Enjoy previous installments of Robin Miller’s video series celebrating the tough guys of Indy at The RACER Channel on YouTube.
Big, brash and bold – that was Jud Larson, whose prowess on dirt tracks made him a legend during his decade in USAC.
In 1956, Larson got a call from John Zink and was offered Indy winner Pat Flaherty’s ride at the Hoosier Hundred after Flaherty had been badly injured at Springfield. Despite having never driven a USAC champ dirt car on the mile, Larson captured the pole position and led the race until a broken shock absorber slowed him and he ran fourth. In his next outing, the 6-1, 185-pound Texas native won the pole and the race at Sacramento and was on his way.
After winning the prestigious Hoosier Hundred in 1957, Larson was given an Indy 500 ride by Zink and he finished ninth in 1958. He also qualified in 1959.
He suffered heatstroke at Springfield in ’59 but it was mis-diagnosed as a heart attack and it took him four years to get back into USAC.
While he never made Indy again, Jud’s calling was the dirt and he was hell on wheels in sprinters – winning 16 main events – in addition earning five big car victories.
He was 43 and leading the USAC sprint standings when he tangled with Red Riegel in June of 1966 at Reading, Pa. and both drivers perished. But to this day, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti rank Larson as one of the best they ever saw – or raced against – on dirt.