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60th Joe James/Pat O'Connor Memorial race Saturday

August 07, 2019
For 72 years and counting, it's been one milestone after another at world-famous Salem Speedway Fueled by the Hoosier Lottery. And, there's another gigantic one on the way.

The 60th running of the Discover Scott County Joe James/Pat O'Connor Memorial presented by the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers at Salem will take center stage on the high-banks Saturday night. The big night under the lights will also feature the popular Lucas Oil Great American Stocks to complement the USAC Silver Crown Series open-wheel gladiators. The Midwest Oldtimers Vintage Race Car Club will also be on display.

Kody Swanson of Kingsburg, Calif., leads the parade of Silver Crown Series contenders in search of his fourth consecutive Joe James/Pat O'Connor triumph at Salem. A victory in this year's classic would tie Swanson with Pancho Carter as the only drivers to have won four straight James/O'Connor Memorials at Salem. Carter pulled off the feat from 1974-77. Swanson, current points leader and four-time Series champ, is also the all-time Silver Crown winner with 27 victories, including three this year at Memphis, Toledo and Madison.

The Memorial has roots that reach back to 1953 at Salem with Larry Crockett the inaugural winner. The event was originally named the Joe James Memorial the year after James lost his life in a racing accident at San Jose (Calif.) Speedway in 1952, the year he finished 13th in the Indianapolis 500. O'Connor's name was added to the event in 1958, the year that the popular North Vernon native was fatally injured in the Indianapolis 500. Ironically, O'Connor won the Joe James Memorial in 1954 and 1957. The first four winners of the event –– Crockett, O'Connor, Bob Sweikert and Eddie Sachs –– all lost their lives in racing accidents. Sweikert, the 1955 Indianapolis 500 winner, lost his life at Salem in 1956.

The list of Joe James/Pat O'Connor Memorial winners reads like a who's-who of racing giants. Winners include A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Roger McCluskey, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Rollie Beale, Gary Bettenhausen, Carter, Rich Vogler, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Tony Stewart, Dave Darland, Eric Gordon, Ed Carpenter, Bryan Clauson and Swanson, to name several.

The front gates will open at 3 p.m., followed by the first practice session at 3:30. Qualifying is set for 5:45; the first race is scheduled for 7.

Advance general admission tickets are $23 for adults and teens. Ages 7 to 12 are $5. Children 6 and younger will be admitted free. For advance tickets, visit the Salem website at www.salemspeedway.com or call 1-812-883-6504.

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