Gene Felton's first IMSA Camel GT race took place at the Mid Ohio 6Hour enduro race in 1972. This was not a success as Gene and Ronald Austin finished 20th overall. They entered a big block 7,0L Chevrolet Camaro that was to be further developed later. Next race at Talladega saw Gene Felton finish fourth overall. The third race he did enter in 1972 saw his first victory at Daytona International Speedway. He defeated Tony de Lorenzo, Maurice Carter and Dave Heinz to win his first major race on the IMSA circuit. He had begun his racing career in 1964 driving a BMW 700. "Traveling the country with one good buddy, cube van and an open trailer", recalls Gene Felton. This way he defeated some big bucks factory cars and drivers.
At Mid Ohio in 1973, driving his own Camaro
Copyright Mark Windecker
In 1973, he campaigned his Camaro five times, earning one victory at Daytona in July, and placing 3rd at Pocono, a 5th at Daytona in April, Mid Ohio resulted in a dnf, at Road Atlanta, Gene took a 7th and last race of the season Gene shared Roy Stamey's Camaro only to finish 9th. A not so disappointing season as Gene was running a limited budget and working on his car with a friend. It was the time when you could still do it! He even defeated Peter Gregg works car while running this way.
In 1974, he ran an even more limited schedule, the season's first race at Road Atlanta resulting in a retirement after 3 laps. The second race for Gene was on the high banks of Charlotte Motor Speedway where he and NASCAR driver Buddy Baker took a fourth overall behind three Porsche Carreras. The very last race of the season was no success for Gene as it was yet another retirement to finish 31.
1975 was a short IMSA season for Gene as he entered only two IMSA races : Talladega where he finished 10th on a Corvette entered by Dick Bostyan and Mid Ohio on a Chevrolet Monza resulting in an early dnf.
In 1976, he entered the Daytona 24 Hours on a Chevrolet Camaro entered by Eddie Johnson, a completely outdated car that could not do better than 45th. Gene's Camaro reappeared at Talladega where he could do no better than 10th. Atlanta did not allow any better result as the end up 30th. It was the end of the road for a car that had been extensively developed, but it could no longer fight against newer cars.
Photo courtesy Gene Felton
The last time he would enter his Camaro was at the Daytona 24 Hours in 1977, this race ending with an honest result. Gene did enter the new American Challenge in 1977. It was a new category design for homebuilt American sedans with limited modifications. A new challenge for Gene who enjoyed pretty successes. He won two races in 1977 and became the first AC Champion, driving a Buick Skylark and beating Gene Harrington.
In 1978, he went on driving his Buick with a more consistent schedule. The first race was the 12 Hours of Sebring and Gene entered the race on a Buick Skylark. He was partnered by Vince Gimondo and, as a result, wound up a ninth overall and a AC victory.
At Road Atlanta in 1978, driving a Buick Skylark
Photo courtesy Gene Felton
Talladega resulted in a dnf. Lime Rock was not more successful as he finished 27th but the next race, the Paul Revere 250 at Daytona, he finished 11th and 1st in class. He won again at the Daytona Finale in his class. Road Atlanta GTU was a special event including AC cars : there he finished 4th in his class. He won the title for the second time.
In 1979, the American Challenge became the Kellygirl Challenge and featured separate races. That year was the third AC title for Gene Felton who won five times on his Buick Skylark.
In 1980, Gene Felton won again the Championship, winning every race he entered. It was an outright domination! The 1981 season was a new challenge for Gene as he joined Billy Hagan's Stratagraph racing program. The car was an AAGT car that could not match the Porsche Turbos pace, but it proved fast enough to capture some mitigated results. A 13th at Pocono was the best he could do.
In 1982, the team built a newer lightweight car fitted with a V8 5,4L. At Sebring, the car could not do better than 46th and had trouble finishing better than 36th at Riverside, but then, Gene and Billy Hagan won at Charlotte, winning the GTO class. At Lime Rock, he entered his own Camaro and finished second to Don Devendorf's Datsun Turbo. At Mosport, bad luck prevented him to do better than 25th. Road America brought a 30th. At Mid Ohio, they finished 11th overall and third in class. Road Atlanta 40, Pocono 35, but they won the Daytona Finale and took 5th overall!
In 1983, Daytona and Sebring were little success for the team. Road Atlanta 16th, Riverside 6th(2nd GTO), Mid Ohio(3rd overall!), Daytona 4th, Brainerd 15th, Sears Point 10th, Mosport 13th, Road America 13th, Pocono 3rd, Daytona Finale 14th. However, he had to get happy with a third in points, Wayne Baker took the GTO Championship that year.
In 1984, Daytona 24Hours 6th, Sebring 8th, Atlanta 8th, Riverside 26th. Charlotte 5th, Watkins Glen 40th, Portland 16th, Road America 22nd. A Riverside Trans Am race ended up his career when he suffered a terrible crash. Gene Felton then decided to concentrate on his business and was not to be seen more than occasionally. He had finished second in points in GTO.
Still recuperating from his injuries, he won again with various cars. He drove Oldsmobile Toronados for Tom Winters Rocketsports, Pontiac Firebirds for Herb Adams or Pete Brallier but he had to focus on a new career. At that time, he began restoring Stock Car racers, and he is still nowadays. His career has been filled with a lot of victories. He started a Historic Vintage series in which to race them; and at 69 years young, still wins. He has won over 100 vintage races in Historic Winston Cup cars, Camaros, Boss Mustangs, and Shelbys. He is one of the most successful driver in IMSA history, only bettered by the late Al Holbert. He deserves everyone's respect for this and he is a man that must be recognized as one of the greatest road racing drivers in the US.
Twenty Five American Challenge Wins - I.M.S.A. (International Motor Sports Association)
Eleven Camel GTO Wins - I.M.S.A.
Eight Champion Spark Plug Series Wins - I.M.S.A.
Two Camel GT Wins - I.M.S.A.
Two SCCA Pro Escort Series Endurance Wins
One Trans-Am Win
WON 50 OF 119 (42%) ROAD RACES FINISHED
Seventy Three pole positions
Thirty Seven fast laps (race)
Sixty Three track records including qualifying
Top Five – 86.5% of races finished
Top Ten – 97.0% of races finished
Qualified front row 74% of races run
Four Season Championships
Several 3rd places in championships – never out of Top Five
Won Every American Challenge race from pole in 1980(nine poles; nine wins)
Won Manufacturer's Championship for both Buick and Chevrolet
Won Class - Daytona 24 Hour
Won Class - Sebring 12 Hour
Runner-up 24 Hours of Le Mans