Saturday 17th May 1997
Troy Ruttman (67), a Southern California hot-rodder who in 1952 became the youngest driver to win the Indianapolis 500, died in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, US. He took the lead 20 miles from the finish when Bill Vukovich’s car had a broken steering pin. His victory came while driving one of the famous No. 98 cars entered by J. C. Agajanian, a Southern California race promoter. Ruttman first raced at the so-called Brickyard in 1949 at 19, two years younger than Indianapolis Motor Speedway rules allowed.”I had to fudge to get in,” Ruttman recalled years later. ”I had to produce a birth certificate. Ralph Wayne Ruttman was my cousin, and I used his. They asked me why I went by Troy and I told them it was a nickname. I corrected it when I turned 21.”
In 1958, he became the first Indy 500 winner to drive in a Formula One race when he drove at Reims, France.
Born on March 11, 1930, in Mooreland, Okla., Ruttman moved to Southern California and became one of a number of young drivers to emerge from that region after World War II and achieve racing fame. But despite his early accomplishments, Ruttman never fulfilled his early promise. Several months after winning Indy, he broke his arm in a sprint-car crash in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. During his recuperation he began drinking heavily, and he struggled with alcoholism for the rest of his career. He retired in 1964. Ruttman’s son, Troy Jr., who also became a racer, died in a crash at Pocono Raceway in 1969.His younger brother is Joe Ruttman, a driver on the Nascar Craftsman Truck Series and an occasional participant in Nascar’s Winston Cup series.