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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 05-29-2006, 08:15 AM
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Default The Story of Lake Garnett - July 1963

Lake Garnett - July 1963

There have been several threads over the year that have mentioned the Cobras at Lake Garnett in 1963.
...in fact, Chuck Brandt has done a neat job of documenting the long-gone track in Kansas, both in the 60's and as it is today.
http://www.chuckbrandt.com/lakegarnett.htm

But, to me, it is such a neat moment in Shelby racing history that it is worth an article to tell the story.
You can really get a sense of what the Shelby team must have been feeling that year, as they piled up one victory after another in SCCA competition. Prior to that time, the brunt of SCCA competition was independent owners on a regional level.
The SCCA established a National Championship, the U.S. Road Racing Championship (USRRC), with cups for Manufacturers and Drivers....so the contributions of the factory team would be combined with the independents to garner total points for the brand.

Simply stated, the race at Lake Garnett was a dramatic showdown between the Cobras and the Corvettes.


To really have an appreciation of the event, we have to look at a timeline in this early Shelby year to understand what they actually accomplished there.

Recall that the first Cobra made it's public debut at the NY Auto Show in April, 1962. In order to qualify for any sanctioned racing, they had to produce that magic number of 100 cars.
By the end of 1962, AC had built about 60 cars and they were on a run rate to make the 100 number before the 1963 racing season began.
They had track-tested the Cobra at Riverside and sent Billy Krause out for the first competitive appearance of the Cobra in October 1962, where it promptly broke.
They fielded 4 cars at the for-fun event at Nassau Speedweek in December 1962, where all four either broke or ran out of gas.

So-so results at Daytona and Sebring in early 1963 didn't fare well for success on the International level in this first year of racing...
...even with the full-court press at Sebring: 6 cars with 3 going down, and the remaining 3 finishing 6th, 13th and 14th.
With European support, 2 Cobras even ran LeMans in 1963...they made a respectable debut, but could not compete well, nor go the full distance.
By the end of the summer of 1963, the design of the Coupe was underway, to give them a slippery car for the 1964 International season, one that could compete on the long tracks of Europe.

But SCCA competition in 1963 looked far more promising. After finding and fixing the mechanical weaknesses in an amazingly short time, just look at what was unfolding on the national level:
(Dave MacDonald, Ken Miles and Bob Holbert drove all over the country for the Shelby American team, and independents Johnson and Hayes competed at the regional level)

Riverside - Jan. 1963 - finished number 1 and number 2 overall
Dodger Stadium - Mar. 1963 - finished number 1 and number 2 overall
Pensacola - May 1963 - 1st and 5th place GT
Mosport - June 1963 - 1st and 2nd place GT
Laguna Seca - June 1963 - 1st, 2nd and 4th GT
Watkins Glen - June 1963 - 1st overall, 1st and 3rd GT

They were kicking butt wherever they showed up.
(...continued)

Last edited by computerworks; 05-29-2006 at 08:56 AM..
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 05-29-2006, 08:17 AM
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After the team victory at Watkins Glen at the end of June, the next West Coast event was at Kent WA in July. The transport rig carrying CSX2127, 2128 and 2129 had to head west from New York.
Bob Johnson, an independent, was competing with CSX2026 and was going to compete in the SCCA event at Lake Garnett on July 7, 1963.


Lake Garnett Raceway, Garnett, Kansas

CSX2127 and CSX2128 made their debut in March of that year at Sebring, an International event, and became known as the "Sebring" cars.

I would guess that the Shelby team, returning from New York on a holiday week, made the decision to make the stop and run with Johnson in Kansas...
...maybe to show some support for their customer by waving the factory flag...maybe to help him out in the race and run some "interference" with the competition.

But, however it was decided, the Shelby factory rig pulled into town the first weekend in July to compete at Lake Garnett.



Friedman wrote once that the most feared sight in racing was this rig rolling into the pits

With Bob Johnson...



Besides Johnson in #33, they also found a few other interesting cars... a full-boat team of Corvettes led by Grady Davis, and drivers Dick Thompson and Don Yenko, driving a Corvette, some StingRays and... a Corvette Grand Sport.


Corvette Grand Sport #004

There had been a lot of buzz prior to this about how the Cobras would compete against the Corvettes, head to head. It would happen here that weekend.
(...continued)

Last edited by computerworks; 05-29-2006 at 08:57 AM..
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Old 05-29-2006, 08:19 AM
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The Cobras would race in the Production class; before the race, some "competitors" protested that Ken Miles' car violated the Production-class rules, since it had a differential cooler installed.
An easy fix...the diff cooler was bypassed and, to the satisfaction of the judges, the car was permitted to run in the Production class.

The race began...with the three Cobras quickly taking the lead


..and they finished 1-2-3... Bob Johnson, the independent, taking first-place (...mission accomplished?), followed by Dave MacDonald and Ken Miles...beating all the Corvettes.

Now comes the neat part... Shelby and Miles figured that if, without the diff cooler, they were considered "stock"... then it stood to reason that WITH the diff cooler, they would qualify for "Modified," and should be able to compete in the day's main event.


CS and Miles discuss the strategy of qualifying as a "modified"

The judges had no choice but to agree...so they prepped Ken Miles' car and entered it into the Modifed race, against the Grand Sport Corvette.


...and Miles promptly won the race and the Grand Prix Championship at Lake Garnett.

This day was an amazing display of just how dominant the Cobras would become in US road racing competition. Clearly, the team had to feel pretty good about the weekend.

Al Dowd, Shelby's Racing Manager and Competition Director, and some of the crew set up a mock grave in the infield, with a little headstone that read, "Here Lies the Corvettes"


The Shelby crew constructs a mock grave for the Corvette team.

Ken Miles must have certainly felt pumped after both his team and personal achievements that day; Ken found the moment right to give a big, cheesy grin to a photographer.


Miles flashes a smile to the spectators.

Other than a misstep at Kent in the following month, the Cobras went on to finish first place in EVERY remaining USRRC event for the rest of the year...taking the USRRC Championship in GT for 1963.

oh...they did it as well in 1964.

and.. oh, yeah....in 1965, too.

Last edited by computerworks; 05-29-2006 at 08:58 AM..
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Old 05-29-2006, 08:21 AM
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The event was covered in Road & Track, later that year:

"The Cobra Strikes Again"

Road & Track, October 1963
Frank H. Bennett


In the article, "Corvette vs. Cobra" (R&T, June 1963), the author stated, "...it is very hard to imaginethat any well-prepared, well-driven Cobra will be beaten this year--not by the Corvettes, and possibly not by anyone, unless the organizers get sneaky and push the Cobras over into the same races with all-out racing cars. There are, as a matter of fact, rumors of this happening, and, if it does, the Cobras just might beat the big, modified cars, too."

Well, it happened! It happened at Lake Ganett in the National SCCA racing event of July 7.

It happened in a grand and spectacular manner, and 60,000 spectators saw the biggest racing show of their lives!

The Shelby Cobras came to Lake Garnett, Kansas, three of them. With them, came Carroll Shelby himself, the man who developed this racing machine. The drivers he brought were Bob Johnson of Columbus, Ohio, Dave MacDonald, El Monte, California, and Ken Miles of Hollywood, California.

Also at Lake Garnett was the famed Grady Davis Corvette team, which includes Dick Thompson, Washington D.C., Don Yenko, Canonsburg, Pa., and Davis himself from Pittsburgh.
They brought four cars; a couple of A-Production Corvette Sting Rays, a B-Production Corvette and, rounding out the card, a C-Modified Corvette Grand Sport.

And there it was, the showdown everyone had anticipated, with the answer to everyone's question--
What would happen in a race between Cobras and Corvettes? And how would both of these American race cars on the challenging 2.8 mile Lake Garnett road racing course, that curls like a sea-horse around Garnett's 65-acre lake?

A few minutes after 1 P.M., the A, B and C Production cars were given the green flag. In less than half a mile, the Cobras has taken a substantial lead over the entire field, a lead which they continually increased during the 45-minute race. They finished first, second and third --Bob Johson, Dave MacDonald, Ken Miles. The Corvettes came in fourth, fifth and sixth --Dick Thompson, Grady Davis, Don Yenko.

Before running the Production race, Ken Miles' Cobra had been challenged as being modified by an oil cooler. Mechanics hurriedly removed the cooler for the production race. Then Miles and Shelby reasoned that if the removal of the cooler put the Cobra in the Production class, then the return of the cooler to the car would put it in the Modified class.Officials agreed, and Miles entered the Feature Race: C, D, E, F and G Modified. And at Lake Garnett a Cobra finally showed its pipes to the big modifieds!

Miles ran away from the field. He drove a superb race, lapping the tricky Lake Garnett course 23 times in 45 minutes and averaging more than 85 mph, to win the Lake Garnett Grand Prix Overall Championship for 1963.
Harry Heuer in a Chaparral came in second and Jack Hinkle was third in a Cooper Monaco. Dick Thompson, driving a Corvette Grand Sport, was among the DNF's, and while he was in the race, he trailed the Cobra all the way.

At one time, he was in second place, but as for his chances of outrunning the Cobra, 60,000 race fans will tell you that it simply couldn't have been done at Lake Garnett.

The cars were:
#97 - CSX2128 - Dave MacDonald
#98 - CSX2129 - Ken Miles
#99 - CSX2127 -
#33 - CSX2026 - Bob Johnson

Last edited by computerworks; 05-29-2006 at 08:45 AM..
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Old 05-29-2006, 08:23 AM
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Just a postscript to these amazing cars..

CSX2128 became the "Hey, Little Cobra" cover car, and was also the famous Coventry Motors car, driver by Allen Grant and painted yellow/black by George Lucas.

Thanks to Chuck and Jim, "A-Snake," for some great images.

Hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did.

ron
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Old 05-29-2006, 09:25 AM
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computerworks,

Thanks for the great pics and history. This stuff is fascinating.

I remember reading stuff like this in the magazines as a kid, and going "I have to have a Cobra someday!"

Cheers!
Dave
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Old 05-29-2006, 09:29 AM
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Great stuff! Those are great pics! Thanks for sharing!
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Old 05-29-2006, 09:51 AM
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Reading this was a great way to start the day. Thanks for putting it together
and sharing with us a bit of history.
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Old 05-29-2006, 09:55 AM
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Was this the race when Miles pulled into pits, for no good reason, let the Vettes go by, then pulled back out and passed them again?

Or was that just a 'story'?
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Old 05-29-2006, 10:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excaliber
Was this the race when Miles pulled into pits, for no good reason, let the Vettes go by, then pulled back out and passed them again?

Or was that just a 'story'?
..a true story.

That was earlier in 1963 at Riverside.

This Month in Cobra History - January
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Old 05-31-2006, 12:58 PM
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Slick: Miles didn't pull in for no reason. He pulled in for a glass of water. There was protest from the "Corvette crowd" about the stop but to no avail as there was nothing in the rule book against stopping in the pits for a glass of water.

Ron is the above accurate? This is what I heard or read somewhere.

Ron: Thanks for the thread. Fun reading!
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Old 06-07-2006, 10:46 AM
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Default Great job Ron!

Great work here Ron, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Wish I'd seen it sooner.

Thanks, Chuck

P.S. The Mid-America Cobra Club held another cruise to lake garnett May 12th, we even had a few corvettes along with us this time. Here is Russ Dickey in his beautiful Unique FIA rounding "Flatiron".

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Old 06-07-2006, 11:28 AM
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Ron, thank you very much for sharing this with us. Fantastic!!!
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Old 08-09-2006, 11:11 PM
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I'd also like to thank you, Ron. A really neat story.
THANKS,

Dan
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Old 08-10-2006, 06:22 AM
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That's it--my next build will be a time machine! Thanks very much for the time and effort you put into this post. Nothin' like popping back in time to one of the greatest days in racing history!!!

Thank you!!!
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Old 08-10-2006, 06:27 AM
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Thanks Ron (for several things). I enjoyed that story. Interesting stuff.

Clois
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Old 08-10-2006, 08:12 AM
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Thanks for your time and consideration to put together such a detailed article. It would have taken me two weeks just to type it in! No typing skills here!
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Old 08-11-2006, 07:42 PM
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Great job, Ron, in pulling it altogether. Lake Garnett was one of the early pivotal races for the SAI group. The leverage off of the publicity must have been unbelievable for the Cobra team.
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Old 08-21-2006, 05:26 AM
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Ron, just saw this for the first time this am. It was more of a "wake me up" than three cups of black coffee. It is a tremendous story with rich, insightful details. Thank you for this and all you do for this forum.

Rick
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Old 03-23-2008, 08:35 AM
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Man does this bring back memories. I was at this race and it was my first exposure to a Cobra and a sports car race. This is where I decided that some day I would do some road racing. I finally fulfilled that dream in 1997 but not in a Cobra. Great story!

Thank you for posting.
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