Scott Brayton

Friday 20th February 1959

Born on this day, Scott Brayton, US race car driver who competed in 14 Indianapolis 500s, beginning with the 1981 event. Brayton was killed in practice after qualifying for the pole position for the 1996 race.

During the mid-1980s, Brayton helped introduce the Buick stock-block V-6 engine to Indianapolis. His father’s firm, Brayton Engineering, was a major developer of the race engine. In 1985, he qualified 2nd and set the one-lap Indianapolis Motor Speedway track record in the process. He dropped out early and finished 30th when the engine expired. He would not finish the race again until 1989, when he scored his best finish at the Speedway, 6th place but seven laps down. He would equal this finishing position in 1993, driving a Lola-Cosworth for Dick Simon Racing.

When Buick pulled out of IndyCar racing in 1993, John Menard continued developing the engine, now badged as the Menard V-6. Brayton, now without a regular ride in the CART IndyCar series, joined the Indy-only Menards team in 1994. Their belief in the powerplant paid off when Brayton won his first Indy 500 pole position in 1995, at an average speed of 231.604 mph (372.731 km/h). Turbocharger boost and pop-off valve problems relegated him to a 17th-place finish.

In 1996, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George established the Indy Racing League, and Team Menard signed up to compete in their first full season of IndyCar racing. Because the majority of the established teams and drivers of open-wheel racing competed in the rival CART series, Brayton (and rookie teammate Tony Stewart were considered legitimate contenders for the IRL title. After a bad start to the season, Brayton asserted his competitiveness by winning his second Indy pole after a dramatic qualifying session in which he withdrew an already-qualified car to get a second chance at taking the top spot.

Brayton was making a practice run on May 17 in his backup car when it blew a tire[1] going into turn two, spun and hit the outside retaining wall at more than 230 mph (370 km/h). Brayton’s car scrubbed off virtually no speed as it spun, and as the car impacted the wall on its left side, the force was such that Brayton’s head also impacted the wall. Brayton was killed instantly by the severe impact. His funeral, held in his hometown of Coldwater, Michigan, was attended by a large contingent of drivers and racing personalities.

Teammate Tony Stewart, who qualified second, took over the pole starting position. A substitute driver, Danny Ongais, took over the car that Brayton had qualified for the pole and finished seventh.

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