INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2002 -- Former Indianapolis 500 driver Jim Crawford, who team owner John Menard calls "the bravest man I ever knew," died Aug. 6 in Terre Verde, Fla. He was 54.
Crawford, a native of Scotland, retired from racing after the 1993 Indianapolis 500 and became a fishing-boat captain in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area.
Crawford began his racing career in England, climbing to Formula One, and then came to America. Racing out of Texas, he came to Indianapolis for the first time in 1984. He passed his Indianapolis 500 rookie test but failed to qualify for the race.
He made the race for the first time the following year driving for John Wysard. Crawford made eight Indianapolis 500 starts and had a best finish of sixth in 1988 driving Kenny Bernstein's Buick. In that race, Crawford was third with six laps to go when he had to make a lengthy pit stop that dropped him back three positions.
A popular driver with both fans and the media, Crawford showed his courage during his recovery from a qualifying crash in 1987. He took the green flag and drove his ARS Buick into the first turn. The car hit the wall with terrific force, with Crawford suffering severe injuries to both legs that required 12 months of rehabilitation. Crawford still used a cane the next May when he earned his best finish.
In 1989, Crawford set the one- and four-lap qualifying speeds for a turbocharged stock-block engine at 222.069 and 221.450 mph, respectively. He started fourth and was running fourth when he was sidelined by a broken driveline after 135 laps.
Then in 1992, Crawford clicked off an unofficial track record lap of 233.433 mph.
He drove an Ilmor-Chevrolet in his final race, the 1993 Indianapolis 500, and finished 24th. He failed to qualify in both 1994 and 1995, driving a year-old Reynard 94I-Ford XB in his final attempt at age 47.
"He was a wonderful, wonderful human being," Menard said. "We had some great times and memories. Jim had this wry Scottish sense of humor."
Menard noted that his daughter Molly caught her first fish on a trip in the Gulf of Mexico on Crawford's boat.
"It was in our freezer for 10 years," Menard said.
Born Feb. 13, 1948, in Funfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland, Crawford started his racing career as a mechanic in Formula Atlantic in Britain in 1972. He was given the chance the next year to drive one of the Chevron works cars and won the Formula Atlantic championship in 1974.
He was rewarded by being appointed test driver for Team Lotus in 1975. He drove in the British and Italian Grands Prix, but that was the beginning and end of his F1 career. He won the 1980 Formula 2 title in a Chevron and then, disillusioned with his progress, he came to America to drive the Ensign Can-Am car. He finished second in the series in both 1983 and 1984.
Crawford then found his niche at Indianapolis testing and driving the Buick stock-block engine cars. He drove in six other CART races in 1985, placing fourth at Long Beach, but from that point on he competed only in the Indianapolis 500.
Survivors include his wife, Annie, and son, Geoffrey.
Flowers or cards may be sent to:
745 Pinellas Bayway, #208
Tierra Verde, FL 33715