The 1952 Indy 500 was the scene of several historic events. The race was won by Troy Ruttman who remains the youngest 500 winner at 22 years 80 days. He also was the youngest driver to score points in the World Driver’s Championship (F1) for his 52 Indy win until eclipsed by Fernando Alonzo in 2003. Between 1950 and 1960 Indy was part of the World Driver’s Championship but most teams based in Europe did not compete at Indy. In 1952 only Ferrari driver Alberto Ascari appeared at Indy. The 1952 pole was won by Fred Agabashian in the Kurtis Kraft Cummins Diesel which has the distinction of being the first turbocharged car to be raced in the 500. In addition to the 33 starters there were 31 non-qualifiers.

Just as historic as Ruttman’s win was the number 98 “Agajanian Special” he drove for the legendary owner A. J. Agajanian. Agajanian entered cars at the Speedway from 1948 through 1971 and scored 3 poles and 2 wins – the other win coming in 1963 with Parnelli Jones at the wheel of the Watson roadster “Old Calhoun” also numbered 98. Ruttman’s ride was a Kuzma Offy Dirt Car which was commissioned by Agajanian from Kuzma’s shop in late 1950. It first appeared in the 1951 500 as the “Grant Piston Ring Special” driven by Walt Faulkner carrying the number 2. It was the only Kuzma car in the 1952 race and was the last upright dirt car to win the 500. Powered by a standard period Offenhauser engine it sported a springer “suicide” front suspension then common on dirt cars. The car continued to be campaigned on both dirt and pavement tracks by various owners until at least 1965. I was unable to find any evidence of participation after 65. In 1964 Bobby Unser, driving the car for the “Lynch Mob”, qualified 7th for the pavement race at Phoenix, still sporting its famous “A” front nerf bar. It was restored to its 52 Indy livery by Bruce Meyer who traded it to the IMS Museum in exchange for the Wittington Brothers LeMans winning Porsche 935 and is now in the Hall of Fame Museum.

They sure don’t build them or race them like they used to.

© Through the Catch Fence 2015


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