Indianapolis 500-Winning Car Owner Zink Dies at 75
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 7, 2005 -- John S. Zink, the Tulsa, Okla., industrialist whose cars won the Indianapolis 500 in 1955 with driver Bob Sweikert and 1956 with driver Pat Flaherty, died Feb. 5 in a Tulsa hospital.
Zink, who was inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at a dinner in May 2004 in Indianapolis, was 75.
Only 23 years old when he entered a car in the "500" for the first time, "Jack" Zink had at least one car in the lineup every year between 1952 and 1967. Somewhat following in the footsteps of his father, John S. Zink Sr., who had sponsored a car driven by Cecil Green in 1950 and 1951, Jack Zink arrived with his operation in 1952 and with a driver even younger than himself -- 22-year-old Jimmy Reece. They finished seventh.
John Zink Specials won 13 National Championship races between 1955 and 1966, four each with Jud Larson and Jim McElreath, two each with Sweikert and Flaherty, and one with Lloyd Ruby. Zink also partnered with Bob Wilke of Leader Cards, Inc., to field the car with which Jim Rathmann won all three heats of the 1958 500-mile race at Monza, Italy.
The victories by Sweikert, Flaherty, Larson and Rathmann came with A.J. Watson as chief mechanic, while the victories of Ruby and McElreath were wrenched by Denny Moore.
Never satisfied with "status quo," Zink entered a revolutionary car in 1961 for 1952 winner Troy Ruttman. Not only was the car rear-engined, but it was supposed to have been powered by a gas turbine. Built in Tulsa by Moore, it arrived late and without the turbine. After testing briefly during the early part of the summer, and with an Offenhauser engine in place of the turbine, it was decided to start again from scratch.
A second rear-engine car was readied for 1962, this time based on the 1961 Cooper and the Lotus 18. Powered by a Boeing gas turbine, the driver this time was American road racing standout Dan Gurney. Required to take a "rookie" test, Gurney did so with the very front-engine "roadster" that had been driven to victory by Flaherty in 1956. Although the turbine was tested extensively by Gurney, Chuck Hulse and Bill Cheesbourg, it was withdrawn without a qualifying attempt being made.
In 1964, Zink partnered with Jack Brabham, who had already won two of his three Formula One World Championships and who had recently become an F1 car constructor. Although Brabham only lasted for 77 laps in the 1964 "500" with his rear-engine Brabham/Offy, McElreath drove it with great distinction during the next 2 ½ seasons. More importantly, this was the car which was virtually duplicated as the Brawner Hawk series, driven to so many victories in the mid- and late 1960s by Mario Andretti.
Arrangements for Zink are pending.