Leon Sirois

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Leon Duray "Jigger" Sirois (born April 16, 1935) is an American former racing driver from the small town of Shelby in northern Indiana.[1] He raced in a variety of racing genres, most notably midget, stock and Indy "Big" cars.[1]

Racing career[edit]

Midget cars[edit]

Sirois won four championships in 1961 including UARA midget title.[2] Some of his major victories include a 100-mile race at the Milwaukee Mile and a race at the Daytona Beach in a midget.[2]

USAC Indy car[edit]

Though he never qualified for the Indianapolis 500, Sirois is most known in racing circles for circumstances surrounding his qualifying attempt in 1969.[2] On Pole Day, Sirois drew first in line to qualify, and after a lengthy rain delay, took to the track late in the afternoon to make the first attempt of the day. He completed his first three laps at:

  • Lap 1 – 161.783 mph
  • Lap 2 – 162.279 mph
  • Lap 3 – 160.542 mph

However, on his fourth and final lap, his crew waved off the run with the yellow flag, and it was negated. The crew felt the speed was inadequate to the make the field,[1] and presumably intended to make another attempt later on. Moments later, Arnie Knepper went out to qualify, but rain began to fall during his warm up laps, and washed out the remainder of the weekend.[1] It was quickly noticed by media and fans that had the crew not waved off his final lap on Saturday, Sirois would have been the lone qualifier of the weekend and sat on the coveted provisional pole position for an entire week - and likely would have started on the pole for race day. During the second weekend of time trials, Jigger Sirois waved off his second attempt, and also waved off his third and final attempt when his speed was not fast enough. As it ended up, Sirois's first attempt would have been fast enough to qualify for the race. The qualification rules were changed the following year to guarantee all cars in line on the first day of qualifying a chance at to qualify for the pole position. After 1969, Jigger came back to attempt to make the field every year up until 1975, failing to make the field every time.

Outside of the Indy 500, he made ten other starts in USAC Championship Car racing. His best finish was 5th place at Phoenix in 1969.

Awards[edit]

Sirois was named to the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2013.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Sirois is the son of former Indy 500 mechanic Earl "Frenchy" Sirois, who worked on the winning cars of Lee Wallard, Sam Hanks, and Jimmy Bryan. Sirois is named after driver Leon Duray.[3][4] The nickname "Jigger" is in reference to two-time Indy-winning riding mechanic Jigger Johnson (1931, 1937), as well as a nickname given to him by his older sister.[4]

Sirois graduated from Lowell High School and did various jobs in between races such as truck driver and construction worker.[1] Sirois is married and his wife's name is Juanita.[1]

A tornado scare caused Sirois to start stuttering when he was three years old while living near Shelby, Indiana.[1] He was able to stop the disorder with professional help when he was 65.[1] He lends his time to promote the awareness and treatment of stuttering disorders in youth.[4]

Indianapolis 500 results[edit]

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish
1969 Gerhardt Offy Failed to Qualify
1970 Glen Bryant Pratt & Whitney Turbine Failed to Qualify
1971  ? Offy Failed to Qualify
1972 Navarro AMC Failed to Qualify
1973  ? Dodge Failed to Qualify
1974 Cicada Offy Failed to Qualify
1975 Eagle Offy Failed to Qualify

The Jigger Award[edit]

The "Jigger Award" trophy

In reflection of Sirois' infamous 1969 hard-luck qualifying gaffe, the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) created an annual award for the Indianapolis 500.[5] The plaque consists of a gold-colored metal whiskey jigger attached to a base, awarded to the year's "hard-luck" driver during qualifying. Selection criteria is very loose, and "blanket" awards for the entire month have been selected on more than one occasion. However, the recipient is usually one of the last drivers bumped from the field, or a driver who fails to qualify (especially if he/she made several unsuccessful attempts).

In 1991, car owner Roger Penske was voted the winner, after pulling Emerson Fittipaldi from the qualifying line on pole day. Shortly thereafter, it began to rain, and Fittipaldi lost his chance to qualify for the pole position. In 2012 the recipient was Jean Alesi, who qualified 33rd. The criteria were based on Alesi's publicized struggles with the Lotus entry, making him the slowest car by over 4 mph, and more than 16 mph slower than the pole position winner.[6]

References[edit]

External links[edit]