The five Auto Racing Hall of Fame inductees who will be honored on May 22 as part of the annual Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers dinner at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis are as diverse as any class in recent history.
And with A.J. Foyt being recognized for not only his four Indianapolis 500 wins but his win 50 years ago in the 1964 Indy 500, it is sure to be a memorable evening.
The five inductees are Chip Ganassi, Jimmy McElreath, Leo Mehl, Bobby Rahal and Bill Simpson. The first induction class was recognized in 1952, and there are now 148 members in this elite fraternity. The Auto Racing Hall of Fame is located at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
Ganassi drove in the Indianapolis 500 five times with a best finish of eighth in 1983. He is best known at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as an owner, a role in which he has visited Victory Lane five times — as co-owner with U.E. “Pat” Patrick when Emerson Fittipaldi took the checkered flag in 1989 and as owner of Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Scott Dixon (2008) and Dario Franchitti (2010 and 2012).
Ganassi has also been successful as an entrant in NASCAR and long distance sports car racing, winning the 24-Hours of Daytona five times through 2013. With his 2011 victory in that event that followed wins in the 2010 Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, Ganassi was therefore able to claim all four iconic events within a 12-month period.
McElreath drove in the Memorial Day Classic 15 times between 1962 and 1980 with a best finish of third in 1966. McElreath also earned six top-six finishes at the Speedway. In his debut at IMS in 1962, he started seventh and finished sixth on the way to earning Rookie of the Year honors. In 1970 he made Indy-car history by winning the inaugural Ontario 500 driving for A.J. Foyt. He also won the first two races at Langhorne after it was paved in 1965, as well as the spring races at Trenton in 1965 and Phoenix in 1966.
Mehl is best known for his 37 years with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company—with the last 17 as worldwide director of racing, overseeing Formula One, NASCAR, USAC, CART, SCCA, IMSA, European motorcycle racing, AMA and drag racing, just to name a few. From 1997 to 1999, he was executive director of the Indy Racing League.
Rahal belongs to an elite group at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—as both a winning driver (1986) and owner (2004 with Buddy Rice). In his 13 “500″ starts, he compiled the win in 1986 with a runner-up finish (1990) and two third-place finishes (1994 and 1995). Rahal also won championships in 1986, 1987 and 1992. In road racing, he won several SCCA titles, competed in the Can-Am series and European Formula Two, and shared the winning car in the 24-Hours of Daytona (1981) and the 12-Hours of Sebring (1987).
Simpson had one Indianapolis 500 start in 1974 and finished 13th, but what he is best known for is his safety innovations that have protected countless drivers and saved lives over the past 40 years at Indianapolis and all forms of motorsports. He is probably best remembered for setting himself on fire to show the safety of his Nomex firesuits.
The first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Foyt will also be honored during the evening’s ceremonies. Foyt came to IMS as a rookie in 1958 and ran his last “500″ in 1992 after amassing 35 consecutive starts. In 1999, Foyt was Kenny Brack’s winning car owner. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Foyt’s 1964 win—the final win by a front-engine roadster.