The oldest surviving Indy 500 winner has passed away, aged 83. Jim Rathmann won the great race in 1960 to add to his Race of Two Worlds victory at Monza in 1958.
Rathmann broke the winning streak of double Indy victor Rodger Ward at the Brickyard after the most sustained duel the race has ever seen. He had finished second to Ward the previous year, and over the final 80 laps of the 1960 race the pair exchanged the lead no fewer than 14 times. With three laps to go Ward was forced to concede when the cords began to show in his right front tyre, allowing Rathmann to win comfortably. Even now that race retains the 500’s record for lead changes, 29 in all.
Rathmann won driving the Ken-Paul Special, a classic Watson-Offenhauser roadster named after his sponsors Kenny Rich and Paul Lacy. The legendary Chickie Hirashima was Jim’s chief mechanic. Rathmann competed in 14 Indy 500s between 1949-63 and finished second three times in 1952, ’57 and ’59.
Rathmann scored another classic win in the Race of Two Worlds, claiming all three heats of the 500-mile race on the high-banked 2.64-mile Monza oval at a record-setting average speed of 166.722mph. He also won the only USAC race run at the Daytona Speedway in ’59, taking just 35 minutes to complete the 100-mile race and averaging 170.261mph. He retired in 1964.
Jim became a very successful automobile dealer in Melbourne, Florida and is survived by his wife Kay, two sons, two stepsons, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.