Jim Hickman, who was born in Panama, Oklahoma, was a former Air Force fighter pilot. After leaving the service he set up a car dealership in Chamblee, Georgia.
He was named Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis 500 after finishing in seventh in 1982, his first season of CART, though the Indy 500 was not a CART race. In his four races he finished in the top ten on three occasions.
However he tragically crashed during practice for the Tony Bettenhausen 200 at Wisconsin State Fair Park.
Hickman was practicing in his Hoffman Racing March 81C Cosworth when the throttle stuck open and he slammed into the concrete wall in the first turn of the one-mile oval.
It took safety officials about 15 minutes to extract him from the wreckage. He was pronounced dead about 12 hours later in a Milwaukee hospital.
Dr. Steve Olvey, medical director for Championship Auto Racing Teams, said Hickman died of head injuries sustained when his head hit one of the steel poles that supported the debris fence.
Ironically he should not have been in the practice session as he had qualified in 23rd place. With only 22 cars on the grid, the promoter had used his option to add Hickman to the starting line up.