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Former Indy 500 crew chief George Bignotti to be honored

Updated April 12, 2018 - 1:03 pm

In his later years he rarely talked about the seven times he turned the wrenches on Indianapolis 500-winning cars. But when he lived on Canyon Gate golf course, you didn’t have to look very far to be reminded of George Bignotti’s prowess as an auto racing mechanic.

On top of his TV set was the helmet Tom Sneva wore when he won the 1983 Indy 500.

That was the last of Bignotti’s victories as an Indy 500 crew chief. He teamed with legends A.J. Foyt and Al Unser for two each, and Graham Hill, Gordon Johncock and Sneva for the other three.

Bignotti, who spent most of his retirement in Las Vegas before he died in 2013 at age 97, will be inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame on June 21 in Napa, California, along with ISM (Phoenix) Raceway president Bryan Sperber, drivers Freddie Agabashian, Bill Cheesbourg Jr. and Clyde Prickett and Mickey Thompson, who drove and owned race cars of many ilks and also was a respected auto racing promoter.

This year’s class definitely has an Indy 500 connection. In addition to Bignotti’s success as a crew chief, Agabashian drove in the big race 11 times (he earned the pole position in 1952) while Cheesbourg made six Indy starts and Thompson fielded radically designed cars that competed in multiple Indy 500s during the early 1960s.

Green, white, checkered

— Except for Courtney Force setting fast qualifying time in Funny Car, it wasn’t the greatest of weekends for John and the family Force at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But at least a Force did not go to the hospital as a result of a crash on the new and silky smooth four-lane setup that drew rave driver reviews.

Patriarch and 16-time Funny Car champion John Force was hospitalized with minor injuries during each of the first two NHRA races; daughter Brittany, the reigning Top Fuel champion, suffered bruises after a frightening crash during the first round of final eliminations at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, California.

The Forces stand ninth in Top Fuel (Brittany) and second (Courtney) and 11th (John) in Funny Car after the Four-Wide Nats.

— Jason Reichert, a lone wolf among aspiring local auto racers — he’s pursuing a career in open wheel cars — scored a podium finish in a F2000 race at Thunderhill Raceway Park in California. It was the Henderson youngster’s first drive at Thunderhill during which track conditions switched from wet to dry during the race meeting.

— At the Bullring: The Canadian North American Big Rig Racing Series tops Saturday’s 7 p.m. program that also will mark the 2018 debut of the Jr. Late Models class. As always, hot dogs and Coca-Cola products will be $2 at the concession stands with Budweiser priced at $3. Spectators can save additional money by purchasing advance admission tickets through the LVMS ticket office (800-644-4444 or LVMS.com)

— Three-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett, after Las Vegan Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Cup Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend: “We need to start talking about Kyle Busch being one of the best of all time, in my opinion.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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