Roadsters Gather At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

As Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca celebrates its 50th anniversary, it held a special gathering. It is an exceptional event when you can get six Indianapolis 500 winning cars that won the ?500? a total of seven times. Add others that were track record holders, winner of the Monza Race of Two Worlds and other notable tracks such as Trenton and Milwaukee and you have a very extraordinary group.

On Thursday, August 16th, 2007, 34 roadsters gathered for a group photo on the front straightway at Laguna Seca for the 34th Annual Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races Presented by Toyota. In that group was the famous ?Calhoun,? the J.C. Agajanian-owned roadster that was driven by the legendary Parnelli Jones. The Sheraton-Thompson Special driven by the tough Texan, A.J. Foyt to ten wins during the 1964 season. The famous pink John Zink Special driven by young charger, Bob Swiekert. The groundbreaking Belond Exhaust car designed by George Salih driven to back-to-back wins by Sam Hanks and Jimmy Bryan was present. The red Watson roadster driven by smooth Jim Rathman to victory the 1958 Monza Race of Two Worlds was there. And that was just the first two rows!

The roots of the Indy roadster revolution go back to 1946 when California race car builder Frank Kurtis began designing cars specifically for the Indianapolis 500, the Ross Page Special being his first. When Kurtis introduced the Kurtis 500A in 1952, a race car specially designed for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the railbirds stood up and took notice. The Kurtis Roadster dominated at Indy until A.J. Watson improved on Kurtis? design. Watson built the most cars (23) and his cars were the most dominant. Watson designed cars won the 500 in 1959, 1960, 1962 and 1963. When Texan A.J. Foyt, Jr., recorded the last ?500? victory for a front-engine car in 1964, he, too, was driving a Watson roadster. Watson built cars won the race seven times, which leaves him tied for the record for most wins by a builder. The roadster design ended up winning the ?500? twelve consecutive times (1953-1964).

Founder of the Monterey Historics, Steve Earle summed it up best, ?By conquering the great challenges of the Indy 500 races, the Roadster left an innovative mark in the history of automotive engineering.?

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