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USAC's McCluskey Dead at 63 : Auto racing: He was the first to win two 500-mile races in one year.

August 30, 1993|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Roger McCluskey, one of only three drivers to win United States Auto Club championships in three racing divisions, died Sunday in an Indianapolis hospital after a three-year bout with cancer. He was 63.

In 1972, the Tucson driver won the California 500 for Indy cars at Ontario Motor Speedway and a 500-mile stock car race at Pocono, Pa., to become the first to win two 500-mile races in the same year. The next year, McCluskey won the USAC championship division to complete his trio of titles. Earlier, he won USAC championships in sprint cars in 1963 and 1966 and stock cars in 1969 and 1970.

The only other drivers with victories in three divisions are A.J. Foyt and Pancho Carter.

McCluskey drove in 18 Indianapolis 500s and was third in 1973 behind Gordon Johncock and Bill Vukovich Jr. for his highest finish. After 32 years as a driver, he won the Milwaukee 200 in the final race of 1979 and retired to become executive vice president and director of competition for USAC.

Although the California 500 was McCluskey's most important victory, perhaps his most memorable ride came in 1967 during the Rex Mays 300 at Riverside International Raceway. The season-ending race would decide the national championship between Foyt and Mario Andretti. McCluskey was leading when he learned that Foyt had tangled with Al Miller and was out of the race.

Even though he was eighth in points and a victory would move him up, McCluskey wheeled into the pits and turned his car over to Foyt. A.J. finished fifth, gaining just enough points to edge Andretti for the national championship. Later, it was learned that Foyt had given McCluskey a sprint-car ride that helped him win a USAC championship the previous year.

"It was the measure of the man that he never complained," car owner Andy Granatelli said at the time. "He was returning a favor and never gave it a second thought."

During the early part of his career, McCluskey was a regular on the United Racing Assn. midget and California Racing Assn. sprint car circuits in Southern California.

As a USAC executive, McCluskey was credited with instituting the rookie orientation program for the Indianapolis 500.

"Roger was an inspiration to all of us at USAC," said Dick King, USAC president. "We are deeply indebted for his guidance and will miss his steady hand."

Services are pending in Indianapolis.

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