Indiana Racing Memorial Association to Honor Pat O’Connor this Saturday, August 15th …

Posted: August 13, 2015 in Uncategorized
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pole57

Car Owner Chapman Root, Chief Mechanic Ray Nichels and Driver Pat O’Connor after capturing the Pole for the 1957 Indianapolis 500. O’Connor would run the same car in 1958 …

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An odds on favorite to win the the Indianapolis 500 in 1958 Pat O’Connor tragically died in the multi-car, first lap crash.

He remains as one of the most popular drivers ever and will be honored with an IRMA historical marker on August 15th, in the North Vernon Indiana, beginning at 10:30am.

A big day is planned by Mayor Campbell of North Vernon, IRMA and the Pat O’Connor family. The event will be hosted by one of the legendary voices of the Speedway, Howdy Bell, with IMS Historian, Donald Davidson the featured speaker.

The event will take place in the North Vernon City Park, 604 N State St, North Vernon, IN 47265. That’s located right along Indiana State Highway 7.

In conjunction with the event, there will be a car show, with proceeds going to disabled veterans. A meal will be available for those interested. Tenderloin with the trimmings for $10.

Steve Perkins will have his Pat O’Connor tribute sprint car there, Dr. Robert Dicks will bring his Parnelli Jones roadster, and Larry Wheat will display his beautiful SUMAR tow car and hauler. A lot to see and do!

Please join us in honoring one of the Indy 500’s finest gentlemen.

For more on the career of Pat O’Connor — please visit this link

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Jennings County Driver to be Memorialized at Ceremony

A memorial to Jennings County racer Pat O’Connor will be unveiled and dedicated in North Vernon’s City Park on Saturday.

Pat O’Connor’s family, representatives from the world of auto racing and others will be present at the public ceremony, which starts at 10:30 a.m. at the north entrance to the park.

Born in North Vernon, O’Connor began his racing career at age 19. His first race was in a roadster in Columbus in 1948, and he drove cheap jalopies at a track in North Vernon called “The Hole.”

He honed his driving skills and scored wins in roadster, sprint and midget races. O’Connor become a well-known Sprint Car driver and was eventually inducted into the Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1995. O’Connor won the first of three Midwest Sprint Car championships in 1953. He also claimed the title in ’54 and ’56.

His racing abilities, charm and good looks brought him national and international recognition.

He became a test driver for the Firestone Co. and a member of Sumar Racing team in Italy.

O’Connor’s success in racing brought him financial profits which he invested in businesses and a home in North Vernon.

His fame grew with his participation in the legendary Indianapolis 500 race.

O’Connor first tried to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1953 but fell short.

He participated in the race in 1954, starting 12th and finishing 21st. O’Connor placed eighth in ’55.

He led 39 laps of the ‘56 race but finished 18th after starting third. O’Connor won the pole for the ’57 race and led seven laps but finished eighth.

O’Connor was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in May of 1958, just days losing his life in that year’s Indy 500. He was one of the favorites, but he lost his life on the first lap.

Two drivers collided and started a 16-car wreck. O’Connor’s roadster flipped and slid down the track, and he was killed instantly.

Local racing enthusiast Ron Clark remembered O’Connor fondly from his days in North Vernon.

“It didn’t matter how famous he got, he was always a good guy. You would see him coming and going around the garages. I was just a kid, and we’d all watch his every move, and he was always a good guy,” Clark said.

“O’Connor’s (second) wife Anne and sons Jeff and Rob stayed in North Vernon. Anne remarried a great guy, and they will all be at the ceremony,” said North Vernon Mayor Harold “Soup” Campbell.

Classic Car Show

Mike and Cindy Corya will present a classic car, truck and motorcycle show in the North Vernon City Park adjacent to the Pat O’Connor Memorial from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. It’s open to the public and food will be available for purchase.

A $15 registration fee is required for cars, trucks and motorcycles participating in the show. Awards will be presented for best vehicles in several categories at 3 p.m. All profits from the car show will be donated to disabled veterans of the VFW Post 2021. Rain date for the car show will be Aug 22.

Assistant Managing Editor Kirk Johannesen contributed to this story.

Comments
  1. Jon Noggle says:

    Great stuff. Looking forward to it. I will be there.

    Like