Pat Flaherty’s time on racing’s grandest stage may have been all too brief, but he managed to make it count.
When a slim, red-headed Irish-American named Pat Flaherty donned his white helmet with the big green shamrock on the front and climbed into A.J. Watson’s brand-new pink and white roadster at Indianapolis on May 30, 1956, he was making only his seventh start in an Indycar, his fourth at Indy. Having set new one- and four-lap track records in qualifying, he did so from pole position, and would lead 127 laps in the John Zink entry that Memorial Day to earn his face a place on the Speedway’s famous Borg-Warner Trophy. He also wrote his name in racing’s history books as the first winner of an Indianapolis 500 sanctioned by the United States Auto Club.
George Francis Patrick Flaherty was born in Glendale, California six days into 1926, a bit less than five months before Frank Lockhart won the Indianapolis 500 on his first attempt. Growing up in The Golden State, he served as an Air Force cadet during World War II, before learning to race in hot rod track roadsters there in 1946. He moved to Chicago in ’48 to race with Andy Granatelli’s Hurricane Hot Rod Association. There, driving those same track roadsters, he dueled with fellow future Indy stars Jim and Dick Rathmann and Don Freeland on a quarter-mile oval laid out inside Soldier Field.
Become a Member & Get Ad-Free Access To This Article (& About 6,000+ More)
Access to the full article is limited to paid subscribers only. Our membership removes most ads, lets you enjoy unlimited access to all our premium content, and offers you awesome discounts on partner products. Enjoy our premium content.