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1444 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  JD
For Immediate Release - February 2002

Racing legend Joe Leonard to serve as Grand Marshal for
“Vintage Laconia” June 8-10, 2002.

Legendary racer, Joe Leonard, from San Jose, California will
be the grand Marshall for the Vintage Laconia motorcycle racing
events at the start of the historic “Laconia” Race and Rally
week June 8 - 10. Joe, multi time AMA Grand National Champion
and multi time USAC champion, is considered by many to be the
American counterpart of John Surtees with his two and four-wheel
championships. Joe was the AMA Grand National champion in 1954,
56, and 57. Becoming the Grand National champion in those years
required winning on both the paved road courses and dirt ovals
across America. Joe acquired the name smokin’ Joe for his “at
the limits” riding style that had him, at times, flat track sliding
his motorcycle on the pavement road courses on his way to victory.

Joe started his early career racing Triumphs and later switched
to the legendary Tom Sifton tuned Harley Davidsons. Joe was a
two-time winner of the famous Daytona 200 mile road race when
it was still run on the beach course. He averaged nearly 100
miles an hour in that event and set the record that would stand
until the race was moved to the super speedway. Joe won eight
Grand National events in 1954, a record that was not to be broken
until 1986. Joe won the “Laconia National” three times and the
Peoria TT an amazing eight times.
In the early 1960’s while still winning motorcycle races, Joe
started to move from motorcycle racing to Champ Car racing (Indy
Car). By the mid 1960’s he became a dominant force on the USAC
Champ Car circuit. Joe’s legend grew. Joe had 9 Indianapolis
starts in the years between 1965 and 1973. Of those nine Indy
starts, Joe finishes in the top nine positions four times. In
1968, Joe had the pole position at 171.590 miles per hour in
the STP Oil Treatment turbine. Joe led the race, until with nine
laps to go, the turbine failed. Joe won the USAC championship
twice in the early 1970’s. He had 107 entries, qualified 99 times,
qualified in the top ten 57 times and finished in the top ten
60 times. For four of Joe’s Indy starts he drove for Parnelli
As Grand Marshal for Vintage Laconia, Joe will return to the
original “Laconia” road course in Gilford, N.H. that ran from
1938 to 1963 and preside over the historic vintage event. The
US Classic Racing Association in conjunction with the Gunstock
Recreational Area reopened the original “Laconia” one-mile paved
road course in 1998 to run the Belknap Classic motorcycle road
races at the start of the world famous “Laconia” race week. On
Sunday, June 9, thousands of spectators will be treated to the
sights and unmuffled sounds of those old race machines racing
the original “Laconia” track in the hands of today’s fastest
American and Canadian vintage racers. As part of the Sunday race
program, the Reunion Riders Race is a truly historic event for
the men that raced “Laconia” during its active AMA National years
1938 to 1963. Legends like Ben Campanale, Dick Klamfoth, Ed Fisher,
Jody Nicholas, Ed Kretz Jr., Sid Swan, ****** Anderson, Frank
Antonelli, Nate Sheldon and scores of other racers that raced
the original track return to either ride the Reunion Riders Race
or reminisce on the past.
Joe will also be honored at the traditional Reunion Riders BBQ
held Saturday night in the Gunstock Main Lodge, scene of the
original presentation banquets for the “Laconia” races. The BBQ,
open to the public, is a very unique and rare opportunity to
meet and hear the former racers tell a bit of their history with
the event.
Saturday, June 8 at Gunstock is the FIM / NAMU North American
Vintage Observed Trials Championships and Monday, June10, Joe
and the vintage race action will be at the New Hampshire International
Speedway in Loudon, N.H. for the FIM / NAMU North American Vintage
Road Race Championships.
For more information on Vintage Laconia,
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