IRL: The Renewal of Rathmann's Legend

(Indianapolis, IN) Jim Rathmann, Sr. is bringing more than a new team to the INDY Racing League this year. With 25 years of previous racing experience, he brings a knowledge of motorsports' aged traditions and a personal aura recently missing...

(Indianapolis, IN) Jim Rathmann, Sr. is bringing more than a new team to the INDY Racing League this year. With 25 years of previous racing experience, he brings a knowledge of motorsports' aged traditions and a personal aura recently missing from the league. Jim Rathmann, Sr. is a legend of racing. He competed around the world, winning many motorsports championships and conquering racing's pinnacle in 1960, the Indy 500. He participated in 14 Indy 500s from 1949 until 1962, placing second three times before reaching the winner's circle. According to many open-wheel racing fans, Rathmann's win over Rodger Ward in the 1960 Indy 500 is the greatest duel in the race's 85 year history with the lead changing hands a record 29 times. "It was a great race," said Rathmann Sr. "I was going to win no matter what it took. I loved the competition, and I always drove faster when I actually chasing someone." He raced professionally for two more years before leaving to pursue a career in management and sales. He opened a lucrative Chevrolet dealership in Melbourne, Florida, and has been a staple in Florida's auto business community for nearly 40 years. "I wasn't ready to give up racing when I did," says Rathmann, Sr. "I loved being on the track, driving fast. I just loved to go fast all the time. But, I've also found success away from the racetrack selling cars. Looking back, I don't have too many regrets." Rathmann may not have regrets, but he hasn't lost his passion for racing. He has joined efforts with his son, Jim Rathmann, Jr. and the Mecom family of Houston, Texas in the formation of Heritage Motorsports, an IRL team with a historic past and a bright future. The team will compete in Homestead on April 8, in the second race of the INDY Racing League Northern Lights Series. "I'm excited to be directly involved with racing again," said Rathmann Sr. "My entire life has been consumed with cars and the sport of racing, so this opportunity is one I couldn't pass up. Heritage Motorsports has allowed me to combine my life's passions of automobiles and racing into one project." The Heritage Motorsports team, piloted by IRL veteran Jeff Ward, made their debut March 18, in Phoenix, qualifying third and finishing the race seventh. An exceptional feat in the fact that the team was officially founded only 45 days before the first race. "I am proud of this team," said Rathmann Sr. "They went out and ran hard and did well their first time out. I think great things are going to happen for them as they grow together. They're learning, but I don't think it will take them long before their winning. The team already made a great showing in their debut race." Looking at Rathmann Sr.'s past, he understands what it takes for a racing team to win. The 72-year old motorsports veteran has been involved with racing since he was a teenager and is regarded among the greatest racers of the Indy 500. At six different times in his career, Rathmann led at Indy, and raced a total of 2,295 laps in his 14 years there. When he retired from racing, he ranked third highest in total laps raced by any other driver in history in the Indianapolis 500. Rathmann's story is legendary, but it's not finished, yet. His efforts are geared toward the future success of Heritage Motorsports, hoping to add another chapter of success to his story. The Heritage Motorsports team will compete April 8 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway at 2 p.m.


Lunch with a Legend
Jeff sat down with racing legend and Heritage Motorsports co-owner, Jim Rathmann, Sr. last week to talk about old times and new beginnings.

"Jim is a really good guy. Over lunch, we talked about the team and his old racing stories. He has so many great stories. I had fun talking with him, and I'm looking forward to May, because we'll have more time to talk in Indy, and I know he has some good stories about Indianapolis."

Homestead's Super-Fast-Speedway
"I'm excited to get down to Homestead, because the track is so different than all the other ovals we race. It's so fast and flat, which makes the handling of the car really important. That makes for a competitive race, which is more fun for the fans."

"We had a great test in Homestead earlier this year. It was our first practice as a new team, and we were just trying to put things together- the car and the people. We ended up running very fast, competitive speeds, which we weren't even trying for. Everything came together perfectly for us. Now, we've had more time with the car, adjusting set-ups, and I'm really confident about our weekend in Homestead."

Pre-Race Magic
Jeff and his family are enjoying a little down time in Disney's Magic Kingdom before traveling to Homestead for the race.

"The family is spending three days together at Disney World, and then I'll go down to Homestead to practice for the next race. This vacation is something the whole family does together every year, and we all really look forward to it."

"Splash Mountain is the whole family's favorite ride. The kids like it, because they get wet. I'm hoping we have nicer weather this year, because last year we all got soaked on Splash Mountain, and froze because it was so cold."

Auto Adjustments
"We had wheel problems in Phoenix, which was creating less down force on the car. We've fixed that for Homestead, so the car will be more balanced and easier to handle."

"In our partnership with G-Force, we are constantly developing new and faster parts," says Mitch Davis, crew chief for Heritage Motorsports. "We have been working to improve the car for Miami and we will be running with all new front and rear suspension and a new front wing."

<pre> Jeff Ward Indy Racing Northern Lights 2001 Statistics Date- March 18 Track- Phoenix Start- 3 Finish- 7 LC/TL- 199/200 Starts- 1 Wins- 0 Poles- 0 Top Fives- 0 Top Tens- 1 Winnings- $44,350

Indy Racing League Northern Light Series Career Statistical Breakdown Starts- 34 Wins- 0 Poles-1 Top Fives- 9 Top Tens- 16 Winnings- $2,887,505

-Heritage Motorsports

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Ward , Rodger Ward