Rodger Ward

Mike O'Leary; Chris Economaki

ISBN 10: 0760321779 / ISBN 13: 9780760321775
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Synopsis: To generations of racing fans, Rodger Ward is a symbol of one of most-beloved eras in American racing. A two-time Indy 500 winner, Ward was curly-haired with a broad smile and twinkle in his eye. Although born in Kansas, he was raised and began racing in the busy Southern California midget scene. In a national championship career that stretched from 1950 through 1966, he won the title twice (’59 and ’62, the same years as his Indy victories). He competed at ovals from coast to coast and built a large and loyal group of fans. He ranks 9th all-time in laps led in the Indy 500 (2,955) and 8th in Indy car race victories. In his career he drove for many of the top teams, most notably the Wilke Leader Cards team owned by Ralph Wilke and headed by A. J. Watson. In addition to his championship efforts, he led a colorful life. He was an Army P-38 fighter pilot during WWII and early in his career the AAA stock car champion. Ward once rolled a stock car eight times during the Mexican Road Race. He competed in the "Race of the Worlds" pitting American cars and drivers against Europeans at Monza in 1958. He is known for his 1959 victory in a Formula Libre race at Lime Rock driving an Offy-powered midget, and then racing a sprint car in the US Grand Prix at Sebring. He was involved in the accident that took the life of Bill Vukovich at Indy in 1955--an accident that is one of the most well-remembered in Indy history and that had a huge impact on Rodger's life.

This book contains recollections of Ward’s career and life from interviews with competitors, team owners, reporters and others who witnessed his prowess on the track, official racing photos, and exclusive photos and other content from the Ward family’s collections.

From the Back Cover:

He built a car from parts scavenged from his father’s junkyard

business, then dropped out of high school so he could take it street racing at night. If nothing else, this typifies the determination that defined Rodger Ward. But there was far more to the man than sheer determination, like the twinkle in his eye and the smile that endeared him to a generation of race fans.

 

Ward’s success put him into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, but even his defeats were of note. Looking back on his 1964 Indy 500 loss to A. J. Foyt, he said, in typical Rodger Ward fashion, “But I made Foyt famous, so what the hell.” Told for the first time, this is the story of a true motorsport legend.

 

“In addition to his '59 Indy 500 triumph, Ward finished second in '60 (recognized as one of the best 500 races in history), third in '61, first in '62, fourth in '63 and second in '64. For decades historians recalled that record as the most successful six-year finishing record in Indy history."  Tim Kennedy, Racing Scene

 

 

"The Indy record is remarkable by any standard but I have felt for many

decades that he was every bit the equal, if not superior, to both Bryan and

A.J. on the 1-mile dirt tracks. He was always on the gas and never fell out

of the seat. In particular after hooking up with Watson, if the car was

functioning correctly he was just about unbeatable."  Jim Chini, MSPA Hall of Fame racing photographer

 

 

"At Lime Rock, Connecticut on July 25, '59 on the 1.5 mile road course, Rodger whupped up on several of the sporty car crowd’s best in a Formula Libre race, which means ‘run what you brung’.  Such names as Pedro Rodriguez, in a 3-liter Maserati, Lance Reventlow in a Formula II Cooper, John Cooper in a Cooper Monaco and Jokko Maggiacomo driving 4.9-liter Ferrari --- among others. Oh yeah, I forgot: Rodger was driving a little ole 110 Offy midget with an in-and-out gear box and [the engine] offset to the left."  Dick Ralston, Legendary motorsports editor

 

 

“Rodger was more than a successful car racer and two-time Indy 500 winner. He was literally the hub of any gathering around which the other racers and auto racing community and fans congregated."  Richard N. Parks, Racing writer

 

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Title: Rodger Ward
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