Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 1980 Indycar National Champion Johnny Rutherford will be the guest of honor at the 10th annual Road Racing Drivers Club Dinner at the Long Beach Hilton on Thursday April 12, the eve of this year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Texan Rutherford got his nickname of “Lone Star J.R.” from the design of his helmet, and competed during Indycar racing’s golden age, running head-to-head with the likes of A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, the Unser brothers and Rick Mears, where he collected 27 wins, a total that ranked him 5th on the all-time list when he retired.
Rutherford made his way to the Big Time by excelling in sprint cars and modifieds. In 1963, driving for the legendary Smokey Yunick, he became the youngest driver to win a NASCAR race. Two years later, he won the USAC Sprint Car Championship, but the next year broke both arms when his sprinter flipped over the fence and out of Eldora Speedway.
His breakthrough at Indy came in the mid-1970s when he drove for Team McLaren and delivered two Indy 500 wins and a 2nd-place finish over the span of three years. In 1980 he slipped behind the wheel of Jim Hall’s “Yellow Submarine” Chaparral 2K and torpedoed the competition, winning his third 500, the series championship and dominating on the ovals. He knew his way around road courses as well, co-driving a Porsche 935 to 2nd in the 1978 Daytona 24 Hours.
Beyond his accomplishments in the cockpit, Rutherford has been an excellent ambassador for the sport, always taking time to sign autographs or pose for photos with fans. For further information, or to purchase tickets for the dinner, please visit www.rrdc.org