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                     Lou Figaro
                   
Born:
October 12, 1920      Died: October 25, 1954
                                                                     Home: Inglewood, CA

Lou Figaro _____ During the early years of late model stock car racing on the west coast, no name was more well known than that of the South Gate, California driver Lou Figaro. Figaro started his racing career in the early 1930’s and drove everything he could get his hands on. He liked stock cars, and by the end of WWII had decided to direct most of his energy to that type of racing. He was always a Hudson man and when the Hudson Hornet came out in 1951, Lou was there driving one of Jimmy Dane’s cars. He ran the Mexican Road Race with a Hudson and nearly lost his life in that effort. Lou raced with AAA, NASCAR, IMCA and WAR and won many races. He was especially fast on the high bands of Oakland, and the ˝ mile dirt at Carrell Speedway. He won the 1953 WAR Championship for Late Models and in 1954 had decided to concentrate on running NASCAR Grand National events in the south. In 1954 in North Wilkesboro, NC he had dinner with Hershel McGriff. The next day McGriff won, and Lou Figaro met his untimely demise. Gone but not forgotten, his granddaughter Tracy Figaro Davis accepted for his West Coast Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame induction.

Erick Erickson (as written by his son) in the #2 Olds, Lou Figaro in the #33 Hudson Hornet.  They raced each other a lot.  Lou was another of Dad's main rivals.  He was a good driver in good equipment.  Lou was inducted in to the 2002 West Coast Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame.  Until my friend Denny Hudock made me aware of the HoF, Dad's memories and accomplishments were largely forgotten.  Now he is finally getting the recognition he earned.  Dad was invited as a guest of honor to the 2003 Winston West Banquet and awards ceremony, as a past champion.
 

30 Inducted in 1st Annual West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Banquet
7/31/2002 by: Tim Kennedy
The first annual West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame banquet took place Friday, July 26, at the Sheraton-Four Points Hotel. The initial 30 inductees were honored in ceremonies attended by approximately 200 persons, including NASCAR Chairman Bill France Jr., NASCAR Executive Vice President Brian France and NASCAR Vice President of Broadcasting Paul Brooks.

The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame honors drivers, car owners, mechanics, officials and race promoters/organizers who have made significant contributions to the success and colorful history of stock car racing in the West. Tim Meyer, editor/publisher of Racing News West in Utah, was instrumental in making the Hall of Fame a reality.

The second annual induction ceremonies and third West Coast Stock Car Reunion are expected to take place in 2003 on a NASCAR Winston West Series race weekend at Irwindale.

Honorees and guests attended the NASCAR Winston West race and second annual West Coast Stock Car Reunion Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m.at Irwindale Speedway. They met fans and signed autographs again this year in the track's chalet village area. Jack McCoy's purple No. 7 winged Dodge Daytona, a vintage No. 29 Hudson Hornet that still started, and Don Basile's No. 15 1946 Ford coupe post-WW II stock car were on display.

Following dinner Friday at 7 p.m., the Hall of Fame ceremonies commenced at 8 p.m. Most of the inductee and family members were able to attend. They included Ray Elder, Bill Amick, Danny Letner, Eddie Gray, Lloyd Dane, Marvin Porter, Ron Hornaday, Sr, Marvin Panch, Hershel McGriff, Scotty Cain, Bill Schmitt, Jack McCoy, Jimmy Insolo, Jim Robinson, Roy Smith, Parnelli Jones, Troy Ruttman, Johnny Soares, Sr,  Lou Figaro and Ernie Conn.

Also included were Cos Cancilla, Carl and Jim Dane, Bill Stroppe and tire innovator Bruce Alexander. Race organizers/officials inducted into the hall of fame were: J. C. Agajanian, Ken Clapp, Bob Barkhimer, Charlie Curryer and Les Richter.

Lou Figaro died in the Wilkes 160 North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, on October 24, 1954.in a one-car crash, when his #187 Hudson Hornet flipped over onto its roof. He started from the pole and won the first race at Carrell Speedway in 1951. It was his only win.

October 24, 1954   “Wilkes 160” -  The Last Race . . . .
The lead changed hands 4 times between 2 different drivers. At the end of the day Herschel McGriff led 74 laps along with the most important lap—the last one. McGriff started from the pole with a qualifying speed of 77.612 mph. McGriff started driving out west. He drove his first race at Portland, Oregon on Sept. 16, 1945. He ran a handful of races in the NASCAR ranks each year from 1950-53 and from 1971-93, mainly out west. He attempted to qualify for the Brickyard 400 in 1994, at the age of 66, but couldn’t post a fast enough lap. He found himself finishing his career in the Winston West Series in 2002 at the age of 74. McGriff was 58 when he won the NASCAR Winston West championship. In 1976, Big Bill France offered sponsorship to McGriff’s racing team along with another NASCAR team to be the first NASCAR stock cars to compete in the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Herschel McGriff has won NASCAR races in the last six decades and won the Mexican Road Race in 1950. This was McGriff's only Grand National race at NWS.

Coming in second was Buck Baker, the Grand National Champion in 1956 and ‘57. Baker was the driver originally credited with the win at Jacksonville in December of 1963, but after the race, scorers discovered that Wendell Scott had completed 202 laps, two more than the scheduled distance. Scott would later be declared the winner—that’s the politically correct story.

Herb Thomas finished 3rd in the race. Thomas started the race from the 5th position.

Slick Smith finished 4th. It’s good to have a teammate. In the 1953 Daytona Beach race, Fonty Flock led the first 38 laps, but at the start of lap 39, the final lap, Flock’s car ran out of fuel. Teammate Slick Smith realized what was going on and pushed Flock’s car to the pits where he could get fuel. His efforts paid off. Flock lost the win, but manage to still pick up a second place finish.

Rounding out the top 5 was Dick Rathmann in his 1954 Hudson Hornet. Rathmann was the only other driver to lead laps in the race. His 83 laps led were the most that day.

The race was scheduled to go 160 laps, but tragedy struck and the race was called after 157 laps due to a crash which took the life Lou Figaro. Figaro’s car rolled and the roof of the car collapsed on him.

During the early years of late model stock car racing on the west coast, no name was better known than that of the California driver Lou Figaro. Figaro started his racing career in the early 1930’s and drove just about anything. Stock cars were his first choice. He was always a Hudson man. In his 16 race Grand National career, Figaro had one victory, two 4th place finishes and had a total of six top 10 finishes. He ran the Mexican Road Race with a Hudson and nearly lost his life in that effort. In 1954 in North Wilkesboro, NC he had dinner with friend and fellow west coast driver, Hershel McGriff. The next day McGriff won, and Lou Figaro met his untimely demise. Figaro was 34.


Lou Figaro (10/12/17 - 10/25/54): California driver Lou Figaro was one of the drivers who fielded "The Fabulous" Hudson Hornets back in the early '50s.  He became the first driver to start from the pole and win a race at Carrell Speedway in 1951.  It was his only win.  Lou died when his car rolled over at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1954.
 

1950 Carrera Panamericana (Mexican Road Race)

                                  
Lou Figaro on the left, Dempsey Wilson, right

5-10 May 1950 - Mexico
9 legs for a total of 1907.537 miles/3069.800 kms. Weather: dry
Pos Car # Drivers Year of Car Car Legs Time
1 52 Hershel McGriff/Ray Elliott (USA) 1950 Oldsmobile 88 9 27:34:25 [1]
2 113 Thomas A. Deal/Sam Cresap (USA) 1950 Cadillac 62 9 27:35:41
DSQ 49 Roy Pat Connor/Robert Owen/Curtis Turner (USA) 1950 Nash Ambassador 9 27:50.35 [2]
DNF 14 Dempsey Wilson/Lou Figaro (USA) 1950 Hudson 7/9 Crashed -
18 miles

In 1953 there were seven AAA races held in the land of the left coast.
Seven races were run in a place called Gardena California. Below are listed the dates that they were
run. It is interesting to note that all these race were won by Hudson's.

February 1, 1953 100 miles winner Dick Meyers

February 22, 1953 100 miles winner Frank Mundy

March 22, 1953 100 miles winner Dick Meyers

April 26, 1953 100 miles winner Frank Mundy

May 30, 1953 250 miles winner Lou Figaro

June 27, 1953 200 laps winner Lou Figaro

October 11, 1953 100 miles Lou Figaro


(From back-left: Archie Tipton, (unknown), Slim Mathis, Jack McGrath, LOU FIGARO,
Dick Vinyard, Ed Barnett, ? Wayne Taylor?


Curious Steel Beam down lower body panel (early nerf bar?)


Racing in one of his favorite places (where he won) - Carrell Speedway - Gardena

  


Lou Figaro's car flipping in a race in 1952. He walked away unscathed and actually finished the race!

Got a Lou Figaro Story, Comment or Picture? Email it here.

Grand National  Statistics

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn Miles
1951 30 13 of 41 1 3 4 1 431 200 2,135 22 6.3 15.4 331.0
1954 33 3 of 37 0 0 2 0 461 0 425 43   10.0 402.8
2 years 16 1 3 6 1 892 200 2,560   6.3 14.4 733.8

Win Statistic
13 Gardena 22 1 1 33 Jack Gaynor Hudson 200/200 1,000 running 200
Grand National Owner Statistics
 
Year Driver Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn Miles
1954 Lou Figaro 3 0 0 2 0 461 0 425 43   10.0 402.8
1 year 3 0 0 2 0 461 0 425   ? 10.0 402.8
 

 


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