FORMER INDY 500 TECHNICAL DIRECTOR BECKLEY DIES AT 87

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Jan. 20, 2006 -- Jack Beckley, the former Indianapolis 500 technical director and one of racing's most respected chief mechanics, died Jan. 19 in Glendale, Ariz. He was 87.

Beckley prepared front-running cars at Indianapolis for more than 25 years before turning to officiating, at the United States Auto Club (USAC), in May 1976. He spent two years there as assistant to Technical Chairman Frank DelRoy until DelRoy, along with seven other USAC officials, perished in a private aircraft accident while returning home from the Trenton 200 on April 23, 1978.

With the Indianapolis Motor Speedway due to open for practice only a few days later, Beckley immediately assumed DelRoy's role. He retired in July 1991 but continued to return as a consultant in May for many years thereafter.

Beckley was the winning chief mechanic in 12 National Championship events (four under AAA sanction and eight under USAC) between 1950-68, with drivers Jim Rathmann, Jack McGrath, Roger McCluskey, Tony Bettenhausen, Bobby Marshman and George Amick. His second- and third-place finishes were numerous, including a pair of seconds, plus a couple of pole positions with A. J. Foyt during the summer of 1962.

While Beckley never was able to win the Indianapolis 500 as chief mechanic, he was on the winning crew twice, as engine man for Bill Vukovich (1954) and Gordon Johncock (1973). His best Indy finish as a chief mechanic was second with Rathmann in 1957 and 1959.

Cars prepared by Beckley started from the front row seven times and led segments of the "500" in 1951 and 1952 with McGrath, 1956, 1957 and 1959 with Rathmann, 1964 with Marshman and 1969 with Wally Dallenbach.

Always congenial, easygoing and helpful, Beckley was an icon of Championship auto racing for more than half a century. Beckley, a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, served on a variety of committees over the years and was a past president of the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Association.

Beckley is survived by his wife of 62 years, Harriet; daughter, Linda; and son, Patrick.

No services are planned. Contributions can be made in Beckley's memory to the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Club.

-ims