September 7, 1964 - DuQuoin, Illinois - On a clear sunny day in Illinois, Joe's USAC Champ car career began on a familiar dirt track. Joe qualified the #16 Konstant Hot Vollstedt Offy dirt champ car in the 16th position and finished in 14th. Joe picked up $481.00 and A.J. Foyt won the race.
September 26, 1964 - Terre Haute, Indiana - Joe qualified the #14 Dayton Steel Wheel Sines Offy dirt champ car for owner George Walther 16th fastest in the Hoosier Hundred. In the race itself Joe was credited with 12th place after a spin in turn three on lap 82. Twelfth place was good enough for Joe to pick up his first 10 USAC Championship points and $1,167.00. A.J. Foyt won the race.
September 27, 1964 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe's first USAC asphalt oval race came behind the wheel of the #14 Dayton Steel Wheel Watson Offy powered roadster of George Walther. Joe started in the 20th spot but was taken out of competition in a four-car crash involving Mario Andretti, Arnie Knepper, and Bob Wente in turn three. Joe was credited with 24th place and $183.00. Parnelli Jones was the event winner.
October 25, 1964 - Sacramento, California - Another familiar track for Joe Leonard, only this time he had four wheels under him on the dirt at Sacramento. Joe started the #47 Joe Hunt Magneto Lesovsky Offy in 17th but a broken fuel line 10 laps from the finish forced Joe to finish in 15th place. Joe was awarded $422.00 and A.J. Foyt won this race as well.
November 22, 1964 - Phoenix, Arizona - Joe's second try on an asphalt oval in a USAC Champ car had much better results in the 200 miler at Phoenix. Joe qualified the #65 Travelon Trailer Christiansen Offy 14th fastest and was in the 5th position when the checkers fell. This was Joe's best USAC Champ car result to date as he picked up $1,369.00 and 200 Championship points. Lloyd Ruby won the race.
May 1965 - Indianapolis Motor Speedway - For the 1965 running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Sweepstakes Joe Leonard was entered in a rear-engine Halibrand Ford (above) as Part of the All-American Racers for the legendary Dan Gurney. Joe qualified the #29 car in 27th spot on the outside of row nine. Unfortunately, an oil leak forced Joe out of competition after only 27 laps. Joe was awarded $7,816.00 for his 29th place finish. Jimmy Clark became the first driver to win the Indy 500 in a rear-engine machine.
I met Ray in 1965, my rookie year at the Speedway. He came by the garage and was looking at my car, which was facing out. "Come on in and get a closer look," I said. He kind of reminded me of my Grandpa who used to take me to the midget races in San Diego, CA. where I grew up.
June 6, 1965 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - No oil leaks for Joe at the Milwaukee 200 a week later. Joe piloted the All-American Racers #29 to a career best 2nd place finish behind race winner Parnelli Jones. Joe started the race in a career best 4th spot. Joe picked up $5,952.00 and 160 Championship points.
June 20, 1965 - Langhorne, Pennsylvania - The 100 mile race was not a good event for Joe Leonard and his All-American Racer #29. In the final practice session Joe proved that it was possible to flip a rear-engine racer when the car twitched going into turn one. The car backed into the guardrail. The guardrail posts yielded about 6 inches, and the car did a roll. The roll bar left an impression in the asphalt (above). Joe worked out a deal to drive the Moog St. Louis rear-engine Watson #2. Joe qualified the Watson in 9th spot. What happened in the race showcased Joe's sportsmanship and bravery. On lap twenty-six (below), Mel Kenyon's engine exploded covering turn three with oil. Mel Kenyon was knocked out cold upon impact with the outside armco barrier and was impacted hard by Jim Hurtubise and Ralph Liguori as they slid in the oil. Joe was also caught up in the accident. Mel Kenyon's fuel tank was split and erupted into an inferno. As fire crews rushed over to extinguish the vacant cars of Hurtubise and Liguori, Joe dashed over to help Mel Kenyon who was burning alive, slumped over and unconscious, in his battered machine. Reaching into the inferno to untangle Mel's belts and attempt to pull Mel Kenyon to safety. Joe was credited with 19th place and awarded $147.00, above all, Joe was credited with saving Mel Kenyon's life on that hot June day at Langhorne. Jim McElreath won the race.
"I will always be grateful for Joe Leonard, who somehow saw me
and waded into sheets of flame to help me at Langhorne" - Mel Kenyon
July 18, 1965 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe was back in the #29 All-American Racers Halibrand where he qualified for the Trenton 150 in 4th spot. In the race Joe finished 5th 2 laps down to winner A.J. Foyt. Joe picked up 150 Championship points and was awarded $1,248.00 in prize money.
July 25, 1965 - Indianapolis Raceway Park - This was Joe Leonard's first road course race in an Indy car and he did quite well. Joe qualified his #29 All-American Racers Halibrand in the 3rd starting spot just behind Mario Andretti & A.J. Foyt. Joe Leonard brought it home in one piece with a 10th place finish. Joe picked up another 45 Championship points and his share of $450.00. Mario Andretti was the winner.
August 1, 1965 - Atlanta, Georgia - Joe Leonard withdrew from this event after qualifying.
August 14, 1965 - Milwaukee Mile, Wisconsin - In only his twelfth USAC Indy car start Joe Leonard found himself a first-time winner on the USAC Championship Trail. Joe qualified his #29 All-American Racers Halibrand in the 5th starting spot. Parnelli Jones dominated the first 80 laps of the race until electrical problems forced him out of the race. Mario Andretti took over the lead, but for only one lap until Joe Leonard took over on lap 82. Joe had taken the lead in the race for the first time and never looked back, leading all the laps from 82 through 150. Joe had done it! His time for the 150-mile race was 1:32:31.15 at a race average speed of 97.276. Joe picked up 300 Championship points and his share of the $5,350.00 in prize money.
August 22, 1965 - Milwaukee Mile, Wisconsin - The Championship Trail returned to the Milwaukee Mile one week later, which had to make Joe smile! Unfortunately, things did not go quite as well for Joe as they had just one-week prior. Joe qualified his #29 All-American Racers Halibrand in the 10th starting spot and in the race he even led 23 laps, but with only 29 laps remaining, he lost the lead to Gordon Johncock and slipped to 5th. All in all, it was a good race for Joe, just not as good as last week. Joe picked up 200 more points and his cut of the $1,860.00.
September 26, 1965 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe qualified the #29 All-American Racers Halibrand in the 6th starting spot, but A.J. Foyt showed no mercy to the other drivers as he lapped the entire field and led all 200 laps. The best Joe could do was finish 2nd.... which he did! Joe added 320 more points to his points fund and collected his share of the $4,254.00 in prize money.
November 21, 1965 - Phoenix, Arizona - In the season finale at Phoenix, Joe qualified the #29 All-American Racers Halibrand in the 9th spot. Joe never managed to lead a lap but he did bring it home in the 4th position one lap down to A.J. Foyt. Joe picked up 240 more points and $1,507.00.
March 20, 1966 - Phoenix, Arizona - Joe had a new primary sponsor in Bardahl on the #29 All-American Racers Halibrand Ford for the 150-mile race at Phoenix. Joe qualified in the 12 starting spot but dropped out of the race after only 60 laps. Joe was awarded $288.00 for his 14th place finish. Jim McElreath won the race.
May 1966 - Indianapolis 500 - Joe had a new Ford powered #6 Gurney Eagle and a new primary sponsor of Yamaha for his second Indianapolis 500. On May 3rd, Joe was fast of the day with a speed of 157.5 mph and on May 10th Joe became the first car of the year to bring out the yellow due to a spin when he spun in turn 3. Joe qualified in the middle of row 7 in 20th starting spot for the Memorial Day Classic. Driver Chuck Rodee lost his life in a qualifying accident this year. On race day somehow Joe made it through the infamous pile-up as the field approached the green flag at the start of the race (above). Due to the attrition of the race, which eliminated 1/3 of the field before the drop of the green flag, Joe Leonard bagged a top ten finish in 9th place, even though his engine dumped 30 laps from the finish! Joe was awarded 200 Championship points and his cut of $15,822.00 in prize money. Rookie Graham Hill won the race.
June 5, 1966 - Milwaukee Mile - Joe put his #6 Yamaha Eagle Ford on the front row in qualifying in the 2nd spot next to pole sitter Mario Andretti. There was not much anybody could do with Andretti during the race as Mario led every lap of the 100 mile race. Joe finished in 3rd behind Andretti and McCluskey and picked up 140 Championship points and $3,853.00.
June 12, 1966 - Langhorne, Pennsylvania - Joe qualified the #6 Yamaha Eagle Ford in 4th position. Mario Andretti did it again by leading every lap. Joe finished in the 3rd spot behind Jim McElreath and picked up 140 more points and $2,171.00.
June 26, 1966 - Atlanta, Georgia - Joe, not driving his #6 Yamaha Eagle Ford, qualified the #11 Vita-Fresh Orange Juice Huffaker car with a supercharged Offenhauser in the 28th starting spot. A broken fuel line took him out of the competition after on 74 of the 200 laps that made up the race. Joe finished in a disappointing 21st place. He won $575.00 in prize money. Mario Andretti won the race.
July 24, 1966 - Indianapolis Raceway Park - On the road course at Raceway Park, Joe qualified his familiar #6 Yamaha Eagle Ford in the 5th starting spot and finished in 8th. Joe picked up 75 Championship points and $498.00. Mario won this race too!
August 7, 1966 - Langhorne, Pennsylvania - Although Joe Leonard and A.J. Foyt entered this race at Langhorne, they both withdrew from the event prior to race day. Roger McCluskey won the race.
August 20, 1966 - Springfield, Illinois - At Springfield Joe qualified the #7 Vita Fresh Orange Juice Special Meskowski Offy Champ Dirt Car in 15th palce but moved all the way up to finish in the 4th spot at the end of the 100 lap event. Joe picked up 120 Championship points and $1,444.00. Don Branson led every lap en route to his victory.
August 27, 1966 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Joe started the #6 Yamaha Eagle Ford in the 3rd position and finished in the 3rd position behind race winner Mario Andretti and Gordon Johncock. Joe received 280 points and $3,202.00.
September 5, 1966 - DuQuoin, Illinois - Back on the dirt again where Joe started the #7 Vita Fresh Orange Juice Special Meskowski Offy in 14th and finished in 4th on the lead lap. Joe picked up another 120 points and $1,467.00. Bud Tinglestad won the event.
September 10, 1966 - Hoosier 100 - Joe failed to qualify for this event which was won by Mario Andretti.
September 25, 1966 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe wrecked his #6 Yamaha Eagle Ford in practice and was unable to start the race which was won by Mario Andretti.
November 20, 1966 - Phoenix, Arizona - Joe started and finished in the 5th position driving the #6 Yamaha Eagle Ford four laps down to race winner Mario Andretti. Joe was awarded 200 points and $1,227.00.
April 9, 1967 - Phoenix, Arizona - For 1967 Joe was hired to drive the #82 Sheraton-Thompson Lotus Ford for teammate and car owner A.J. Foyt. Joe started the Phoenix 150 in 8th and finished in the 4th spot, one position ahead of teammate/owner A.J. Foyt. Lloyd Ruby led every lap of the race en route to victory. Joe picked up 180 championship points and was awarded $1,841.00 in prize money.
April 30, 1967 - Trenton, New Jersey - In the Trenton 150 things did not go as well for the Foyt Team as they did in Phoenix. Joe started from the 11th spot but finished in the 14th position after a broken rear end forced him out after 114 laps. Joe again finished one spot ahead of teammate/owner A.J. Foyt. Mario Andretti won the race leading every lap. Joe was awarded $682.00.
May 1967 - Indianapolis, Indiana - Joe & A.J. debuted the new Ford powered "Coyotes" with A.J. driving the #14 and Joe driving the team car #4. On April 29th at 12:57 pm Joe Leonard became the first driver on the track to practice for the 1967 Indianapolis 500. Bob Christie took over Joe's back-up car #82 Lotus Ford and became part of the team, but on May 16, Christie destroyed the #82 car after slamming the turn 3 wall.
June 4, 1967 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Joe started his #4 Coyote Ford on the outside front row next to pole sitter Gordon Johncock and was in the lead by the completion of the first lap. Joe held the lead until lap 42, when Johncock took it back and never relinquished it again. Joe ended the day 4 laps down in the 8th position. Joe was awarded $1,735.00 and picked up 75 more Championship points.
June 18, 1967 - Langhorne, Pennsylvania - Joe started the 100 mile race on a hot and humid day in the 10th spot and worked his way up to 7th by race end. Joe was awarded $967.00 and 60 Championship points. Lloyd Ruby won the race.
July 1, 1967 - Mosport, Canada - In the first 100 mile heat race on the road course at Mosport Joe started in the 18th spot and worked his way up to 10th driving an Eagle chassis for Foyt. The field lined up for the second heat in the order in which they finished in the first heat race. In the second heat race Leonard got past Jim Hurtubise and he got past Art Pollard on the 3rd lap when Pollard was struck in the head with a kicked up rock on the 3rd lap. Three laps later the rains came and halted the race. Joe was awarded $1,820.00 and a total of 80 Championship points. Bobby Unser was declared the winner of the rain shortened event.
August 6, 1967 - St. Jovite, Canada - Another road course in Canada, but no longer part of the Foyt Team. Joe Leonard was now driving the Wagner Lockheed Brake Fluid Special #20 Mongoose Ford. Joe qualified for the first heat 6th fastest. On the track Joe held his own throughout both heat races and finished in the same position in which he had started. Joe was awarded $1327.00 and 160 Championship points for his 6th place overall finish. Mario Andretti won the race.
August 20, 1967 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Joe returned to Milwaukee for the annual running of the Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 200 again driving the Wagner Lockheed Brake Fluid Special #20 Mongoose Ford. Joe worked his way up to a top five finish by race end. Joe picked up his share of the $1,786.00 purse and 200 Championship points for his 5th place finish. Mario Andretti won the race.
September 24, 1967 - Trenton, New Jersey - Again Joe was driving the Wagner Lockheed Brake Fluid Special #20, but this time it was a Lotus Ford. Joe started the race in the 5th spot but his day ended after 102 laps due to a broken suspension. This was only the second time all year that Joe had finished out of the top ten. Joe picked up $430.00 for his 17th place finish. A.J. Foyt won the race.
October 22, 1967 - Hanford, California - Joe was back in the #20 Mongoose Ford for the California 200 at Hanford, but now he had a new sponsor in Vel's Ford Sales. Joe started in the 7th spot and passed pole sitter Art Pollard for the lead on the 109th circuit. Joe held on to the lead for the next 21 laps when eventual race winner Gordon Johncock passed him four laps from the finish when Leonard was forced to pit for fuel. Joe wound up in the 7th position after the stop. He was awarded $1,839.00 and 120 Championship points.
November 19, 1967 - Phoenix, Arizona - A decent start and a disappointing race was the story for Joe in Phoenix. Joe started 8th in the Wagner Lockheed Brake Fluid Special #20 Mongoose Ford but finished dead last after the rear end broke after only 29 laps. Leonard received $151.00 for his 24th place finish. This was the first time Joe had ever finished in last place throughout his Champ Car career to this point. Mario Andretti won the race.
November 19, 1967 - Riverside, California - In the first ever Champ Car race held on the road course at Riverside International Raceway, Joe qualified his Vel's Ford Sales #20 Mongoose Ford 13th fastest. Joe's day ended with a crash on lap 61 and was credited with a 16th place finish. Joe was awarded $750.00 for his finish. Dan Gurney won the inaugural race.
March 17, 1968 - Hanford, California - Joe Leonard started out the 1968 season with a new team, driving for Parnelli Jones & Vel Miletich in the Vel's Ford Sales #9 Ford powered Morris. Joe started the race in 6th position but crashed out of the event on the 53rd lap. Gordon Johncock went on to victory and Joe won $163.00 for his 22nd place finish.
March 31, 1968 - Las Vegas, Nevada - Things turned better for Joe and the Vel's Ford Team on the road course in the Stardust 150. Joe started the race from the 9th starting spot and moved into 3rd position by race end. Bobby Unser beat out Mario Andretti for the win and Joe earned $2,807.00 and 410 championship points.
May 1968 - Indianapolis, Indiana - Joe Leonard was entered to race the Vel's Ford Sales Ford powered Morris #9 but was soon hired to drive one of the new STP Lotus wedge cars powered by a Pratt & Whitney turbine for the legendary team owner Andy Granatelli. A move that would skyrocket Joe Leonard to fame and popularity. Joe was teamed up with Art Pollard and 1966 Indy 500 Champion and Formula One star Graham Hill. Formula One star Mike Spence was on the STP team also, but suffered fatal injuries in practice driving another STP Turbine. On May 21, Andy Granatelli announced that the STP Turbines would run in all the remaining USAC Championship races. In practice leading up to the race Joe Leonard was the fastest of the day on May 22nd. On pole day for the 500, teammate Graham Hill was the first car to roll out and set a new one lap & four-lap track record. Hill's record did not stand long as Leonard was the 11th car to make an attempt at winning the pole position for the 1968 Indianapolis 500. The record fell again as Joe blistered the famed oval at an average speed of 171.559 for the new four-lap record and the pole position! In doing so, Leonard also set a new one lap record of 171.953 mph. This was the first time that teammates started 1-2 since 1949.
Lap 2 - (52.34) 171.953 mph (New Track Record)
Lap 3 - (52.60) 171.103 mph
Lap 4 - (52.54) 171.298 mph
Total - (3:32.58) 171.559 (New track Record)
Earlier in the month, Parnelli Jones announced he would not drive the #40 STP Turbine which was mechanically reconfigured to meet 1968 USAC criteria because he felt it was no longer a "contender". On May 12, Joe was driving the "Silent Sam" #40 which Parnelli Jones almost won the 1967 race, when he lost control entering turn one. Joe slid 630 feet and did a half spin before contacting the outside retaining wall with the left rear of the car. The STP Turbine bounced off the wall and slid another 51 feet coming to a rest in the middle of the track. Joe was uninjured, but that was the last competitive outing for the famed STP 1967 "Whoosh-mobile."
On race day Joe wasted no time showing his strength as he led the first 7 laps. Joe would not lead again until he led another six laps on 113 through 119. The race strategy played perfectly into Joe's hand as he took the lead on lap 175. The 1968 Indianapolis 500 was going to be won by Joe Leonard! Unfortunately, the bad luck which ended the winning day for the STP turbine last year with Parnelli Jones struck again as Joe Leonard's STP Turbine coasted to a stop and out of the lead on lap 192, less than 20 miles from a certain victory with a broken fuel shaft. The same thing which took out the #20 team car of Art Pollard just 3 laps earlier. Joe Leonard finished a frustrating 12th place after leading a total of 31 laps. Bobby Unser won the race. Joe was awarded $37,403.00.
"Heres a little shaft breaking...
and it was like turning the key off." - Joe Leonard
June 9, 1968 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Things had to turn out better for Joe and the Lotus Turbine in the Rex Mays 150 after the heartbreak finish at Indy last week. Joe started the race in the 4th spot. Unfortunately the suspension broke on the #60 STP Turbine after only 38 laps. The #20 STP team car of Pollard's did not fare much better when it dropped out with a fuel leak on lap 61. Joe picked up his share of the $493.00 prize money. Lloyd Ruby won the race.
June 15, 1968 - Mosport, Canada - The STP Turbine cars were not entered in the Telegraph Trophy 200 at Mosport until the brake problems could be figured out. Joe drove the Vel's Parnelli Jones Ford Mongoose to a 7th place finish in the first heat after starting 11th. Joe would start the 2nd heat race in 7th and finished in 6th. Joe was awarded $1,242.00 and 140 Championship points. Dan Gurney won the race.
July 4, 1969 - Daytona Beach, Florida - Joe raced in his only NASCAR Grand National race in Smokey Yunick's 1969 Ford #13. Joe started the race in a respectable 12th spot but crashed on lap 47. Joe won his share of $720.00 for his 31st place finish. Lee Roy Yarbrough won the race.
July 7, 1968 - Castle Rock, Colorado - Joe & Art were back behind the wheels of the STP Turbines for the Inaugural running of the Rocky Mountain 150 on the road course at Castle Rock. Joe started 8th and finished 8th after a half-shaft broke on lap 50. Joe picked up $843.00 and 75 Championship points and A.J. Foyt won the race.
C.V. Haschel photo
Joe Leonard on the front row at IRP
July 28, 1968 - Indianapolis, Indiana - Joe started on the front row next to pole sitter Mario Andretti in heat 1 on the road course at Indianapolis Raceway Park for the Hoosier Grand Prix. Joe jumped right in to the lead on the first lap until Mario Andretti passed him back on lap 3. Joe spun the #60 STP Lotus on lap 27. Leonard's day ended up with a 14th place finish and won $200.00. Al Unser won the race.
August 18, 1968 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - It was an STP front row for the Milwaukee 200 as Art Pollard won the pole with a new track record and Joe started next to him. The last time an STP Turbine won the pole was when Joe started on the pole in the Indy 500 months earlier. That race ended when both cars suffered the same fate at about the same time in the race. Milwaukee was to be just about the same. Teammate Pollard went straight for the lead and held it for the first 18 laps. Bobby Unser and Wally Dallenbach shared the lead until Joe took over on lap 54 through lap 90 when teammate Pollard took command again. By lap 122 Joe was out of the race with no brakes. On lap 179, Pollard's Lotus had also lost it's brakes also. Joe was credited with a 16th place finish and Pollard finished 14th. Joe won $923.00 and Lloyd Ruby won the race.
November 3, 1968 - Hanford, California - It was Joe Leonard's turn to start the #60 STP Lotus from the pole in the California 200, setting a new track record of 163.093 mph which was almost 8 mph faster than Andretti's record from the March race earlier in the year. Pollard's team car did not even qualify for the race due to a broken differential. Joe jumped right into the lead on race day and led the first 93 laps. Joe finished in 4th on the lead lap with race winner A.J. Foyt. Joe won $3,226.00 and 300 Championship points. This marked the best finish ever for Joe Leonard driving the #60 STP 4WD Lotus Turbine.
December 1, 1968 - Riverside, California - Joe qualified the #60 STP Lotus third behind Dan Gurney and Mario Andretti for the Rex Mays 300 at Riverside. Mario Andretti was locked in a very close battle for the Championship Title with Bobby Unser. Mario's engine blew on lap 59 and replaced Joe Leonard in the #60 car in an effort to gain more points. Three laps later Mario crashed Joe's Lotus into the STP team car of Art Pollard taking both of the front running STP Turbines out of contention on lap 63. Mario then jumped into Lloyd Ruby's car and went on to finish the race 3rd by using three cars. Joe picked up $1,050.00 through the whole ordeal and was credited with a 17th place finish and Pollard was listed as 16th and as far as Mario's efforts, he lost the USAC National driving championship by a scant 11 points to Bobby Unser. Had Mario hopped directly into Ruby's car he may have won the USAC Championship, but Mario said he did not want to pass up the opportunity to race one of the Lotus Turbines.
May 1969 - Indianapolis, Indiana - Joe Leonard missed the first two races of the 1969 season when he was replaced on the Vel's Parnelli Jones team by Al Unser.
Smokey Yunick had obtained a Gurney Eagle for the 1969 Indy 500 and armed it with a DOHC turbo Ford (of course) and had Joe Leonard drive it. On his first day on the track for practice Leonard wasted no time getting up to speed with the second fastest lap of the day at over 160 mph. Pole day was postponed an entire week in 1969. Joe qualified the "City of Daytona Beach Special" #44 Eagle Ford in the 11th starting spot. While running 2nd to eventual winner Mario Andretti, Leonard had a stray hose clamp puncture his radiator. It took Smokey and his crew 13 minutes to install a replacement. Still, he finished a respectable 7th and was awarded his share of $21,602.00 and 700 Championship points.
July 4, 1969 - Daytona Beach, Florida - Joe Leonard ran only one NASCAR race, finishing 31st in the 1969 Firecracker 400 in car #13.
July 19, 1969 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe teamed up with veteran Lloyd Ruby and qualified the Wynn's Spitfire Special #4 Laycock Turbocharged Offy in the 11th starting position for the Trenton 200. A broken oil line took him out of competition after only 59 laps. Joe was awarded $747.00 and Mario Andretti won the race.
August 17, 1969 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Joe was back with the STP team driving the #40 Lotus with a turbocharged Offenhauser for team owner Parnelli Jones at the Tony Bettenhausen 200. Joe qualified the STP Lotus fast enough for the 3rd spot but the car lost power after 73 laps. Joe won $453.00 and Al Unser won the race.
August 24, 1969 - Dover, Delaware - Joe drove the old STP 4WD Lotus for the inaugural Delaware 200 at the new Dover Downs Speedway. Joe started 11th and finished 21st after only completing 14 laps with a bad handling racecar. Joe was awarded $285.00 and teammate Art Pollard drove to victory.
September 21, 1969 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe drove the #3 Vel's Parnelli Ford Lotus with a turbocharged Ford in the Trenton 300. Joe qualified the car 3rd fastest but a broken suspension took him out after only 13 laps. Joe picked up $570.00 for his 27th place finish and Mario Andretti won the race.
October 19, 1969 - Kent, Washington - Joe Leonard qualified the #3 Vel's Parnelli Lotus in the 14th spot for the inaugural road race at Kent, but failed to start the race. Al Unser won the event, which was the first ever, USAC Champ car race ever run in the rain.
November 16, 1969 - Phoenix, Arizona - Joe started the Bobby Ball 200 in the 19th spot but worked his way up to 5th by race end driving the #3 Vel's Parnelli Lotus. VPJ teammate Al Unser won the race and Joe picked up 200 points and $2,040.00.
December 7, 1969 - Riverside, California - Joe started the Rex Mays 300 from 19th spot and finished 19th after his engine dumped after 80 laps around the famed road course. Mario Andretti won the race and Joe picked up $650.00.
May 1970 - Indianapolis, Indiana - Joe Leonard was slated to drive the #15 Johnny Lightning Special Turbocharged Ford Colt for the Vel's Parnelli Jones Team with legendary crew chief George Bignotti in the Indy 500 this year. Joe took to the track for the first time on May 3rd, and was fast driver of the day in practice with a speed of 162.279 mph and in doing so, Joe became the first driver of the year to run over a rabbit!
June 7, 1970 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - For the second time in three years a team won the Indy 500 and followed it up with a win at Milwaukee a week later with the other team car taking the win. In 1969 Mario Andretti won the Indy 500 and STP teammate Art Pollard went to Milwaukee and won the following week.
September 6, 1970 - Ontario, California - Indy's little sister. The 25.5 million dollar Ontario Motor Speedway was about to hold it's long awaited inaugural event, The California 500. Joe Leonard was fastest of the day on days 2,3 & 4 of practice with his fastest speed being 177.2 mph. A practice speed that was almost 6 mph faster than the fastest official lap ever turned at Indy of 171.953 mph by Joe Leonard in 1968 with the STP Turbine Lotus. Two days would make up the qualifying for the CAL 500. On pole day Lloyd Ruby went out first in the cool morning air and turned a four lap average of 177.567 with the fastest of the four laps being a 178.042. Leonard was set to qualify in the morning also, but had blown his motor in the final practice session. Joe was forced to go out in the afternoon heat and against the wind. Joe's 4 lap average was a disappointing 174.740 mph, which was good enough for 6th starting spot (above). A far cry from the 177 mph laps he was running earlier in the week. Teammate Unser would start 4th on the inside of row 2. The slowest qualifier was Jim Hurtubise, who turned a four lap average of 169.101 in his front-engine Mallard. Jim actually turned one lap at over 170 mph. The entire field average was nearly 2 mph faster than Joe's 1968 Indy speed record.
February 28, 1971 - Rafaela, Argentina - USAC headed south of the border for the Rafaela Indy 300, a paved oval race to be run in two 150 mile heat races. Joe Leonard was set to run the entire circuit with the Vel's Parnelli Jones team.
March 27, 1971 - Phoenix, Arizona - Joe started the 150 mile race at Phoenix in the 11th position once again flying the Johnny Lightning colors on his #15 Turbocharged Ford Colt. Joe finished in the 4th position behind Swede Savage and the Unser brothers. Teammate Al Unser won again and extended his championship points lead. Joe picked up another 180 points and $3,085.00.
Joe's car with the suitcase numberplate
April 25, 1971 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe picked up a new sponsor for the remainder of the season in Samsonite luggage (above). Joe qualified the #15 Samsonite Special Colt in the 8th spot. The turbocharger on the Ford power plant caught fire on lap 12 and Joe was out of the race and credited with 24th place. Points leader and teammate Al Unser's Colt burned a piston 20 laps later and finished 21st. Neither driver picked up any points and Joe was awarded $1,382.00 for his finish. Mike Mosley won the race and passed Joe in points.
Photo by Rex Miller
Shades of Indy 1971
2. Mike Mosley - 655
Lloyd Ruby - 630
Swede Savage - 540 (out due to injuries on 3/28)
Joe Leonard - 510
May 1971 - Indianapolis, Indiana - Joe qualified the Samsonite Special #15 Turbocharged Ford Colt 8th fastest on pole day with a four-lap average speed of 172.761 which better than his 1968 track record which fell this year to pole sitter Peter Revson. Race day started with a freak crash of the pace car into a photographer's stand.
Photo by Rex Miller
Joe on the inside of Bud Tinglestad at Indy 1971
Mark Donohue wasted no time taking comand of the race leading the first 50 laps. When Donohue pitted, Leonard took the lead for 2 laps until he too pitted.
Joe took the lead from teammate Al Unser on lap 116 (above) and lost the lead back to Al Unser two laps later when Joe's turbocharger failed him. Al Unser led the rest of the laps to win his second consecutive Indy 500. Joe was awarded $19,906.00 for his 19th place finish. Al Unser extended his points lead and the second place points contender Mike Mosley was taken out of the Championship hunt in a serious lap 160 accident which would sideline him until September.
June 6, 1971 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Joe Leonard qualified the Samsonite Special on the outside of row one. Joe had the lead over pole sitter Bobby Unser by the end of the first lap. On lap 70 Leonard was passed by teammate Al Unser. Al led the rest of the way and Joe crossed the line behind him. Joe picked up 240 Championship points and $9,191.00. Al extended his points lead by 60 more points.
Photo courtesy of Chris Biordi
Joe stretching the fuel hose at Pocono 1971
July 3, 1971 - Pocono, Pennsylvania - A brand new triangle speedway nestled in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania was the site for the inaugural running of the Schaefer 500, the second race in the triple crown for 1971. Joe qualified his Samsonite Special Colt #15 well enough for the 4th starting spot. This was the last USAC Champ car race, which had the roadster of Jim Hurtubise in the line-up. Mark Donohue started on the pole and led the first 32 laps until Joe passed him. Joe had two near disasterous pit stops, which cost him valuable time (above). Late in the race Joe's Colt was running much better on the oily track surface than was the McLaren of Donohue's. Joe was leading the race when the yellow came out for oil. With less than 10 laps to go, Leonard had nothing for Donohue on the clean racing surface and was beat to the line by less than 2 seconds. The combination of Joe's 800 points and teammate Al Unser's zero points closed the points margin between the teammates extensively. Joe was awarded $47,704.00.
Photo courtesy of Chris Biordi
Pocono 1971 Top 5
July 18, 1971 - Brooklyn, Michigan - Joe started 10th in the Michigan 200 in the Irish Hills. Leonard wrecked the Samsonite Special on lap #35 and finished in the 19th spot. Al Unser also had a bad day finishing in 24th. Mark Donohue and Billy Vukovich moved up into the points chase with their first & second finishes. Joe was awarded $790.00.
August 15, 1971 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Al Unser just could not get a break in the points race it seemed. Joe did not qualify for the 200-mile race due to a broken timing gear. Unser's chance to capitalize on Leonard's misfortune came to a crashing halt on lap 119 when he lost control and crashed while leading the race. The only driver in the top 5 in points to gain anything on Al Unser was A.J. Foyt who picked up 320 more points for his 2nd place finish. Bobby Unser won the race, which moved him to tenth in points.
2. Joe Leonard - 1550
3. Billy Vukovich - 1530
4. Mark Donohue - 1520
5. A.J. Foyt - 1400
(Notice scoop on turbo for the California heat)
September 5, 1971 - Ontario, California - Joe Leonard qualified the Samsonite Special #15 in the middle of the fourth row in 11th. In a race of attrition, which had 12 cars running at the end, Joe managed to lap the entire field on the way to his first ever 500 mile win (below). Art Pollard finished runner-up for the second consecutive year. Joe took the Marlboro Championship Trail points lead with and added 1,000 points. Of the top 5 in points, Leonard & Billy Vukovich were the only driver to receive any points. Al Unser, points leader entering the CAL 500 finished 15th with a broken gearbox after leading 84 laps. Joe Leonard won $134,437.00.
The pit board says it all!
2. Al Unser - 2200
3. Billy Vukovich - 1680
4. Lloyd Ruby - 1660
5. Mark Donohue - 1520
October 3, 1971 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe entered the Trenton 300 on top of the points battle. Joe qualified the Samsonite Special 11th in a race which was postponed a week due to rain. Joe finished in the 3rd position and teammate and points rival Al Unser's season continued to unravel when his radiator failed forcing the defending National Champion to finish 17th and out of the points. Joe Leonard clinched the Marlboro Championship Trail Championship with his 3rd place finish. Bobby Unser won the race and Joe picked up 420 points and $5,828.00.
2. Al Unser - 2200
3. Billy Vukovich - 2040
4. Mark Donohue - 1760
5. A.J. Foyt - 1700
(* Clinched National Championship)
October 23, 1971 - Phoenix, Arizona - The already crowned USAC National Champion showed up at Phoenix for the Bobby Ball 150 and qualified the Samsonite Special in the 11th spot again. Joe brought it across the line in with a top ten finish, extending his points lead by another 45 points. Teammate Al Unser could not hold onto second in points when he tangled with Johnny Rutherford on lap 15. A.J. Foyt won the race and Joe Leonard picked up $1,788.00.
2. A.J. Foyt - 2320
3. Billy Vukovich - 2250
4. Al Unser - 2200
5. Lloyd Ruby - 1830
(* Clinched National Championship at Trenton)
March 18, 1972 - Phoenix, Arizona - Joe Leonard showed up for the 150 mile season opener at Phoenix with a BIG number one on a brand new chassis. Phoenix was the debut of Vel's Parnelli Jones new "Super Team" which consisted of three former USAC National Champions in Leonard, Al Unser and Mario Andretti. VPJ had developed a new triangular chassis utilizing turbocharged Offenhausers for power in 1972. The car was designed by Maurice Phillipe, and was unlike anything ever seen before. The chassis was a "Parnelli" and it had the radiators moved to the sides of the car like the McLaren except they were constructed within dihedral wings and the original version utilized no rear wing on the car.
2. Mario Andretti - 240
3. Mike Mosley - 210
4. Gary Bettenhausen - 180
5. Joe Leonard - 150
April 23, 1972 - Trenton, New Jersey - A rear wing was added to all of the Parnelli cars (above) for the Trenton 200 to make them more stable. Joe started the race from the sixth spot and finished in 4th, four laps behind race winner Gary Bettenhausen. VPJ teammates did not fare so well as both Unser & Andretti retired early with mechanical problems. Joe Leonard added another 240 championship points to his total and was awarded $4,398.00.
2. Roger McCluskey - 410
3. Joe Leonard - 390
4. Bobby Unser - 300
5. Gordon Johncock - 280
May 1972 - Indianapolis, Indiana - Two of the Superteam Parnellis, which no longer sported the drag creating dihedral wings, took to the track on May 2. Al Unser & Joe Leonard were both running over the 170 mph mark. Al Unser was second fastest of the day at 177.340 mph and Leonard in the Samsonite #1 car was third fastest with a speed of 173.410. The third Parnelli of Andretti had not yet arrived at the track. On May 4th, Mario's Parnelli arrived at the track and Al Unser took the third fastest speed of the day in his Parnelli with a speed of 185.330. Jim Malloy was still the fastest of the month with a speed of 185.912 mph. On May 5th, all three Parnellis were on the track with Al Unser turning in a 184.087 mph in the #4, Mario Andretti at 177.340 in the #9 and Leonard turning some warmup laps in the #1. On May 10th Joe became the 16th member of the "180 Club" with a practice lap of 180.252 mph. On May 11th, Joe bettered his speed mark with a lap of 183.001 mph.
Lap 2 - 185.950 (new track record)
Lap 3 - 185.835
Lap 4 - 184.351
Total - 185.223 (New track record)
Joe Leonard's pole position and new track record lasted about 5 minutes as VPJ teammate Mario Andretti went even faster on his attempt immediately following Leonard's run. By the end of the day Leanord was lined up to start the 1972 Indy 500 from the 6th starting spot on the outside of row two.
2. Mark Donohue - 1000
3. Al Unser - 920
4. Sam Sessions - 600
5. Gary Bettenhausen - 580
June 4, 1972 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Joe started the 150 mile race at the Milwaukee Mile in the 9th spot. By races end Joe had picked up four positions and finished in the 5th spot. Joe lost the points lead to event winner Mark Donohue. Joe was awarded 150 Championship points and $4,345.00.
2. Joe Leonard - 1140
3. Al Unser - 920
4. Gary Bettenhausen - 790
5. Bobby Unser - 600 & Sam Sessions - 600
July 16, 1972 - Brooklyn, Michigan - Joe Leonard qualified the Samsonite Special turbo Offenhauser Parnelli #1 in the 11th starting spot for the Michigan 200. Joe was running in the second position to veteran Mel Kenyon with less than two laps to go when Kenyon's sputtered starving for fuel. Leonard took the lead and the race win and only led two laps of the race. Mel Kenyon's car coughed and sputtered but he was able to finish third behind Wally Dallenbach. Joe Leonard regained the points lead by picking up 400 points and $16,602.00 for the win. Due to injuries suffered in a Can Am testing crash, Mark Donohue was not in the race and Joe Leonard regained the points lead.
2. Mark Donohue - 1240 (sidelined)
3. Al Unser - 920
4. Gary Bettenhausen - 790
Sam Sessions - 600
Roger McCluskey - 600
July 29, 1972 - Pocono, Pennsylvania - Joe Leonard started 6th and soared into a staggering points lead with a win at Pocono. Joe picked up 1,000 pints for the 500 mile race win and $79,780.00. Teammate Al Unser was penalized one lap for passing under the yellow flag and finished in third one lap down.
2. Al Unser - 1620
3. Mark Donohue - 1240 (sidelined)
4. Sam Posey - 1000
5. Billy Vukovich - 820
August 13, 1972 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - It was a VPJ front row at Milwaukee for the 200 miler. The Parnelli of Mario Andretti was on the pole with Leonard starting next to him. Mario darted right into the lead until lap 108 when his wheel locked up forcing him out of the competition. Joe Leonard took over and never looked back, leading the remaining 93 laps and finishing first, some four laps ahead of the second place car of Billy Vukovich. Leonard extended his points lead with an additional 400 points. Joe picked up $14,734.00 for the win.
2. Al Unser - 1620
3. Mark Donohue - 1240 (sidelined)
4. Billy Vukovich - 1140
5. Johnny Rutherford - 1080
September 3, 1972 - Ontario, California - Joe Leonard returned to the site of his first 500 mile victory as the defending champion of the California 500. Jerry Grant became the first driver to turn an official qualifying lap of over 200 mph to win the pole position for the CAL 500. All the hype was for Grant's teammate Bobby Unser to be the first over 200, but a mechanical failure prevented Bobby Unser from being out before Grant to qualify, Unser was forced to qualify on the second day of time trials. When Unser did qualify, he broke Grant's 1 lap record and in doing so set a new four lap average above 200 mph. Unser was forced to start his record setting AAR eagle from the 23rd starting spot.
2. Billy Vukovich - 1840
3. Roger McCluskey - 1700
4. Mike Hiss - 1665
5. Al Unser - 1620
September 24, 1972 - Trenton, New Jersey - The unstoppable Joe Leonard started the Trenton 300 in the sixth spot. Joe lead the race off and on for a total of 41 laps in it's middle stages. Bobby Unser won the race and Joe came across the line in the 3rd position behind a returning Mark Donohue. Joe picked up 420 more championship points and $6,411.00.
April 7, 1973 - College Station, Texas - The defending USAC National Champion showed up at the Texas World Speedway with the #1 on an all new designed Parnelli again with a tubocharged Drake Offenhauser power plant. Joe Leonard started the race in 8th spot and finished in 5th, one lap down to race winner and teammate Al Unser. Joe started the championship hunt with 200 points and won $4,431.00 in prize money.
April 15, 1973 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe qualified the Samsonite Special in the 13th starting spot for the first of two 150 mile heat races, and that is where he finished. Leonard was 13 laps down to heat one race winner A.J. Foyt and was one position out of gaining any championship points. The field lined up in the order in which they had finished the first heat. Joe ran much better in the second heat race and finished in 5th place behind Swede Savage and one lap behind teammate and race winner Mario Andretti. Joe picked up another 150 points and as awarded $1,280.00.
May 1973 - Indianapolis, Indiana - Joe made his first appearance on the famed oval for practice on May 2nd. Joe's new Parnelli was only mediocre to say the best, consistently turning laps at only 188 mph while many others were running laps consistently in the 190's, with Swede Savage being the fastest of the entire month with practice laps over 197 mph. On the Friday prior to pole qualifying Leonard lost control of his Parnelli coming out of turn one, slid 340 feet doing a half-spin, made no contact with anything and drove it around to pit lane.
Saturday, May 12th In the early morning practice session Joe Leonard's 1968 STP teammate, Art Pollard was fatally injured in a violent turn one accident.
Sunday, May 13th At 12:30 pm 38 year-old Joe Leonard finally got his #1 Samsonite Special into the field in 29th starting position.
Lap 2 - 190.194 mph
Lap 3 - 190.275 mph
Lap 4 - 189.314 mph
4 Lap Avg. - 189.954 mph
Wednesday, May 16th Joe served notice today that he is prepared to battle his way back into the field in the unlikely event anyone should bump him from the line up. Today Leonard ran a lap of 190.114 in his back up #41 Samsonite Special Parnelli on a very windy day. Joe was the fastest of the fifteen cars, which took to the track today. Joe never came close to being bumped.
May 28th On a rainy race day afternoon the Indy 500 was ready to start after hours of delay. As the field took the green flag all hell broke loose with the horrific front straight crash of Salt Walther. Eleven cars were involved and the burning fuel injured fans. By the time the crash scene was cleaned up, the rain had returned postponing the start until the next day.
May 29th The cars were on the track but the rains came down again as the field was on the pace lap postponing the race yet another day.
May 30th The race finally got under way in between rainstorms at 2:10 on Tuesday afternoon. The race was red flagged at lap 58 for over an hour to clean up the debris from the turn four accident of Swede Savage. When the race did get underway again, Leonard's car left the race after 91 laps with a broken hub. The race was called complete when the rains halted it after only 133 laps. Gordon Johncock was declared the winner and Leonard was credited with an 18th place finish and awarded his share of $17,300.00
June 10, 1973 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Joe Leonard qualified the #1 Samsonite Special in the 15th starting spot for the 150 mile race at Milwaukee. Joe finished the race five laps down to winner Bobby Unser in 7th place. Leonard was the highest placed finisher of the VPJ team as Mario and Al Unser finished behind him respectively. Joe picked up 90 points and $3,430.00.
July 1, 1973 - Pocono, Pennsylvania - New safety rules for USAC Champ Cars were put into effect when the teams reached Pocono after the disastrous race at Indy. The most noticeable being the fuel load being cut in half and stored only in the left side fuel cell. The other affected the rear wing size of the cars. The defending champion of the race qualified the #1 Samsonite Special in the 15th starting spot and moved up to 8th behind teammate Mario Andretti and race winner A.J. Foyt. Leonard picked up 250 Championship points and his share of $9,913.00.
July 15, 1973 - Brooklyn, Michigan - Joe Leonard started the 200 mile race at Michigan from the 8th spot. He retired from the race on lap 40 with a broken piston. Two laps later, teammate Al Unser dropped out with the same problem. Joe was credited with 23rd place and won $618.00. Roger McCluskey won the race.
August 12, 1973 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Joe qualified 14th when the team returned to Milwaukee for the 200. Joe was once again the highest finisher among the "VPJ Super Team" with his 7th place finish. Joe picked up 120 Championship points and his share of the $2,362.00 prize money. Wally Dallenbach, who had replaced the late Swede Savage in the #40 STP ride, won the race.
August 26, 1973 - Ontario, California - For the first time in OMS history, the line up for the race was determined by two 100 mile qualifying races to determine the starting spots for the 5th through 33rd for the 500. On what would have been Swede Savage's 27th birthday, Wally Dallenbach took what would have been Swede Savage's car, to the win and would start 5th for the California 500. Joe finished his qualifying race in the 9th spot after starting 2nd. He picked up 40 points for the qualifier.
September 2, 1973 - Ontario, California - Joe Leonard started the fourth annual California 500 from the 12th spot on the outside of row four. Joe's Samsonite Special #1 lasted a little more than one fourth of the race as another broken piston eliminated him after only 60 laps. Joe finished in the 21st position and won his share of $4,192.00. Wally Dallenbach took the race win.
September 16, 1973 - Brooklyn, Michigan - Michigan ran the event in two 126 mile heat races. Joe started the first heat race in the 9th spot and finished three spots down in the 12th position. Billy Vukovich won the first heat race. Leonard picked up 13 championship points for heat #1. In the second and final heat race, Joe started 11th and finished 7th. Johnny Rutherford won the race. Leonard picked up an additional 75 points and a total of $2,621.00 for the day.
September 23, 1973 - Trenton, New Jersey - Joe started the Trenton 200 in the 13th spot and moved up to 9th place by race end. Joe picked up another 80 points and $1,816.00. 1973 Indy 500 winner, Gordon Johncock won the race.
October 6, 1973 - College Station, Texas - Texas World Speedway was the fastest track on the circuit in 1973. The record average qualifying speed of pole winner and VPJ teammate Mario Andretti was a blistering 214.158 mph in his Viceroy Parnelli. Joe qualified his Samsonite Parnelli in the 13 spot but his day ended with a blown engine after only 31 laps. The entire "VPJ Super team" was eliminated with engine failures. Joe was credited with 19th spot and was awarded $1,158.00 in prize money. Gary Bettenhausen won the race.
November 3, 1973 - Phoenix, Arizona - Joe qualified in 11th for the season ending Bobby Ball 150 at the mile track in Phoenix. Again, a broken piston eliminated the Samsonite Special after 125 laps. Joe finished the race in the 15th spot and was awarded $1,707.00. Gordon Johncock picked up his 3rd win of the season.
March 3, 1974 - Ontario, California - The date of the California 500 was moved up to March for 1974. The twin 100 mile qualifying race format was used once again. For Joe Leonard, both Samsonite and the Parnelli chassis were gone from the "VPJ Super Team" member. Both Joe and Al Unser were running the Dan Gurney Eagle chassis for 1974. Leonard had no major sponsor on his #15 Eagle and was back to running under the "Vel's Parnelli Ford" entrant again. Joe started the qualifier in the 11th spot and finished fourth. Johnny Rutherford won the heat race.
March 10, 1974 - Ontario, California - Ontario Motor Speedway, the track which brought Joe Leonard fame and fortune with his 1971 Californi 500 win, was not so kind to him in 1974. Joe started mid pack for the California 500. In the race Leonard and the #15 Eagle were on the move. Things were beginning to fall in place for a strong finish. When Joe crossed the start finish line at top speed to complete lap 146 his front left tire blew completely.
his car makes a sudden left turn into the pit wall
The Eagle made an abrupt left turn directly into the concrete wall dividing the track from the pits. Joe slammed very hard and the car scraped all the way to the middle of turn one.
Joe suffered extensive damage to his feet and legs and a gash in his forehead.
This was the end of Joe Leonard's fine racing career which spanned over 20 years on both motorcycles and cars. Joe Leonard is the only racer to win back to back National Championships in both motorcycle racing and automobile racing.