1957: A Special Sweep
Peter DePaolo Engineering and pilot Jerry Unser were in the chase to win a USAC championship when 1957’s industrywide racing ban officially shut down Big Three “skunkworks” operations in June.
Both of DePaolo’s factory-supercharged, 312ci Fords went up for sale. HOT ROD owner Robert E. Petersen stepped up to help the Unser brothers become overnight team owners, with enough leftover lettuce to last until October’s series finale at the new Riverside Raceway.
Jerry’s Ford (92)—the same car that won Pikes Peak back in July—brought a 300-point lead over Ralph Moody into a showdown paying 500 First Place points. The first stock-car race on Riverside’s 3.3-mile sporty-car course saw the two title contenders trade the lead for the first 44 of 76 laps, after which Moody dropped out, clinching Unser’s title. Ten laps from the end, Jerry was trailing Jimmy Bryan until the Mercury (4) lost ignition, handing him the final win of a championship year. Completing the famous family’s clean sweep, Bobby qualified the second Hot Rod Special on the pole and brother Louie was named top mechanic.
Both photos are outtakes to the two similar shots published in HRM’s Feb. 1958 race coverage. We found all four frames on the same 12-exposure roll. Here, Bobby looks less than thrilled by the cheap clock trophy awarded to a polesitter. Making the presentation is none other than builder (and 1925 Indy 500 winner) Peter DePaolo.