1970 Riverside F-5000 Postcard

by Harry Kennison

Harry Kennison is a fan with a camera and a gift for telling good stories. This is the first in a series of stories of the sixties and seventies. We hope you enjoy them.

John-Cannon

John Cannon drove his McLaren M-10B-Chevy to an easy victory in the opening round of the 1970 Continental F-5000 series at Riverside, California.

After eight weeks of Army basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington and 32 pounds lighter, I was home in Denver on a 17-day leave before reporting to Ft. Riley, Kansas.  No sooner had I got home than my next door neighbor and gentleman racer, Rich Galloway, invited my wife and I to attend the F-5000 race at Riverside, California, the first race of the 1970 season.  It didn’t take me long to say “yes,” and a few days later we had loaded up our near-new Ford Cortina GT for the 1,200 mile trip west.

I planned on driving through to Las Vegas the first night and then on to Riverside the next day.  My wife, Bernie, was less than thrilled by long car rides and nearly broke down in St. George, Utah, begging to go home.  I explained that the worst of the drive through the moon-like landscape of Utah was behind us and we’d be in Vegas in a few hours.  She reluctantly agreed to press on, with visions of the Vegas Strip and famous resorts like the Sands and Stardust dancing in her head.  But alas, when we drove into town I booked us into the Best Western motel and we had dinner at an I-Hop next door.  I’ve never been much of a gambler, and sure didn’t want to give away what little cash we had to the casinos.  Needless to say, it was a frosty drive the next day as we crossed the desert to California.

Dick-Smothers

TV celebrity, Dick Smothers, heads through Turn 5 at Riverside in his beautiful but somewhat slow, Lotus 70-Chevy.

Turns out Rich Galloway had sold off his McLaren M6B CanAm car and bought a new Lola T-190 with a purposeful-looking injected 305 cubic-inch Chevy nestled in the rear.  In addition to Rich, Ron Grable, Eric Haga, Spence Stoddard and Chuck Parsons had new Lola’s as well. The McLaren M-10B camp was headed up by John Cannon and John Bisignano.  In addition to the Lola’s and McLaren’s, there were a pair of Lotus 70-Chevy’s entered by Dick Smothers and George Wintersteen, a Surtees TS-5 Chevy for John Gunn, a handful of Eagles, older Lola’s and even a Brabham BT-26 Formula 1 car with a 3-liter Cosworth V-8 driven by Gus Hutchison.  All in all, quite a turn-out for the first race of the new season.

John_Gunn

John Gunn’s Surtees TS-5 is perched up on jacks in the Riverside garage prior to qualifying.

Bernie and I were staying at a Motel 6 on Riverside’s main drag (they “left the light on for us”), just down the street from the fancier Holiday Inn where Rich was staying.  He invited us along with a bunch of the drivers to a reception and showing of an artsy, racing movie set to classical guitar music he’d made the year before.  After spending the past eight weeks wondering if I would survive basic training, it was a pleasant surprise to be surrounded by racing people, and even Bernie enjoyed meeting Dick Smothers.

Gus_Hutchinson

Gus Hutchison takes his Brahbam B-26-Cosworth Ford Formula 1 car inside Rich Galloway’s Lola heading into Turn 6.

As for the race, John Cannon, who’s previous claim to fame was beating the factory CanAm McLaren’s in the rain at Laguna Seca in a somewhat used up, three-year old McLaren Mk II, won Riverside handily in his M-10B.  He would go on to take a well-deserved championship that year.  As for Rich Galloway, he notched up a surprising top-ten finish and would continue to campaign his Lola through the rest of the season.

Rich_Galloway

Rich Galloway, driving his brand new Lola T-190 through Riverside’s Turn 5.

I don’t remember much about the trip back, other than Bernie and I didn’t stop in St. George, Utah.

Tommy_Smothers

Tommy Smothers turned up on race day to support his brother, Dick.