Once again, it’s Art Pollard Day here in
Nofendersville. And whilst I'm aware there's countless fallen racing drivers
out there, a la George
Rodriguez, Gordon Smiley or Rafael Sperafico who make up just a few of the many forgotten Unknowns.
Unfortunately, Forty-eight years ago Today, Art Lee Pollard, Jr. lost his life during a qualifying attempt for the Ill-fated 1973 Indianapolis 500. For which it was George Phillips of Oilpressure fame, Ye Elder Statesman of IndyCar Bloggers who introduced Mwah to him posthumously many years ago. Ok, nearly a decade ago now when he originally wrote his story about Art on February 27, 2012 titled Art Pollard: Always Overshadowed, which you can find upon his Oilpressure.com blog.
As I was only vaguely aware of Messer Pollard's name due to his association with one of my most favourite racing cars of all-time, the unique Lotus 56 Turbine! Which Pollard drove for Andy Granateli in the 1968 Indy 500 - five years before his unfortunate death during that Ill-fated Qualifying attempt at Mother Speedway a week after his 46th birthday.
But I was simply more amazed over Art's Off the Track efforts with Handicapped Children, not to mention his overall good nature vs his driving abilities, and was surprised to learn Wayback’ then that he was a transplanted Oregonian.
Feeling even more chagrined to discover that Messer Pollard hailed from Roseburg, Oregon. Which is now right in my proverbial Backyard, some 95 miles Southeast of Mwah, being a 2hr drive.
Not to mention that Portland International Raceway was my IndyCar Home-track for two-plus decades. Whilst it was even funnier yet to learn that Art dominated the Pacific Racing Association series plus West Coast Super Modifieds before finally graduating to the “Big Cars,” i.e.; Indianapolis’s Champ Cars.
As I was then also unaware of the fact that Lone Star J.R. (Johnny Rutherford( was one of Art’s close personal friends - as Rutherford ironically captured his debutant Indy 500 pole the very same day as Pollard’s death and dedicated this achievement in honor of Art.
While I also know that numerous drivers are diligent souls in giving back to their respective Communities and us the Fans, but the part that really hits home with me is Pollard’s immense contributions towards the La Rue Carter Hospital mentally-ill children. Making yearly visits without camera crew or media to the Hospital’s Psychiatric ward - talking with them, telling stories, playing basketball, etc. As a single sentence in one of the countless storiesI’ve read ‘bout Art personally paying for them to attend Day Camp left your stoic No Fenders scribe teary-eyed…
As it seems a truly fitting tribute that La rue Carter named their play area the Art Pollard Playground in honor of him.
Riley Hospital for Children had a special wing for kids with emotional issues and that was LaRue Carter where Art would go at night and sit with the kids for a few hours. After his death we had a picnic for those kids every May, drivers played softball, hung with the kids and that went on for 20-plus years before it was stopped.
Art got a late start in racing but was a bad ass in super modifieds and adapted quickly to Indy cars. He was always aggressive and real brave. But there was never a better person, great with the fans and well liked by the other drivers.
He got me started in racing when we bought a Formula Ford from Andy Granatelli (Art was driving for him then) and he was my chief mechanic (on crutches from his broken leg suffered at Indy in 1972 when the hub broke) for my first couple runs. Alley Oop (his nickname) was one of those special people who come along every now and then…
As Art left the racing arena way too early with only 83 USAC Champ Car starts and two IndyCar victories to his credit, which George Phillips notes occurred in 1969 at Milwaukee and Dover, along with a second place finish at Langhorne that year.
Pollard also finished a tantalizing runner-up to Jim McElreath at Ontario in 1970 after leading the race by 1-lap before victory slipped away due to a slow tire leak!
Yet it’s Art’s unyielding patience for making time for anybody, regardless of the moment that tends to make me think of another fallen driver named Dan Wheldon…
Meanwhile, another forgotten Driver's name I tend to overlook typically, and knew Nothing about his career initially was Gordon Smiley, who reputedly was the first Driver to Die at Mother Speedway during a Qualifying run on May 15th, 1982 since Pollard's and Swede Savage's Deaths at Indianapolis, nearly four decades ago. Which I highly doubt any mention of will be made during this Saturday’s Indy GP.
As the Acclaimed D-Squared', aka Donald Davidson, now the recently retired Official Historian of Indianapolis Motor Speedway has noted previously how Gordon rubbed many Indy 500 veteran Drivers the wrong way by proclaiming publicly that Indy was just a "Business" Stop along his way to his ultimate goal of becoming a Formula 1 Driver, which never happened.
As Smiley is just loosely intertwined with Pollard, due to dubious circumstances, both being just brief footnotes in the countless numbers of drivers to have perished at Mother Speedway over it’s Century-plus existence.
As Art Pollard raced in only five Indianapolis 500 races between 1967-1971, with a best finish of 8th place in 1967. Ironically the second best rookie Driver that year, with only Rookie Of the Year Denny Hulme finishing ahead in 4th place. But it’s Art Pollard the person who captivates me with his amazing Humility towards others, especially the Disadvantaged, who makes up just one of the countless “good guy, No Name” Drivers who’ve raced at Indianapolis…
And whilst I was trying to “See” if the old Art Lee Pollard Family website was still available, I inadvertently came across a link to ‘Ol r’, akak Robin Miller for a Racer.com article upon 2019 Christmas book ideas including Art Pollard: The Life and Legacy of A Gentleman Racer written by a Hillsboro, Oregon Author which was then available at Coastal181.com.