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Rodger Ward (January 10, 1921 – July 5, 2004) was an American racecar driver who won the 1959 and 1962 Indianapolis 500. He also was the 1959 and 1962 USAC Championship Car champion. Ward was born in Beloit, Kansas, and died in Anaheim, California.

Contents

Early history

Ward's father owned an auto wrecking business in Los Angeles. He was 14 years old when he built a Ford hot rod. He was a P-38 Lightning fighter pilot in World War II. He enjoyed flying so much he thought of making it his career. He began to fly B-17 Flying Fortress and was so good he was retained as an instructor. After the war he was stationed in Wichita Falls, Texas when a quarter mile dirt track was built.[1]

Midget car racing

He began racing midget cars in 1946 after he was discharged from the Army. He finished poorly. His skills improved in 1947 and by 1948 he won the San Diego Grand Prix. He raced in an Offenhauser in 1949 and won several races.[1]

Ward shocked the midget car racing world when he broke Offenhauser motor's long winning streak by using Vic Edelbrock's Ford 60 "shaker" motor at Gilmore Stadium on August 10, 1950.[2] The motor was one of the first to feature nitromethane. Ward and Edelbrock went to the Orange Show Stadium the following night and won again. Ward used his midget car in 1959 to beat the top expensive and exotic sports cars in a Formula Libre race at Lime Rock Park.[3] Midget cars were normally considered competitive for oval tracks only before that time.

Championship cars

He won the 1951 AAA Stock Car championship. The championship gave him an opportunity for a rookie test at the 1951 Indianapolis 500. He passed the test and qualified for the race. He finished 34 laps before his car suffered a broken oil line. He finished 130 laps in the 1952 Indianapolis 500 before the oil pressure failed. His 1953 Indianapolis 500 ended after 170 laps, and his 1954 Indianapolis 500 ended after his car stalled on the backstretch. He completed all of the laps for the first time in 1956, finishing eighth.[1]

In 1959 he joined the Triple W team with owner Bob Wilke and mechanic A. J. Watson. Ward won his first Indianapolis 500. He won the AAA National Championship with victories at Milwaukee, DeQuoin and the Indy Fairgrounds.[1] His 1959 season ended by competing in the only United States Grand Prix held at Sebring Raceway.[3]

The Lola-Offy that Ward drove in his final Champ Car race, the 1966 Indy 500

Ward battled Jim Rathmann for the lead in the 1960 Indianapolis 500. Ward took the lead on lap 183 (of 200). The lead switched back and forth between Ward and Rathmann until Rathmann pulled ahead on lap 197 and won the race.[1]

Ward took the lead at the 1962 Indianapolis 500 at lap 126 and lead the rest of the race. He won the season championship that year, which had changed to USAC sanction in the interim.[1]

He had his last start in the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and he finished fifteenth. He had 26 victories in his 150 starts between 1950 and 1964, and he finished in the top ten in more than half of his starts. He retired in Tustin, California. He died on July 5, 2004 aged 83.[1]

Awards

Indy 500 results

Year Car Start Qual Rank Finish Laps Led Retired
1951 48 25 134.867 7 27 34 0 Oil line
1952 34 22 134.139 28 23 130 0 Oil pressure
1953 92 10 137.468 6 16 177 0 Stalled
1954 12 16 139.297 8 22 172 0 Engine
1955 27 30 135.049 30 28 53 0 Crash BS
1956 19 15 141.171 27 8 200 0 Running
1957 8 24 141.321 15 30 27 0 Supercharger
1958 8 11 143.266 14 20 93 0 Fuel pump
1959 5 6 144.035 7 1 200 130 Running
1960 1 3 145.560 5 2 200 58 Running
1961 2 4 146.187 5 3 200 7 Running
1962 3 2 149.371 2 1 200 66 Running
1963 1 4 149.800 6 4 200 0 Running
1964 2 3 156.406 3 2 200 0 Running
1966 26 13 159.468 19 15 74 0 Handling
Totals 2160 261
Starts 15
Poles 0
Front Row 3
Wins 2
Top 5 6
Top 10 7
Retired 8
  • Ward's finishes from 1959 thru 1963 and 1960 thru 1964 rank as the best and second best five-race finishing streaks in Indianapolis 500 history.

World Championship career summary

The Indianapolis 500 was part of the FIA World Championship from 1950 through 1960. Drivers competing at Indy during those years were credited with World Championship points and participation. Rodger Ward participated in 12 World Championship races, including 10 starts at Indy along with the 1959 United States Grand Prix and the 1963 United States Grand Prix. He won 1 race and finished on the podium twice. He accumulated a total of 14 championship points.

Complete Formula One World Championship results

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 WDC Points
1951 L & B Bromme Bromme Offenhauser SUI
500
27
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
ITA
ESP
NC 0
1952 Federal Auto Associates Kurtis Kraft 4000 Offenhauser SUI
500
23
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
NED
ITA
NC 0
1953 M. A. Walker Kurtis Kraft Offenhauser ARG
500
16
NED
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
SUI
ITA
NC 0
1954 R. N. Sabourin Pawl Offenhauser ARG
500
22
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
SUI
ITA
ESP
NC 0
1955 E. R. Casale Kuzma Offenhauser ARG
MON
500
28
BEL
NED
GBR
ITA
NC 0
1956 Ed Walsh Kurtis Kraft 500C Offenhauser ARG
MON
500
8
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
ITA
NC 0
1957 Roger Wolcott Lesovsky Offenhauser ARG
MON
500
30
FRA
GBR
GER
PES
ITA
NC 0
1958 Roger Wolcott Lesovsky Offenhauser ARG
MON
NED
500
20
BEL
FRA
GBR
GER
POR
ITA
MOR
NC 0
1959 Leader Cards Inc. Watson Offenhauser MON
500
1
10th 8
Kurtis Kraft NED
FRA
GBR
GER
POR
ITA
USA
Ret
1960 Leader Cards Inc. Watson Offenhauser ARG
MON
500
2
NED
BEL
FRA
GBR
POR
ITA
USA
12th 6
1963 Reg Parnell Racing Lotus 24 BRM V8 MON
BEL
NED
FRA
GBR
GER
ITA
USA
Ret
MEX
RSA
NC 0

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Biography at the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, written in 2003, Retrieved November 13, 2007
  2. ^ Vic Edelbrock's Biography at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Retrieved January 11, 2007
  3. ^ a b c d Biography at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame (name is spelled incorrectly), Retrieved January 11, 2007
Preceded by
Jimmy Bryan
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1959
Succeeded by
Jim Rathmann
Preceded by
A. J. Foyt
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1962
Succeeded by
Parnelli Jones
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