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Rodger M. Ward (January 10, 1921 – July 5, 2004) was a WWII P-38 aviator in the United States Army Air Forces, and an American race driver with 26 victories in top echelon open-wheel racing in North America, two Indianapolis 500 victories, and two USAC National Championships, who conceived the classic tri-oval design and layout of Pocono International Raceway, modeled after his three favorite signature turns, at Trenton, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.

Rodger Ward
Rodger Ward.jpg
Born(1921-01-10)January 10, 1921
Beloit, Kansas
DiedJuly 5, 2004(2004-07-05) (aged 83)
Anaheim, California
Formula One World Championship career
NationalityUnited States American
Active years19511960, 1963
TeamsKurtis Kraft, Lesovsky, Watson, Bromme, Pawl, Kuzma, Lotus
Entries12
Championships0
Wins1
Podiums2
Career points14
Pole positions0
Fastest laps0
First entry1951 Indianapolis 500
First win1959 Indianapolis 500
Last win1959 Indianapolis 500
Last entry1963 United States Grand Prix

Contents

Early historyEdit

Ward was born in Beloit, Kansas, the son of Ralph and Geneva (née Banta) Ward. By 1930, the family had moved to California. He died in Anaheim, California.

Ward's father owned an auto wrecking business in Los Angeles. Rodger was 14 years old when he built a Ford hot rod. He was a P-38 Lightning fighter pilot in World War II. He enjoyed flying so much he thought of making it his career. He began to fly B-17 Flying Fortress and was so good he was retained as an instructor. After the war he was stationed in Wichita Falls, Texas when a quarter mile dirt track was built.[1]

Midget car racingEdit

He began racing midget cars in 1946 after he was discharged from the Army. He finished poorly. His skills improved in 1947 and by 1948 he won the San Diego Grand Prix. He raced in an Offenhauser in 1949 and won several races.[1]

Ward shocked the midget car racing world when he broke Offenhauser motor's long winning streak by using Vic Edelbrock's Ford 60 "shaker" motor at Gilmore Stadium on August 10, 1950.[2] The motor was one of the first to feature nitromethane for fuel. Ward and Edelbrock went to the Orange Show Stadium the following night and won again. Ward used his midget car in 1959 to beat the top expensive and exotic sports cars in a Formula Libre race at Lime Rock Park.[3] Midget cars were normally considered competitive for oval tracks only before that time. That same year, Ward entered the United States Grand Prix for Formula One cars with the midget car, under the false belief that it was much quicker through the turns, a fact he found not true at the beginning of practice. He eventually retired from the race after twenty laps with a mechanical failure.

Championship carsEdit

He won the 1951 AAA Stock Car (later USAC Stock Car) championship. The championship gave him an opportunity for a rookie test at the 1951 Indianapolis 500. He passed the test and qualified for the race. He finished 34 laps before his car suffered a broken oil line. He finished 130 laps in the 1952 Indianapolis 500 before the oil pressure failed. His 1953 Indianapolis 500 ended after 170 laps, and his 1954 Indianapolis 500 ended after his car stalled on the backstretch. He completed all of the laps for the first time in 1956, finishing eighth.[1]

In 1959 he joined the Leader Card Racers team with owner Bob Wilke and mechanic A. J. Watson; forming what was known as the "3 W's". Ward won his first Indianapolis 500. He won the USAC National Championship with victories at Milwaukee, DuQuoin and the Indy Fairgrounds.[1] His 1959 season ended by competing in the only United States Grand Prix held at Sebring Raceway.[3]

 
The Lola-Offy that Ward drove in his final Champ Car race, the 1966 Indy 500

Ward battled Jim Rathmann for the lead in the 1960 Indianapolis 500. In one of the epic duels in Indy 500 history, Ward and Rathmann exchanged the lead 14 times before Ward slowed on lap 197 to nurse his frayed right front tire to the finish. Rathmann, also struggling with worn-out tires after such a furious pace, took the lead on lap 197 and the two drivers limped home in what is still regarded as one of the greatest duels for the win in Indianapolis 500 history.[1]

Ward took the lead at the 1962 Indianapolis 500 at lap 126 and led the rest of the race. He also won the season championship that year.[1]

In the midst of the Lotus-Ford rear-engine invasion in 1964, car owner/chief mechanic A.J. Watson built the first rear-engined Watson, mated to the four-cam Ford. But the night before the 1964 Indianapolis 500, Ward and Watson made a highly uncharacteristic strategic error. Going against the strong recommendation (read: orders) from Ford to use gasoline fuel instead of the cooler-burning but less powerful methanol/gasoline. The car was fast, but the jetting mistake left Ward having to pit every 20 laps for fuel. Later Ward calculated that he had spent two minutes less on the track than winner A.J. Foyt, yet only lost the race by approximately 1 minute.

In addition, the horrific second-lap accident, in which his friends Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs both perished in a fiery, gasoline-fueled wreck, left an indelible impression on Ward. After a difficult month of May, 1965, Ward suffered the embarrassment of failing to qualify. At the banquet, Ward stood at the podium and made a painful announcement to the crowd: "I always said I'd quit racing when it stopped being fun," he said. He paused as he wiped away tears. "Today it wasn't fun anymore." He had 26 victories in his 150 starts between 1950 and 1964, and he finished in the top ten in more than half of his starts.

After retirementEdit

Ward retired to be a commentator for ABC's Wide World of Sports for NASCAR and Indycars from 1965 to 1970. From 1980-1985, he served as a driver expert for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, before retiring in Tustin, California.

In later years, he served as public relations director for the new Ontario Motor Speedway, and later managed the Circus Circus unlimited hydroplane team. He died on July 5, 2004, aged 83.[1]

AwardsEdit

Complete AAA Championship Car resultsEdit

Year 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Pos Points
1950 INDY MIL LAN SPR MIL PIK SYR DET SPR SAC PHX
10
BAY DAR 47th 30
1951 INDY
27
MIL
5
LAN
13
DAR
DNS
SPR
DNQ
MIL DUQ DUQ PIK SYR DET DNC
8
SJS
17
PHX
10
BAY
17
30th 192
1952 INDY
23
MIL
DNQ
RAL
9
SPR
DNQ
MIL
7
DET
16
DUQ PIK SYR
13
DNC
DNQ
SJS
18
PHX
9
23rd 240
1953 INDY
16
MIL
18
SPR
1
DET
1
SPR
17
MIL
6
DUQ
DNQ
PIK SYR
7
ISF
8
SAC
13
PHX
18
11th 540,2
1954 INDY
22
MIL
10
LAN
16
DAR
DNQ
SPR
15
MIL
26
DUQ
11
PIK SYR
18
ISF
9
SAC
13
PHX
DNQ
LVG
4
23rd 210
1955 INDY
28
MIL
DNQ
LAN
9
SPR
DNQ
MIL
24
DUQ
DNQ
PIK SYR
9
ISF
14
SAC PHX
6
17th 252,2
1956 INDY
8
MIL
DNP
LAN
DNS
DAR
19
ATL
16
SPR
6
MIL
3
DUQ
DNQ
SYR
10
ISF
3
SAC
16
PHX
19
8th 862
1957 INDY
30
LAN
DNQ
MIL
1
DET
16
ATL
16
SPR
1
MIL
18
DUQ
3
SYR
18
ISF
13
TRE
20
SAC
1
PHX
13
11th 740
1958 TRE
11
INDY
20
MIL
19
LAN
DNQ
ATL
7
SPR
16
MIL
1
DUQ
4
SYR
4
ISF
3
TRE
1
SAC
16
PHX
5
5th 1.160
1959 DAY
2
TRE
2
INDY
1
MIL
13
LAN SPR
18
MIL
1
DUQ
1
SYR
3
ISF
1
TRE
18
SAC
3
PHX
17
1st 2.400
1960 TRE
1
INDY
2
MIL
1
LAN SPR
DNQ
MIL
21
DUQ
16
SYR
18
ISF
14
TRE
2
SAC
17
PHX
10
2nd 1.390
1961 TRE
18
INDY
3
MIL
1
LAN MIL
19
SPR
6
DUQ
17
SYR
1
ISF
17
TRE
3
SAC
1
PHX
2
3rd 1.680
1962 TRE
3
INDY
1
MIL
4
LAN TRE
1
SPR
17
MIL
1
LAN SYR
1
ISF
5
TRE
5
SAC PHX 1st 2.460
1963 TRE
18
INDY
4
MIL
1
LAN TRE
3
SPR
1
MIL
4
DUQ
2
ISF
1
TRE
26
SAC
1
PHX
1
2nd 2.210
1964 PHX
5
TRE
18
INDY
2
MIL
13
LAN TRE
7
SPR
15
MIL
2
DUQ
13
ISF
2
TRE
4
SAC
4
PHX
2
2nd 2.128
1965 PHX
11
TRE
20
INDY
DNQ
MIL
22
LAN
DNQ
PIP TRE
DNQ
IRP
24
ATL LAN MIL
22
SPR MIL
23
DUQ ISF TRE
23
SAC PHX
15
48th 30
1966 PHX
2
TRE
1
INDY
15
MIL LAN ATL PIP IRP LAN SPR MIL DUQ ISF TRE SAC PHX 15th 540

Indianapolis 500 resultsEdit

  • Ward's finishes from 1959 to 1963 and 1960 to 1964 rank as the best and second best five-race finishing streaks in Indianapolis 500 history.[citation needed]

World Championship career summaryEdit

The Indianapolis 500 was part of the FIA World Championship from 1950 through 1960. Drivers competing at Indy during those years were credited with World Championship points and participation. Rodger Ward participated in 12 World Championship races, including 10 starts at Indy along with the 1959 United States Grand Prix and the 1963 United States Grand Prix. He won 1 race and finished on the podium twice. He accumulated a total of 14 championship points.

Complete Formula One World Championship resultsEdit

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 WDC Points
1951 L & B Bromme Bromme Offenhauser SUI 500
27
BEL FRA GBR GER ITA ESP NC 0
1952 Federal Auto Associates Kurtis Kraft 4000 Offenhauser SUI 500
23
BEL FRA GBR GER NED ITA NC 0
1953 M. A. Walker Kurtis Kraft Offenhauser ARG 500
16
NED BEL FRA GBR GER SUI ITA NC 0
1954 R. N. Sabourin Pawl Offenhauser ARG 500
22
BEL FRA GBR GER SUI ITA ESP NC 0
1955 E. R. Casale Kuzma Offenhauser ARG MON 500
28
BEL NED GBR ITA NC 0
1956 Ed Walsh Kurtis Kraft 500C Offenhauser ARG MON 500
8
BEL FRA GBR GER ITA NC 0
1957 Roger Wolcott Lesovsky Offenhauser ARG MON 500
30
FRA GBR GER PES ITA NC 0
1958 Roger Wolcott Lesovsky Offenhauser ARG MON NED 500
20
BEL FRA GBR GER POR ITA MOR NC 0
1959 Leader Cards Inc. Watson Offenhauser MON 500
1
10th 8
Kurtis Kraft NED FRA GBR GER POR ITA USA
Ret
1960 Leader Cards Inc. Watson Offenhauser ARG MON 500
2
NED BEL FRA GBR POR ITA USA 12th 6
1963 Reg Parnell Racing Lotus 24 BRM V8 MON BEL NED FRA GBR GER ITA USA
Ret
MEX RSA NC 0

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Biography at the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, written in 2003, Retrieved November 13, 2007
  2. ^ Vic Edelbrock's Biography Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Retrieved January 11, 2007
  3. ^ a b c d Biography Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame (name is spelled incorrectly), Retrieved January 11, 2007

External linksEdit