The United States Auto Club (USAC) has finally gotten around to starting its own Hall of Fame.
It might have taken USAC a while to get on the bandwagon of saluting its all-time heroes, but it now finally has.
The 12-person inaugural inductees for its Hall, debuting this May 20th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway includes a nucleus of eight chosen by a committee of motorsports professionals with extensive USAC history while four will be selected through an online vote conducted through social mediums.
With an extensive bow to USAC's rich history that honors its founding members and guiding lights of the organization, the inaugural Hall of Fame class includes a mixture of drivers, car owners, officials and other notable participants in the sport.
While the invitation-only ceremonies at IMS aren't open to the general public, USAC will offer one table of seats through a contest yet to be detailed. The previous night, May 19, USAC's TRAXXAS Silver Crown Series competes in the inaugural "Hall of Fame Classic" on the Indianapolis Raceway Park oval (now known as Lucas Oil Raceway) just outside Indianapolis.
The voted eight-member class of inaugural inductees includes some of open wheel racing's biggest stars and many of its most productive non-driving participants. In alphabetical order, they are:
Promoter and race car owner J.C. Agajanian, whose cars won the Indianapolis 500 in 1952 (Troy Ruttman) and 1963 with Parnelli Jones. Aggie was the first race organizer in USAC history to present 250 events, most of those occurring in USAC's formative years. Always wearing his trademark Stetson cowboy hat, Agajanian was partial to the number 98 and to promoting the "Turkey Night Grand Prix", a 98-lap USAC Midget race held each Thanksgiving; his family continues the late promoter's tradition;
1969 Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 (1967) and the Formula 1 World Championship in 1978. No American has won in F1 since Andretti's victory in the 1978 Dutch GP; he is the sole driver named U.S. Driver of the Year in three decades: 1967, 1978 and 1994. In 2000, Associated Press and Racer Magazine named Andretti the Driver of the Century and he's been inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
Tom Binford was Indianapolis 500 Chief Stewart for the 1974-1995 golden era of the May Classic; the Indianapolis-based entrepreneur and philanthropist was sensitive and sincere and it's easy to argue that he was partially responsible for USAC's impact in the world of motorsports. He was USAC president in 1957 and served for 12 years, becoming a member of USAC's executive committee thereafter.
Driver Jimmie Bryan won USAC's first two national driving championships in 1956-1957; as such he was the lead subject of USAC's commemorative painting for the 2006 book, "Fifty Years f Speed and Glory" that chronicles USAC's first 50 years. A native of Phoenix, AZ, Bryan won the inaugural "Race of Two Worlds" in Monza, Italy (1957) and the following year won the Indy 500. He scored significant USAC stock car wins as well. The 1954 AAA and two-time USAC driving champ earned 54 top-10 results in 72 Indy car events.
Duane Carter was present at the meeting where USAC was created to replace AAA as a sanctioning body. After his driving career ended, Carter became USAC's first competition director in 1956 and held that position until `1959, when he returned to the cockpit. While he accumulated four top-10 finishes in 11 Indianapolis 500 starts, Carter's greatest impact came as a respected official.
A.J. Foyt, the first four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, is still very much impacting the sport that made him famous, owning the A.J. Foyt Racing team that competes in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Foyt has more USAC national feature wins than anyone else in history--154--in many different types of cars. In addition to his four Indy wins, Foyt is the sole driver to win the "500", the Daytona 500 (1972), the 24 Hours of Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Foyt won the IROC title in 1976 and 1977, adding to his seven USAC National Championships in Indy cars, his three titles in Stock Cars (1968, 1978 and 1979) and his 1972 USAC Dirt Track championship.
Foyt's 35 straight starts at Indy are an all-time record as are his 13 races led and 4909 laps completed, coupled with 67 Indy car wins.
He remains the sole driver to win Indy in both front-engine and rear-engine race cars.
A Terre Haute businessman who rescued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from disrepair after World War II, Hulman restored the 2.5-mile track and its grounds to prominence and is also considered the founder of USAC. Through its running of the Indy 500, USAC maintained its position as a elder in the motorsports industry. Hulman purchased IMS from Eddie Rickenbacker and hired three-time 500 winner Wilbur Shaw as track president. When Shaw died in a 1954 air accident, Hulman assumed the role.
Roger McCluskey earned championships in USAC Indy cars (1973), Stock Cars (1969-1970) and Sprint Cars (1963 and 1966). His 50-plus wins in USAC competition included one in the Ontario (CA) 500 in 1972 and in McCluskey's final Indy car start at The Milwaukee Mile in 1979. He earned a third-place finish at Indy in 1973 and is credited with a life-saving extraction of Mario Andretti from his seriously crashed car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967. McCluskey joined USAC as executive vice president and competition director and earned the community's respect for his innovative decisions, including the "Rookie Orientation Program" at Indy.
Online voting for the final four inductees to USAC's inaugural Hall of Fame is now available through this link