Len Sutton

Len Sutton

9/8/1925 - 4/12/2006

Lenard Sutton raced in the AAA and USAC Championship Car series from 1955 until 1965 seasons. He finished in the top ten 43 times, including 3 wins. His best finish at Indy was 2nd in 1962.

Lenard Sutton was born in Aims, Oregon, USA. He raced in the AAA and USAC Championship Car series from 1955 until 1965 seasons. In a career spanning 10 years he made 76 career starts, including the 1958-1962, 1964 and 1965 Indianapolis 500 races. He finished in the top ten 43 times, including 3 victories. His best finish at Indy was 2nd in 1962.

Lenard Sutton was born in Aims, Oregon, USA. He raced in the AAA and USAC Championship Car series from 1955 until 1965 seasons. In a career spanning 10 years he made 76 career starts, including the 1958-1962, 1964 and 1965 Indianapolis 500 races. He finished in the top ten 43 times, including 3 victories. His best finish at Indy was a second place finish behind Rodger Ward in 1962.

He was 20 when he decided that he wanted to drive a race car. In his first try, on a little dirt track near his home, he spun out on the first turn of the lap. He always said that was a good lesson, it taught him that racing was not as easy as it looked. From that day on, though, he just made it look easy. Always known as a man who was easy on his equipment, and with a record as a finisher, he won championships in the Oregon Racing Assn. in 1949, 1950, 1954 and 1955. A versatile driver, he also won midget championships for Portland car owner Rolla Volstedt before heading East toward the more lucrative national circuit, where he was a winner for Ray Nichels in late model stock cars. Drivers wore T-shirts and flimsy helmets, and drove cars with skinny tires and no roll bars. Sutton had his share of scares.

In 1954, during the Mexican road race, Len careened into a ravine trying to avoid a small herd of cattle. That put him in a full body cast for four months. Two years later Sutton was at Indy for the first time and flipped during practice while trying to make 140 mph. He landed upside down with his helmet scrapping the asphalt for nearly 1,000 feet. In the Indianapolis News the following day, it said, "Sutton was at first believed dead by observers on the scene." He had a skull fracture, broken shoulder and serious abrasions over his back. A year later he was back and qualified for his first 500. In 1964 he was not injured but the had the scariest moment of his career when he drove through the inferno that killed Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs. "I guess it wasn't my time," he said of that experience.

If this sounds like he was always in an accident, that's not true. It is meant to show that he was a survivor, a man who could go as fast as the next guy, but who rarely made foolhardy moves. As he told Paul Buker of the Portland Oregonian recently, "If I was in good equipment, I was one of the guys who would be running right up front. But I wasn't the boldest driver out there, because I didn't take that many chances. Some of the guys didn't mind banging wheels. I wasn't that aggressive. I wanted to finish every race." That philosophy kept him racing for 20 years, winning at every level, before he made up his mind to quit during a race at treacherous old Langhorne in 1965. That was the race where Mel Kenyon was severely burned.

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