Rodger Ward

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Rodger Ward
Born (1921-01-10)January 10, 1921
Beloit, Kansas
Died July 5, 2004(2004-07-05) (aged 83)
Anaheim, California
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality United States American
Active years 19511960, 1963
Teams Kurtis Kraft, Lesovsky, Watson, Bromme, Pawl, Kuzma, Lotus
Races 12
Championships 0
Wins 1
Podiums 2
Career points 14
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First race 1951 Indianapolis 500
First win 1959 Indianapolis 500
Last win 1959 Indianapolis 500
Last race 1963 United States Grand Prix
For the Australian actor, see Roger Ward.

Rodger M. 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.

Early history[edit]

Ward was born in Beloit, Kansas, the son of Ralph and Geneva (née Banta) Ward. By 1930, the family had moved to California. He died in Anaheim, California.

Ward's father owned an auto wrecking business in Los Angeles. Roger 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[edit]

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 for fuel. 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. That same year, Ward entered the United States Grand Prix for Formula One cars with the midget car, under the false belief that it was much quicker through the turns, a fact he found not true at the beginning of practice. He eventually retired from the race after twenty laps with a mechanical failure.

Championship cars[edit]

He won the 1951 AAA Stock Car (later USAC 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 Leader Card Racers team with owner Bob Wilke and mechanic A. J. Watson; forming what was known as the "3 W's". Ward won his first Indianapolis 500. He won the AAA National Championship with victories at Milwaukee, DuQuoin 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. In one of the epic duels in Indy 500 history, Ward and Rathmann exchanged the lead 14 times before Ward slowed on lap 197 to nurse his frayed right front tire to the finish. Rathmann, also struggling with worn-out tires after such a furious pace, took the lead on lap 197 and the two drivers limped home in what is still regarded as one of the greatest duels for the win in Indianapolis 500 history.[1]

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

He had difficulties getting comfortable in the car he drove at Indianapolis in 1965, failing to qualify by the slimmest of margins. His professional pride would not let him end his career in such an ignominious manner, and he returned for a final time in 1966, finishing fifteenth. At the victory banquet that evening, Ward tearfully addressed the group. "I always said I would quit racing when it stopped being fun," he said, then paused as he wiped away tears. "Today it wasn't fun anymore." 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.

After retirement[edit]

Ward retired to be a commentator for ABC's Wide World of Sports for NASCAR and Indycars from 1965 to 1970 then he left ABC then in 1980 he joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network as a Driver expert from 1980–1985 then at the end of 1985 he left Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network and retire in Tustin, California.

In later years, he served as public relations director for the new Ontario Motor Speedway, and later managed the Circus Circus unlimited hydroplane team. He died on July 5, 2004 aged 83.[1]

Awards[edit]

Indy 500 results[edit]

  • Ward's finishes from 1959 to 1963 and 1960 to 1964 rank as the best and second best five-race finishing streaks in Indianapolis 500 history.

World Championship career summary[edit]

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[edit]

(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[edit]

  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

External links[edit]

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