Jim Hurtubise ? Milwaukee Fan Favorite

When the legendary Jim Hurtubise first appeared at Wisconsin State Fair Park (a.k.a. The Milwaukee Mile), on June 5, 1960, a mere 45 plus years ago, no one was quite sure what to expect. Only a few weeks earlier, the virtually unknown little dynamo from North Tonawanda, NY had electrified the racing world by smashing the track record during qualifying for his rookie appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then, in his first 500, ‘Herk’ charged into the top ten early, running as high as fifth before running out of oil near the end. How would this new “wild man” handle the challenge of Milwaukee’s flat oval?

On June 5, 1960, at the annual Rex Mays Classic, the answer came quickly. As Herk roared past Bill Vandewater’s green flag to begin his qualification run, it became obvious that his plans for the day included another New Track Record! Unfortunately, the four Firestone tires on the beautiful #56 Travelon Trailer Watson designed Offy roadster didn’t agree. Following the resulting spin and wall-brushing in turn one, the USAC officials sat the hot rookie down for a serious heart-to-heart. Basically, Hurtubise was told he would be allowed to take his remaining qualifying lap ONLY if he would agree to be considerably more . mmm,’reserved’ in his driving technique

After repairing minor nose damage, an apparently subdued Jim Hurtubise completed his qualifying lap in an ultra conservative manner, lifting at the starting line and coasting into the first turn; repeating the process on the back straight. Somehow, employing this feather-footed approach, Herk qualified for the seventh starting position, four spots ahead of eventual winner Rodger Ward!

In the Rex Mays 100 that day, weak brakes from the start held the Travelon Trailer Spl. back. Herk remained on the lead lap all day, soldering on to an eleventh place finish, to earn a hefty $765 for his efforts!

The performance of Jim Hurtubise at Milwaukee that day proved to the racing world that his “Indy Magic” was not a fluke, and would continue. Just to reinforce this, Herk blew away the competition two weeks later on the frightening fast oiled dirt of Langhorne, on the day that Jimmy Bryan was killed in Puke Hollow.

Throughout the decade of the ’60’s and into the ’70’s, Jim Hurtubise would become one of the all-time favorites at Milwaukee. During his years of competition on the legendary oval, Herk would experience both victory and defeat, as well as the devastating crash and resulting burns in 1964.

But that’s another story.

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