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Popular USAC, NASCAR Competitor Liguori Dies at 93

Ralph Liguori, a popular mainstay as a driver in United States Auto Club (USAC) and NASCAR competition for decades, died Wednesday, July 22. He was 93.

Liguori, a native of The Bronx, made 61 USAC Championship Car starts between 1957 and 1971. His best finish was second in 1970 in the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, when he passed A.J. Foyt for second while driving a dirt car owned by Walt Flynn. Liguori couldn’t catch winner Al Unser, but the performance still earned the 43-year-old a rapturous ovation from the crowd.

“Ralphie the Racer” raced from the early 1950s through the late 2000s, earning the respect of competitors and the loyalty of fans. But his outstanding career unfortunately may have been best known for numerous attempts during the 1960s to make the starting field for the Indianapolis 500, all unsuccessful.

His closest calls to making the 33-car field at Indianapolis came in 1959 and 1963.

In 1959, Liguori qualified in the Eldorado Maserati that had been built for Formula One star Stirling Moss to drive at Monza but was bumped at 5 p.m. on the final day of qualifying. Four years later, Liguori qualified in the No. 3 Schultz Fueling Equipment roadster but was bumped at 5:40 p.m. on Bump Day.

“Ralphie the Racer” won four USAC Sprint Car features during his career. The most noteworthy win came in a 50-miler at the treacherous dirt mile at Langhorne (Pennsylvania) Speedway in 1957, setting a USAC and track record for average speed for that distance.

Liguori also showed his versatility by making 76 NASCAR Grand National Series starts during his career. He recorded five top-five and 30 top-10 finishes in Grand National stock cars, with a best result of third in 1954 at Wilson Speedway in Wilson, North Carolina. He finished 10th in the Grand National standings in 1954.

Always upbeat with fans and passionate about racing, Liguori continued to race into his early 80s. He attempted to qualify for the Hoosier Hundred in 1983 at age 56 and won a regional Midget race at age 70 before retiring as a driver in 2008.

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