• Indianapolis 500 1959

More deaths at Indianapolis

Martin Williamson May 30, 1959
Rodger Ward poses before his win at the 1959 Indianapolis 500 © Getty Images
Enlarge

Rodger Ward won the Indianapolis 500 - it was the start of a six year run in which he won again in 1962 and never finished outside the top four. His finishes from 1959 to 1963 and 1960 to 1964 rank as the best and second best five-race finishing streaks in Indianapolis 500 history. But for the second year in succession the race was overshadowed by tragedy.

This was the first year roll-bars and fireproof uniforms were made mandatory, but they did not save two lives. In 1958 Jerry Unser had a miraculous escape on the first-lap pile-up which killed Pat O'Connor, surviving when his car was catapulted over the retaining wall. But on May 2 he had no second let-off, his car hitting a wall and bursting into flames with Unser trapped inside. He died two weeks later. The next day a rookie, Bob Cortner, was caught by a bust of wind and his car smashed into a wall. He died from his injuries 24 hours later.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Feeds Feeds: Martin Williamson

Martin Williamson Close
Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo