View Full Version : November 1961 - USAC National Championship Cars
05-12-2009, 08:59 AM
The USAC national championship cars took to the dirt one mile oval at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, November 19, 1961 for the annual 100 mile "Bobby Ball Memorial". Al Keller sets fast time in Bruce Homeyer's "Konstant Hot Special" #19. He wins a gold watch for sitting on the pole. The track quickly falls apart and the cars and drivers are taking a beating. Keller falls back and gets lapped, coming out of turn 4 on lap 41, Keller hooks a rut, flips violently onto the chain link fence surrounding the infield. Al Keller dies of his injuries at the track. USAC restarts the race, it's getting late, the track is getting worse, Ray Crawford flips hard, now the race is getting into the late afternoon, the sun is setting. Chuck Hulse takes a bad tumble on lap 88, the race is finally called complete after 89 laps. Parnelli Jones is declared the winner. Kellers widow didn't even get the watch as some lout stole it while Keller was being loaded into the ambulance. Here is a program cover from that actual race, the entry page stats, and notes were written down that day, by my mom. My folks used to drive from Denver to Phoenix every year for that race, up until they, USAC, moved the race to the paved one mile oval at the Phoenix International Raceway.
01-05-2012, 09:33 PM
If you look close in this photo, right in the middle, you'll see the yellow #19 car that Al Keller drove on this fateful day. He is shown next to the left front tire just after climbing out the car after posting fast time. Sadly, this would be his final race. Included is the race report from the Phoenix newspaper.
09-13-2014, 05:44 PM
The phoenix mile at the fairgrounds was a "bad" track, with a history of trouble. I was there in 1961. My dad Chuck Hulse, was in that race driving the Zink spl # 52. He flipped in the same spot as Kellar and broke his shoulder. The following year Elmer george flipped into the stands and the race we called after 51 laps. My dad started outside row one in 1963, the last race at the track and led the first 30 laps before Roger ward got under him. He went on to finish 2nd in that last 100 miler there.
Interesting side note about Al keller, he basically came out of retirement that year, He was invloved in the crash that killed Bill Vukovich at the speedway and some people kind of blamed him although it was Roger Ward that spun in turn 2 and everyone was trying to avoid. In 1961 Bruce Homeyer had hired Jack Rounds to drive for him. I remember Rounds driving in CRA and switching to IMCA because of the number of races and potential to make more money. He won a couple of IMCA events and Homeyer hired him. He barely made the Trenton opener and couldn't get up to speed at Indy. The Knostant Hot team was about to mis the 500. They replaced him with Al keller who not only made the show, but finishe 5th, 2nd at milwaukee. was fast time at Langhorne ( got hit in the eye with a rock and pulled in and fst time at Phoenix where he ultimatley crashe and passed away.
09-15-2014, 09:43 AM
Lee, here's another page out of that very program.
09-16-2014, 10:50 AM
Wow! thanks Mitch. I must have seen that picture but for the life of me I don't remember it. In fact I dont think I have a picture of my dad in that car.
he had driven for Tassi Vatis the entire season, with a minimum amount of success. The roadster was a new Kurtis but the dirt car was a 3 year old "sled" and my dad was a dirt track specialist. he did manage to make every race that season on dirt and finishe 4th at Duquoin but faled to make the race at Sacramento and quit. He jumped in this in a last minute attempt at to make the race but a one lap attempt at the end of Qualifying on those old mile dirt tracks just wasn't going to make it. I believe Bud Tinglestead took over the Vattis car. My dad then drove it in the finally at Phoenix, made the show then and flipped it in the same place Al Keller crashed.
I am sending this picture to him now. Thanks again
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