21 January 2013

Winston Western 500, Riverside International Raceway, California, 19th January 1980

In 1980, Dan Gurney came out of a 10 year retirement to help old friend Les Richter, the president of Riverside International Raceway. Gurney agreed to drive a second Rod Osterlund Chevrolet Monte Carlo for one NASCAR race as team mate to a rising young star named Dale Earnhardt. As a condition of allowing Gurney to drive in the race after a 10 year lay-off,  Richter insisted that he attend the racing school run by former team mate and friend Bob Bondurant (they had shared the GT class-winning Cobra Daytona coupé at the '64 Le Mans). After Gurney's refresher session, Richter called Bondurant and asked how Gurney had done. "He didn't need a refresher," Bondurant reportedly told Richter. "He was faster than me then, and he still is." Ticket sales surged upon the announcement of Gurney's return. In a car painted blue and white and carrying his famed number 48 (which was a nod to Richter's NFL number), Gurney easily ran with the leaders in the race. Displaying his usual fluid style, he was running in third place when he was forced to retire because of gearbox failure.
As an aside, Riverside was a frequent filming location for Hollywood movies, TV series and commercials, due to its proximity to the Southern California entertainment industry. Scenes from TV shows CHiPsThe Rockford Files and Knight Rider amongst others were shot there, along with films such as Grand Prix, The Love Bug and Viva Las Vegas.

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