Ralph Liguori is probably best known for his futility at Indianapolis or some of his spectacular sprint-car accidents. But in reality, he was a pretty damn good racecar driver.
After averaging a staggering 104mph in a USAC sprint win at Langhorne in 1957, Liguori was offered a ride for the 1959 Indianapolis 500 but missed the show because the Maserati wasn’t up to snuff. He was set for a good ride in 1960 but suffered a broken arm at Trenton a few weeks before IMS opened for practice and couldn’t run in May. He crashed Andy Granatelli’s Novi in 1961 after the engine exploded. He finally had a decent shot in 1963. He qualified at 147.6mph but was bumped by Dempsey Wilson at 147.8mph and wound up second alternate. He crashed outdated cars in 1965 and 1967, and his final fling in 1968 ended with a blown engine during his refresher test.
Shortly after that in a sprint show at Eldora, he charged from last to first before flipping violently in front of a live audience on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
But in 1970, the 44-year-old veteran scored a win in a USAC sprint race at Williams Grove, beating Rollie Beale and Gary Bettenhausen, and then brought down the house at the Indiana State Fairgrounds when he passed A.J. Foyt for second place with three laps left in the Hoosier Hundred.
“Ralphie The Racer” never made the Indy 500, but he made a lot of fans during his five-decade career, and today he’s 90 and still telling stories.