Chuck Hulse, a four-time Indy 500 starter whose sprint-car injury in 1964 opened the door for Mario Andretti to step into one of the premier rides of the day, has died at age 93.
Known as “The Pepsi Kid” for his love of the soft drink, Hulse had been the oldest living driver to have run a roadster and rear-engine car at Indianapolis. He finished 21st in 1962 and eighth in ’63, both in front-engine roadsters; and 20th in ’66 in and seventh in ’67 wheeling rear-engine cars.
“He was a great guy, a good racer, and also a helluva midget and sprint racer,” recalled veteran crew chief Phil Casey. “I remember when he crashed on the last lap at Indy in 1967. He walked past me on the way to the garage and said, ‘This is it,’ and was going to retire…”
Hulse made 60 starts in Champ Cars, twice finishing second at Phoenix and Sacramento; but his best chance for success was derailed by a violent flip at New Bremen during a 1964 USAC sprint show. The Californian suffered severe eye trauma and missed the ’64 and ’65 seasons while he was recovering.
Prior to his accident, Hulse was set to drive the Dean Van Lines Special with master mechanic Clint Brawner. His replacement was an aggressive rookie from Nazareth, Pa., named ‘Andretti’ who began running the famous Champ Car in the summer of ’64 and then went on to capture the 1965 USAC title on his way to a Hall of Fame career.