22/10/1918 - 6/6/1986
Record updated 10-Mar-08
Johnnie Tolan was a legendary Midget race car driver in the Denver area in the 1940s through to the 1960s. He won the Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association Championship in 1947 and 1947 and the AAA National Midget championship and the Midwest Championship in 1952. Raced at Indy three times with a best finish of 13th in 1958.
Johnnie Tolan was born in Victor, Colorado. He started racing Midget's in the Denver area in the 1930s.
In 1946 he won the RMMRA (Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association) Championship taking 45 wins on the way driving the number 62 Kenz/Leslie Kurtis Offy. He repeated the feat with the car in 1947 with 47 wins and added another 27 wins in 1948.
In 1950 he won both the AAA Chicago-Mississippi Valley Midget Championship (Asphalt Tracks) and the AAA Mid-West Midget Championship. He also appeared in the film To Please a Lady that year as driver 'Red Hot Wheels'.
He first tried to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1951 with the Peter Wales Trucking Kurtis 2000 Offy but didn't make the grid.
In 1952 he won his first National Midget championship, as well as the Midwest championship. He also won the 1953 'Night Before the 500' midget car race but once again failed to qualify for the big race.
In all Tolan attempted to qualify 8 times for the Indy 500 between 1951 to 1960, finally making the grid in 1956, finishing 21st. He qualified again in 1957 finishing 20th and in 1958 he had his best finish, coming home 13th and completing all 200 laps.
Tolan travelled as far a field as Australia making the trip down under with Bob Tattersall and Jimmy Davies in 1964. However Tolan suffered career ending back injuries in January at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds, Moore Park, Sydney.
Apparently Tolan had a ritual before each race. He would smoke a cigarette during his warm-up lap and then as he approached the start line on his first flying lap he would flick the cigarette out of the car. If it hit the line he was in for a good night!
He passed away in 1986 from cancer at the age of 68. He was living in Redondo Beach, California at the time. He was inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1988.