Johnny Rutherford

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For the Major League Baseball pitcher, see Johnny Rutherford (baseball). For other people with a similar name, see John Rutherford.
John Sherman Rutherford III
JohnnyRutherford.jpg
Born (1938-03-12) March 12, 1938 (age 76)
Coffeyville, Kansas
Awards

1974, 1976, and 1980 Indianapolis 500 champion
1980 PPG Indycar World Series champion
1986 Michigan 500 champion
1974 USAC Pocono 500 champion
1993 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Inductee
1995 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Inductee

1996 International Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career
35 race(s) run over 12 year(s)
Best finish 33rd - 1981 (Winston Cup)
First race 1963 Daytona Qualifier #2 (Daytona)
Last race 1988 Checker 500 (Phoenix)
First win 1963 Daytona Qualifier #2 (Daytona)
Last win 1963 Daytona Qualifier #2 (Daytona)
Wins Top tens Poles
1 5 5

John Sherman Rutherford III (born March 12, 1938), better known as Johnny Rutherford, and also known as "Lone Star JR" is a former U.S. automobile racer known for being one of nine drivers to win the prestigious Indianapolis 500 mile race at least three times. Rutherford won that race in 1974, 1976, and 1980.[1]

Rutherford began racing modified stock cars in 1959 and he also dabbled in stock car racing, making 35 NASCAR Winston Cup starts from 1963 to 1988. Rutherford won in his first start, at Daytona International Speedway driving for Smokey Yunick. This made him one of the youngest drivers ever to win in NASCAR history, in a full points-paying NASCAR race.

Racing career[edit]

In 1959, Rutherford started driving modified stock cars in Dallas. He joined the International Motor Contest Association sprint car circuit in 1961 leading it for most of 1962. Rutherford later joined the United States Auto Club (USAC) starting in the Hoosier Hundred and later winning his first championship.[1]

Rutherford set a world record for speed in his first qualifying effort in a stock car during qualifying for the 1963 Daytona 500. Later that year he also had his first start in the Indianapolis 500. Rutherford's first Indy car race win took place at the Atlanta 250. He won the USAC National Sprint Car Championship in 1965.[1]

On April 3, 1966, Rutherford suffered a serious crash at Eldora Speedway. His car flipped out of the track, and he suffered broken arms, a broken finger, and a head injury. He was forced to sit out the 1966 Indy 500.

Rutherford won pole position at the Indy 500 in 1973, 1976, and 1980. In 1973, Rutherford set a one-lap track record of 199.071 mph, falling just shy of becoming the first driver to break the 200 mph barrier at Indianapolis. Victories at the Indy 500 for him came in 1974, 1976 and 1980. In 1984, at Michigan International Speedway, Rutherford set an all time Indy car qualifying lap speed record of 215.189 mph. He became the first driver to win all three 500 mile races, in 1986, by winning the Michigan 500. Rutherford recorded nine straight seasons with a victory making him one of just six drivers in Indy Car history to do so.[1]

In October 1977, Rutherford travelled 'down under' to compete in Australia's most famous motor race, the Bathurst 1000 km (800 mi) touring car race at the Mount Panorama Circuit. There, partnering fellow Indianapolis racer Janet Guthrie (who earlier that year had become the first woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500), Rutherford drove a V8 powered Holden Torana for the team that had won the 1976 race, Ron Hodgson Racing. Driving a completely unfamiliar car (Australian cars have the steering wheel on the right side of the car) on a 6.172 km (3.835 mi) public road course carved into the side of a mountain, Rutherford qualified 26th out of 60 starters. During practice he complained about his car as it was not as good as the teams lead car driven by 1976 winners Bob Morris and John Fitzpatrick (JR was 8.2 seconds slower). Morris then got in the car and while not as quick as his own Torana, easily lapped over 5 seconds faster showing the problem was simply JR's lack of familiarity with the car and track. Wisely, JR made a cautious start to the race (another new experience was the standing start), but his race would come effectively to an end on lap 8 when he attempted to lap the Ford Escort RS2000 of 1966 winner Bob Holden. The Torana and Escort made contact and Rutherford ended up crashing into an earth bank at the top of The Mountain. The bent Torana was then brought back to the pits on the back of a tilt-tray truck (with the race still going at full speed and cars passing the truck going along the 2 km long Conrod Straight at over 150 mph (241 km/h)). It was then disqualified before being reinstated. Rutherford then completed another 5 laps before finally retiring with Guthrie not getting to drive.

Rutherford's NASCAR Winston Cup career included 35 starts from 1963 to 1988. He won in his first start, at Daytona International Speedway driving for Smokey Yunick. The win, in the second 100-mile Daytona 500 qualifying race, made him one of the youngest drivers ever to win in NASCAR history, in a full points-paying NASCAR race. (Until 1971, the qualifying races were full points-paying races.) In 1981, Rutherford drove twelve races, the most he ever raced in a single NASCAR season. In addition, Rutherford competed in five runnings of the International Race of Champions – 1975, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1984.

Post-racing career[edit]

Rutherford's 24th and final start at Indianapolis would be 1988. By that time he was running only a part-time schedule, and was splitting time working as a television analyst on NBC, ABC, CBS and ESPN and radio analyst on Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. He also served as the pace car driver for the PPG Indycar series for most of that period. He failed to qualify at Indy in three attempts (1989, 1990, 1992) and was not able to find a ride in 1991 or 1993. Starting in 1989, Rutherford began serving as the driver analyst on the IMS Radio Network. He was never able to achieve his milestone 25th Indy start.

During the month of May 1994, Rutherford officially retired from racing. At its inception in 1996, Rutherford took a full-time position as an official with the IRL, serving as pace car driver and driver coach. Rutherford also served as a racing consultant for Team Pennzoil.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Rutherford was born in Coffeyville, Kansas. Rutherford was the honorary chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in 2006.

Johnny's wife Betty was a fixture at his side throughout his racing career. His first Indy 500 win in 1974, with Betty looking on from the pits, helped to end the taboo in American racing against allowing women in the pit area. Rutherford, whom has been invited to The White House on behalf of Indy on multiple occasions, is considered a popular ambassador and spokesman for the sport of Indy car racing.

Awards[edit]

American open–wheel racing results[edit]

(key)

PPG Indycar Series[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Rank Points
1979 Team McLaren PHX
3
ATL
1
ATL
1
INDY
18
TRE
15
TRE
3
MCH
3
MCH
11
WGL
15
TRE
5
ONT
4
MCH
4
ATL
11
PHX
6
4th 2163
1980 Chaparral Cars ONT
1
INDY
1
MIL
2
POC
2
MDO
1
MCH
1
WGL
5
MIL
1
ONT
2
MCH
4
MEX
10
PHX
13
1st 4723
1981 Chaparral Cars PHX
1
MIL
6
ATL
2
ATL
3
MCH
22
RIV
21
MIL
4
MCH
20
WGL
2
MEX
26
PHX
21
5th 120
1982 Chaparral Cars PHX
4
ATL
MIL
15
CLE
23
MCH
28
MIL
17
POC
12
RIV
3
ROA
12
MCH
DNS
PHX
21
12th 62
1983 Patrick Racing ATL
18
INDY
DNQ
MIL
21
CLE
MCH
ROA
POC
RIV
MDO
MCH
23
CPL
24
LAG
PHX
20
NC 0
1984 Doug Shierson Racing LBH
PHX
INDY
DNQ
22nd 20
Gilmore Racing INDY
22
MIL
POR
MEA
CLE
MCH
7
ROA
POC
28
MDO
Team Penske SAN
5
MCH
14
PHX
11
LAG
CPL
1985 Alex Morales Motorsports LBH
10
INDY
6
MIL
23
POR
9
MEA
14
CLE
15
MCH
4
ROA
DNS
POC
14
MDO
22
SAN
1
MCH
9
LAG
21
PHX
26
MIA
19
11th 51
1986 Alex Morales Motorsports PHX
5
LBH
9
INDY
8
MIL
4
POR
15
MEA
7
CLE
10
TOR
10
MCH
1
POC
18
MDO
8
SAN
16
MCH
9
ROA
14
LAG
12
PHX
9
MIA
12
11th 78
1987 Alex Morales Motorsports LBH
23
PHX
9
INDY
11
MIL
9
POR
7
MEA
11
CLE
9
TOR
21
MCH
28
POC
26
ROA
24
MDO
12
NAZ
20
LAG
15
MIA
16
18th 23
1988 King Racing PHX
LBH
INDY
22
MIL
POR
CLE
TOR
MEA
43rd 0
AJ Foyt Enterprises MCH
18
POC
MDO
ROA
NAZ
LAG
MIA
1989 Team Menard PHX
LBH
INDY
DNQ
27th 3
AJ Foyt Enterprises INDY
DNQ
MIL
DET
POR
CLE
MEA
TOR
Stoops Racing MCH
10
POC
13
MDO
ROA
Machinists Union Racing NAZ
DNS
LAG
1990 Stoops Racing PHX
LBH
INDY
DNQ
MIL
DET
POR
CLE
MEA
TOR
MCH
DEN
VAN
MDO
ROA
NAZ
LAG
NC -
1992 Walker Racing SRF
PHX
LBH
INDY
DNQ
DET
POR
MIL
NHA
TOR
MCH
CLE
ROA
VAN
MDO
NAZ
LAG
NC -
1994 AJ Foyt Enterprises SRF PHX
LBH
INDY
Wth1
MIL
DET
POR
CLE
TOR
MCH
MDO
NHA
VAN
ROA
NAZ
LAG
NC -
1 Retired

Indy 500 results[edit]

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish
1963 Watson Offy 26th 29th
1964 Watson Offy 15th 27th
1965 Halibrand Ford 11th 31st
1966 Did not compete due to injury
1967 Eagle Ford 19th 25th
1968 Eagle Ford 21st 18th
1969 Eagle Offy 17th 29th
1970 Eagle Offy 2nd 18th
1971 Eagle Offy 24th 18th
1972 Brabham Offy 8th 27th
1973 McLaren Offy 1st 9th
1974 McLaren Offy 25th 1st
1975 McLaren Offy 7th 2nd
1976 McLaren Offy 1st 1st
1977 McLaren Cosworth 17th 33rd
1978 McLaren Cosworth 4th 13th
1979 McLaren Cosworth 8th 18th
1980 Chaparral Cosworth 1st 1st
1981 Chaparral Cosworth 5th 32nd
1982 Chaparral Cosworth 12th 8th
1983 Wildcat Cosworth Practice Crash
1984 March Cosworth 30th 22nd
1985 March Cosworth 30th 6th
1986 March Cosworth 12th 8th
1987 March Cosworth 8th 11th
1988 Lola Buick 30th 22nd
1989 Lola Cosworth Failed to Qualify
1990 Lola Cosworth Failed to Qualify
1991 Did not enter
1992 Lola Chevrolet Failed to Qualify
1994 Retired

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f http://www.aeispeakers.com/speakerbio.php?SpeakerID=878

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gordon Johncock
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1974
Succeeded by
Bobby Unser
Preceded by
Bobby Unser
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1976
Succeeded by
A. J. Foyt
Preceded by
Rick Mears
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1980
Succeeded by
Bobby Unser
Preceded by
Rick Mears
PPG Indycar World Series Champion
1980
Succeeded by
Rick Mears