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King of the Midgets
'Big Car' Years
The 60's

Portrait of Mel available for purchase at Artemis Images. For more info visit www.artemisimages.com.

    1963

    July 28, 1963 - Mel competes in his first champ car race in the Trenton 150 in New Jersey. Mel qualified the #53 "Spirit of St. Louis" Watson Offy 21st and finished 14th some 8 laps behind event winner A.J. Foyt. Foyt led every lap of the race. Mel earned $440.00 for his first Indy Car race.

    November 17, 1963 - Mel took the #51 Fike Plumbing Kuzma Offy to Phoenix but could not get the car up to speed and failed to qualify for the Bobby Ball Memorial. Roger Ward won the race.

    1964

    June 7, 1964 - On a warm day in Milwaukee, Mel drove the #21 Kemerly Chevrolet Lesovsky Offy to his best Champ Car finish to date! After starting in the 16th spot Mel brought it home in 5th position, earning his first championship points of 100 and a whopping $1,951.00. A.J. Foyt won the race.

    July 19, 1964 - Back to Trenton, New Jersey for the Trenton 150. Mel qualified the #21 Kemerly Chevrolet Lesovsky Offy in the 16th starting spot and only completed 89 laps when the engine let go on a hot summer day. A.J. Foyt won the event and Mel received $425.00 for his 16th place finish.

    August 8, 1964 - Mel returned to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the 200 miler and qualified the the #21 Kemerly Chevrolet Lesovsky Offy in the 16th starting spot for the 3rd time in a row. Mel's engine let go after 86 laps and the car spun bringing out the yellow flag. Mel was credited with 21st finishing position and awarded $200.00 in prize money. Parnelli Jones won the rain-interrupted event in a rear-engine Lotus.

    September 27, 1964 - The 200 miler at Trenton turned out better for Mel as he brought the #21 Kemerly Chevrolet Lesovsky Offy across the line in 10th place after starting 11th. Mel acquired 60 championship points and $1,194.00 for his 2nd top ten finish of the season. Parnelli Jones and the Lotus won the race.

    November 22, 1964 - Mel returned to Phoenix and this time he qualified for the race in the 8th starting spot. Unfortunately, the power plant in the #21 Kemerly Chevrolet Lesovsky Offy blew on lap 143 and Mel was credited with a 15th place finish. Mel received $547.00 for his finishing efforts. Lloyd Ruby won the season finale in a rear-engine Halibrand Offy.

    1965

    #27 Federal Engineering Trevis Offy
    Taken from "A Hand For the Wheel" by Jack Albinson

    May 1965 - Mel's first entry into the Indianapolis 500. (above) Mel failed to qualify the #27 Federal Engineering Trevis Offy for the 1965 Indy 500. Jimmy Clark took the first ever rear-engine car to Victory Lane in the Memorial Day Classic.


    Taken from "A Hand For the Wheel" by Jack Albinson

      Mel on pit road at Indy for the first time in 1965 seen wearing the same driving suit he was wearing that fateful day at Langhorne just one month later.

    June 6, 1965 - The Milwaukee 100 starting line-up consisted of the fastest 20 cars on time and the remainder of the entry list raced for a first place finish in two separate 20-lap consolation races to transfer into the 100-mile main event. Mel finished in 3rd place in his consolation race and therefore did not qualify for the race, which was won by Parnelli Jones. Mel did however win $60.00 for his finish in the qualifying race.

    Mel is impacted by Jim Hurtubise and Ralph Ligouri and fuel spills from his ruptured fuel cell
    Fuel pours from Kenyon's #21 as the cars slide to the infield
    And then it ignites!
    Mel is unconscious in this inferno
    Mel seen slumping in his burning machine
    Hurtubise and Liguori scramble from their wrecked cars
    Joe Leonard, Charlie Musselman and a fan now identified as Ed Riker, come to pull Mel from his car.
    Photos taken from Campus Life Magazine
    The Langhorne crash: Top to bottom...
      Mel is knocked out in the initial impact which can be seen by the slumping helmet.
      After the second impact, in which Jim Hurtubise and Ralph Ligouri plowed Mel's car splitting and then igniting the fuel cell, Jim and Ralph are seen scrambling to get out of their flaming cars.
      Joe Leonard, Charlie Musselman and a fan now identified as Ed Riker (who had jumped the infield fence) rush to help an unconscious Mel from his burning machine.


"I will always be grateful for Joe Leonard, who somehow saw me
and waded into sheets of flame to help me at Langhorne
" - Mel Kenyon

Emergency crews continue to extinguish the
Photo courtesy of Paul Johnson
Emergency crews continue to extinguish the "Bonfire"

Emergency crews load Mel into the ambulance after the
Photo courtesy of Paul Johnson
Emergency crews load Mel into the ambulance after the "Bonfire""

June 20, 1965 - Mel returned to his former team driving the #21 Kemerly Chevrolet Lesovsky Offy once again. Things were looking up for Mel at Langhorne, as he was able to qualify the car in the 18th starting spot for the race. On the 27th lap of the race, Mel's good fortune looked to take a turn for the worse (above). Mel was involved in a fiery turn 3 crash which also took out the cars of Joe Leonard, Ralph Liguori, and Jim Hurtubise. Mel Kenyon suffered burns to 50 percent of his body and lost the fingers and thumb on his left hand. The racing incident changed Mel both physically and spiritually for the rest of his life. Jim McElreath went on to win the marred event. Mel was credited with 18th and awarded $294.00 both of which meant very little to Mel as he was fighting for his life in a hospital bed.

1966


"Lord, you know my name and my toasted frame.
You know what's needed to get me back in the game
" - Mel Kenyon

#94 Gerhardt Offy
Taken from "A Hand For the Wheel" by Jack Albinson

May 1966 - Wearing a special glove on his left hand created by his brother Don, Mel returned to the famed oval at Indianapolis for the 500-mile race in a valiant way! Mel qualified the rear-engine #94 Gerhardt Offy (above) in the 17th starting spot with a 4 lap average of 158.555 mph. The start of the race was a disaster though. A slow progression to the green flag and the start of the race (below), bunched up the field of 33, and drivers started looking for places to go. Billy Foster and Johnny Boyd raced for the same hole opened up by Don Branson. Billy Foster could not fit and he turned sharply to the right, slamming the wall and tearing off two wheels and the nose cone. Foster bounced off the wall and his nose cone landed directly into Mel's path. Mel spun to avoid the crash and slammed the retaining wall and slid back into the middle of the track. Seventeen cars were involved and eleven were eliminated from the race before it even started. Amazingly, Mel's car only substained a flat tire and broken wheel, and was able to rejoin the race. Mel went on to finish in 5th place as a rookie in the 500 and earned 500 championship points and a career high $21,987.00 in earnings! Graham Hill won the race.

The 1966 Indy 500 start
Taken from "A Hand For the Wheel" by Jack Albinson
Mel seen spinning in the lower photo

June 5, 1966 - After a triumphant return to the Champ Car circuit a week earlier at Indy, Mel took the #94 Gerhardt Offy to the Milwaukee Mile one week later and posted another top ten finish! Mel started in the 20th position and ended the race in the 7th spot. Mel earned 60 USAC Championship points and $1,541.00. Mario Andretti won the event.

August 27, 1966 - Mel's return to the Milwaukee Mile was not as prosperous as his previous visit. In a rain-delayed race, Mel spun the #94 Gerhardt Offy in the north turn after 31 laps. Mel was credited with a 22nd finish after starting 23rd and was awarded $200.00 in prize money. Mario Andretti again won the race.

November 22, 1966 - The Bobby Ball 200 at Phoenix proved to be no kinder to Mel than Milwaukee did. Mel qualified the #94 Gerhardt Offy 18th and his day ended up against the turn 1 wall after only 12 circuits. Mel finished 23rd and won $122.00. Mario Andretti won the event.

1967

Thermo King Teammates - Mel Kenyon & Art Pollard
Photo courtesy of Mike Pollard.

April 9, 1967 - A full season of USAC Champ Car racing began with the 150-mile event at Phoenix. Mel had a new teammate for the season by the name of Art Pollard. (above) Mel qualified his #46 Thermo King Gerhardt Offy in the 19th starting spot and brought it across the line in 10th position. The year looked promising for Mel with a top ten finish in the season opener. Mel picked up 45 championship points and $552.00. Lloyd Ruby led every lap of the race.

April 23, 1967 - The momentum from Phoenix carried over to Trenton for the Trenton 150. Mel qualified the #46 Thermo King Gerhardt Offy in a career high 10th starting spot and things only got better as Mel ended the day in the 5th position. Mel picked up another 150 championship points and $1,780.00 in prize money. Mario Andretti led every lap of the event.

#15 Thermo King Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy
Taken from "A Hand For the Wheel" by Jack Albinson

May 1967 - Mel qualified the #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy (above) in the 14th starting position. Good enough for the middle of the fifth row and right next to his Thermo King teammate Art Pollard in the #16 Gerhardt. Mel dodged the famous opening lap accident in a race which was rain delayed after 16 laps and run the following day, Mel was running with less than 25 laps remaining Mel was caught up in a crash with NASCAR standout Clae Yarbrough in the NE corner. Mel missed out on any championship points but was awarded $12,275.00 for his 16th place finish. A.J. Foyt went on to become a 3-time winner of the Indy 500 that afternoon.

This photo available for purchase at Artemis Images.com
Mel Kenyon heads out of the pits to qualify for the 1967 Indy 500.
This photograph is part of the Raymond Golub memorial collection.
This photo and thousands more available for purchase at Artemis Images.

June 4, 1967 - A week after Indy Mel was back on track at the Milwaukee Mile. Mel qualified the #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Offy in the 23rd starting spot on the inside of the last row. Mel patiently drove the car to a top ten finish by the end of the day. Mel was awarded 45 championship points and $1,487.00 for his 10th place finish. Gordon Johncock in another Gerhardt went to victory lane.

July 23, 1967 - Mel failed to qualify the #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Offy for the road course race at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Mario Andretti won the race.

August 20, 1967 - Mel felt a little more at home when he showed up for the 2nd race on the oval at the Milwaukee Mile. Mel qualified the supercharged #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Offy in the 14th starting spot and charged all race long ending the race in 7th, one lap down to Mario Andretti. Mel received 120 championship points and $1,786 for his 4th top ten of the season so far.

September 24, 1967 - On an overcast day in Trenton Mel spun the #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy after 15 laps after starting in the 19th spot. Mel was awarded $143.00 for the 24th finish. A.J. Foyt won the event.

October 22, 1967 - Mel and the team headed west for the last three races of the season. At Hanford California, Mel qualified the supercharged #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Offy in the 13th spot and finished in 10th and won 60 championship points along with $1,494.00. Gordon Johncock won the inaugural race.

November 19, 1967 - At Phoenix, Mel qualified the #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy good enough for 14th starting spot. Mel finished in 9th and was awarded 80 points and $1,058.00. It was Mel's 6th top ten finish of the season. Mario Andretti won the race.

Mel on the roadcourse at Riverside
Photo courtesy of Tom Eidemiller
    Mel crests the hill entering the blind turn 7A at Riverside International Raceway in the 1967 Rex Mays 300.

November 26, 1967 - In the season finale Rex Mays 300 on the road course at Riverside for the first time, Mel qualified the #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy in the 24th spot but went out early with a broken turbocharger after 26 laps. Mel was awarded $575.00 for his 21st place finish. Dan Gurney became the first driver to win at Riverside in both an Indy Car and a NASCAR Stock car.

1968

March 17, 1968 - The season opened at Hanford in 1968. Mel qualified his #15 Thermo King Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy in a career best starting spot of 10th. He went on to place 8th that day and started the new season on the right foot. Mel started the 68 season with 100 points towards the championship and his share of $1,219.00. Gordon Johncock again won the race. This was the last race for Mel with the current sponsorship, as Thermo King announced that they were cutting back their sponsorship to the #16 car of Art Pollard only. 3-K received word regarding this and on a lark, Mel and Don went to Lebanon city council with their problem. Through all kinds of fundraisers, enough money was raised to name the car "City of Lebanon, Indiana Special."

April 7, 1968 - With a new sponsor on the car Mel bettered his personal best starting spot by qualifying 9th fastest for the Jimmy Bryan Memorial at Phoenix in the #15 City of Lebanon Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy. Besting his personal best starting spot was not the only thing Mel improved at Phoenix, He also beat his best finishing position with a career high Champ Car finish of 3rd place one lap off of Bobby Unser who lapped the entire field. Mel won 210 championship points and his share of $1,769.00.

April 21, 1968 - For the Trenton 150, again the Lord was with Mel in a race of attrition. Mel qualified the #15 City of Lebanon Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy in the 13th starting spot in a televised race. Mel retired from the event with a broken universal joint after only 84 of the scheduled 150 laps. Fortunately for Mel and the team, 13 of the 23 starters either broke or crashed before he did and Mel ended up with a top ten finish! Mel was awarded 45 championship points and $792.00 for his 10th place finish. Bobby Unser won the race.

This photo available for purchase at Artemis Images.com
Mel in the warm up lane ready to start his qualification run for 1968 Indy 500.
This photograph is part of the Raymond Golub memorial collection.
This photo and thousands more available for purchase at Artemis Images.

This photo available for purchase at Artemis Images.com
Mel battles down the main straight with Joe Leonard in the 1968 Indy 500.
This photograph is part of the Raymond Golub memorial collection.
This photo and thousands more available for purchase at Artemis Images.

#15 City of Lebanon Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy
Taken from "A Hand For the Wheel" by Jack Albinson

May 1968 - Looked as if the Good Lord was still watching over Mel as the team competed in the 1968 running of the Indianapolis 500. In April, 3-K received word that Thermo King/Gerhardt sponsorship would not be available for the #15 car. On a lark, Mel and Don went to Lebanon city council with their problem. Through all kinds of fund raisers, enough money was raised to name the car "City of Lebanon, Indiana Special." Mel drove the #15 City of Lebanon Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy (above) and qualified 17th in the middle of the 6th row on his third attempt on the final day. Teammate Art Pollard left the team to drive the vacated seat of the famed "STP Lotus Turbine" after driver Mike Spence was killed in a practice accident. Bob Veith replaced Pollard in the #16 Thermo King Gerhardt. Mel did his best ever at Indy with a 3rd place finish on the same lap as winner Bobby Unser and second place finisher Dan Gurney. Mel was awarded a career high 700 championship points and $44,843.00.

At speed in the Indy 500
Photo courtesy of Tom Eidemiller
Mel at speed in the 1968 Indianapolis 500

June 9, 1968 - Mel failed to qualify for the Rex Mays 150 at Milwaukee after damaging his #15 City of Lebanon Special Gerhardt in a practice crash. Tragedy struck in the second Championship race in a row. Driver Ronnie Duman lost his life in a lap 2 accident involving 3 cars. Lloyd Ruby won the marred race.

August 18, 1968 - Mel qualified the #15 City of Lebanon Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy in the 16th starting spot for the Milwaukee 200. Unfortunately, the engine let go after only 33 laps. Mel finished 22nd in the event and collected $231.00. Lloyd Ruby swept both races at Milwaukee.

Mel and new teammate Bob Veith at Indy 1968
Mel and new teammate Bob Veith at Indy 1968

October 13, 1968 - A new super speedway located in the Irish Hills of Michigan played host to the champ cars with the running of the Inaugural Michigan 250. Mel qualified the #15 City of Lebanon, Indiana Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy in the 10th starting spot. Mel finished in the 4th position and collected 300 more championship points and $4,275.00. Ronnie Bucknam won the inaugural race on the high-speed D-shaped oval.

November 3, 1968 - Once again the teams headed west for the final 2 races of the season. Mel qualified the #15 City of Lebanon Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy in the 12th starting spot for the Hanford 250, but tangled with Johnny Rutherford on lap 32. Both cars were knocked out of the race and Mel was credited with a 24th finish. Mel won $359.00 for his disappointing finish. A.J. Foyt won the race.

November 17, 1968 - Mel qualified the #15 City of Lebanon Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy in the 16th starting spot for the Bobby Ball 200 at Phoenix. The engine let go after 128 laps and Mel was forced to accept a 13th place finish, just out of the points. Mel was awarded $679.00 for his finish and the race was won by Gary Bettenhausen in the #16 Thermo King Special.

Mel finished 9th in the USAC Championship Trail with a career high 1,355 points.

1969

This photo available for purchase at Artemis Images.com
Mel in discussion prior to his qualification run for 1969 Indy 500.
This photograph is part of the Raymond Golub memorial collection.
This photo and thousands more available for purchase at Artemis Images.

This photo available for purchase at Artemis Images.com
Mel heads out for his qualification run on the 2nd weekend.
This photograph is part of the Raymond Golub memorial collection.
This photo and thousands more available for purchase at Artemis Images.


Taken from "A Hand For the Wheel" by Jack Albinson

Mel prepares to do battle in the 1969 Indy 500
Photo courtesy of Tom Eidemiller
Mel prepares to do battle in the 1969 Indy 500

May 1969 - Running a limited schedule in 1969 Mel qualified his #9 Krohne Grain Transport Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy (above) on the outside of the 8th row in the 24th starting spot. As in the years previous the Brickyard treats Mel kindly with a good safe race and a 4th place finish on the same lap as the leaders. Mel was awarded 600 championship points and his share of $30,612.00. Mario Andretti won his first and only Indy 500 in 1969.

This photo available for purchase at Artemis Images.com
Mel battles with Jim Malloy down the front stretch at Indy in 1969.
This photograph is part of the Raymond Golub memorial collection.
This photo and thousands more available for purchase at Artemis Images.

A cool drink after a long race!
Photo courtesy of Paul Johnson
Mel cools off with a cold drink after the 1969 Indianapolis 500 Mile Sweepstakes.

June 8, 1969 - In a wild event at the Milwaukee Mile, Mel managed to miss a 10-car pileup on the opening lap, which eliminated nearly half of the field including the race winner's original entry! Mel qualified the #9 Krohne Grain Transport Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy near the back of the field in the 20th position. Mel's rear linkage broke after only 42 laps and he finished 12th and won his share of $2,282.00 and 15 championship points. As for the winner of the race, Art Pollard's original STP Gerhardt was damaged in the opening lap fiasco and he replaced team driver Greg Weld in the #57 Gerhardt and went on to win his first Champ Car race.

August 17, 1969 - For the Tony Bettenhausen 200 at Milwaukee again, Mel qualified much better than the previous race at the Milwaukee Mile in the 13th spot. Unfortunately Mel crashed the #9 Krohne Grain Transport Special Gerhardt Turbocharged Offy on the 40th lap and finished a disappointing 24th. Mel was awarded $453.00 in prize money and Al Unser went on to win the race.

Click to continue to the 70's

Special thanks to Phil Harm at Motorsport.com for their racing archives!


With God You're Always A Winner!
1964 USAC National Midget Champion 1967 USAC National Midget Champion 1968 USAC National Midget Champion 1974 USAC National Midget Champion 1977 USAC National Midget Champion 1981 USAC National Midget Champion 1985 USAC National Midget Champion 1995 NAMARS Midget Champion 1996 NAMARS Midget Champion 1997 NAMARS Midget Champion

#61 - Mel Kenyon: King of the Midgets
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