Joe Boghosian

Born and raised in Fresno, California, Joe Boghosian’s is the classic story of a youngster whose love of all things mechanical eventually led him from his humble beginnings as an amateur hot rod builder and racer to the biggest stage of any in American motor sports, the Indianapolis 500, joining Dan Gurney’s newly formed racing group, All American Racers, in 1965.

So, how did Indianapolis come knocking on your door?

OK. George Snyder and I would go to San Jose every Saturday night, we'd run up there. Well, Joe Leonard was driving a hardtop and it was like a semi-main event car, you know, it didn't go that fast. So then at the end of the season, in the point system, they called it “open competition”. It was flathead, but you could put overheads in them. So a friend of mine in Fresno, when I was doing his engines, I asked him, I said, “Hey, I'd like to give Joe Leonard a ride in the car in open competition, what do you think?” And he said OK. So I called Leonard, and I said, "Hey, do you want a ride in this thing?" So he come down and we won the Kearny Bowl, it's an asphalt track right here in town. And the car was owned by Dick Woodland, who at that time was local guy. So, Dick was like, "Wow, man,this guy can get around the track." And then we ran Clovis on the half mile, and he was just flyin'. And Joe was saying that this thing really runs. I was building the engines, but it was just a part time deal there. So then, a car from up in San Jose, he'd seen Joe run and was pretty impressed, so he gave him a full time ride in their car, the number 10 car. This was the NASCAR hardtop circuit, and that was the circuit. And then, Dan Gurney got a hold of Leonard. Gurney likes motorcycle guys. Man, oh man. So he called Leonard and said, "Hey, are you interested in driving an Indy car?" But Joe Leonard also drove a stock car out of Highland Indiana, that ran USAC and NASCAR stock cars. Anyway, because Leonard was an AMA (American Motorcycle Association) world champ, he goes down and sees Gurney, this was in 1965, and he signs on. So Leonard calls me and says that Gurney's forming All American Racers, an Indy car deal, and he says he's looking for somebody to work in the engine shop. So told me, why don't you go down and talk to him about it. This is down in Santa Ana, Costa Mesa. So, one Saturday I go down there and introduce myself, and sat down and we talked. He asked me about what all I'd done, this and this and that, and we kind of hashed it out. And old Dan's the neatest guy in the world, believe me. So he goes, "OK, can you start Monday?" Whoa, Dan! I says, "Oh man." I told him that I had to do something, that I had things to put in place and stuff. So I asked if he could give me a week at least, and then I could go back and forth, you know, on weekends or whatever. And he said, yeah, no problem. So I went to work for Dan in the engine shop, you know, four-cam Fords. Now this was a new product at the time. Ford decided they wanted to win Indy. Period. Didn't matter what, OK? So they started in on designing that four cam Ford. And they ran the prototype which was a 289, special block and all. But eventually the four cam Ford came into play, and actually in '65, Jimmy Clark won, with that engine. And it took off. You see, when they got in the program, Ford picked ten teams, with top drivers where they furnished the engines, Ford Motor Company. And that's how it worked out. But I don't know how Dan Gurney did it, I never got into that end of it, I never asked him.

Joe Boghosian350

Crew chief Joe Boghosian posing with Joe Leonard (in car) and racing crew at Indianapolis in 1966. Leonard was one of the three team drivers for Dan Gurney’s legendary All American Racers that year.

So was this the beginning of the Eagle?

Now, the legendary Gurney Eagle racing car wasn't built until 1966. When Jimmy Clark won with the four cam Ford, that was a Lotus car. And it was Gurney in '65, he was the one who talked Jimmy Clark into coming over to run Indy. So, in 1966, we built the Eagles out of the shop there. Besides the engine deal, I was involved in this as well. What happened was in '65, I was in the engine shop. But in the month of May in '65, all of the engine guys got to go back to the speedway in case there was any work to be done out there, prior to the race, you know, tune ups, because the engines were in the cars now. There were four of us, and we all went back. There were three guys on the team, Dan Gurney, Roger McCluskey and Joe Leonard. So when we went to the speedway in May, I still was the engine man. And then Leonard asked Dan Gurney, "Hey, I'd like to have Joe be my chief mechanic on my car." So Dan approached me about it and said, "What do you think?" With everything mechanical there was no problem. But in an independent suspension race car, I never really got into the depth about stuff like that. So I told Dan, "If I say yes, and give it a whirl, and I know I can't make it, I'm the first to stand up. But can I still keep my job in the engine shop?" (laughs) And he says, "No Problem." So Bill Fowler, who was Dan's chief mechanic, and also ran the shop took me on and educated me. And every evening at the hotel, in the dining room, he taught me all about independent suspension, toe steer, bump steer. The whole ball of wax I had to learn.

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Excerpts from Automotive History

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W A T C H   T H I S :

With her video camera, Kristin “Grease Girl” Martin captures the starting line on a 2011 Bonneville Speed Week morning that saw the Gene Winfield roadster ready to go for a 200 MPH Club record. Notice the Russ Aves 1941 Buick as push car to the line that morning. If you watch carefully, right at the 10 sec. mark you will see yours truly crouching in a fluorescent green media vest recording the scene at the line, just to the left of Chief Starter Jim Jensen (in white). The 84 year-young Winfield went into a spin at mile 4 at just under 220 MPH, thus ending his bid for a record that summer. Nothing like it, folks!

200 MPH Record Video