February 29, 1932 – The Kansas City Flash is born

Masten Gregory in 1965: By Lothar Spurzem CC BY-SA 2.0 de1

Racing driver Masten Gregory, nicknamed the Kansas City Flash, was born on leap day, February 29,1932 in Kansas City, Missouri. His father ran an insurance company, but died when Masten was 3, leaving him a large inheritance. At age 20, Masten used the money to buy his first race car, a Mercury powered Allard, which he competed in for the first time at an Sports Car Club of America race in Caddo Mills, Texas in November 1952. A blown head gasket forced him out of the race. He then planted a Chrysler Hemi engine into the Allard and took the car to Sebring, FL. He again did not finish, this time due to suspension trouble. His third race was a completely different story.

Masten headed to Stillwater, Oklahoma where he pushed his Allard to a first place finish. He soon traded his Allard for a Jaguar and found more success on tracks throughout America. By the end of 1953 he was invited to his first international race, in Argentina, where he finished 14th in the 1954 100KM Buenos Aires race.

Masten Gregory, the Kansas City Flash, takes aim at the 24

Throughout 1954 and 1955 Masten headed to Europe, where he primarily raced Ferraris. In 1957, after honing his skills in Europe he returned returned to Argentina to again race the 1000 KM Buenos Aires, this time winning. This display of expertise put him on Scuderia’s radar. Following a test drive he was given the opportunity to participate in his first Formula One race, the 1957 Monaco Grand Prix.

A stunning third place finish demonstrated his skills on the track. Unfortunately, in 46 Formula One starts between 1957 and 1965 he found himself on the podium three times, but never at the top of it. His entry into the 1965 24 Hour of Le Mans with co-driver Jochen Rindt would earn what he craved. Driving a Ferrari for the North American Racing Team, the pair took a first place overall finish in the race. That same year he would participate in the Indianapolis 500, where he worked his way to fifth place from the back of the grid before suffering race-ending engine trouble.

Following the death of his friend Jo Bonnier at the 1972 24 Hours of Le Mans, Masten retired from racing. He moved to Amsterdam where he worked as a diamond merchant and ran a glassware business. On November 8, 1985, he died in his sleep of a heart attack. He would be posthumously inducted into numerous hall of fames, including the Watkins Glen Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. He is one of only 19 drivers to compete in all three races of the Triple Crown of Motorsport, which includes the Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix, and to have won at least one of those races.

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