A Look Back at Selected
Events Leading to the 98th Indianapolis 500
Rare Kurtis Roadster Midget Draws
wasn’t hard to spot Fred Johns’ “Kodak yellow” 1958 Kurtis-Kraft Offy midget
roadster among a vintage gathering of mostly midgets and sprint cars the day
before the “500.”
“an old midget driver back in the ‘50s,” bought the unrestored car about 10
years ago because “I just happened to like the looks of it.”
was fortunate that the car was in relatively good condition, although the
engine had been blown and needed a major rebuild. He and others put the highly
original car back into top condition.
roadster midgets are rare. Ten were originally planned but only six were
completed, with Johns’ car being number five. These cars were patterned after
the KK500G Indianapolis roadsters. They are about 30 pounds heavier than
standard Kurtis midgets and handle poorly on dirt because of suspension-travel
limitations. Johns says his is the only roadster currently in running
Rutherford is the car’s best-known former driver. Others were Jim Hurtubise,
Bobby Grim, Shorty Templeman, and Gene Hartley, 1959 USAC national midget champion.
Johns is married to Hartley’s widow, Carolyn.
that “Kodak yellow,” the car’s first owner had a camera shop.
Fred Johns enjoys showing his
Kurtis midget roadster. Photo Fritz Frommeyer
Family Outing on the Brickyard
may have been a first in the 105-year history of IMS during the Hall of Fame
Museum’s annual event for vintage race cars: a mother and daughter circling the
track together in a race car. If not a “first,” it was a rare sight at the famed
oval. And it was topped off by their husband and father being on the track at
the same time in another family racer.
Mountanos was at the wheel of her 1935 Pirrung Special, formerly a two-man car, with 22-year-old daughter
Mariah in the riding mechanic’s seat. Mark Mountanos drove his 1958 Epperly
laydown roadster in which George Amick placed second at the Speedway. The
Pirrung car, also a second-place finisher in its first year, was driven by Wilbur
Shaw, who participated in its design and build.
and Mark, long-time vintage racers, sought a car they could enjoy together and
“fell in love” with the Pirrung, which was found by restorer Phil Reilly.
“After we bought it, Linda drove it and I lost the car…to her,” Mark said with
a great car. It’s just fun to drive,” said Linda.
pumped the fuel pressure, looked for other cars on the track, and “I brought my
GoPro (camera), filming the whole thing.”
Linda and Mariah Mountanos after
their run at the Speedway. Photo Fritz Frommeyer
Popular Race-Morning Vintage Run
Amidst cheers from the stands,
six vintage race cars – including the three Lotus 56 turbines that ran in 1968
– took a lap of honor just before the start of the “500.”
the turbines were the 1914-winning Delage of Rene Thomas driven by Al Unser,
Jr.; Wilbur Shaw’s Maserati 8CTF that won in 1939 and 1940 driven by Johnny
Rutherford; and the Watson in which A.J. Foyt was victorious in 1964. Kenny
Brack, who won the “500” driving for Foyt in 1999, drove the roadster.
turbine cars were driven by Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, and Vince
Granatelli, son of the late Andy Granatelli, who had envisioned turbine success
at Indianapolis, only to be disappointed twice.
the Shaw Maserati was a special treat for Rutherford, who had sought to do it
for some time. After his drive, he said with a grin, “I can see why Wilbur won
two races in a row in this thing. It is so smooth and it’s an exceptionally
good-handling race car. I’m sure he just picked his way around and, when it
came time, he won it.”
this day, the Maserati became the third car, and first foreign vehicle, to be
placed on the register of the Historic Vehicle Association
Johnny Rutherford’s smile was even
bigger after driving the Maserati that twice won the “500.” Photo Fritz
Mario Honored on Legends Day
Andretti, celebrating the 45th anniversary of his 1969 Indianapolis
victory, was honored by the Speedway on Legends Day, May 24. That feat stands
with his winning everything from Pikes Peak and the Daytona 500 to short-track
races and the Formula 1 world championship. Andretti raced in an era when
versatility was valued.
won his “500” in a backup car after his cutting-edge Lotus was withdrawn for
safety reasons. Was Andretti optimistic about his chances? “Especially the fact
that I was in the front row, I thought I had a shot at it,” he responded. “As
luck would have it, the car held. It finished, even though it was overheating
historian Donald Davidson commented that Andretti has “one of the most iconic
names that there’s ever been. If not now, there were times I’d say Mario was
the best-known racing driver in the world.”
Andretti’s 29 “500s,” Davidson said “there’s so many races that he had in the
bag and they got away,” singling out 1987 when he won the pole and led 170 of
the 180 laps he completed. “He didn’t win, but he had the satisfaction that he
was the class of the field.”
Associated Press named Andretti Driver of the Century in 2000.
Mario Andretti with his 1967
pole-winning car on Legends Day. Photo Fritz Frommeyer