Sep 11, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT
September 11 stirs the emotions like few other days on the calendar. As Americans, we tend to get caught up in the patriotism and the emotions of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
Racing has its own form of memorials on Sept. 11, in the form of two very talented drivers who we lost on that day many years ago. Ronnie Peterson died Sept. 11, 1978, and Gonzalo Rodriguez passed on Sept. 11, 1999.
Peterson (pictured), better known as “Super Swede,” was a World Champion-in-waiting in the 1970s. His stint at March to open his career, including a runner-up finish in the 1971 World Championship, led to an opportunity with Colin Chapman’s all-conquering Team Lotus, where he won 10 Grands Prix.
As Mario Andretti’s teammate in 1978, Peterson won twice and entered the Italian Grand Prix just more than a race win back. But the tragic crash just after the start of the race, where Peterson’s Lotus went in several different directions and caught fire, was enough to claim his life. He died in hospital the day after the race, aged 34. A tribute video compiled on the 30-year anniversary, five years ago, is below.
Rodriguez, a Uruguayan driver, starred in 1999 with a famous victory in the F3000 race at Monaco with the lesser-rated Astromega team. His performances caught the eye of Roger Penske, who invited him to America to drive a second CART Champ Car at Detroit and Laguna Seca in the second half of the season.
At Detroit, Penske announced Gil de Ferran and Greg Moore would be his new drivers for 2000, but still wanted to provide Rodriguez an opportunity to showcase himself to other team owners. A point on debut with a 12th-place finish was a very good result, indeed.
Come Laguna, though, Rodriguez had an accident in practice with a stuck open throttle at the notorious Corkscrew corner. His car front-flipped over the barrier and catch-fencing and landed upside down on the other side. Rodriguez was pronounced dead from a basilar skull fracture.
That was a particularly gut-wrenching time for Penske, whose other future driver, Moore, was killed later that year in the season finale at the California Speedway. Rodriguez was on several teams’ shortlists for drives in 2000. Sadly, neither was able to fulfill their potential in the new century.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:48 AM EDT
All-electric Garage 56 prototype features another familiar Nissan name in his Le Mans return.
Apr 15, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT
If Sprint Cup drivers’ comments during today’s Goodyear tire test at Kansas Speedway are an indication, we can expect to see track records fall next month on the 1.5-mile oval.
Apr 15, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Kyle Petty breaks down critical pit strategies in recent races, and Nate Ryan reports on today’s Goodyear tire test at Kansas.
Apr 15, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
Rookie rival Kyle Larson has been more flashy, but Dillon’s consistency has paid off in the season’s first eight races.
Apr 15, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT
On tap: The decision of four tires or two; Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson; today’s tire test at Kansas; and the Darlington edition of “Scan All 43.”
Apr 15, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT
Mosley’s advice to current FIA president Jean Todt? “Take no notice.”
Apr 15, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT
The first race of last month’s season-opening weekend in St. Petersburg was rained out.
Apr 15, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT
The Force India driver will look to continue his momentum this weekend in China.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT
The test will help determine the aerodynamic options available to teams for this June’s IndyCar event on the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth.
Apr 15, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Video highlights from the first Chinese Grand Prix, already 10 years ago.
Apr 15, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT
Like father, like daughter? Ella Sofia Gordon got her first taste of a quarter-midget car earlier this week.
Apr 15, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Some of IndyCar’s top performers, stats of notes and points after two races.
Apr 15, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Indy Lights rookie Lloyd Read has either been really unlucky with circumstances or really lucky to avoid worse circumstances in the first two races, depending on your interpretation.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Where the NASCAR points standings sit after eight races, now post-Darlington.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Expert insight from NBCSN’s IndyCar ace analyst Townsend Bell returns for a second season on MotorSportsTalk.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT
No overturning of Red Bull’s appeal at Melbourne.
Apr 14, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
See what changed between Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon for three of IndyCar’s best – a street race at Long Beach where the gloves came off.
Apr 14, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT
Sabine Kehm also talks about the Schumacher family having to deal with “untruths” in media reports about the seven-time F1 champion’s health.
Apr 14, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Rick Allen and Kyle Petty discuss the Darlington efforts from Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson – as well as Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer’s late incident.
Apr 14, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
The open-wheel veteran will drive a third car for the defending ’500′ champions.
More from NASCAR America
- IndyCar: Massive crash triggered after round of pit stops (VIDEO) (17)
- Clint Bowyer hits ‘white-of-your-eyes-fast’ speed of 217 mph in tire test at Michigan (13)
- American-based F1 franchise, Haas Formula, officially introduced (9)
- Andretti drivers say GP of Long Beach should stay with IndyCar (7)
- Kurt Busch won’t soon forget Clint Bowyer’s race-ruining shove at Darlington (VIDEO) (6)