RETRO: Zimmerman and Fiore’s 1971 Indy upset
Of all of the shoestring tales which have graced Gasoline Alley by means of the years, it’s robust to prime the accomplishment of Denny Zimmerman and Frank Fiore Racing in 1971.
Fiore, a floor upkeep machinist for United Airways, had campaigned midgets on the West Coast for years with some first rate footwear like Chuck Sales space, Tommy Copp, Bruce Walkup and Dave Strickland however all the time had the Indy 500 bug. He’d made an try in 1968 with an previous Huffaker that had been restored after Bobby Unser stuffed it underneath the guardrail in Flip 3 at Phoenix, however the Speedy’s Broasted Rooster Particular misplaced a water pump as Dee Jones was attempting to qualify.
Then Frank mortgaged and refinanced his home to buy a 3-year-old Vollstedt-Offy for Indy in 1971, which, when positioned subsequent to the brand new McLaren, seemed like a Cleaning soap Field Derby racer. However he and son Frank Jr. towed it again behind their motorhome searching for fame and fortune — or at the least an opportunity to make the race. They wished to rent Jimmy Boyd or midget ace Burt Foland however USAC rejected each drivers.
USAC tech chief Frankie Del Roy advised a younger unknown from the East Coast who’d been operating strongly in midgets, sprints and modifieds. He’d additionally logged some miles in earlier Mays with Joe Hunt, Barney Navarro and Bulldog Stables however by no means made the present.
“I all the time felt that I had a lot seat time with these guys that Firestone obtained me the journey with Fiore, after which it seems it was Frankie Del Roy and I by no means obtained an opportunity to thank him earlier than he handed,” remembers Zimmerman.
In fact there have been nonetheless just some obstacles. Large Frank obtained two weeks of trip however wanted 4 to compete on the Speedway so United gave him two additional weeks with no pay if he put their decal on the automotive.
“We additionally solely had one engine, 4 wheels, no spares and we slept within the camper within the individuals’ car parking zone each night time and showered in Gasoline Alley,” remembers Frank Jr., who was then a sophomore in highschool. “I used to be too younger to get within the pits however after 6 p.m. a few the guards would let me go in and assist Dad.
“However we by no means checked out it as a hardship or poor us. Hell, we have been on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with our personal automotive.”
Zimmerman was a brainy driver who understood the panorama, so he didn’t rush something or take pointless possibilities these first two weeks of apply.
“I figured we had an opportunity — we labored laborious the entire month however we weren’t prepared first weekend,” he stated. “I did have a whole lot of teaching assist from Bobby Grim and Bob Harkey, after which any individual advised somewhat spoiler on the again and it made the automotive 5mph quicker. It was comfy and that’s why we made the present.”
There have been 72 qualifying makes an attempt (every automotive solely obtained three) and 25 drivers didn’t make it as Denny certified at 169.7mph (Peter Revson was on pole in his McLaren at 178.695mph), ran all day on one set of tires and completed eighth.
“I used to be blessed, put my coronary heart into it and it labored out,” stated the ’71 Rookie of the Yr.
Little Frank appreciates the period and his household’s place in it.
“I’m so glad I lived in that period of IndyCar racing and I feel Dad realized we’d performed one thing particular as a result of Indy is Indy and we did all of our personal work. My mother was a Rosie the Riveter in WWII and he or she welded all the pieces on our race automobiles.
“Donald Davidson thinks Dad was the final automotive proprietor to generate income as a result of he spent $18,000 and picked up $26,000. Nevertheless it was by no means concerning the cash — Dad was a USAC man and that was the spotlight of his life.”