In the early 1960s, Jim Hurtubise and Parnelli Jones were best buddies while they drove to the front of American open wheel racing in sprint cars and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Hurtubise nearly broke the 150mph barrier as a rookie at Indianapolis in 1960 before returning in the Novi where he qualified on the front row and dueled with Jones for the early lead in 1963.
His hard-driving style (Parnelli claimed Jim was the bravest he ever saw) won him several races and thousands of fans but it was his amazing comeback in 1964 that cemented his popularity. Terribly burned at Milwaukee in June of 1964, Herk (short for Hercules) spent nine months recovering but was back in an Indy car in March of 1965 with his charred hands permanently shaped into claws so he could hold a steering wheel. He qualified the last roadster in 1968 and remained a crowd favorite until he retired in 1978.
RACER‘s Robin Miller followed Hurtubise all over the sprint car circuit as a teenager and was lucky enough to stooge for Herk at Indy in ’68 and he looks back at one of the toughest racers ever.