Did you get protested much?
DeLorenzo: Not really.
Thompson: There was one big flap at Mid-Ohio. We were racing in the rain and it was Tony’s turn to win. I tucked in behind him and he slipped on something on the straightaway and spun out. There was another car close behind, so I thought, Forget about Tony—he can win two in a row with the next races. I tried to win for the team, which was more important. I took off and put everything I had into it, but with 600 horsepower in the rain, it wasn’t easy. At Mid-Ohio, there was a long, squiggly stretch in the back, and at the second-to-last turn before the pits, you could look back. There was Tony. He was, like, possessed, coming on strong. I was surprised that he’d dug himself out of the mud, but since it was his turn to win, I slowed to let him catch me. The starter appeared with the flag, so I slammed on the brakes. Tony went past and I tucked in behind him. The press went crazy with that, thinking we were being wise guys.
Tell us more about that 1969 Daytona race that gave the championship to Jerry.
Thompson: The day of the championship was both a high point and a low point. In 1967, I won a national championship in a Yenko Stinger, beating factory teams. So, I’d already been a national champion, and we decided in ’69 to let Tony have it. But word came down that Yenko was putting a higher-numerical gear ratio in his car to win and Tony’s car was not running right. So, I told Tony not to worry, because I’d keep the pressure on Yenko, who would drive beyond his reach to win and probably wreck. And sure enough, Yenko went “farming” out in the weeds. I looked back for Tony at that point, waiting for him to drive by, and couldn’t see him. I went across the finish line with my hands in the air, as in, “Hey, where’s Tony?” Turns out, he ran through Yenko’s debris and cut two tires. So, after the race, everyone was cheering me, and I had mixed feelings.
When did the end come for your team and the L88 Corvettes?
DeLorenzo: Our last race with Owens/Corning was Daytona in 1971. At Sebring that year, our primary sponsor was Marathon Oil. I don’t remember much about that race. I think we had trouble with both cars. But it was our last race as teammates. After that, it was on to the Trans-Am series with a couple of ex-factory Mustangs.
Thompson: We loved the Corvettes and all the success we had with them, but we were young and looking to move forward. We had won everything we could with the Corvettes, so it was time to move on. Trans-Am was the next step at the time and we were ultimately thinking about Can-Am. We were racers. That’s what you did.
John Thompson of Atherton, California bought the ’68 Owens/Corning Corvette in 2005. It had already been restored by Doug Hickey, and painted in the livery it wore at the ’71 24 Hours of Daytona. Thompson—no relation to Jerry—has subsequently had more detail work done, including redoing the instrumentation and tracking down correct new-old-stock Firestone tires. The Corvette has been shown at a number of car events, including The Quail, but Thompson plans to vintage race it eventually.