Jimmy Bryan

Full Name:
James Ernest Bryan
Born:
28th January 1926
Phoenix, Arizona
Died:
19th June 1960 (Aged 34)
Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Indycar race
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The tough and powerfully built Jimmy Bryan was one of the most successful drivers in Indycar history and also a winner in Europe. A three-time champion and an outstanding dirt track driver, his 19 victories included the 1958 Indianapolis 500. And yet he only competed in Indycars for eight seasons before tragedy stuck.

Early career and Indianapolis debut

An accomplished sportsman while at college, Bryan served in the United States Air Force during World War II. As soon as peace had been restored, Bryan competed in hot rods, midgets (in 1947) and then sprint cars (1949). That grounding established a reputation and Bryan’s Peter Schmidt Kurtis KK3000-Offenhauser roadster finished sixth on his debut in the Indianapolis 500 in 1952.

His promise was confirmed during the following season when Bryan’s Springfield Welding KK4000 finished second at Milwaukee and won for the first time on Sacramento’s dirt oval.

AAA National Champion

That was enough for the legendary entrant Clint Brawner to sign him for 1954 and Bryan took the opportunity with aplomb. He qualified the Dean Van Lines Kuzma-Offy on the front row at Indianapolis and battled defending Indy winner Bill Vukovich for victory. However, Bryan was forced to make an extra fuel stop and finished second. He won at Langhorne and finished the season with four straight victories to clinch the 1954 AAA National Championship.

Bryan was now the man to beat and he won half of the Indycar races during 1955 but his early retirement at Indy meant he missed out on the title – finishing as runner-up behind Indy winner Bob Sweikert.

Further title success and victory at Indianapolis

The class of the field during the mid 1950s, Bryan made amends by winning back-to-back championships in 1956 and 1957. He also travelled to Monza for the 1957 Race of Two Worlds – an event that pitted Europe against America’s finest. Fittingly, it was reigning United States champion Bryan who won by over two laps.

Thus far, the Indianapolis 500 had proved elusive. Third in 1957, Bryan joined George Salih’s Belond Exhaust team for the following season’s race. The 1958 Indy 500 was marred by an accident that eliminated eight cars and cost close friend Pat O’Connor his life. Bryan narrowly avoided the wreckage but went on to win America’s greatest race. It was not a happy day and Bryan announced he would not defend his National Championship that year in Victory Lane.

Bryan did return to Monza again that year when second behind Jim Rathmann, but he only planned to compete at Indy thereafter. However, he accepted an invitation to race at Langhorne in 1960 as a favour. He qualified a Leader Card Watson-Offy in second position and made a fatal move for the lead on the opening lap. He was killed underneath his overturned car before help could arrive. It was a black weekend for the sport, coming on the same day that Alan Stacey and Chris Bristow were killed in the Belgian Grand Prix.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1960 USAC National Championship
George Salih
Leader Card Racers
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1960 F1 World Championship
George Salih
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1959 USAC National Championship
George Salih
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1959 F1 World Championship
George Salih
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1958 USAC National Championship
George Salih
1 0 1 1
100% win rate
6th 1000
1958 F1 World Championship
George Salih
1 0 1 1
100% win rate
13th 8
1957 USAC National Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
12 2 5 2
17% win rate
1st 1650
1957 F1 World Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
14th 4
1956 USAC National Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
11 0 7 4
37% win rate
1st 1860
1956 F1 World Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1955 AAA National Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
10 0 7 6
60% win rate
2nd 1480
1955 F1 World Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1954 AAA National Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
11 1 9 5
46% win rate
1st 2630
1954 F1 World Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
1 0 1 0
0% win rate
8th 6
1953 AAA National Championship
Springfield Welding
Bessie Lee Paoli
John L McDaniel
11 0 3 1
10% win rate
9th 621.4
1953 F1 World Championship
John L McDaniel
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1952 AAA National Championship
Peter J Schmidt
Belond Equa-Flow
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
15th 440
1952 F1 World Championship
Peter J Schmidt
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1951 F1 World Championship
Douglas J Caruthers
0 (1) 0 0 0 0