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Thread: Sammy Sessions

  1. #1
    I live for May in Indy! Rick Jones's Avatar
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    Sammy Sessions

    Sammy Sessions is one of the drivers that is featured in the photo albums that I have come into possesion of along with A.J. Foyt, Jim and James McElreath, and car builder mechanic Wally Meskowski. Wally is the common denominator throughout these photo albums and apparently Sammy drove for Wally at times. I started going to the Indy 500 in 1967. Sammy Sessions was a constant for a number of my early years at Indy. I remember him as being a decent driver, but never a front runner at Indy. As a kid I wasn't attracted to him as a fan because he wasn't flashy, (his flat top in the late 60's reminded me of Sargent Carter of Gomer Pyle).
    What can you tell me about the driving career of Sammy Sessions?
    Rick
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    Sammy Sessions came up through the Michigan super modified ranks with Gordy Johncock, Fairchild etc. Ran the famous Bingo 5 supermod at one time on the super circuit and at Oswego, NY. I always thought he was a pretty decent racer. Seemed kind of strange to me that he died right as his open wheel career was fading.

  3. #3
    Wasn't he killed in a snowmobile accident?
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  4. #4
    Yes, IIRC he was killed in a snowmobile accident.

    Good on pavement or dirt, Sammy excelled in sprinters and modifieds/supermodifieds better than anything. He never really got any top notch rides at Indy, perhaps timing more than anything had something to do with that. I have a feeling that he might have excelled in the roadster era.

    Sammy drove quite a bit for Mauri Amerling.
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    Speaking of Sammy, does anyone here on the forum recall the fiery accident that he had at Langhorne back around '71? He hit the guard rail coming out of what could be turn 4, early in the race. The car was full of gas and there was quite a fire. There was fire between the guardrail and the stands, and it followed his car down across the track to the fence that separated the track from the pit area, then fire around the stopped car, too. Somehow, that race, or parts of it, were on TV the following week. There was a camera on Sammy after his car came to a stop. He was pointing down in the cockpit, towards where his feet were - like they were trapped (it was a RE car). I can still see the windshield melting down from the heat.

  6. #6
    Originally posted by MichaelP
    Wasn't he killed in a snowmobile accident?
    &nbsp Yes. In the offseason he raced for Micky Rupp's snowmobile company. I won't go into detail, but it was one of the worst accidents I've ever heard of.
    &nbsp Sammy was never going to be a superstar, but he was a very good sprint car racer - a guy who was highly regarded and well liked by other drivers of that era. I don't remember where I saw it, but I remember reading a quote in which Jan Opperman spoke very highly of him as a man and a driver.

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    Originally posted by MikeT
    &nbsp Yes. In the offseason he raced for Micky Rupp's snowmobile company. I won't go into detail, but it was one of the worst accidents I've ever heard of.
    &nbsp Sammy was never going to be a superstar, but he was a very good sprint car racer - a guy who was highly regarded and well liked by other drivers of that era. I don't remember where I saw it, but I remember reading a quote in which Jan Opperman spoke very highly of him as a man and a driver.
    He was not driving for Rupp when he died, he was driving for Kalmazoo (not sure on sp.) a Mich dealer independant team.
    It happened on a the big half mile at Alexandria, Minn; seventy miles from here.
    He actually died of a heart attack but the crash was gory.

    It was the same series the Villeneuve brothers drove their sleds in; it was the equivalent of F-1 in car racing.
    Bob

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    Wasn't Sammy fired by Meskowski, as he was exiting Salem speedway, upside down. It seems to me that Wally used to say, that he fired him in mid air. Come to think about it , Paul Leffler is the one that did that. The cars were almost identical
    Last edited by SteveE; 10-29-2004 at 03:22 PM.

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    Registered User Liz's Avatar
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    I remember too another Sammy mid-air exit, Terre Haute, first turn, last lap of the race - wish I could remember more details.

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    Originally posted by Littleman
    Speaking of Sammy, does anyone here on the forum recall the fiery accident that he had at Langhorne back around '71? He hit the guard rail coming out of what could be turn 4, early in the race. The car was full of gas and there was quite a fire. There was fire between the guardrail and the stands, and it followed his car down across the track to the fence that separated the track from the pit area, then fire around the stopped car, too. Somehow, that race, or parts of it, were on TV the following week. There was a camera on Sammy after his car came to a stop. He was pointing down in the cockpit, towards where his feet were - like they were trapped (it was a RE car). I can still see the windshield melting down from the heat.
    I remember that. In fact, it is my first-ever memory of racing...I really had no interest in it at all till I saw my first Indy in '78. But I vividly remember that incident--you don't easily forget a name like Sammy Sessions--and for years I've been trying to get details of when and where it was. Something makes me think it was shown on Wide World of Sports.
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  11. #11
    Insider grogg's Avatar
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    He had a heck of a good year in 1972. At Indy he qualified the Gene White Lola late and actually outshined Lloyd Ruby and Cale Yarborough on his way to 4th.

    Foyt signed Sammy up in mid-season when A.J. was hurt in a crash. Sammy took another 4th at Onterio and gave the Coyote some good runs.

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    I should have checked on the Langhorne date before posting. It was in 1970, as you can see, below. I remember Vuky II either spinning through the flames, or driving through them.

    1970 Langhorne


    Fin St Driver Chassis-engine Reason Pts Purse
    1 1 Bobby Unser Eagle-Offy 1:24:39.85 (106.302 mph) 300 $0
    2 6 Al Unser Colt-Ford Finished 240 $0
    3 3 Mike Mosley Watson-Offy Flagged 210 $0
    4 8 Jim Malloy Gerhardt-Offy Flagged 180 $0
    5 2 Gary Bettenhausen Gerhardt-Offy Flagged 150 $0
    6 9 Bentley Warren Finley-Offy Flagged 120 $0
    7 7 Wally Dallenbach Eagle-Offy Flagged 90 $0
    8 4 Mario Andretti Hawk-Ford Flagged 75 $0
    9 13 Dick Simon Vollstedt-Offy Flagged 60 $0
    10 5 Gordon Johncock McLaren-Offy Flagged 45 $0
    11 23 Jerry Karl Gerhardt-Chev Flagged 30 $0
    12 15 Billy Vukovich Morris-Offy Flagged 15 $0
    13 10 Steve Krisiloff Gerhardt-Ford Flagged 0 $0
    14 18 Rick Muther Gerhardt-PWTurb Wrecked 0 $0
    15 12 John Mahler Eagle-Chev Flagged 0 $0
    16 20 Bruce Walkup Edmunds-Offy Broken piston 0 $0
    17 21 Tom Bigelow Huffaker-Chev Brkn rocker arm 0 $0
    18 17 Karl Busson Halibrand-Chev Igniition 0 $0
    19 11 Bill Simpson Cheetah-Chev Broken water line 0 $0
    20 14 Bruce Jacobi Gerhardt-Chev Oil leak 0 $0
    21 16 Sam Sessions Gerhardt-Offy Wrecked 0 $0
    22 22 Gig Stephens Halibrand-Ford Wrecked 0 $0
    23 19 Darrell Dockery Gerhardt-Ford Wrecked 0 $0
    DNS Johnny Rutherford Eagle-Ford Wrecked qualifying 0 $0
    DNS Roger McCluskey Scorpion- Did not qualify 0 $0
    DNS Al Loquasto Gerhardt-Offy Did not qualify 0 $0
    DNS Ralph Liguori Mongoose- Did not qualify 0 $0

  13. #13
    I live for May in Indy! Rick Jones's Avatar
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    Originally posted by grogg
    He had a heck of a good year in 1972. At Indy he qualified the Gene White Lola late and actually outshined Lloyd Ruby and Cale Yarborough on his way to 4th.

    Foyt signed Sammy up in mid-season when A.J. was hurt in a crash. Sammy took another 4th at Onterio and gave the Coyote some good runs.
    grogg and everyone else,
    Thanks fro the info. I have several photos of Sessions at Indy in the '72 Lola. I always thought that the '72 Lola was a neat looking car BTW. A photo of Sessions sitting with Cale Yarborough on the pit wall at Indy, and several of him in Foyts number 14 Coyote at Ontario. I didn't realize that he drove that car. There are many photos of Sammy in the Gapco light blue Meskowski spinter, and some of him in a yellow modified, and one on a racing sled. I didn't realize that racing snowmolies was a sport until Sammy Sessions started racing them. I didn't remember about his death. Thanks again for the information.
    My hope is to get an appointment with Donald Davidson so that he can go through these photos with me. The man who put these albums together was Russ Dowden, he was a friend of Wally Meskowski's and he worked on the Gapco sprinter and McElreaths number 26 Eagle and some other cars as well. He cared for Meskowski as his health declined. I'd love to do something with these historical gems that I can share with race fans. I'll keep you informed.
    Rick

  14. #14
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    I remember Sammy Sessions when he ran supermodifieds at Toledo Speedway. His contemporaries that I remember included Gordon Johncock, Gordon Dukes, Johnny White and Ray Bernard.

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