POPULAR INDIANAPOLIS 500 DRIVER SUTTON DIES AT AGE 81 INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006 -- Len Sutton, one of open-wheel racing's most respected drivers and the runner-up in the 1962 Indianapolis 500, passed away on Dec. 4 at the age of ...
POPULAR INDIANAPOLIS 500 DRIVER SUTTON DIES AT AGE 81
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006 -- Len Sutton, one of open-wheel racing's most respected drivers and the runner-up in the 1962 Indianapolis 500, passed away on Dec. 4 at the age of 81.
Services for Sutton will take place at 1 p.m. (PST) on Friday, Dec. 8 at the Valley Community Presbyterian Church, 8060 S.W. Brentwood Street, Portland, Ore., 97225.
A lifelong resident of Portland, Sutton had been battling ill health for some time but had been participating in vintage-car race meets until very recently.
Born Aug. 9, 1925, the friendly and unassuming Sutton began his driving career immediately after World War II in hot rod "track" roadsters. Sutton had just completed a tour of duty with the United States Navy in the South Pacific when he made his first start in 1946. Within 10 years, he had risen to the ranks of the AAA National Championship circuit, qualifying for the final two events of 1955.
Having passed his rookie test at Indianapolis in 1956, Sutton made his first of seven "500" starts in 1958. The Indianapolis debut was short-lived, however, lasting just three-quarters of a lap before he was eliminated in the race's huge first-lap, multi-car accident.
Sutton made a total of 74 starts in national championship competition with notable wins in the 100-mile USAC dirt track event at Springfield, Ill., in 1959 and at the prestigious Milwaukee 200 in 1960. He amassed a total of 43 top-10 finishes.
Arguably his most memorable event was the 1962 Indianapolis 500, when he started fourth and went on to finish a close second behind Rodger Ward, his Leader Card Racers teammate. It was the first one-two finish by teammates since 1948 and was a feat not duplicated again until 1997.
During summer tire tests in 1963, Sutton was the first person to unofficially lap the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in excess of 155 mph.
A versatile performer, he won a total of seven USAC midget car feature events, placing fourth in points in 1957. He was also competed in Sprint cars, placed 12th or higher in the USAC Stock Car standings from 1961-64 and drove in the 1963 Daytona 500.
After retiring in 1965, Sutton turned his attention to broadcasting, serving for several years as driver analyst for Sid Collins on the IMS Radio Network, and assisting Tom Carnegie, the longtime IMS public address announcer and local television personality, with television coverage at the track.
He had a brief involvement with local politics in Portland in the 1970s, and in November 2002, he published his memoirs in a thoroughly enjoyable and well-received book entitled My Road to Indy.
Sutton is survived by his wife, Anita, and two daughters, Christy and Hollie.