Indiana Fair Hoosier 100 anniversary 2010-05-24

50th anniversary of Foyt's First Hoosier 100 Fifty Years Ago Foyt Won Hoosier Hundred Fifty years ago America was just getting started in the 'space race' with the Soviet Union, John Kennedy was in a political battle that would see him...

50th anniversary of Foyt's First Hoosier 100

Fifty Years Ago Foyt Won Hoosier Hundred

Fifty years ago America was just getting started in the 'space race' with the Soviet Union, John Kennedy was in a political battle that would see him elected to the White House in November, the New York Yankees were marching toward the last World Championship of legendary manager Casey Stengel's career and Elvis was just a few months removed from his Army hitch. Rodger Ward and Jim Rathmann staged the greatest 2 man duel in the history of the Indianapolis 500 in May and by the time late September rolled around Ward was still in contention for a national championship but a young Texan was close by waiting to dethrone Ward at the top of American championship racing.

September 17, 1960 was a somewhat overcast day in central Indiana. Jo Quinn had the Indiana State Fairgrounds ready to go for the ninth edition of his Hoosier Hundred, the race he and the late Roger Wolcott had worked so hard to make a success. And what a success it was, quickly becoming the richest dirt track race in the entire country and arguable the second most prestigious race on the championship trail, second only to the big one across town. Over 20,000 paying spectators would be on hand and a purse of $39,000 was posted for the 9th race on the 1960 USAC National Championship schedule.

The 1960 season started out on a high note as Ward won at Trenton , took second at Indy and then won at Milwaukee as Rathmann missed the show. The season took a tragic turn as Jimmy Bryan was killed at Langhorne substituting for Ward in the Leader Card entry when Rodger decided to pass on the treacherous mile oval. Jim Hurtubise asserted himself into the championship picture as he won at the Home. Youthful Jim Packard was the surprise winner at Springfield as Ward missed the show, Rodger made the 200-mile race at Milwaukee but the car failed before halfway and Len Sutton won. A.J. Foyt scored his first ever national championship win at DuQuoin on Labor Day as Ward finished 16th on one of his favorite tracks. Bobby Grim took the next event, a 1 00-miler on the shale at Syracuse as magnetio problems plagued Ward and he finished last.

Foyt's DuQuoin win and consistent finishes, combined with Ward's poor results had launched the Texan closer to his chief rival in a battle for a national championship heading into the 1960 Hoosier Hundred. A/J/'s run at DuQuoin had convinced chief wrench George Bignotti and owner Bob Bowes they had made the right choice in hiring the burly Texan away from Al Dean and George had the Bowes Seal Fast Meskowski/Offy ready to go this September morning.

The sight of thirty-seven machines thrilled Jo Quinn on race morning and entries from Foyt, Ward, spectacular Jim Hurtubise, 1952 national champ Chuck Stevenson, two time national champ Tony Bettenhausen, Johnny Thomson and rookies Roger McCluskey and Pamelli Jones not to mention Indy pole sitter Eddie Sachs meant an overflow crowd in the stands. Practice was rather uneventful, qualifying was not as Ward let everyone know he wasn't ready to roll over and play dead as the Leader Card dirt car turned a lap of 35.43 (10 1.609) good enough for the pole and certainly good enough to break Jud Larson's two year old track record by a mile and a half an hour.

Cotton Farmer was a shock on the outside of the front row in the Glessner while Springfield winner Packard put Doug Stearley's machine inside the second row alongside another surprise, Gene Force. Parnelli made quite an impression qualifying fifth ahead of perennial good qualifier Don Branson. Foyt would start eighth, Tony Bettenhausen ninth, Sachs tenth with Syracuse winner Grim thirteenth and Herk fourteenth. Johnny Thomson would start nineteenth as the field had an unusual extra starter.

A number of notables missed the show including Elmer George, Lloyd Ruby in the Agajanian, Johnny Boyd in a second Bowes entry, Bill Cheesbourg, Ralph Ligouri, Bud Tinglestad and Dick Rathmann.

Ward got the jump at the drop of the flag on Farmer and took off in the pearl white Leader Card with the big red 1 on the tail, emblematic of his defense of the 1959 national crown. For a while it looked as if he would run away. The field ran to just past halfway before slowing down for wrecked vehicles in the third turn which took out Packard and Wayne Weiler. Jones went out with mechanical failure on lap 64 while a rock got Farmer two laps later and in the spin Farmer took out Grim. There was a collective gasp in the massive crowd as the Leader Card began to slow on lap 69, the victim of yet another magneto failure. Foyt had moved up to second and when Ward went out sailed into the lead.

The Texan would not be headed the last thirty two circuits though the field would be slowed at the end as Herk lost a wheel on lap 94 bringing out the final yellow flag period of the day. A.J. cruised home ahead of Bettenhausen who posted yet another second place finish for the 1960 campaign. After a protest Force was given third after starting seventeenth with Branson in fourth and Thomson rounding out the top five. Eleven of the nineteen cars were still running at the end.

Foyt and Bignotti were all smiles in victory lane as A.J. got his first of what would be six Wolcott cups and the $10,225 top prize. The win also inched him closer to Rodger Ward who had to be cursing the manufacturer of the magnetos for his Offenhauser engine.

Later in life Foyt would tell everyone that it was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that made A.J. Foyt. However, one cannot overlook the influence that the one mile dirt tracks had in making A.J. Foyt an American racing hero. Foyt routinely raced in front of paying fair crowds of 25,000 or more with perhaps double or triple that number on the grounds listening to the cars and occasionally peeking through the fences. Of Foyt's sixty seven national championship victories, twenty four of those came on the mile dirt tracks. Throw in two more in USAC's dirt track (Silver Crown) division, six in sprint cars and nine in stock cars and A.J. has forty-one triumphs on America's one mile dirt ovals.

A.J.'s first Hoosier Hundred win came fifty years ago and was the first of a record six wins in America's premiere national championship dirt track race. He went on to become the all-time lap leader in the Hoosier Hundred with 592, third in miles completed with 1763 and first in money won with $161,732.

While the cars have changed slightly, different men have taken on the promotion of the event and even the date has changed, a whole host of drivers still compete for a chance to put their name next to A.J.'s as a Hoosier Hundred winner.

-source: isf/jh

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About this article
Series History , USAC
Drivers Lloyd Ruby , Rodger Ward , Tony Bettenhausen , A.J. Foyt