I was sitting in the packed main grandstand just shy of the pit exit for the flying start of the 1966 Indianapolis 500 when tires and suspension pieces and racer nosecones started exploding in the air. It was eerily similar to two years earlier, but without the fire and smoke, when I’d witnessed the most horrifying crash in Indy history. Thankfully, this time, no one was seriously injured.
But in the melee about a third of the starting field was eliminated, including favorites like A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney and Don Branson. Yet a British rookie and Formula 1 champion, Graham Hill, picked his way through the carnage in his rear-engined Lola to run near the front all day. Favorite and 1965 Indy champ Jim Clark was setting a strong pace in his brilliant red STP Lotus, but he spun twice during the race, leading to folks saying that STP stands for Spinning Takes Practice. Hill snuck past Clark on one spin though, ultimately gaining the win after another F1 great, and Hill’s teammate, Jackie Stewart’s car failed with less than 10 laps remaining.
Racers were simpler and more delicate looking, yet beautiful, in the 1960s. Now Spark Model delivers a stellar version of the red and white American Red Ball Special that Hill drove to the 1966 Indy win, in 1:43 scale.