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The Winchester 400: The History and the Attraction
For Years, the 400 Has Been the True Test of SLM Endurance
By Elgin Traylor - Twitter: @elgintraylor
Perhaps it's the grueling 400 laps.  Maybe it's the rich purse.  It could be the live pit stops.  The 37-degrees of banking could be a factor or just the history.  Whatever it is, the Winchester 400, which will celebrate its 40th birthday Sunday, is one of the most prestigious races in Super Late Model racing. 

Winchester Speedway in Eastern Indiana was born nearly 100 years ago when open-wheel racing ruled the state.  Little did the small town know that full-fendered race cars would become its marquee draw by the 1980's.

In 1970 the 400 was born as 40 cars hit the track for a chance at history.  By lap 200, half the field was already out of the race.  That's when Dave Sorg took the lead for the final time and went on to score his first of what would be two victories in the Winchester 400.

The race grew and so did the appeal of the race.  Quickly it was common to see over 100 cars trying to make it into the historic race.

Over the years, the biggest names in the sport tested and conquered the high banks.  In 1974, ASA legend Bob Senneker won the first of what would be five in a row in the 400.  From 1974 to 1978 he was unbeaten.  His calculating driving style allowed him to be in the right place at the right time in that magnificent run.  He would go on to win twice more for a record seven wins.

It's almost like that's the formula for winning the big race; lay low until the late stages.  We have seen this play off for several drivers as where others went all out and made their trip to victory a dominating one.  Whatever strategy is chosen, it will keep everyone guessing until the checkered flag falls.

History finds names like Rusty Wallace, Mike Eddy, Mark Martin, Butch Miller, Mike Cope, Gary St. Amant and Kyle Busch have gone to victory lane.  All of those drivers, who many list as the best of the best, have won on the big Winchester stage.

The race has also proved to be a tough place to crack.  Dick Trickle never won the 400, Bobby Gill was close a few times, Scott Hansen, Mike Garvey, Kevin Cywinski and more recently Chris Gabehart and Johnny VanDoorn all never won the 400.

As we head into the 40th running this weekend, we look back at some of the heroics and some of heartbreaks over the past 39 runnings and tune into Speed51.com's Trackside Now coverage of the Winchester 400 on Sunday.

10 Stories of Heroics in the 400
1973 - Vern Schrock showed up with no ride and jumped in a car, qualified seventh, and the next day won the Winchester 400.

1974 - Bob Senneker, a 400 rookie makes up five laps and wins his first of seven Winchester 400's.

1978 - Bob Senneker wins his fifth-straight Winchester 400.

1983 - Mike Eddy takes his second Winchester 400 after leading nearly 300 laps.

1987 - Butch Miller wins the race from the pole and the ASA Championship (He would later win the Snowball Derby in December, the first to win both in the same year – only four drivers have done it in history).

1990 - Bob Senneker win his seventh and final Winchester 400. 

1995 - Mike Cope wins the Winchester 400 for the third straight year, only the second driver to do so.

1999 - Brian Ross becomes the first driver from the state of Indiana to win the 400 in 26 years.

2008 - David Stremme wins the Winchester 400 after starting 36th.

2010 - At age 14, Chase Elliott became the youngest winner in 400 history.


10 Heartbreaks of the Winchester  400
1970 - Ron North, the race’s first pole sitter, blew up after eight laps and finished last.

1977 - Dave Roarhrig breaks an A-arm while leading with six laps to go.

1979 - Bob Senneker hits the wall while leading with 80 to go.

1980 - Mark Martin and Mike Eddy wreck while race for the lead with eight laps left.

1981 - Mike Eddy's first win was overshadowed by the death of Pat Schauer.

1982 - A pair of lap cars wrecked and collect leader Mike Eddy with 75 to go.

1994 - Toby Porter spins after being passed for the lead by Mike Cope with two laps left.

2002 - Gary St. Amant won the race, but lost the ASA Championship by a single point to Joey Clanton.

2006 - Chris Gabehart wrecked as the leader with 20 laps to go. 

2010 - Johnny VanDoorn led the most laps only to finish second. 

The grandstands are always packed for the Winchester 400.  (Speed51.com Photo)
Bob Senneker has seven Winchester 400 victories.