Troy Ruttman

Full Name:
Troy Lynn Ruttman
Born:
11th March 1930
Mooreland, Oklahoma
Died:
19th May 1997 (Aged 67)
Lake Havasu City, Arizona, cancer
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Just like the Rathmann brothers, Troy Ruttman was so eager to race at Indianapolis that he used a cousin’s driving licence to prove he was old enough. In truth, he was only 19 years old when he first raced at the Brickyard and within three years he became the youngest Indianapolis 500 winner so far – just 22 years, two months and 19 days old when he entered Victory Lane in 1952.

Also the first Indy 500 winner to start a world championship Grand Prix, Ruttman failed to fulfil his immense promise however. Leading the 1952 AAA National Championship, he broke his arm while racing a sprint car. He started drinking during his lengthy recuperation and it was the start of a recurring struggle with alcoholism that would blight his career and his life.

Early racing career

At 6ft 4in tall, Ruttman stood head and shoulders above many of his rivals. He had moved to Southern California by the time he started racing shortly after the end of World War II as a 15 year old. He lied about his age to race in what is now the IndyCar Series from 1949. Twelfth at Indianapolis on his debut with Ray Carter’s Wetteroth-Offenhauser, he finished third at Sacramento for Bowes Seal Fast.

Ruttman continued in the Bowes Lesovsky-Offenhauser in 1950 – twice starting from pole position and winning the annual non-championship race at Williams Grove. He repeated that latter success a year later and also finished fourth in the 1951 Carrera Panamericana with a Mercury before his most dramatic season a year later.

Youngest Indy 500 winner

By now driving J.C.Agajanian’s Kuzma-Offy, he qualified the dirt track car on the inside of row three for the 1952 Indianapolis 500. The race developed into a battle between Ruttman and Bill Vukovich. His rival led for 150 laps before his steering arm broke in Turn 3 with just nine laps to go. That left Ruttman to run unopposed to the flag and his greatest victory. He won again at Raleigh five weeks later before those injuries sustained in a sprint car race in Cedar Rapids, Iowa precipitated a bleak period in his life.

Out of racing during 1953, he returned to Indianapolis in 1954 and finished fourth in Eugene Casaroll’s Kurtis KK500-Offy as erstwhile rival Vukovich scored the second of back-to-back victories. Ruttman did not qualify in 1955 and crashed early in the 1956 race. However, he appeared to be back on form a year later. He qualified John Zink’s Watson-Offy for the 1957 Indianapolis 500 on the outside of the front row and led before being sidelined with an oil leak after just 13 laps.

Brief Formula 1 career

Among the American contingent to enter that year’s Race of Two Worlds at Monza, he finished in fifth, second and first positions in the three-heat event. Classified second overall that year, he retired from the event a year later. Ruttman remained in Europe to make his Grand Prix debut a week later in the 1958 French GP at Reims. He qualified a Scuderia Centro Sud Maserati 250F in 18th position and finished 10th when five laps behind Mike Hawthorn’s winning Ferrari.

Seemingly ever-more disillusioned, he was unable to start the German GP due to engine problems and failed to show up for the Portuguese GP. Ruttman was suspended for a year by USAC “for conduct detrimental to automobile racing” with that latter no show cited as a reason.

Return to Indycar racing

He returned to Indycars sporadically during the early 1960s and led at Indianapolis in 1960 and 1961. His Jim Robbins Kuzma-Offenhauser came from 30th on the grid to run in a strong second position in the 1962 race before it burnt a piston. Third place finishes at Trenton (in 1961 and 1963) and Syracuse (1962) were the best results of his latter years.

He rolled on the backstretch at Trenton at the start of 1964 and Ruttman decided to retire later that year. Younger brother Joe Ruttman was a sometime stock car driver for 40 years who made his final NASCAR start in 2004 when 59 years old. Troy Ruttman’s son (Troy Jr) died in a racing accident at Pocono in 1969.

Away from the sport, Troy Ruttman ran a dealership in Dearborn, Michigan that sold snowmobiles and karts before working as an aircraft broker in Florida. Diagnosed with lung cancer, the generous and outgoing Ruttman retired to Lake Havasu City in Arizona where he died in 1997.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1964 USAC National Championship
Dayton-Walther
4 0 0 0
0% win rate
25th 160
1963 USAC National Championship
Dayton-Walther
Jim Robbins
Doug Stearly
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
11th 580
1962 USAC National Championship
Dean Van Lines Racing Division
Doug Stearly
Jim Robbins
6 0 1 0
0% win rate
15th 280
1961 USAC National Championship
John Zink
3 0 1 0
0% win rate
23rd 140
1960 F1 World Championship
John Zink
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1960 USAC National Championship
John Zink
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1958 F1 World Championship
Scuderia Centro Sud
JC Agajanian
1 (2) 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1958 USAC National Championship
Viking Craft
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1957 F1 World Championship
John Zink
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1957 USAC National Championship
John Zink
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
35th 30
1956 F1 World Championship
John Zink
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1956 USAC National Championship
John Zink
Roger G Wolcott
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1955 F1 World Championship
Novi Racing
0 (1) 0 0 0 0
1954 F1 World Championship
Eugene A Casaroll
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
23rd 1.5
1954 AAA National Championship
Eugene A Casaroll
Springfield Welding
Sid Street Motors
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
15th 447
1952 F1 World Championship
JC Agajanian
1 0 1 1
100% win rate
7th 8
1952 AAA National Championship
JC Agajanian
3 0 2 2
67% win rate
2nd 1410
1951 F1 World Championship
JC Agajanian
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1951 AAA National Championship
Hart Fullerton
JC Agajanian
John Zink
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
39th 80
1950 F1 World Championship
Bowes Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1950 AAA National Championship
Bowes Racing
Mohawk Chieftain
10 2 0 0
0% win rate
41st 46
1949 AAA National Championship
Bowes Racing
Ray W Carter
Flavell
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
21st 250