Johnny Rutherford

Johnny Rutherford

12/3/1938

During his career Johnny Rutherford won the National Sprint Car Champion in 1965, and the first of his Indy 500 wins in 1974. He followed that win with two more victories at Indy in 1976 and 1980. In 1980 he also won the US Auto Club Championship and was CART champion.

John Sherman Rutherford, III was born in Coffeyville, Kansas and raced from 1959 to 1994. He began racing in 1959, driving Modifieds at the Devil's Bowl Speedway near Dallas, Texas. He moving up to sprint cars and in 1965 won the USAC Sprint Car Championship.

He made his debut in Indy cars in 1962, taking his first victory in 1965 winning a 250 mile race at Atlanta.

In 1963, as a rookie, was signed by Smokey Yunick to drive his Chevrolet at Daytona. He shocked the establishment by setting the fastest time in his first Daytona 500 at 165.183 mph, a track record by more than nine miles an hour. He also won one of the 100 mile qualifying races.

In totla he made 35 NASCAR Winston Cup starts between 1963 and 1988. In 1981 he drove twelve races, the most he ever raced in a single NASCAR season. In addition, Rutherford competed in 5 International Race of Champions: 1975, 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1984.

In October 1965 he became the first driver to lap the high banks of Eldora at over 100 mph. Johnny's lap took just 17.92 seconds. He clinched the UASC sprint car championship that year.

Then in April 1966 in a 30 lap feature race at Eldora he was hit by a flying rock. For a second he lost concentration and hooked a rut with a front wheel. The car rolled up the banking and took off clearing the telephone wires on his way out of the park. 80 feet further on, in a valley, the car landed on its wheels with Rutherford sitting upright in the cockpit. Dr. Dunseth, a sprint car owner and track physician at Eldora, was one of the first to reach him and told him that whatever he did he must not move his head. Rutherford just nodded his head and said "Okay Doc, I won't move"!

It was just one week before practice for Indianapolis and with two broken arms, he was sidelined for a year.

In 1968 he burnt his hands badly in the 7 car crash at Phoenix that took the lives of Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald. Rutherfordcontinued in Indy cars until he retired from before the start of the 1994 Indianapolis 500.

He started in 315 Indy car races, taking pole position in twenty-three and winning twenty seven. Only three other drivers have started more than 300 Indy car events. In 500-mile races, he is tied on third with Mario Andretti, with fifty-nine career starts, five wins (3 in the Indy 500), six seconds, and twenty five top ten finishes.

  • 1965 - Indycars (Watson-Ford): 1 win (Atlanta). Won USAC Sprint title.
  • 1966 - Crashed at Eldora Speedway during a sprint event, and was out for rest of season.
  • 1973 - Indycars (McLaren-Offenhauser M16C): 2 wins (California 500 Qualifying Race 2, Michigan Race 2)
  • 1974 - Indycars (McLaren-Offenhauser M16C/D): 4 wins (California 500 Qualifying Race 2, Indy 500, Milwaukee Race 1, Pocono 500)
  • 1975 - Indycars (McLaren-Offenhauser M16D): 1 win (Phoenix)
  • 1976 - Indycars (McLaren-Offenhauser M16E): 3 wins (Trenton, Indy 500, Texas)
  • 1977 - Indycars (McLaren-Cosworth M24): 4 wins (Phoenix, Milwaukee Races 1 & 2, Texas)
  • 1978 - Indycars (McLaren-Cosworth M24B): 2 wins (Michigan, Phoenix)
  • 1979 - Indycars (McLaren-Cosworth M24B): 2 wins (Atlanta Races 1 & 2)
  • 1980 - Indycars (Chaparral-Cosworth 2K): Champion, 5 wins (Ontario, Indy 500, Mid-Ohio, Michigan, Milwaukee)
  • 1981 - Indycars (Chaparral-Cosworth 2K): 1 win (Phoenix)
  • 1985 - Indycars (March-Cosworth 85C): 1 win (Sanair)
  • 1986 - Indycars (March-Cosworth 86C): 1 win (Michigan 500)

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