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[Portland Tribune] Rose Cup race hits 50 at PIR

Rose Cup race hits 50 at PIR

Original idea was to get kids, sports cars off the local streets



Photo courtesy of Dick Hahn
Jerry Grant, who went on to compete in the
Indy 500 and at Le Mans, sits behind the wheel of
the Ferrari that won the inaugural Rose Cup race
in 1961. Car owner Dick Hahn shares the moment.
In the spring of 1961, the empty streets of what was known as the Vanport neighborhood in North Portland were decaying. They had been since the low-lying area was devastated by floodwaters in 1948.

The Vanport area was known for clandestine street racing throughout the 1950s, but that changed when the Portland Rose Festival, the Jaycees and the Cascade Sports Car Club decided to hold a sanctioned sports car race on the crumbling asphalt.

When the event program for this race was published, an unknown but optimistic visionary wrote “First Annual Rose Cup Races” on the cover.

Half a century later, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 13, the 50th annual Rose Cup will be run in the same place — now known as Portland International Raceway.

“The idea back then was to get the kids and their sports cars off of the streets,” says Dale LaFollette, PIR manager from 1973 to 2000. “Someone in the Jaycees noticed that the old Vanport streets all connected, and nobody could think of a reason to say no.”

With 50 years of history behind it, the Rose Cup is the longest-running amateur sports car race west of the Mississippi River. Even more interesting than the Rose Cup’s longevity is the fierce dedication of Portland’s racing enthusiasts to the event.

Among the entrants at the first Rose Cup race were two young men who thought the event sounded like fun. Monte Shelton entered his Austin-Healey 100M, and Marshall Atherton entered his MGA roadster.

Both have continued racing, and both have entered the 2010 Rose Cup. Over the years, Shelton has amassed seven Rose Cup wins, while Atherton is still seeking his first time atop the podium.

Also returning for this year’s anniversary celebration are Jerry Grant and Dick Hahn. Grant won the first two Rose Cup races in 1961 and 1962 in a Ferrari that Hahn purchased for the event.

At this year’s race, Hahn’s daughter, Cindi Lux, will be driving a new 640-horsepower Dodge Viper ACR-X provided by Chrysler’s motorsports division.

Lux has a successful history driving in the SPEED World Challenge series in Vipers, and she’s running the same car number as her dad’s original winning Ferrari.

“I think it’s kinda neat, but I don’t want to tell her that,” Hahn says. “I’m really very proud of her. She’s done really well.”

Grant’s Rose Cup victories help propel him to the big time; he raced in the Indianapolis 500 a total of 10 times between 1965 and 1976.

Grant also competed in the Can-Am series and at Le Mans, where he still holds a world-record lap time. He also was the first driver to record a 200-mph average speed on an oval track.

One of the greatest periods of Rose Cup history happened from 1975 to 1983, when the Trans-Am pro racing series was the featured event and the great racing names of that era came to Portland every June.

George Follmer was the 1972 and 1976 Trans-Am champion. His career also included racing in the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR Winston Cup and Formula One. Follmer got his Rose Cup win in 1977.

Follmer, Grant, and Hahn will all be on hand this year as honorary grand marshals of the Rose Cup.

Along with the drivers who have a long history with the event, several current stars of amateur sports car racing will look to put their names in the 50th spot on the Rose Cup trophy.

Robert Holden of Woodinville, Wash., is a regular contender, driving a bright orange Trans-Am Corvette.

Matt Crandall of Milwaukie and Nick Fluge of Portland are entered in a matched pair of Ford Mustangs built to race in the Trans-Am series. Each of these cars carries an 850-horsepower Roush Racing engine, and both of these drivers have shown that they have what it takes to run at the front.

Crandall owns the Speed Sports auto dealership on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard, and he has been winning races at PIR in his Mustang all year.

“As long as I’m able to drive a good race and stay out of problems, I think I have a fairly good chance,” Crandall says.

Fluge is a past winner of the Festival Trophy race — the second feature race of the Rose Cup weekend, and he is the GT-1 lap record-holder at PIR. He finished sixth in last year’s Rose Cup race.

“I root for everyone —Matt Crandall, Monte Shelton, Cindi Lux and Rob Holden,” Fluge says.

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