Rodger Ward

Rodger Ward

Rodger Ward (January 10, 1921 – July 5, 2004) was an American racecar driver who won the 1959 and 1962 Indianapolis 500. He also was the 1959 and 1962 USAC Championship Car champion. Ward was born in Beloit, Kansas, and died in Anaheim, California.

Early history

Ward's father owned an auto wrecking business in Los Angeles. He 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. [ Biography] at the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, written in 2003, Retrieved November 13 2007]

Midget car racing

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.

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. [ Vic Edelbrock's Biography] at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Retrieved January 11 2007] The motor was one of the first to feature nitromethane. 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. [ Biography] at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame (name is spelled incorrectly), Retrieved January 11 2007] Midget cars were normally considered competitive for oval tracks only before that time.

Championship cars

He won the 1951 AAA 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.

In 1959 he joined the Triple W team with owner Bob Wilke and mechanic A. J. Watson. Ward won his first Indianapolis 500. He won the AAA National Championship with victories at Milwaukee, DeQuoin and the Indy Fairgrounds. His 1959 season ended by competing in the only United States Grand Prix held at Sebring Raceway.

Ward battled Jim Rathmann for the lead in the 1960 Indianapolis 500. Ward took the lead on lap 183 (of 200). The lead switched back and forth between Ward and Rathmann until Rathmann pulled ahead on lap 197 and won the race.

Ward took the lead at the 1962 Indianapolis 500 at lap 126 and lead the rest of the race. He won the season championship that year, which had changed to USAC sanction in the interim.

He had his last start in the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and he finished fifteenth. 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. He retired in Tustin, California. He died on July 5, 2004.


*In 1992, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
*He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1995.
*Ward was inducted in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1995.
*Ward is a member of the Auto Racing Hall of Fame in Indianapolis.
*He was inducted in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in 2003.

Indy 500 results


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