Sunday, May 1, 2016

500 facts: The early 1960s

A.J. Foyt won his first 500 in 1961

Posted By on Sun, May 1, 2016 at 11:35 AM

Later this month, NUVO will present 500 facts about the Indy 500. Between now and then, we'll be sharing five facts per day from our upcoming story.

NUVO's Phil Taylor sent us some shots from practice for the 1961 race (his father-in-law took them), so here are a few tidbits from that era, all from the chapter of our story simply titled "The '60s:"

click to enlarge Rodger Ward's car being towed prior to the '61 Indy 500. Ward, after winning the 1959 race and duking it out with Jim Rathmann in '60, would place third after starting on the inside of row two in 1961. - GERALD WALSH
  • Gerald Walsh
  • Rodger Ward's car being towed prior to the '61 Indy 500. Ward, after winning the 1959 race and duking it out with Jim Rathmann in '60, would place third after starting on the inside of row two in 1961.

292. Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward gave Indy fans perhaps the greatest two-man duel ever seen in 1960. Ward and Rathmann spent the laatter half of the ’60 500 swapping the position at the front of the field in a race that saw 29 lead changes — a record that would stand until the next century. On lap 197, Ward noticed that one of his tires was dangerously worn, and Ward’s cautious driving over the course of the last three laps allowed Rathmann to pull ahead for good.

294. A.J. Foyt won his first 500 in 1961. Foyt would, of course, be the first man to win the 500 four times.

click to enlarge Gasoline Alley in 1961 — complete with the old wooden green-and-white garages. - GERALD WALSH
  • Gerald Walsh
  • Gasoline Alley in 1961 — complete with the old wooden green-and-white garages.

295. Foyt also won the Dayton 500 (1972), 24 Hours of Daytona (’83 and ’85) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (’67).
He’s the only driver to ever win all four (the 24-hour races are team efforts).

296. But Indy was his favorite place to race. “A.J. Foyt did not make the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is what made A.J. Foyt.” — Foyt on WIBC, May 2011.

297. Jack Brabham’s “funny car” — a rear-engined Cooper Climax — debuted in 1961. The car was a warning bell — the era of front-engine roadsters was coming to an end. The car finished ninth that year.

click to enlarge Rookie Ralph Ligouri's ride. The #75 car would not qualify for the 1961 race. - GERALD WALSH
  • Gerald Walsh
  • Rookie Ralph Ligouri's ride. The #75 car would not qualify for the 1961 race.

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Ed Wenck

Ed Wenck

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Ed Wenck has been writing for NUVO (as well as several other Indiana publications) for nearly 20 years while moonlighting as a radio host. He became Managing Editor of NUVO in 2013. He's authored four books and also reports for WISH-TV's Boomer TV program.
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