1961 Indianapolis 500

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45th Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning body USAC
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)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthem Purdue Band
"Back Home Again in Indiana" Mel Torme
Starting Command Tony Hulman
Pace car Ford Thunderbird
Pace car driver Sam Hanks
Honorary starter N/A
Attendance 300,000 (estimated)
TV in the United States
Network N/A
Announcers N/A
Nielsen Ratings N/A / N/A
Previous Next
1960 1962

The 45th International 500-Mile Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana 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 was unable to properly engage the fuel mechanism, and his car did not take on a full load of fuel. Foyt returned to the track, and was pulling away from Sachs. Foyt's car was running faster due to the light fuel load, but his crew signaled him that he would be unable to make it to the finish without another pit stop. The crew borrowed a fuel feed mechanism from Len Sutton's team, and signaled Foyt to the pits.

Foyt gave up the lead on lap 184 for a splash-and-go. That handed the lead to Sachs, who was now leading by 25 seconds. With three laps to go, the warning tread showed on Sachs' rear tire and Sachs decided to play it safe. Rather than nurse the car around, he pitted to replace the worn tire on lap 197. Foyt took the lead with three laps to go and won 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 kept his car competitive. Brabham qualified 17th at 145.144 mp/h and drove the car to a respectable 9th-place finish, completing all 200 laps. He had planned to run conservatively and make only two pit stops, but tire wear and fuel consumption forced him to make a 3rd stop, negating his strategy. Had he driven more aggressively with three pit stops, he might have been much closer to the lead serial.

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[edit]

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.[1]

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).

Box score[edit]

Finish Start No Name Qual Rank Laps Led Status
1 7 1 United States A. J. Foyt 145.903 9 200 71 Running
2 1 12 United States Eddie Sachs 147.481 1 200 44 Running
3 4 2 United States Rodger Ward (W) 146.187 5 200 7 Running
4 18 7 United States Shorty Templeman 144.341 27 200 0 Running
5 26 19 United States Al Keller 146.157 6 200 0 Running
6 28 18 United States Chuck Stevenson 145.191 16 200 0 Running
7 33 31 United States Bobby Marshman (R) 144.293 29 200 0 Running
8 25 5 United States Lloyd Ruby 146.909 2 200 0 Running
9 13 17 Australia Jack Brabham (R) 145.144 17 200 0 Running
10 32 34 United States Norm Hall (R) 144.555 26 200 0 Running
11 15 28 United States Gene Hartley 144.817 22 198 0 Flagged
12 5 98 United States Parnelli Jones (R) 146.080 7 192 27 Flagged
13 6 97 United States Dick Rathmann 146.033 8 164 0 Fuel Pump
14 17 10 United States Paul Goldsmith 144.741 25 160 0 Connecting Rod
15 12 15 United States Wayne Weiler 145.349 14 147 0 Wheel Bearing
16 31 35 United States Dempsey Wilson 144.202 31 145 0 Fuel Pump
17 16 32 United States Bob Christie 144.782 24 132 0 Piston
18 10 33 United States Eddie Johnson 145.843 12 127 0 Crash T4
19 8 8 United States Len Sutton 145.897 10 110 0 Clutch
20 22 52 United States Troy Ruttman (W) 144.799 23 105 10 Clutch
21 20 41 United States Johnny Boyd 144.092 32 105 0 Clutch
22 3 99 United States Jim Hurtubise 146.306 4 102 35 Piston
23 19 86 United States Ebb Rose (R) 144.338 28 93 0 Rod
24 30 26 United States Cliff Griffith 145.038 19 55 0 Piston
25 21 45 United States Jack Turner 144.904 21 52 0 Crash FS
26 14 73 United States A. J. Shepherd (R) 144.954 20 51 0 Crash FS
27 29 22 United States Roger McCluskey (R) 145.068 18 51 0 Crash FS
28 9 14 United States Bill Cheesbourg 145.873 11 50 0 Crash FS
29 27 83 United States Don Davis (R) 145.349 15 49 0 Crash FS
30 11 4 United States Jim Rathmann (W) 145.413 13 48 6 Magneto
31 23 55 United States Jimmy Daywalt 144.219 30 27 0 Brake Line
32 24 16 United States Bobby Grim 144.029 33 26 0 Piston
33 2 3 United States Don Branson 146.843 3 2 0 Bent Valves


Failed to qualify[edit]

Race statistics[edit]

Tire participation chart
Supplier No. of starters
Firestone 32*
Dunlop 1 
* – Denotes race winner

Track worker fatality[edit]

John Masariu, 38 father of 6, 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 (Johnny) Williams accidentally backed over him, and he was injured fatally.[4]



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

Chief Announcer: Sid Collins
Driver expert: Fred Agabashian
Statistician: Charlie Brockman

Turn 1: Bill Frosh
Turn 2: Mike Ahern
Backstretch: Bernie Herman
Turn 3: Lou Palmer
Turn 4: Jim Shelton

Jack Shapiro (north pits)
Luke Walton (center pits)
Johny Peterson (south pits)


The race itself was not televised in full. However, ABC Sports showed highlights of time trials and a few minutes of film clips of the race on Wide World of Sports.[5]




Works cited[edit]

1960 Indianapolis 500
Jim Rathmann
1961 Indianapolis 500
A.J. Foyt
1962 Indianapolis 500
Rodger Ward
Preceded by
138.767 mph
(1960 Indianapolis 500)
Record for the fastest average speed
139.130 mph
Succeeded by
140.293 mph
(1962 Indianapolis 500)