Gordon Johncock

Full Name:
Gordon Walter Johncock
Born:
5th August 1936 (Age 82)
Hastings, Michigan
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

This quiet and thoughtful American is a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 who was national champion in 1976. Both of those victories at Indy warranted inclusion in the record books as the shortest since World War I (1973) and the then closest (1982).

Early Indycar career

"Gordy" Johncock had already been racing for a decade when he made his 1964 Indycar debut at Springfield driving Sid Weinberger’s Blum-Offenhauser. With a reputation earned in USAC sprint cars that included a new world half-mile record set at Winchester, Indiana that year, Johncock was a fulltime Indycar driver a season later.

He was fifth on his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1965 in what was the last top-five finish for a roadster. That season then included Johncock’s maiden pole position (at Langhorne) and first victory when he beat A.J.Foyt at Milwaukee with a new rear-engine Gerhardt-Offenhauser. He was third in the 1966 championship having recovered from early damage to finish in a fine fourth at Indy.

Johncock set up his own team for the following season with sponsorship from Gilmore Broadcasting, a Gerhardt chassis and Ford V8 engine. He qualified on the outside of the front row at Indianapolis but crashed during the closing stages. A winner from pole position a week later at Milwaukee, he won Indycar races each year for the rest of the decade although he continued to be out of luck at Indianapolis.

Indy 500 winner for Patrick Racing

Without an Indycar win from 1970 to 1972, Johncock joined Patrick Racing for 1973 and qualified his STP Eagle-Offy on pole position at Trenton. The Indianapolis 500 was marred by serious accidents and rain. Johncock, who had started 11th, took the lead after 73 laps and was declared the winner when a deluge forced the race to be stopped after 133 of its 200 scheduled laps. He later said that he did not feel like a "real" Indy 500 winner as the race had only been 332.5-miles long.

He scored two more victories that year and was third in the 1974 standings. He qualified second at Indianapolis in 1975 and 1976 – retiring early in the former before finishing third a year later.

Indycar champion

Patrick was now running its own Wildcat chassis and DGS/Offenhauser engines. Johncock was on the verge of victory in the 1977 Indianapolis 500 when his engine blew while leading with just 16 laps to go. However, he won at Michigan and Trenton to narrowly beat Johnny Rutherford to the 1976 Indycar title.

He was third in the 1978 standings but this was now a sport in crisis. The teams split from organising body USAC and Johncock joined Penske Racing for the new CART-sanctioned Champ Car series in 1979. His Penske PC6-Cosworth won the very first such event at Phoenix and Johncock ended the year third overall.

He returned to Patrick Racing for 1980 but he was injured while practising at Indy. However, he finished fourth after racing with his left foot in a cast. He led the 1981 Indy 500 as late as lap 181 but his engine let go with six laps to go.

Second victory at Indianapolis

A 500-mile victory at the Brickyard seemed an impossible dream and there was no particular reason why 1982 should have been any different. His Wildcat Mk8B-Cosworth lined up in the middle of row two and the race developed into an intense duel between Johncock and young Penske superstar Rick Mears. Johncock lead from lap 160 but Mears was closing fast as they entered the final lap. However, he withstood the pressure to win by just 0.16 seconds in one of the most famous finishes in history.

His Wildcat Mk9-Cosworth won the opening round of 1983 at Atlanta but he crashed the team’s March 83C when his c.v. joint failed while in the lead of the Michigan 500. With a badly broken right leg, he returned in 1984 only to brake his ankle after crashing his March 84C-Cosworth into the pit wall at Indianapolis.

Back to finish sixth at Milwaukee a week later despite that injury, 1984 proved to be Johncock’s final full season before retiring to his farm in his Michigan hometown. He made occasional starts at Indianapolis until 1992 and finished sixth on his penultimate appearance there.

Away from racing, Johncock worked as a lumber merchant early in his adult life, ran a cement business with Scott Brayton’s father Lee and was an Arizonan rancher. He had returned to the lumber business at the time of writing.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1992 PPG Indycar World Series
Hemelgarn Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1991 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Hemelgarn Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
20th 8
1989 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Hemelgarn Racing
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1988 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Hemelgarn Racing
2 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
21st 16
1987 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Patrick Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1987 American Racing Series 1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1984 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Patrick Racing
13 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
14th 39
1983 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Patrick Racing
5 0 1 1
20% win rate
16th 20
1982 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Patrick Racing
11 1 3 2
19% win rate
4th 186
1981 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Patrick Racing
11 1 3 0
0% win rate
4th 142
1980 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Patrick Racing
11 (1) 1 3 0
0% win rate
6th 1572
1979 SCCA/CART Indycar Championship
Patrick Racing
13 2 5 2
16% win rate
3rd 2211
1979 USAC National Championship
Patrick Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
400
1978 USAC Citicorp Cup National Championship
Patrick Racing
17 0 8 2
12% win rate
3rd 3548
1977 USAC Citicorp Cup National Championship
Patrick Racing
14 0 6 2
15% win rate
5th 2830
1976 Winston Cup Grand National 128th 46
1976 USAC Citicorp Cup National Championship
Patrick Racing
13 1 11 2
16% win rate
1st 4240
1975 SCCA/USAC F5000 Championship
Patrick Racing
4 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
21st 5
1975 Winston Cup Grand National 128th 55
1975 USAC National Championship
Patrick Racing
12 3 3 1
9% win rate
10th 1280
1974 USAC National Championship
Patrick Racing
13 0 6 2
16% win rate
3rd 3050
1973 USAC National Championship
Patrick Racing
14 5 4 3
22% win rate
7th 2240
1972 USAC National Championship
Team McLaren
Roger Penske Enterprises
7 0 1 0
0% win rate
21st 360
1971 USAC National Championship
Vollstedt Enterprises
Team McLaren
10 0 0 0
0% win rate
27th 225
1970 USAC National Championship
Johncock Racing Team
10 0 1 0
0% win rate
7th 1160
1969 USAC National Championship
Johncock Racing Team
16 1 5 2
13% win rate
5th 2070
1968 USAC National Championship
Johncock Racing Team
17 2 2 2
12% win rate
12th 1257
1967 USAC National Championship
Johncock Racing Team
16 2 7 2
13% win rate
4th 2700
1966 USAC National Championship
Weinberger & Welseck Enterprises
9 0 4 0
0% win rate
3rd 2050
1965 USAC National Championship
Weinberger & Welseck Enterprises
Pete Salemi
15 1 2 1
7% win rate
5th 1540
1964 USAC National Championship
Weinberger & Welseck Enterprises
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
40th 60