Carroll Resweber had a short but spectacular career on the AMA Grand National circuit in the 1950s and '60s. Resweber won a remarkable four AMA Grand National championships in a row from 1958 to 1961, riding Harley-Davidsons. That record stood until 1998, when Scott Parker earned his fifth consecutive Grand National title. Resweber won 19 AMA nationals in a span of six seasons on a variety of circuits, including road races, short-tracks, half-miles and miles. If Resweber's racing career had not been cut short by a racing accident during the prime of his career in 1962, he undoubtedly would have continued adding to his illustrious record.
Born in Port Arthur, Texas, on January 6, 1936, Resweber grew up with a love of two-wheelers, first bicycles, then a Cushman scooter. By the time he was 16, he owned a Harley-Davidson 80 cubic inch "Knucklehead" and was burning up the streets around his hometown. When he turned 17, Resweber began racing on dirt tracks in Houston and Fort Worth. One of Resweber's fondest memories as an aspiring racer was watching national champ Joe Leonard race in Houston in 1953. Resweber and Leonard would later become arch rivals on the track.
"Joe scared the daylights out of me the first time I saw him race," recalled Resweber. "I was standing on the outside of turn one watching my first race and Joe ran it up wide and I took off running like the blazes. I never thought he'd make that turn. He really impressed me. He was the man to beat."
Resweber followed in the footsteps of two other riders from his area, Tommy Byars and Everett Brashear. Resweber considered Byars and Brashear his teachers in the racing game. Saying that he learned from the best, Resweber is quick to point out the inspiration his fellow Texans provided.
In 1955, Resweber moved his family to Milwaukee to race for engine builder Ralph Berndt and to be close to the abundant racing in the Midwest. The next year Resweber earned his first AMA national finish by taking fifth at the Springfield Mile in Illinois. On June 16, 1957 Resweber earned his first AMA Grand National victory at the Charity Newsies race held on the half-mile Ohio State Fairgrounds dirt oval. He proved that this win was no fluke when he earned another victory on the half-mile in St. Paul, Minnesota, two months later.
Resweber started the 1958 season with a fourth-place finish in the Daytona 200. That would prove to be Resweber's best finish in the March classic. It was ironic that despite his incredible racing record, Resweber went on to be somewhat known for his hard luck at Daytona, even though he loved the race. That summer, Resweber had an impressive string of four straight Grand National podium finishes, including wins at the Du Quoin, Illinois, Mile and another victory in St. Paul. That string of successful races was enough to give Resweber his first AMA national championship, winning the title by just one point over 1957 champ Joe Leonard.
En route to his second championship in 1959, Resweber added first-place trophies from the Sacramento, California, and Springfield to his mantle in addition to winning the St. Paul AMA Grand National for the third year in row.
Resweber again edged out friend and rival Joe Leonard for the AMA national championship in 1960. That year, Resweber won four nationals on his way to earning his third title.
The 1961 campaign was the pinnacle of Resweber's racing career. A marvel of consistency, he earned five national wins, including a victory at Watkins Glen, New York, his first on a road-race course. Resweber dominated that year and easily won his fourth AMA Grand National Championship, finishing with 62 championship points, compared to 39 points held by second-place Leonard.
In 1962, Resweber looked to be well on his way to winning his fifth straight title. He won on the road courses at Bossier City, Louisiana, and Watkins Glen, and on the Santa Fe short track in Hinsdale, Illinois. Leading the championship, Resweber's season and racing career came to an abrupt end on a dusty half-mile oval in Lincoln, Illinois. During a practice session, Resweber went out on the track in a second group of riders. Another group had gone before them and a rider had crashed, his bike down on the racing line. Due to the dust, Resweber never saw the fallen bike and hit it at high speed. He went down hard along with four other riders. Jack Gholson died from injuries suffered in the crash. Resweber and Dick Klamfoth were badly injured. Resweber spent two years recuperating from the crash and was never physically able to return to racing.
After his recovery, Resweber returned to work for Harley-Davidson, where he stayed until he retired in 1992. Resweber now lives in his home state of Texas and regularly attends vintage racing events. His son, Ricky, now in his 40s, races motocross for fun. Resweber will forever be remembered for his short but brilliant racing career and his dedication to the sport.
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