Archive for May 21, 2014

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This year’s 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 has seven candidates for Rookie-of-the-Year.  They are: Mikhail Aleshin, Kurt BuschJames DavisonJack HawksworthCarlos HuertaSage Karam and Martin Plowman 

They are from differing parts of the globe and all have something in common; they have been brought here by virtue of a quest, to drive and ultimately win the Indianapolis 500.

One of their first steps to that conquest is to become the Indianapolis 500 Rookie-of-the-Year.  That is by no means a simple task.  The honor has been bestowed on the likes of Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Parnelli Jones and Tony Stewart to name just a few.

The Indy rookie drivers of 2014, all have something in common, they will be following in the footsteps of the first Indianapolis 500 Rookie-of-the Year, Art Cross.

To understand the type of driver and man Art Cross was, you only have to look to his record during the some of the most brutal racing conditions known in American history.

Art Cross ran in four Indianapolis 500s.  Then he walked away from racing for good.

artcross 1The Art Cross story really begins with his youth in Jersey City, New Jersey. As he grew to manhood, he started racing in the ultra-competitive East Coast midget racing contests. He then entered the Army Tank Corps during World War II, eventually being wounded in the “Battle of the Bulge” and subsequently being awarded the Purple Heart.

Following the end of the war, Cross returned to the States and began midget racing again. Soon he learned that there was a burgeoning racing circuit growing in the Midwest. A series that offered more promise and the potential of finding his way to driving in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500.

Art Cross decided in 1949 to move west and settled in LaPorte, Indiana with his wife, Margaret.

Midget and sprint car racing was where Art focused his efforts, often collecting the princely sum of $30. per week in purses. In May of 1951, Cross visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the race and joined a group of race fans who had constructed some scaffolding just outside the speedway allowing the spectators to see one of the turns, without paying for tickets. It wasn’t long before Art Cross said to himself, “I can do that!”

champion-spark-plugs-indianapolis-100-mph-gold-club-pin_281113437327Art Cross came to Indianapolis an unproved rookie in 1952. He was able to secure a ride in the No. 33 Bowes Seal Fast Special, a Kurtis-Kraft 4000/Offy. Starting 20th he battled his way up to the leaders and stayed in contention for most of the day finishing fifth. So impressive was Art Cross’ performance in his first Indy 500 that he was named “Indianapolis 500 Rookie-of-the–Year.”  The first time the award was ever bestowed.  In addition to that accolade he also earned membership into the prestigious “Champion Spark Plug 100 Mile an Hour Club” on his very first try. But the real measure of the man came in the 1953 race.

1953sldArtCross-2870The 37th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was a scorcher and not just because of the speeds that the 33 racers were generating on the track. Ambient air temperatures near 100 degrees, along with track temperatures of 130 degrees coupled with nitro-methane exhaust fumes, created a never before realized hazard at Indy, and in the end it was the only Indy 500 on record where a driver, Carl Scarborough, died during the race because of heat prostration. Of the starting 33 drivers in the 1953 Indianapolis 500, a total of 16 called for relief drivers generating a staggering 85 pit stops during the course of the race. At one point, even the relief drivers were begging to be relieved.

Winning what would later become known at the “The Hottest 500” was legendary Indy “Iron Man” and eventual two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Bill “Vuky” Vukovich.  Finishing right behind Vuky was LaPorte’s own, Art Cross. Both men drove the entire 500 miles distance themselves.

imsc4326_edited-1His second Indy 500 revealed even more of what Art Cross was made of. Driving the No. 16 Springfield Welding Special, a Kurtis-Kraft 4000/Offy, supported by chief mechanic Ralph Ruttman (father of 1952 winner Troy Ruttman) for the 1953 Indy 500, he qualified better than he had in 1952, starting on the outside of the fourth row and pushing his way all the way into second place. He held on through the unbearable heat, knowing that his car didn’t have the power to overtake the race leader Vukovich, but hoping that Vuky’s car might fail. Cross shadowed him for all 200 laps, finishing with an average race speed over 126 mph.

When asked after the race how he was feeling after competing in the terribly oppressive heat he replied “I felt a little bit of it. It was very confusing passing cars, because I couldn’t recognize the drivers. They all were swapping drivers.”

Art’s Herculean performance netted him $27,296 in race winnings and with his new found wealth he purchased a 40 acre farm near LaPorte.

1954sldcar45ArtCrossinpits-7550Art went back for his third Indy 500 in 1954 and piloted the No. 45 Bardahl Special, another Kurtis-Kraft 4000/Offy, to an 11th place finish, once again completing the entire 500 mile distance. That season he was asked to drive a few more races on AAA Championship trail, finishing sixth at Darlington and fifth at the Milwaukee Mile.

His final Indianapolis 500 came in 1955 when he joined the Murrell Belanger team with Earl “Frenchy” Sirois and Dale “Tiny” Worley as his Co-Chief Mechanics. After leading 24 laps, the car broke a connecting rod and ended up completing just 168 laps, rendering a 17th place finish. This race, unfortunately for everyone involved, was the race that Bill Vukovich lost his life and cast a pall over the entire racing fraternity.

imsc4265Art Cross drove the final IndyCar race of career three months later at the Milwaukee Mile, finishing fourth. Many surmised that Cross’ retirement was due to the loss of his friend Bill Vukovich.  Though greatly saddened by Vuky’s loss, what really motivated Art Cross was his fondness for his family, and his unhappiness of missing them while on the road, racing. He greatly missed Margaret and his three children. So with that, Art Cross, still in his prime, walked away from racing. “My family was growing up, and I wasn’t being around my kids,” he said about his abrupt retirement at the height of his career. “This began to bug me.”

Cross went on to work for twenty years as a heavy equipment operator, while also farming corn and raising horses on his property. He and his wife went on to enjoy Art’s eventual retirement from construction and farming.

While at Indianapolis in 1953, during the Month of May, Art Cross gave an interview to Floyd Clymer a noted racing journalist. In that interview, Cross said he had three goals in life;  1) Win Indianapolis.  2) Own a farm and  3) Raise corn and children.

He may not have won the Indianapolis 500, but the things he did accomplish are some of the most noble a man can strive for.  In addition to his many successes as a businessman and father, he was inducted to the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

Art Cross passed away at the age of 87 on April 15, 2005.

The Indianapolis 500 Rookies of the Class of 2014, would do well to match many of the achievements of Art Cross.

Photos Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

ROW 1
Inside Middle Outside
#20
Ed Carpenter
#27
James Hinchcliffe
#12
Will Power
20 27 12
Avg. Speed
231.067 MPH
Avg. Speed
230.839 MPH
Avg. Speed
230.697 MPH
ROW 2
Inside Middle Outside
#3
Helio Castroneves
#77
Simon Pagenaud
#25
Marco Andretti
3 77 25
Avg. Speed
230.649 MPH
Avg. Speed
230.614 MPH
Avg. Speed
230.544 MPH
ROW 3
Inside Middle Outside
#34
Carlos Munoz
#67
Josef Newgarden
#21
JR Hildebrand
34 67 21
Avg. Speed
230.146 MPH
Avg. Speed
229.893 MPH
Avg. Speed
228.726 MPH
ROW 4
Inside Middle Outside
#2
Juan Pablo Montoya
#9
Scott Dixon
#26
Kurt Busch (R)
2 9 26
Avg. Speed
231.007 MPH
Avg. Speed
230.928 MPH
Avg. Speed
230.782 MPH
ROW 5
Inside Middle Outside
#98
Jack Hawskworth (R)
#19
Justin Wilson
#7
Mikhail Aleshin (R)
98 19 7
Avg. Speed
230.506 MPH
Avg. Speed
230.256 MPH
Avg. Speed
230.049 MPH
ROW 6
Inside Middle Outside
#10
Tony Kanaan
#11
Sebastien Bourdais
#16
Oriol Servia
10 11 16
Avg. Speed
229.922 MPH
Avg. Speed
229.847 MPH
Avg. Speed
229.752 MPH
ROW 7
Inside Middle Outside
#28
Ryan Hunter-Reay
#15
Graham Rahal
#18
Carlos Huertas (R)
28 15 18
Avg. Speed
229.719 MPH
Avg. Speed
229.628 MPH
Avg. Speed
229.251 MPH
ROW 8
Inside Middle Outside
#63
Pippa Mann
#14
Takuma Sato
#68
Alex Tagliani
63 14 68
Avg. Speed
229.223 MPH
Avg. Speed
229.201 MPH
Avg. Speed
229.148 MPH
ROW 9
Inside Middle Outside
#6
Townsend Bell
#83
Charlie Kimball
#5
Jacques Villeneuve
6 83 5
Avg. Speed
229.009 MPH
Avg. Speed
228.953 MPH
Avg. Speed
228.949 MPH
ROW 10
Inside Middle Outside
#33
James Davison (R)
#41
Martin Plowman (R)
#8
Ryan Briscoe
33 41 8
Avg. Speed
228.865 MPH
Avg. Speed
228.814 MPH
Avg. Speed
228.713 MPH
ROW 11
Inside Middle Outside
#22
Sage Karam (R)
#17
Sebastian Saavedra
#91
Buddy Lazier
22 17 91
Avg. Speed
228.436 MPH
Avg. Speed
228.088 MPH
Avg. Speed
227.920 MPH

 

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INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 21, 2014 – Sunoco, Inc., an American company with an illustrious history in auto racing, will be the title sponsor beginning in 2014 of the Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced today.

Now in its 63rd year, the Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award has been presented to an amazing list of legendary drivers including Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Tony Stewart, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Arie Luyendyk and many more.

“The Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award has long been one of the most coveted honors that a first year driver in the race can receive and the list of its recipients is a ‘Who’s Who’ among professional racing drivers,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “What makes the award exciting is that a driver who might not have had the best of practice or qualifying leading up to the race, could put it all together on race day and make a strong showing when it really counts. We are looking forward to seeing who that Sunoco Rookie of the Year is for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500.”

Sunoco has a long and successful history in motorsports. In the late 1960’s, the team of Roger Penske and Mark Donohue competed in several different series with Sunoco-sponsored cars. This legendary team won many major events including the 1969 24 Hours of Daytona, the 1972 Indianapolis 500 and numerous high-profile sports car championships.

“Sunoco is proud to sponsor this year’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award,” said Sunoco Director of Marketing Drew Kabakoff. “We are thrilled to expand the Sunoco Rookie program and our partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through this historic and prized award.”

This year’s Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Candidates are: Mikhail Aleshin, Kurt BuschJames Davison, Jack Hawksworth, Carlos Huerta, Sage Karam and Martin Plowman.

Sunoco has been the official fuel partner of the Verizon IndyCar Series since 2010, providing the opportunity to demonstrate the performance and durability of Sunoco gasoline in the most demanding and competitive forms of racing in the United States.

Previous Sunoco Rookies of the Year entered in the field for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Sunday, May 25 include Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the race in his only Indianapolis 500 start in 2000, and Helio Castroneves, the last rookie to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2001. Other entrants in this year’s race who captured top rookie honors include 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villenueve (1994), Marco Andretti (2006), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008), Alex Tagliani (2009), JR Hildebrand (2011) and Carlos Munoz (2013).

The Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award electorate is comprised of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR officials, and members of the media. The 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year announcement is scheduled for Monday, May 26 during the Indianapolis 500 Victory Awards Celebration at IMS. 

943207_10151388539806370_1559850331_n_edited-1Headquartered in Philadelphia, Sunoco, Inc. markets its brand of gasoline through more than 5,000 retail outlets in 25 states, from Maine to Florida and west to Michigan and Louisiana, including more than 600 APlus convenience stores. Sunoco is proud to sponsor INDYCAR, NASCAR and more than 50 other racing sanctions. For more information on Sunoco Retail, or to find a local Sunoco location, visit www.gosunoco.com

2014 ticket information: Ticket information is available for the remaining three events in 2014 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the Indianapolis 500, Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard and Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

Fans can order tickets at www.IMS.com/Tickets by calling 800-822-INDY or 317-492-6700 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or by visiting the Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.

Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.

Photos and Data Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway