Jim “Herk” Hurtubise was a strong proponent of the classic Indy roadster, even when the writing was on the wall after the rear-engined brigade had invaded the Indy 500. Hurtubise believed that the roadster was the only appropriate car for Indy and the other USAC ovals. Here he is during the tragic 1964 “500” in his own Hurtubise 1 roadster, on his way to finish 14th after he retired on lap 142 when the Offenhauser motor failed.
Unfortunately, 1964 was also a rather tragic year for Hurtubise. A week after the Indianapolis 500 he was at the Milwaukee Mile for the 100 lap classic race with the same roadster. At half distance he was running closely with Rodger Ward and A. J. Foyt when his car collided with Foyt’s after Ward slowed in front of them, flew up into the retaining wall and was briefly covered in flames. Hurtubise wore neither flame retardant coveralls or gloves (see his bare hands above) and was seriously burned which kept him out of racing for a year. His hands were so badly burned that they were pinned into claws, “so I could hold a beer can or a steering wheel,” he said.
Hurtubise had begun racing in NASCAR on the old Daytona beach course in 1955, followed by years of USAC Sprint and Indy Car races. He tried to qualify for the “500” with a roadster as late as 1978 and continued to appear in USAC and NASCAR races up until 1980. The colorful driver who was a great favorite of the railbird fans died in 1989 at the age of 56.
Photo by Vicente Alvarez ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com