1953 INDIANAPOLIS 500 RUNNER-UP CROSS DIES AT 87 INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, April 15, 2005 -- Art Cross, the first-ever Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 1952 and a runner-up finisher in the 1953 race to Bill Vukovich, died April 15 in La Porte,...
1953 INDIANAPOLIS 500 RUNNER-UP CROSS DIES AT 87
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, April 15, 2005 -- Art Cross, the first-ever Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 1952 and a runner-up finisher in the 1953 race to Bill Vukovich, died April 15 in La Porte, Ind. He was 87.
Cross, a native of Jersey City, N.J., made four career Indianapolis 500 starts, in consecutive years from 1952-55.
He was the defending AAA National Midget champion when he made his first Indianapolis start in 1952. He finished fifth and entered the history books as the first Rookie of the Year Award winner.
In 1953, with temperatures soaring into the mid-90s on Race Day, Cross managed to finish second in a dirt-track car behind Bill Vukovich. Driver after driver entered the pit area seeking a relief pilot due to the heat, which helped Cross climb through the field.
"Every time I came up to pass somebody," Cross said, "I would look over and think 'That's not Sam Hanks; that's Duane Carter,' or 'That's not Jim Rathmann; that's Eddie Johnson."
Vukovich became known as "The Iron Man" for winning the 1953 race without the aid of a relief driver, but only three-and-a-half minutes later came Cross, also unaided, in his dirt-track machine. A resident of Morristown, N.J., at the time, Cross immediately sunk the greater portion of his prize money of $27,297 into a farm in La Porte and participated in no further races that year.
In 1954, Cross, in another dirt-track car, moved from 27th to the leads. in 51 laps. At 300 miles, he required relief. While the car finished 11th, it required four other drivers to reach the checkered flag -- Johnnie Parsons, Sam Hanks, Andy Linden and Jimmy Davie Another impressive run came in 1955 when Cross, finally in a "roadster," moved from 24th to third by 70 laps; led for 24 laps and was running second when a connecting rod broke after he completed 168 laps.
In a rare non-Indianapolis championship start, Cross competed in the August 1955 race at Milwaukee, which was extended that year from 200 miles to 250. He was leading at 200 miles and salvaged fourth place after a late race stop for fuel.
The Milwaukee race proved to be his final start. He never announced his retirement but just stopped going to races, instead spending time with his family. For several years thereafter, the highly regarded Cross was courted by car owners seeking his services, but he never relented, not even for the legendary Novi car.
Cross was a decorated military veteran of World War II, earning a Purple Heart after being wounded in Belgium when the tank he was driving was bombed just days before the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete for Cross, whose wife, Margaret, died just a few days ago.