Jim Rathmann

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May 13, 2010
Big Rapids, Michigan
1960 Indianapolis 500 winner passed away last Wednesday. He and Roger Ward staged an epic battle in the 1960 500 driving roadsters with Rathmann coming out on top. I can remember listening to the race on my radio (no TV for racing back then). Both Rathmann and Ward would have given a big thumbs up to Tony Stewart's performance at Homestead. RIP Jim.
Like many, I was glued to the radio trying to create a picture of the race as it was announced. The 500 was, along with the World Series, one of sport's super events and drivers like Rathmann, Ward, et al., were the superstars. RIP Jim & thanks for all of those great races.
I was actually at that 1960 race, my first Indy 500. I was pulling for Ward, so, naturally, Rathmann won. Funny thing back in those days: they let the cars keep running for awhile until some of the laps down cars completed the 500 miles. We left as soon as the race was over, and once outside the grounds we could hear the cars still circulating. We went back in 1961 to see A.J. Foyt's first Indy victory, and again in 1963 to see possibly the finest individual performance ever, watching Parnelli Jones beat Jim Clark in the Lotus-Ford driving his old front engine roadster.
To me, the 500 has not been the same since the demise of the roadster. What a beautiful race car. Sure, the rear engines are faster but pure speed does not make a race. I grew up with my dad taking me to sprint car races (AAA, USAC, IMCA) in the Midwest. The WOO sprint cars with huge wings just turn me off. Back then they just ran with a roll bar and ran every bit as hard as they do today. With the IRL talking about enclosing the cockpits that will end open wheel racing for me outside of the midgets that still put on a good show.
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