29/1/1929 - 10/7/1955
Although Jerry Hoyt was born in Chicago, IL, on 29 January 1929, he actually made his name as a sprint car race in the state of Oklahoma. He unsuccessfully tried to qualify to the Indy 500 in three occasions and entered for the race a fourth time in 1955 - when he would become the center character of an unique moment in the history of that race. There's a famous story about his Pole day for the 1955 Indianapolis 500. The rules of the Indy 500 dictated that the pole sitter was to be determined in a specific day, and not by picking the best mark obtained in a series runs on different dates, as usually done. The weather was bad that day, there were high winds and most of the top drivers decided they didn't want to qualify in those conditions. Hoyt who was attempting to make his fourth Indianapolis start innocently wheeled his car out late in the afternoon and took to the track in his Jim Robbins Special number 23. The car was a chassis built years earlier by Myron Stevens. Hoyt put together a four lap run at 140.040 mph. Seeing that Hoyt was going to be the pole-sitter without a real challenge Tony Bettenhausen went out to the track to make a run just before the end of the pole session at 18h00. With the weather still quite poor, Tony tried his best but could not go faster than an average speed of 139.980 mi/h (225.28 km/h) - and the pole was Jerrys. That was the tenth fastest qualifying average in the 1955 field. It's a unique mark in Indianapolis 500 history as its the slowest speed in relation to the rest of the starting field ever for the pole winner. Hoyts Cinderella Dream wouldn't last during the race, he was overtaken by several cars right at the start, slipped down the field and abandoned the race on lap 40 due to a oil leak on his Stevens. But his name had been written in the race book, and the unusual tale of the 1955 Indy 500 pole position is still remembered by the fans of the race. In that same event Bill Vukovich would lose his life in a gruesome multi-car accident when he was leading the event and on the course to his third win at Indy in a row - and sadly twenty-six-year old Jerry Hoyt would perish less than a month and a half later during a AAA Sprint Car race in the State Fair Speedway in Oklahoma City on 10 July 1955. While driving the number 7 car of Bob Sweikert, Hoyt hooked a rut in turn three and flipped. Sweikert went to the hospital to assist his dying fellow and Johnny Parsons drove his number 5 car in the feature race which was won by Andy Linden.