Thursday, August 17, 2023

1957 – Ward Worries Travels 100 Miles

Rodger Ward is joined by his wife, Jo, and dog, Skippy, in victory lane after winning the 100-miler at Springfield. 

Springfield, Ill. (August 17, 1957) – One might think that leading an entire auto race for the entire route is the easiest way.

But it isn’t, says Rodger Ward, the Indianapolis 500 veteran who won the $20,000 100-mile dirt track national championship at the Illinois State Fair on Saturday.

“It seems like the race is three times as long when you’re out there by yourself,” explained Ward, driver of the car owned by Roger Wolcott of Indianapolis.

“You get jittery. You keep listening for something to go wrong. You imagine dozens of noises in your machine. Finally, you begin looking for traffic so you can get your mind off your own car. When you’re busy weaving in and out of traffic, you’re so busy, you don’t have time to imagine.”

Ward actually went away and hid from the star-studded field. He started in fourth position but forged into the lead at the first corner and was never challenged thereafter.

He set records along the way, his 96.01 miles per hour for the 100 miles was the fastest speed ever recorded at the one-mile dirt oval.

Jud Larson of Kansas City finished a distant second.

Jimmy Bryan, the defending United States Auto Club national champion, was running third on lap 92 when his car suddenly slowed. “Out of brakes and clutch,” said the Phoenix, Ariz., pilot.

Up to that point, Bryan and Johnny Thomson were staging a real battle for third when Bryan’s ride conked out. A lap later, Thomson pulled into the pits with mechanical woes as well.

George Amick of Los Angeles inherited third place while Johnny Boyd of Fresno, Calif., took fourth. Andy Linden of Indianapolis rounded out the top five finishers.

Results –

1. Rodger Ward, Indianapolis
2. Jud Larson, Kansas City
3. George Amick, Los Angeles
4. Johnny Boyd, Fresno, Calif.
5. Andy Linden, Indianapolis
6. Elmer George, Indianapolis
7. Jimmy Bryan, Phoenix
8. Don Freeland, Inglewood, Calif.
9. A.J. Foyt, Houston, Tex.
10.Dick Rathmann, Speedway, Ind.

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