1964 Mercury and the 1964 Riverside 500

Both Ford and Mercury were well represented at the Second Annual 1964 Riverside 500 held at the Riverside, California, Raceway on January 19, 1964. While the Fords finished first, second, fourth, and fifth, the Stroppe-prepared Mercurys were plagued with bad luck. On the thirty-seventh lap Parnelli Jones broke an axel, which was quickly repaired, but he was never in contention again and later went out permanently with clutch problems. Other members of the Mercury team weren't faring much better. Rodger Ward went out early with transmission troubles. Dave MacDonald broke an axle on the twenty-third lap, had it fixed, then experienced brake lock-up. That was quickly fixed, then he lost his brakes completely. In trying to downshift his clutch linkage broke, so he pushed the Mercury up against the crash wall to stop the car and bring it into the pits permanently. Darel Dieringer in another Mercury had plenty of problems but managed to finish sixth.

The saddest Mercury experience of all was that of Joe Weatherly, The Clown Prince of Auto Racing, Now going for his third Grand National Title. Joe had pitted on the tenth lap with transmission trouble. One the thirteenth lap he had more transmission trouble, pitted and his crew changed the transmission. Then on the one hundred first lap something really went wrong. Observers believed that the throttle stuck. The Merc went up on the bank on the inside of the track entering turn six, then came off it, crossing the track and went straight for the wall. Joe was an outstanding and cautious driver. He suffered mortal head injuries, and died on the way to the hospital. Upon examining the wreck, nothing was found to be wrong with the car. To this day, exactly what caused the wreck remains a mystery. That race was ultimately won by Dan Gurney in a 1964 Ford. Near the end of the 1964 stock car season. Mercury pulled out of racing for the second and last time. But the Ford Division came to Stroppe's rescue, then Holman-Moody-Stroppe was formed in 1965 and continued racing on Both NASCAR and USAC events for five more years. After that, Stroppe crewed a car for Bobby Unser in 1969, then moved into off-road racing.

Taken from: Special Interest Autos #162 November, December 1997 page 62