SPEEDWAY TO HONOR '500' HEROES WITH 'INDY RACING LEGENDS' WEEK By Eric Powell indy500.com INDIANAPOLIS, May 7, 1999 - Legendary Indianapolis 500 competitors Rodger Ward, Johnny Rutherford, Jim Rathmann and Lloyd Ruby, and car builder A.J....
SPEEDWAY TO HONOR '500' HEROES WITH 'INDY RACING LEGENDS' WEEK By Eric Powell indy500.com
INDIANAPOLIS, May 7, 1999 - Legendary Indianapolis 500 competitors Rodger Ward, Johnny Rutherford, Jim Rathmann and Lloyd Ruby, and car builder A.J. Watson will be recognized for their accomplishments at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during "Indy Racing Legends Week" May 16-21. The schedule for Indy Racing Legends Week: .Sunday, May 16 - Rodger Ward .Monday, May 17 - A.J. Watson .Tuesday, May 18 - Johnny Rutherford .Wednesday, May 19 - Short Track Oval Champions Day (honoring current champions from many open-wheel series) .Thursday, May 20 - Jim Rathmann .Friday, May 21 - Lloyd Ruby
The honored legend for each day will sign autographs at Indy FanFest from 2-3 p.m. At 3:45 p.m., fans will get a taste of Speedway history as the legends drive their championship cars around the 2.5-mile oval. Rutherford will drive his 1974 winning McLaren, commemorating the 25th anniversary of his first victory. Watson will drive the 1955 race winner of driver Bob Sweikert, who brought Watson his first victory as an Indy chief mechanic. Ward will take laps in his 1959 winning Leader Card/Watson roadster, Rathmann will drive his 1960 Ken-Paul/Watson roadster winner, and Ruby will slide back in his 1965 DuPont Halibrand/Offy, which took him to an 11th-place finish that year. The four drivers receiving honors this year amassed 71 Indianapolis 500 starts, six victories, led 836 laps and completed a total of 9,629 laps of Indianapolis 500 competition. Several of the Indy Racing Legends being honored have direct connections to one another. Rathmann and Ward's epic duel during the 1960 race, when the two exchanged the lead 14 times just in the last half of the race before Rathmann went on to win, is arguably one of the most intense events in the Speedway's 90-year history. Both were driving Watson-designed roadsters that year. Ward won both the '500' and the national championship in 1959 and 1962 in Watson-built roadsters. Watson was Indy's most prolific car builder/designer from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s, the height of the "roadster" car era at the Speedway. His career at the Speedway includes four victories as a chief mechanic (1955, 1956, 1959 and 1962) and seven wins as either the car builder or designer (1956, 1959-1964). Legendary four time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt's first two victories were in Watson-designed (1961) and Watson-designed and built (1964) cars. Rutherford competed in 24 Indy 500's. His career at the Speedway included starts in every race from 1963-1988, with the exception of 1966 and 1983, when injuries forced him to miss the race. Besides his three Indy wins and eight top-10 finishes, Rutherford won the 1980 PPG Cup Indy-style season championship. Ruby is one of the most popular drivers in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. He never won the "500" but came very close on several occasions. Victory seemed imminent for Ruby during five of six Indy 500's between 1966 and 1971, but something always seemed to pull victory from his grasp. Ruby won seven races in USAC National Championship competition, and scored victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring during his driving career.