Fifty years after winning his first Indy 500, Gordon Johncock receives his Baby Borg

Dan R. Boyd for BorgWarner

INDIANAPOLIS – Gordon Johncock was never into fame or glory. He hated public speaking and personal appearances.

On the racetrack, however, few drivers ever made a bigger statement than the farmer from Hastings, Michigan.

“I done most of my talking with a steering wheel,” the 86-year-old Johncock told “As most people know, I wasn’t very good at making appearances and stuff I didn’t really like to do. I was farming and doing different things up north. When I got done racing, I got on an airplane or a car and went home and went to work.

INDY 500 PRIMERQuestions and answers for the world’s biggest race

“That is what I was really caring to do.”

Quiet and unassuming, Johncock prefers flannel shirts, blue jeans, and work boots instead of business casual. In fact, his attire has earned the nickname, “Johncock Casual.”

On April 24 at Binkley’s Kitchen and Tavern in the trendy Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis, the room was filled with Johncocks from all over the United States, all dressed in flannel shirts and blue jeans.

There were so many flannel shirts in the crowd, it looked like a lumberjack convention.

On this day, they came to honor a true racing hero and legend of the Indianapolis 500, Gordon Johncock, as he received his Baby Borg Trophy.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Johncock’s 1973 Indianapolis 500 victory. Johncock also won a thrilling duel with Rick Mears to capture the checkered flag in the 1982 Indianapolis 500, and that race has become a standard by which other Indianapolis 500s are measured.

The Baby Borg ceremony was preceded by a special tour of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum on Monday morning for Johncock’s family.

Two-time Indy 500 winner Gordon Johncock displays his Baby Borg at an April 24 ceremony (Dan R. Boyd for BorgWarner).

Johncock even drove one of the IMS Museum Tour Busses around the 2.5-mile oval that Johncock mastered so well during his spectacular racing career.

Plaques were given until 1988 when Rick Mears came up with the idea for Baby Borgs to go to the winner. On milestone anniversaries, past winners have received the Baby Borg, a mini-replica of the famous Borg-Warner Trophy.

Indianapolis 500 winners Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Al Unser all received Baby Borgs on the 50thanniversary of their first wins.

On April 24, it was Johncock’s turn to hold his Baby Borg.

“This is really something very special,” Michelle Collins, global director of marketing and public relations for BorgWarner, said before presenting the Baby Borg to Johncock. “Every day, I’m dealing with a lot of other things with corporate America, buying and selling companies, a lot of different things. This is the most exciting, by far.

“To continue this tradition of drivers who have been able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their win is very special. This was really Steve Shunck’s brainchild, and he really admires Gordon Johncock. I’m happy to support it any way I can.”

Crew members. including 1982 crew chief George Huening and crew members John Anderson, Larry Faust, Bones Breiton, were reunited with the driver who won one of the most dramatic Indianapolis 500s in history in his famous duel with Rick Mears.

“We had breakfast the other day with my crew, and it was great to see all of the guys,” Johncock said. “Racing has really been good to me. With the help of a lot of people, no one person does it themselves. I don’t care if it’s baseball or football or basketball, along the way you have had help from a lot of people. One person can’t do it by themselves. They have to have help. They have all done a lot to put this together and I want to thank them very much and everybody for participating in this event.”

At that time, it was the closest Indianapolis 500 in history with the margin of victory just 0.16 seconds.

Today, it is the fifth-closest finish in Indy 500 history behind 1992 (Al Unser Jr. by 0.043 seconds ahead of Scott Goodyear) 2014 (Ryan Hunter-Reay’ by 0.0600 seconds over Helio Castroneves), 2006 (Sam Hornish Jr. by 0.0635 seconds over Marco Andretti and 2015 (Juan Pablo Montoya by 0.1046 seconds over Will Power).

Gordon Johncock with Michelle Collins of BorgWarner (Bruce Martin).

But that 1982 finish was the first time in Indianapolis 500 history that anyone had seen such a fierce fight to the checkered flag.

“By far the biggest thrill of my racing career was winning Indianapolis in 1982,” Johncock recalled. “The way it happened, the competition, so many near wins after 1973 and it all came together, and the car lasted in 1982.

“Plus, I’ve got amazing respect for Rick Mears, one of the very best. He was never my teammate, but I think we could have been good ones. I think the more pressure that was on me during a race the better I did and with the car pushing so bad and Rick on my tail it was great.  I’ll never forget it. There are so many memories from that day – the crazy start, my final pit stop and winning by such a narrow margin – pushing so hard the final laps with Rick in my mirrors.”

At that time, there was no speed limit on pit lane and on Johncock’s final pit stop of the race, he came flying down a very bumpy pit lane for the pit stop that kept him ahead of Mears, setting up the dramatic fight to the finish.

“I really benefitted from no pit speed limit at Indianapolis,” Johncock said. “I could come into the pits off Turn 4 wide open and never let off until I was actually on pit road. I was probably going 190 miles an hour.

“But that was racing back then, and you had to go 100 percent wherever you could. You never really thought about it – you just kept your foot down as long as you could and slowed to hit your marks.”

His most dominating performance in the Indianapolis 500, however, came in 1977 when he was in front for 129 laps before his engine blew up while leading A.J. Foyt by a wide margin with just 16 laps remaining.

“The 1977 500 was the biggest disappointment of my life – the biggest,” Johncock said. “A.J. was 13 or so seconds behind me. I was running so smooth and easy. Then coming out of 4, the crankshaft breaks, I pulled over in the Turn 1 grass, get out of the car and laid down in the creek.

“We had it won. A.J. would have never caught me. He would have never caught me.

Two-time Indy 500 winner Gordon Johncock visits the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum with family members (IndyCar).

“Boy oh boy, I’m still disappointed.”

Those two Indianapolis 500s stand in a group of special races that rank high in the history of the “World’s Greatest Race.” The 1977 Indianapolis 500 is when Foyt became the first driver to win the Indy 500 four times in his career. The 1982 race is one of the best duels in Indy 500 history.

The 1973 race, however, isn’t remembered for its spectacular racing, it’s remembered for the dark side of racing.

It was one of the most morbid Indy 500s in history.

There were three fatalities, including popular driver Art Pollard, who was killed in the final Saturday morning practice before Pole Day Qualifications. Johncock’s teammate was Swede Savage, who was in a horrifying crash in Turn 4 and was badly burned as he tried to extricate himself from his racing seat, which was the only thing left on the track from the crash.

Savage would die from those injuries one month later.

Armando Teran, a crewmember for another teammate on the STP team, Graham McRae, was killed as he was running up pit lane after Savage’s crash and was hit by a speeding safety vehicle on pit road, in full view of the spectators (including the Indianapolis 500 Festival Queen and her court).

The impact was so severe, it sent Teran flying 30 feet in the air and ripped the shoes off his feet. Several Indianapolis 500 Princesses fainted when they saw the incident.

The race was red-flagged for the crash and eventually restarted. But it began to rain close to 6 p.m. and the race mercifully was called official after 133 laps with Johncock the winner. He led a race-high 64 laps, more than Bobby Unser (39), Al Unser (18) and Savage (12).

Through tragedy, there was triumph for Johncock and chief mechanic George Bignotti, who won his sixth Indy 500 win in 1973 on his way to seven (which he accomplished with Tom Sneva in 1983).

The darkness of 1973, brought tremendous safety advancements to the Indy 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, creating many bright memories.

On April 24, it was a time to celebrate, and it became a Johncock family reunion.

Relatives came from all over the country including his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.

Pamilee Johncock Koval is the youngest of five children from Gordon Johncock’s family. She is from Dallas, Texas, and brought her three children, one grandson, her son’s fiancé, and her daughter’s boyfriend to see her father get honored.

(Dan R. Boyd for BorgWarner)

“Of course, we spent a lot of time at the track when I was younger, staying in apartments for the month of May,” Koval said. “We have spent a lot of time in Indiana when I was younger, but today was a great celebration having all of our family here, and there are a lot of us.

“We don’t get to see each other because we live across the country, but today was a great celebration with all of the grandchildren.”

Koval was 10 when Johncock won his first Indy 500 in 1973 and 19 when he won the race in 1982.

“That race was very exciting and the race with Rick Mears, being so close, was fabulous and it’s a memory we will never forget,” Koval remembered. “The experience from the race, victory circle and going to the victory banquet was incredible as a child.

“Just being in Victory Circle to celebrate as a family was awesome.

“It’s a joy that he felt. It was incredible but no different than any race. When he was done with the banquets and parties and signing things, he was ready to go home and go back to work.”

Johncock grew up in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s racing Super Modifieds and had most of his success on paved tracks, though he did get some memorable wins on the dirt. In 1964 driving a USAC Sprint car, he set a half-mile world record at high-banked Winchester Speedway in Indiana turning a blazing lap of 104.773 mph.

IndyCar president Jay Frye talks with two-time Indy 500 winner Gordon Johncock at his Baby Borg ceremony (Bruce Martin).

Johncock finished fifth as a rookie in 1965 at IMS. Jim Clark won ahead of Parnelli Jones, rookie of the year Mario Andretti and Al Miller. Johncock drove a roadster, one of only six front-engine cars in the field.

At 86, Johncock continues to put in a hard day’s work.

He has owned Johncock Forestry Products since 2010. There are 21 employees. Johncock Forestry Products mainly saws logs into pallet material and uses the bark from logs to make landscaping mulch. He lives in South Branch, Michigan, (population 841) with his wife Sue. They were married in 1990, and both have children from previous marriages.

“When I was 5, I started to work on the family farm, I drove a John Deere tractor and my dad had me follow a string that was attached to sticks at the end of each row of corn,” Johncock recalled. “He rode behind me on his tractor, that’s how it all started – farming and driving – all at five years old in Hastings. Michigan. Before I was five, they had me helping with other chores.

“I’ve been on a farm pretty much all my life and enjoy it.”

The “Man from Michigan” is more at home in a flannel shirt and blue jeans, than in a coat and tie. That was the theme for Monday’s “Baby Borg” event as the dress code was “Johncock Casual” — flannel shirts required.

Koval’s father is not a man who shows much outward emotion, but his daughter sensed just how much the Baby Borg celebration meant to him.

“It’s a joy that he felt, it was absolutely incredible,” Koval said, as her voice began to choke with emotion, her eyes welling with tears of pride. “We are so proud. It’s incredible.

“He’s a very humble man.

“It’s wonderful.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

(Bruce Martin)

Motocross 2023: Results and points after SuperMotocross Round 18 at Hangtown


For the second consecutive week, Jett Lawrence had perfect results in the Pro Motocross round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California with a pair of moto wins and the overall victory, only this time he didn’t have Chase Sexton, who sat out the round with a concussion, to keep him honest in the second race.

Jett Lawrence’s performance in the first two Motocross rounds has him thinking of a rookie championship. – Align Media

Lawrence led all 16 laps of both races after taking the holeshot in the second moto and grabbing the lead from Dylan Ferrandis in Turn 2 of Moto 1. Lawrence claimed a four-second lead in Moto 1 and five seconds in Moto 2, but as dominant as it seems on paper, there were some exciting moments during the weekend. In the second race, Lawrence wanted to build an advantage that would allow him to maintain his pace and he nearly high-sided a couple of times in heavy ruts.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Results; Click here for 250 Results

In his second race back from a concussion, Ferrandis finished in the runner-up spot with a second in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. While his finish of second overall goes into the record books, Pro Motocross points are rewarded for each individual race and that meant Ferrandis lost eight points in championship battle to Lawrence. With Sexton failing to mount up for the race, Ferrandis advanced to second in the standings with an 18-point gap to Lawrence. Equally important, Ferrandis gained ground in the SuperMotocross World Championship (WSX) points and now has a gap of 44 over 21st-place Justin Starling.

Cooper Webb is also in his second round since returning from a Supercross injury suffered in Nashville at the end of their season. Claiming results of fourth and second in the two races, Webb earned 40 SuperMotocross points at Hangtown and closed in on Sexton in the WSX battle. Sexton entered Hangtown with a large enough lead that he could not be overtaken, but he is now only 38 points up and could face a difficult decision next week at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado if he wants to hold onto his lead.

Moto 1 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Moto 2 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Consolation Race

Aaron Plessinger had an adventurous weekend in which he seemed to close on Lawrence in his second race before crashing and dropping to fourth. Coupled with a fifth-place finish in Moto 1, he earned 35 points and was credited with fourth overall.

Cashing in on confidence he gained in the final rounds of the Supercross season, Adam Cianciarulo earned his first top-five of the Pro Motocross championship after narrowly missing out last week with a sixth. He earned the distinction with consistent results of fifth in Moto 1 and fourth in Moto 2.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

Hunter Lawrence showed his back to the competition at Hangtown, just as he did the week prior at Fox Raceway. – Align Media

The Lawrence brothers made history last week as the first siblings to win in two Pro Motocross divisions on the same day. Fans should get accustomed to seeing this happen with some regularity as Hunter Lawrence posted identical results in Hangtown to those he had at Fox Raceway in the season opener.

In both races, Lawrence got off to a slow start in Moto 1 and had to claw his way back to the podium. He dominated Moto 2 in both rounds to earn the overall victories.

Justin Cooper did not allow Lawrence to gain much of an advantage in the Motocross points’ standings, however. Finishing second in both motos, the earned only one point less than Lawrence. His modest showing in Round 1 of the outdoor season has him 12 points out of first in the championship standings.

Moto 1 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Moto 2 Results | Lap Chart | Fastest Segment Laps | Consolation Race

Haiden Deegan scored his first moto win in just his fourth start in the series. In the first race of the day, he had to withstand constant pressure from Cooper, but when his teammate closed in on him, Deegan reached down and found a little more speed. Now that he’s won one of these races, he has his sight set on challenging Lawrence for the title. Deegan is second in the Pro Motocross championship standings with a 10-point deficit to the leader.

Haiden Deegan scored podiums in both Motocross rounds of 2023. – Align Media

Tom Vialle tied his career-best finish of fourth overall with a seventh-place finish in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. Vialle was fourth last week in overall ranking and has one fourth-place finish in the Supercross series that came in the Triple Crown format at Arlington.

Click here for 250 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

RJ Hampshire rounded out the top five with a pair of fifth-place results and 32 points for the round. Even though the deficit is a whopping 61 points, Hampshire climbed to second in the SuperMotocross championship standings now that Jett Lawrence has moved to the big bikes.

Jalek Swoll struggled last week and finished 21st overall at Fox Raceway. This week, he finished on the cusp of 10th in both races with a ninth in Moto 1 and 11th in Moto 2. In the SuperMotocross standings, he has a lot of ground to make up. He currently sits 49th on the chart with a 70-point gap to Chance Hymas, who is on the bubble to earn a guaranteed position in the SMX Mains for the three playoff races that will be held on September.

2023 Motocross Results

Round 1: Jett Lawrence, Hunter Lawrence win

2023 Supercross Results

Round 17: Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence win
Round 16: Chase Sexton, RJ Hampshire win
Round 15: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 14: Justin Barcia, Max Anstie win
Round 13: Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence win
Round 12: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Eli Tomac, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Round 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 18: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top
Week 16: Chase Sexton takes SX title
Week 15: Eli Tomac is back on top
Week 14: Justin Barcia, most of top 20, hold steady
Week 13: Barcia leapfrogs the Big Three
Week 12: Eli Tomac gains momentum
Week 11: Cooper Webb, Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
Week 10: Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Sexton unseats Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s