1960: The Last All Roadster Race Produces a Classic Duel

My latest adventure in memorabilia show Indy 500 program hunting yielded some more gems with hidden treasures.  The 1960 program for the 44th Indianapolis 500. Still fairly early in the white cover with the flag program era, it follows the standard format of programs since the mid 50’s. The welcome page announced a new double- deck paddock grandstand on the front stretch for 1961. Fans wishing to get seats there had to request seats by mail after 4 pm on Race Day.

The memorial page of drivers who had died  the previous year featured Jerry Unser, the first Unser brother to drive at the Speedway. He died two weeks after a May 3  crash during practice for the 1959 500. Ed Elisian also appears on the page. Elisian, sadly,  is most  remembered for two incidents at Indianapolis- stopping his car to run to the aid of Bill Vukovich after the fatal wreck in 1955, which earned the wrath of his car owner; and causing the pileup at the start of the 1958 race which took the life of popular driver Pat O’Connor.

1960 was the rookie year for Lloyd Ruby, Jim Hurtubise, Wayne Weiler, and Bud Tingelstad. Ruby would finish seventh in the race, but  Hurtubise won Rookie of the Year for his spectacular qualifying run.  Just three former winners started the 500 that year- defending champion Rodger Ward, Troy Ruttman, and Jimmy Bryan. This race was the second in a four year stretch in which Ward finished no lower than third.

The revered heroes of that era were just beginning their careers. 1960 was A. J. Foyt’s  third 500. He finished tenth in 1959 on his way to fifth place in the national championship.  Mario Andretti would not enter the race for five more years. Parnelli Jones was a year away from his first race.

The front straightaway featured the last uncovered half mile of bricks at the track. The surface that earned the track its nickname had just two races left before all but three feet was paved before the 1962 race. I was fortunate to have been at the track while the bricks were still there. The sound of the cars over the bricks added to the engine noise added to the excitement. Bricks gather dust in the crevices, so the front stretch was vacuumed the day before the race.

img_20181011_081924.jpg

 

A feature article about the Speedway golf course, which had nine holes in the infield, hosted a PGA event late in May before the race. The3 story discusses naming each of the holes for a noted figure in 500 history. Fifteen of the holes bor5e the names of former winners Wilbur Shaw was  the most recent winner honored. Tony Hulman, “Pop” Myers, former Speedway vice president, and mechanic Cotton Henning also have their names on holes.

Eddie Sachs won the pole with an average speed of 146.592 mph. His best lap was 147.251. Sachs was not the fastest qualifier, however. On Bump Day, rookie Jim Hurtubise shocked everyone as he flirted with what was considered at the time the impossible 150 mph barrier. Hurtubise averaged 149. 056. Because of the qualifying format in effect, Hurtubise started the race 23rd. He finished 18th, completing 185 laps and retired with mechanical issues. The qualifying order entering Bump Day:

IMG_20181010_163417

The race is still considered one of the best in 500 history. twenty nine lead changes among five drivers may not seem like much today, but in 1960 it was record breaking. From lap 96 until the end of the race, Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward swapped the lead. Rathmann finally took the lead for good on lap 197. Ward slowed down when he saw that his front tires were beginning to wear down to the cord. From lap 123 onward, neither driver led more than 14 consecutive laps. The 12.67 second margin of victory was the second closest at that time. Wilbur Shaw’s 1937 win by 2.16 seconds over Ralph Hepburn still held the record.

Foyt finished twenty-fifth, his second DNF in three years. He and Ward would battle for the national title for the next few years. Foyt won the 500 in 1961, beginning his legendary run.

As always in that period, fatalities overshadowed the racing at times. 1958 500 winner Jimmy Bryan lost his life at Langhorne in June. 1959 pole winner Johnny Thomson died in a crash at Allentown, PA, in September.

 

 

 

Advertisements