Another honor for "Lone Star J.R."
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford will be honored in April by the Road Racing Drivers Club prior to the IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
It will mark the 10th straight year the organization has feted some of the greatest drivers in open-wheel racing. Previous honorees were Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Roger Penske, Jim Hall, Brian Redman, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, George Follmer and Emerson Fittipaldi.
“Johnny has always been a tough, accomplished racer on the track and an absolute gentleman off the track,” former IndyCar star Bobby Rahal, who serves as RRDC president, said in a release. “He always has time to sign an autograph or pose for a selfie. He’s been the ultimate ambassador for our sport.”
Born in 1938 in Coffeyville, Kansas, Rutherford began his racing career in modified stock cars in 1959 and he won his first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1963, capturing one of the twin 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 driving for Smokey Yunick. That victory made him the youngest-ever NASCAR winner at that point.
— John Kekis (@Greek1947) March 7, 2018
Rutherford also became a driver to watch in the open-wheel ranks, especially on dirt, when he drove his No. 9 to the 1965 USAC Sprint Car Championship. His IndyCar breakthrough came a decade later when he drove for McLaren and delivered Indy 500 wins in 1974 and 1976 and finished second in 1975.
In 1980, Rutherford raced Jim Hall’s "Yellow Submarine" Chaparral, winning the Indy 500 again and capturing the series championship. His victory in the Indy 500 made him one of only nine drivers to win the storied race three times (A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears are the only four-time winners).
Rutherford also was an accomplished road racer and drove a Porsche 935 to second in the 1978 Daytona 24 Hours.
RRDC was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety. Today, it mentors new drivers at both the amateur and professional levels, and its reach has been impressive, especially since the club started a free on-line training seminar dubbed SAFEisFAST.com.
The site has featured RRDC members and other industry experts in videos covering subjects from physical and mental preparation to driving techniques, driver safety, to car setup and sponsorship. To date, the club says more than 550,000 racers in 171 countries have viewed nearly 3 million video tutorials in 70 languages.