IRL: Indy Pole Winner Dick Rathmann Dies at 74

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2000 -- Services for former race driver Dick Rathmann, older brother of 1960 Indianapolis 500 champion Jim Rathmann and a pole-winning record setter himself, were conducted Feb. 5 in Melbourne, Fla. ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2000 -- Services for former race driver Dick Rathmann, older brother of 1960 Indianapolis 500 champion Jim Rathmann and a pole-winning record setter himself, were conducted Feb. 5 in Melbourne, Fla. Rathmann died Feb. 1 in his Melbourne home. He was 74. Dick and Jim Rathmann switched first names when they were young so the younger Rathmann, who was Dick, could race and later participate in the 1949 Indy 500 as a rookie. The elder brother made his first appearance at the Speedway in 1950 as Dick and they continued on through life carrying the other's name. Born Jan. 6, 1926, the elder Rathmann was 24 when he made his debut the year after his brother, who was actually only 20 (21 was the eligibility age then) when he drove to 11th place in 1949. The switch in names actually occurred at Ascot Speedway at Gardena, Calif., in 1946. Moving over from the roadster and sprint-car circuits in California, Dick Rathmann qualified the City of Glendale Spl. - built by the legendary A.J. Watson -- in 1950. The effort was sponsored by merchants and residents of Glendale, Calif., and was termed the "Pots and Pans Spl." because the financing was so meager. He lasted 25 laps before a broken oil line sidelined his car in 32nd place. He started 18th. Dick Rathmann didn't return to the Speedway again until 1956 as he became a leading driver on the NASCAR Grand National circuit, finishing third in the point standings in 1953. Driving the McNamara Spl., he qualified fourth, at 144.741 mph, and finished fifth. However, after he took the checkered flag he spun into the No. 1 turn wall but escaped unharmed. He was back in 1957 and put the Sumar Spl. in the field in 17th position. He was not able to drive in the race because the night before he was struck in the eye with a rock thrown by a rowdy. Johnnie Parsons took over the ride and finished 16th. Dick Rathmann bounced back from that episode to grab the pole in the McNamara car in 1958 with a speed of 145.974 mph, bettering Pat Flaherty's mark of 145.596. On the opening lap he was forced high into the Turn 3 wall, triggering a big accident that took the life of driver Pat O'Connor. Though the front end was ripped off his car, Rathmann received only a slight knee injury. The elder Rathmann also drove the same McNamara car in 1959, running with the leaders until a fire in the pits eliminated him on the 150th lap. He moved to the Jim Robbins Spl. in 1960 and qualified fourth, two spots behind his brother, the eventual winner. He dropped out after 42 laps due to a broken brake line. Dick Rathmann was sixth fastest in 1961, but a fuel pump problem eliminated him in 13th. He managed only 52 laps in the Chapman Spl. in 1962 due to a magneto problem, but brought the car home 10th the next year, completing all 200 laps for the second time. He added a seventh the next May in the same car. That was his ninth and final race. Rathmann moved to Melbourne in 1966 and was involved in his brother's business, Jim Rathmann Chevrolet, thereafter. Survivors included wife, Carolyn, and brother, Jim. Services took place at Brownlie and Maxwell Funeral Home, with burial in Melbourne Cemetery.

-IMS/IRL-

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Series IndyCar