Indianapolis, January 29, 1998 -- In his first year of eligibility, four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears has been voted into motor racing's premier Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Two other racing greats -- three-time Formula...
Indianapolis, January 29, 1998 -- In his first year of eligibility, four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears has been voted into motor racing's premier Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Two other racing greats -- three-time Formula One champion Jack Brabham and mechanic extraordinaire Takeo "Chickie" Hirashima, whose Indy career spanned four decades -- were also elected. All three received approval from the mandatory 75 percent of the 100 journalists, car, team and track owners and others in the racing fraternity who make up the selection committee. Induction ceremonies will take place Friday, May 15 -- the night before pole position qualifying for the 82nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
Altogether, 107 racing legends have been elected to the Hall of Fame since 1952. Their plaques and pictures grace the entire western wall of the Hall of Fame Museum on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was Mears first time on the ballot, Brabham's ninth and Hirashima's third. Mears, 46, retired after the 1992 season. The Associated Press Driver of the Decade for the 1980s, Mears started in 15 Indianapolis 500s -- 11 of them from the front row. His four Indy victories tie him for most wins with Hall of Famers A.J. Foyt and Al Unser. Brabham, 71, is credited with starting the 1960s rear-engine revolution at the Brickyard.
Already renowned in Europe as a car builder and Formula One champion, he was testing a tiny unmodified Cooper-Climax Grand Prix car at the Speedway in October, 1960, when he shocked observers with record-breaking cornering speeds. His solid performance as a rookie in the 1961 Indianapolis 500 signaled the beginning of the end of Indy's front-engine era. Today, he manages automobile, agricultural and aviation interests in England and Australia. Hirashima was a riding mechanic in the late '30s. Confined in a nisei detainment camp when World War II broke out, he enlisted in the famous Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Division in 1943 and fought through Italy and France. He was back at the Speedway in 1946 building winning engines and managing winning teams. He built Rodger Ward's winning engine in 1959, and was Jim Rathmann's crew chief in 1960. In 1964 Hirashima became a field representive for Autolite, and continued his affiliation with the Speedway through that company. He died Christmas Day, 1980.