The 500 Miler -Cooper Invades Brickyard

The 500 Miler - Cooper Invades Brickyard

by Ray Herndon


Editor's Comments: Memorial Day and the 2014 Indianapolis 500 is next week. I thought it would berelevant to see how a Sports Car enthusiast reported on Indy 53 years ago. Ray wrote this article for the June, 1961 Gazette. Coincidentally, and sadly, Sir Jack Brabham passed away as I was preparing this article. 


Clyde and Carmen Blythe, Sue and myself attended this year's golden anniversary Indianapolis 500 mile race. They have made a lot of improvements to the old brickyard since I was last there in 1955. A new tower has replaced the old pagoda and the grandstands immediately behind the pit area. Also a scoring column just inside of track in front of pits. Our seats were in this new section directly behind Lloyd Ruby's pit. There is quite a bit of pre race activity for the crowd which only helps pass away the time until the start of the race. We were sitting right next to the entrance to Gasoline Alley and saw them bring all the card out to their respective pits. Naturally the car which impressed me most was the tiny rear engined Cooper. As for the rest – outside of color – they were pretty much alike.


After taking one pace lap the cars took the green flag and got away to a good clean start. Jim Hurtibise took the lead and held it for 27 laps until making his first pit stop. No accidents yet and only one car out of the race – Don Branson after two laps. After the cars start pit stops and lapping the slower ones it is hard to tell who is where except first four or five cars. Course the scoring column helped, but positions were changing so fast it was hard for it to keep up. brabhamJack Brabham's Cooper started 13th and after first lap was 19th, A few laps later he was 21st then back to 19th then to 17th and BLOOEY – first accident of the race. The oil tank split on Don Davis, car directly in front of us. With the oil on his tires he lost control and he spun coming to rest just a little off-center of the track. He was all by himself on the main straight and it looked like the cars now entering the straight could get by okay but Davis was just too slow walking off the track after getting out of his car. A.J. Shepherd had to hit his brakes to keep from hitting him and his brakes locked causing him to spin which then started a chain reaction resulting in four cars being put out, five in all. Jack Turner flipped three times and landed on his wheels. No casualties, miraculously the track was not blocked and the other cars got thru


After the caution flag was lifted the lead started changing and again I think the most startling change took place when Troy Ruttman in the Zinc Special took over the lead and broke the track competitive lap record in doing so. Unfortunately he soon retired.ruttman2 From then it was all Eddie Sachs and A. J. Foyt. Roger Ward in third place was one lap behind. Jack Brabham's Cooper naturally gained some after the race and at one time was in eighth place, fell back to 10, then 11th and then moved up to 9th at the finish.


Altho it was outclassed in speed and acceleration the Cooper did real good in it's first try at the 500 and Brabham drove a very consistent race with no trouble, mechanical or otherwise as far as I could tell. They were hoping to make only two pit stops but had to make a third just before the end. I timed him on three laps and he was consistently at one minutes and six seconds - the leaders were doing one minute 1 1/2 seconds. Next year I look for Cooper to enter two cars with the potential up to or exceeding the Indy cars. This was an exploratory race for them and they did very well. I'm hoping other foreign entries will become interested and make Indianapolis a truly international race. From my point of view this race could stand a little variety with 32 Offies and one Cooper in the lineup. How would you like to go to Sebring and have every car entered a Porsche, or Ferrari, or Maserati. Even the Novi is a pleasant relief from Offy, Offy etc. Next year Sebring here we come.


Ray Herndon

HTML Hit Counters
HTML Counter