1961 Indianapolis 500
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|Season||1961 USAC season|
|Date||May 30, 1961|
|Winner||A. J. Foyt|
|Winning team||Bignotti-Bowes Racing Associates|
|Average speed||139.130 mph (223.908 km/h)|
|Pole position||Eddie Sachs|
|Pole speed||147.481 mph (237.348 km/h)|
|Fastest qualifier||Eddie Sachs|
|Rookie of the Year||Bobby Marshman & Parnelli Jones (co-winners)|
|Most laps led||A. J. Foyt (71)|
|National anthem||Purdue Band|
|"Back Home Again in Indiana"||Mel Torme|
|Starting Command||Tony Hulman|
|Pace car||Ford Thunderbird|
|Pace car driver||Sam Hanks|
|TV in the United States|
|Nielsen Ratings||N/A / N/A|
The 45th Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday, May 30, 1961. For the first time since 1949, the Indianapolis 500 was not recognized on the World Championship calendar. The race celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first Indy 500 in 1911.
Eddie Sachs and A. J. Foyt were battling for 1st-2nd in the latter stages of the race. On Foyt's final scheduled pit stop, his crew is unable to properly engage the fuel mechanism, and his car does not take on a full load of fuel. Foyt returns to the track, and is pulling away from Sachs. Foyt's car is running faster due to the light fuel load, but his crew signals him that he will be unable to make it to the finish without another pit stop. The crew borrowed a fuel tank from Len Sutton's team, and signaled Foyt to the pits.
Foyt gives up the lead on lap 184 for a splash-and-go. That hands the lead to Sachs, who is now leading by 25 seconds. With three laps to go, the warning tread shows through on Sachs' rear tire and Sachs decides to play it safe. Rather than nurse the car around, he pits to replace the worn tire on lap 197. Foyt takes the lead with three laps to go and wins his first (of four) Indy 500 victories by a margin of 8.28 seconds.
A notable story included the appearance of two-time defending Formula One World Champion Jack Brabham from Australia, who drove the race in a low-slung, British built Cooper powered by a Coventry Climax engine. Dubbed the "British Invasion," it would be the first notable post-war appearance of a rear-engined car, and within five years the rear-engined revolution would take over the Speedway. The venerable front-engined roadsters with their larger and more powerful engines were much faster down the long straights, but the superior handling of Brabham's Cooper in the corners keep the car competitive. Brabham qualified 17th at 145.144 mp/h and drove the car to a respectable 9th place finish, completing all 200 laps.
Five months after the race in October 1961, the front straight of the track was paved over with asphalt, and thus the entire track was now paved in asphalt and only a single yard of bricks at the start/finish line was left exposed from the original 1909 brick surface. The remainder of the original 3,200,000 bricks now lie underneath the asphalt surface. This meant that the 1961 race was the last 500 in which cars raced on the original bricks other than those at the start/finish line.
Practice and time trials
Nicknamed the "Tinley Park Express," Tony Bettenhausen, Sr. was killed in a crash during a practice run on May 12. He was testing a car for Paul Russo. It was determined that an anchor bolt fell off the front radius rod support, permitting the front axle to twist and mis-align the front wheels when the brakes were applied. The car plunged into the outside wall, then rode along the top, snapping fence poles and tearing segments of the catch fence. The car came to rest upside-down on top of the outside wall, and Bettenhausen was killed instantly. Before the time trials Bettenhausen had been the favorite to become the first driver to break the 150 mph barrier at the Speedway.
Time trials was scheduled for four days:
- Saturday May 13 - Pole Day time trials
- Sunday May 14 - Second day time trials
- Saturday May 20 - Third day time trials
- Sunday May 21 - Fourth day time trials
Eddie Sachs sat on the pole with an average speed of 147.481 mph (237.348 km/h).
|1||7||1||A. J. Foyt||145.903||9||200||71||Running|
|3||4||2||Rodger Ward (W)||146.187||5||200||7||Running|
|7||33||31||Bobby Marshman (R)||144.293||29||200||0||Running|
|9||13||17||Jack Brabham (R)||145.144||17||200||0||Running|
|10||32||34||Norm Hall (R)||144.555||26||200||0||Running|
|12||5||98||Parnelli Jones (R)||146.080||7||192||27||Flagged|
|13||6||97||Dick Rathmann||146.033||8||164||0||Fuel Pump|
|14||17||10||Paul Goldsmith||144.741||25||160||0||Connecting Rod|
|15||12||15||Wayne Weiler||145.349||14||147||0||Wheel Bearing|
|16||31||35||Dempsey Wilson||144.202||31||145||0||Fuel Pump|
|18||10||33||Eddie Johnson||145.843||12||127||0||Crash T4|
|20||22||52||Troy Ruttman (W)||144.799||23||105||10||Clutch|
|23||19||86||Ebb Rose (R)||144.338||28||93||0||Rod|
|25||21||45||Jack Turner||144.904||21||52||0||Crash FS|
|26||14||73||A. J. Shepherd (R)||144.954||20||51||0||Crash FS|
|27||29||22||Roger McCluskey (R)||145.068||18||51||0||Crash FS|
|28||9||14||Bill Cheesbourg||145.873||11||50||0||Crash FS|
|29||27||83||Don Davis (R)||145.349||15||49||0||Crash FS|
|30||11||4||Jim Rathmann (W)||145.413||13||48||6||Magneto|
|31||23||55||Jimmy Daywalt||144.219||30||27||0||Brake Line|
|33||2||3||Don Branson||146.843||3||2||0||Bent Valves|
|Tire participation chart|
|Supplier||No. of starters|
|* - Denotes race winner|
Track worker fatality
John Masariu, 38, of Danville, Indiana was serving as a member of the fire/safety crew. On the 127th lap of the race, driver Eddie Johnson spun out in turn 4, but did not suffer significant damage and he was not injured. A small fire broke out on the car. A safety fire truck went to his aid. John Masariu, who was the principal of Ben Davis Junior High and was serving as a safety worker, fell or jumped off the back of the fire truck. A moment later, the truck driven by James Williams accidentally backed over him, and he was injured fatally.
The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. Sid Collins served as chief announcer with Fred Agabashian serving as "driver expert" The broadcast represented the 10th anniversary of the network, which was formed in 1952.
The broadcast was heard on over 450 affiliates, including Armed Forces Radio. The broadcast reached all 50 U.S. states. The race reached approximately 100 million listeners worldwide.
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network|
|Booth Announcers||Turn Reporters||Pit/garage reporters|
Turn 1: Bill Frosh
|Jack Shapiro (north pits)
Luke Walton (center pits)
Johny Peterson (south pits)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1961 Indianapolis 500.|
Replica of Jack Brabham's 1961 Cooper-Climax T54
- Indianapolis 500 History: Race & All-Time Stats - Official Site
- 1961 Indianapolis 500 Radio Broadcast, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
|1960 Indianapolis 500
|1961 Indianapolis 500
|1962 Indianapolis 500
(1960 Indianapolis 500)
|Record for the fastest average speed
(1962 Indianapolis 500)