On This Day: May 10
Photo of Roger Penske, Vel Meletich, Parnelli Jones, and Jim Cook during May of 1971
May 10, 1970 Lime Rock
Lime Rock Park made a gamble in 1970, moving its SCCA Trans Am Series race from Memorial Day weekend to May 10. Trans Am was one of the nation’s leading motorsports series, but racing on Memorial Day often meant that several of its top stars would be racing in the Indianapolis 500.
This meant all the factory teams and star drivers came to Lime Rock Park for its second race of the 1970 season, which continues to be widely regarded as the greatest in Trans-Am Series history.
Five factory teams from all of America’s “Big Four” manufacturers – Ford (Mustang), Chevrolet (Camaro), Chrysler (Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda) and American Motors.
Roger Penske led the later manufacturer in its Trans Am debut, switching from a Camaro to a Javelin for defending champion Mark Donohue, joined by and Peter Revson.
The new date meant all the stars would converge on the Berkshire Hills. Challengers to Donohue and Revson included Parnelli Jones and George Follmer in Bud Moore’s Mustangs; Dan Gurney and Swede Savage in Gurney-prepared Barracudas; hometown favorite Sam Posey in a Ray Caldwell-prepared Challenger; and Texan Jim Hall driving his own Chaparral Camaro with Ed Leslie.
Donohue won the pole with a lap of 58.8-seconds and shared the front row with Gurney, but Jones quickly raced into contention and battled Donohue for 30 of the 146 laps. Donohue then began losing oil pressure and fell back, eventually retiring on lap 76.
Attrition took its toll on the field. Revson’s engine blew near the pit entrance on lap 46, and Gurney took ill from engine fumes and also retired on lap 76.
Jones went on to win by a lap, with Leslie second in a Chaparral Camaro, followed by Posey and Hall.
Donohue and Jones took their championship battle all the way to the final race of the season in Riverside, California. Jones on the last two round of the year to capture the unofficial driver title by only one point over Donohue, 142-141, while Ford beat AMC for the all-important manufacturers’ crown, 78-64.