloaded to take on the 3/8-mile clay oval at Lawrenceburg. Three-time USAC National Driving Champion Bryan Clauson of Noblesville set a quick time followed by Kevin Thomas Jr., Gary Taylor Shawn Westerfeld, Justin Grant and Dave Darland.

The heat races were won by Aaron Farney, C.J. Leary, Chad Boespflug of North Vernon and Tracy Hines, while Brady Bacon prevailed in the hooligan.

When the cars lined up for the start of the feature they were led by Chase Stockon of Elizabethtown and Darland. At the drop of the green flag, Stockon charged into the lead with Darland and his mount in hot pursuit. Although Darland made a serious attempt to take the lead on the first lap, Stockon was able to hold him off.

On the seventh lap Darland was able to take the lead; however, on the next circuit, Stockon went back into the lead and drove away. As they encountered lapped traffic Darland held onto second while Clauson moved into third.

At the midway point Clauson passed Darland to take second and, on Lap 17, Clauson took the lead.

Although Stockon was able to keep Clauson within striking distance, Clauson had found a line that was working, and he led the rest of the way to the checkered flags. Darland held on to finish third, while Thomas and Grant rounded out the top five.

It is never a surprise when Clauson wins. However, now that he is driving for Tony Stewart Racing in a car wrenched by Bob East, anything less than a feature win is probably surprising.

Stockon is fifth in USAC National Sprint Car series points and is the highest-ranked driver driving his own car.

Brownstown Speedway

Sept. 28

Late-model feature: 1. Mike Jewell 2. Michael Chilton 3. Marty O’Neal 4. Jeremy Hines 5. Steve Barnett 6. Tim Rivers 7. Dennis Roberson 8. Shelby Miles 9. Steve Godsey 10. Cody Mahoney

Modified feature: 1. Devin Gilpin of Columbus 2. Earl Plessinger of Seymour 3. Nick Allen 4. Jacoby Hines 5. Jeremy Owens 6. Greg Amick 7. Clayton Perry 8. Jeff Stith 9. Jared Bailey 10. Dennis Boknecht of Cortland

Super stock feature: 1. Matt Boknecht of Cortland 2. Tyler Cain 3. Aaron Fields of Taylorsville 4. Levi Lokey 5. Jason Hehman 6. Winston Howe 7. Steve Hollars 8. Duane Brown 9. Travis Butler 10. Danny Hupp

Pure stock feature: 1. Dusten Carr

Hornet feature: 1. Greg Garrison 2. Jacob Fields 3. Wesley Napier 4. Jacob Owens 5. Ryan Hehman 6. John Mayer Jr. 7. Brian Mitchell 8. Danial Morgan 9. Felisha Deweese of Columbus 10. Luke Bland

King of TQ’s TQ midget feature: 1. Nick Speidel 2. Jason Goff 3. Patrick Wolfe 4. Matt Arrington of Columbus 5. Matt Hedrick 6. Caleb Faulkner of Columbus 7. Logan Arnold 8. Robbie Roland 9. Shawn McIntosh 10. Johnny Goff

Gas City I-69 Speedway

Sept. 27

USAC Ford Focus Midget feature: 1. Joey Greening 2. Gage Walker 3. Adam Thomason 4. Cooper Clouse 5. Austin Nemire 6. Ryan Moran 7. John Heydenreich 8. Bill Kriegbaum 9. Toby Alfrey

Jack Himelick Fall Finals, sprint-car feature: 1. Bryan Clauson 2. Kevin Thomas Jr.  3. Gary Taylor 4. Jerry Coons Jr. 5. Chad Boespflug of North Vernon 6. Kyle Robbins 7. A.J. Hopkins 8. Kyle Cummins 9. Dave Darland 10. logan Jarrett

Jack Himelick Fall Finals modified feature: 1. Ryan Cripe 2. Jacob Poel 3. Bill Lewis 4. Derek Losh 5. Brian Post 6. Jim Mallery 7. Brad Hess 8. Andy Bishop 9. Colin Thrilby 10. Steven Hogue

Jack Himelick Fall Finals Thunder Car feature: 1. Ervin Turner 2. Ron Flaugh 3. Jerald Owens 4. Gary Mock 5. Jeremy Wheeler 6. Mike Yacullo 7. Mark Keith

Knoxville (Iowa) Speedway

Sept. 26

10th annual Late Model Knoxville Nationals preliminary feature: 1. Josh Richards 2. Darrell Lanigan 3. Jason Feger 4. Dale McDowell 5. Bub McCool 6. Billy Moyer 7. Chad Simpson 8. John Blankenship 9. Brandon Sheppard 10. Earl Pearson Jr. 11. Don O’Neal 12. Steve Francis 13. Morgan Bagley 14. Eddie Carrier Jr. 15. Jason Utter 16. Jared Landers 17. Tony Jackson Jr. 18. Ryan Uzicker 19. Frank Heckenast Jr. 20. Scott Bloomquist 21. Austin Hubbard 22. Joel Callahan 23. Dennis Erb Jr. 24. Jimmy Owens

Sept. 27

10th annual Late Model Knoxville Nationals preliminary feature: 1. Josh Richards 2. Jimmy Owens 3. A.J. Diemel 4. Earl Pearson Jr. 5. Tim McCreadie 6. Steve Francis 7. Jimmy Mars 8. Jason Feger 9. Ryan Gustin 10. John Blankenship 11. Scott Bloomquist 12. Brady Smith 13. Jason Utter 14. Eddie Carrier Jr. 15. Chris Simpson 16. Matt Furman 17. Ryan Unzicker 18. Rodney Sanders 19. Darrell Lanigan 20. Billy Moyer 21. Shannon Babb 22. Don O’Neal 23. Chad Simpson 24. Dale McDowell

Sept. 28

10th annual Late Model Knoxville Nationals championship feature: 1. Darrell Lanigan 2. Josh Richards 3. Tim McCreadie 4. Steve Francis 5. Billy Moyer 6. John Blankenship 7. Brady Smith 8. Scott Bloomquist 9. Jimmy Owens 10. Chad Simpson 11. Jason Utter 12. Ryan Unzicker 13. Dennis Erb Jr. 14. Don O’Neal 15. Jason Feger 16. Dale McDowell 17. Eddie Carrier Jr. 18. Ryan Gustin 19. Frank Heckenast Jr. 20. Denny Eckrich 21. Billy Moyer Jr. 22. Jared Landers 23. Jimmy Mars 24. Earl Pearson Jr. 25. Brandon Sheppard 26. A.J. Diemel 27. Shannon Babb 28. Morgan Bagley 29. Chris Simpson 30. Bub McCool 31. Justin Kay 32. Tony Jackson Jr.

Lawrenceburg Speedway

Sept. 28

City of Lawrenceburg Fall Nationalls USAC national sprint-car race: 1. Bryan Clauson 2. Chase Stockon of Elizabethtown 3. Dave Darland 4. Kevin Thomas Jr. 5. Justin Grant 6. Gary Taylor 7. Jerry Coons Jr. 8. Chad Boespflug of North Vernon 9. Brady Bacon 10. Chris Windom

Modified feature: 1. Matt Westfall 2. Broc Burton of Columbus 3. Joey Kramer 4. Chuck Griffis 5. John Rhoades 6. Rick Hudson 7. Scotty Kincaid 8. Jim Szekacs 9. Shane Mugavin 10. Sean Johnson

Lincoln Park Speedway

Sept. 28

Sprint-car feature: 1. A.J. Hopkins 2. Brent Beauchamp   3. Conner Donelson 4. Hunter Schuerenberg 5. Brian Hayden 6. Nick Johnson 7. Patrick Giddens 8. Travis Welpott 9. Michael Terry Jr. 10. Kent Christian

Modified feature: 1. Paul Bumgardner 2. Wes McClara 3. Eric Varner 4. Kenny Carmichael Sr. 5. Randy Shuman 6. Brad Barrow 7. Roger Mills 8. Carlos Bumgardner Sr. 9. Dan Lewellen 10. Jake Humphrey

Super stock feature: 1. Dustin Shoulders 2. Steve Peeden 3. Chris Hillman 4. Kenny Carmichael Jr. 5. Scott Carrington 6. Jake Leitzman 7. Josh Boller 8. Michael Fish 9. Tyler Loughmiller 10. Josh McDaniel

Bomber feature: 1. David Wallen 2. Tyler Neal 3. Doug McCullough 4. Justin Minardo 5. Jason Trimmer 6. Jeff Beggs 7. Jerry Hutto 8. Ron Smith 9. Barry Hicks 10. Bob Farris

Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.

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