Tuesday, August 29, 2023

1956 – Ruttman Wins Illiana Feature

Troy Ruttman is congratulated by track owner Harry Molenaar as starter Bill Vandewater looks on after Ruttman won the 100-lap USAC late model stock car feature at Illiana Speedway. – John Lutzo Photo/Stan Kalwasinski Collection 

Schererville, Ind. (August 29, 1956) – Tall, good looking Troy Ruttman made his first appearance at Illiana Speedway a successful one as he outraced a star-studded field and a cloud-heavy sky to win the 100-lap United States Auto Club late model stock car race.

The big event was run immediately after the 4-lap trophy dash which opened the evening’s card, and just as it was completed, the storm that had been forecast swept through the Illiana track, canceling the three 10-lap sprints.

Ruttman, the 1952 Indianapolis 500 winner, was a surprise entry in Illiana’s season finale but it was no surprise when he passes early pacesetter Les Snow of Bloomington, Ill., on the 44th circuit.

Ruttman, of Lynwood, Calif., kept his red 1956 Ford out front the remainder of the way as other Indianapolis standouts such as Tony Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons were sidelined in the mad scramble around the half-mile oval.

Snow, who had given the large crowd a thrill by fending off Ruttman for the first 43 laps, suffered a broken fan belt and he finally pulled into the pit area on lap 60.

The hefty Illinoisan, dead set on winning the national stock car championship, let his car and took over behind the wheel of Glen Bradley’s Chevrolet. With only a momentary loss of time, Snow roared home in sixth place and his portion of the points was enough to give him the Illiana season trophy, awarded by track owner Harry Molenaar after the race.

Ruttman, in demonstrating remarkable driving skill around the curves, lapped everyone in the field except Norm Nelson of Racine, Wis. Nelson guided his 1956 Mercury to runner-up honors, nearly three-quarters of a lap behind the winner.

Eddie Sachs of Allentown, Penn., drove Jim Rathmann’s Chevrolet to a third place finish while Whitey Johnson of Hammond came in fourth driving a Packard. Don Schisler of Detroit finished fifth, just ahead of the Bradley-Snow combination. Johnson finished second to Snow in the Illiana point standings.

Snow added another trophy to his shelf by nipping fast qualifier Jim Davies of Van Nuys, Calif., in the 4-lap trophy dash.

Davies, who started on the pole position in the feature, never got out of the first turn as a horde of cars barreled into the curve behind him, lifted him high in the air, and left him with a broken axel.

Car trouble prevented two top drivers from making the big show. Jim McMurray of Hammond was without a car since the engine burned out in Milwaukee last week and Marshall Teague of Daytona Beach, Fla., sent a last-minute wire that he had broken down en route to Indiana.

Results –

1. Troy Ruttman
2. Norm Nelson
3. Eddie Sachs
4. Whitey Johnson
5. Don Schisler
6. Glen Bradley/Les Snow

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