Milwaukee – 1960 The Best Field Ever For A “Hooligan Race”

It is amazing to think of champion drivers of today such as Dario Franchitti, Jimmie Johnson or Sebastian Vettel missing a race as a non-qualifier. Many think back to Indianapolis when Team Penske who dominated the race in 1994 missed the race the following year.

In 1960 at Wisconsin State Fair Park 47 cars showed up to make the 22-car field for the 11th Annual Rex Mays Classic USAC 100-mile race. The race was only a week removed from the Indianapolis 500 which saw Rodger Ward and Jim Rathmann breathlessly dueling for the lead with Ward prevailing. When the crews at Milwaukee began to unload their cars and equipment, no one expected what was about to happen.

Crafty veterans Rodger Ward in the well-prepared Leader Card roadster qualified safely in the top half of the field as did Tony Bettenhausen a local favorite. Stock car driver and Milwaukee Mile veteran Nelson Stacy surprised many railbirds pedaling his George Walther-owned roadster 20th fastest. Although not that impressive on paper, until one realizes he out-qualified 25 other cars that took a shot at qualifying including Indianapolis 500 winners Troy Ruttman, Jimmie Bryan and Jim Rathmann who was driving his “500” winning Ken-Paul Special.
It was veteran Johnny Thomson who also ran well at Indianapolis the preceding week who found himself sitting on the pole until rookie Lloyd Ruby in the Agajanian Special knocked off the plucky redhead from Pennsylvania with a 35.47 second lap. At Indianapolis, Thomson was running third, gaining on the Rathmann-Ward duo when mechanical woes slowed him to a fifth place finish. Meanwhile back at Milwaukee qualifying, other surprises included journeyman Chuck Rodee in the Michigan-based Dunn Special qualifying safely, as well as the upright dirt car duo of Gene Force in the Tiz-So Special qualifying 12th and Californian rookie Parnelli Jones safely in row seven. Force and Jones were the only dirt cars to make the race as the low slung roadsters dominated qualifying on the one-mile paved oval.

Promoter Tom Marchese added a 20-mile qualifying race as he did the year previously. 18 cars of the 25 that attempted to qualify lined up with young charger Jim Packard in the ex-Lindsey Hopkins dirt car on the pole. Veteran midget car standout Jimmie Davies lined-up alongside in the rebuilt Harry Turner roadster. The team of Davies and the Kenosha-native Turner seem natural as Turner ran a successful midget car team. The Turner car looked like a Kurtis 500D to the untrained eye was actually the laydown roadster Tony Bettenhausen flipped at Indy the year prior. Now with the Offenhauser mounted upright and to the left and a Kurtis nose & hood the sharp burgundy car was completely reformed although the tail remained the same.

It was veteran Eddie Sachs who led the field to the green at Indianapolis the week prior found himself starting sixth in the 20-lap consolation race at Milwaukee. Sachs in the Clint Brawner wrenched white Dean Van Lines No. 6 roadster jumped into the lead after starting in row three. Dick Rathmann driving the Braund Plywood Epperly followed Sachs into second on the 14th lap as Packard and Davies tried to keep up. Six laps later, that’s how they finished with Sachs and Dick Rathmann moving to the last row of the 100-lap Rex Mays Classic.

Missing the field with Packard and Davies were the three “500” winners as Troy Ruttman in the John Zink No. 28 came home fifth followed by fellow “500” winners Jimmy Bryan and Jim Rathmann. It was an easy win for Sachs who won $200. Elder brother Dick Rathmann took home $100 as Ruttman won $35 and Bryan $25. The younger Rathmann who won $110,000 the week before at Indianapolis was sent home with a $20.00 bill in his pocket for his troubles.

The rest of the field was: 8th place – Roger McCluskey, 9. Red Amick, 10. Norm Hall, 11. Ebb Rose, 12. Bill Homeier, 13. Dempsey Wilson, 14. Al “Cotton” Farmer, 15. Tommy Copp, 16. Bud Tingelstad, 17. Bruce Jacobi and 18. Cliff Griffith. Not only did the “consi” have three “500” winners but also two “500” polesitters and eleven “500” veterans and one future USAC National Champion.

In the main event, the Rex Mays 100, Rodger Ward won his fourth race at the one-mile oval taking home $6812 in just over one hour (1:00:19.38). Leading the final 18 laps Ward edged A.J. Foyt who had taken the lead earlier from Johnny Thomson who dropped out with clutch problems. Len Sutton nipped Bettenhausen at the finish line to take third. “Consi” winner Sachs came home fifth.

Don’t expect Franchitti, Scott Dixon and perhaps Dan Wheldon battling for a starting position in a consolation race prior to the Milwaukee 225 June 19th at The Milwaukee Mile. But those that were there on June 5th, 1960 won’t forget the most star laden hooligan race ever.

This story originally ran in the latest issue of the Harry Miller Club Vintage Indy Car Club Newsletter. Go to to join and subscribe.

Thanks to Ron Nelson for his photo contributions for this story.

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