Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rodger Ward Wins Through Teamwork

Rodger Ward Victorious

Teamwork Brought Win

By Rick Johnson-Indianapolis Times, May 31, 1959

IMS Photo

Complete concentration, perfect function of the air jacks, plus terrific teamwork put the Leader Card Spl. into Victory Lane.

Chief mechanic A.J. “Wizard” Watson, who built and tooled his third 500-winner, said, “As you know, we only had one car running here this year, and that gave us a good chance to make sure we had everything perfect.”

As for the air jacks, Watson said, “Man, I’ll buy those babies.”

Watson said, “This is a terrific team we have here this year. No one person is responsible. All our crew had a hand in it.”

In three pit stops, the Watson crew consumed only one minute, 15 seconds. The Leader Card team had planned to make a fourth pit stop, but Watson said, “When we saw how well the tires were wearing, we loaded Ward with fuel and tires and decided to go for broke.”

Ward, in praise of his crew, said, “I’ll tell the world that A.J. Watson knows how to build race cars, and not only that, he knows how to train men to take care of them.”

“There might be better drivers here, but there isn’t a better crew anywhere.”

Photo Courtesy

Ward said he will continue to drive on the United Sates Auto Club Championship trail, with the exception of the race at Langhorne on June 14.

“I’ve never felt right on that track,” Ward said. “It’s a fast track, and it’s always felt rough to me. I’m sure I’ll pass that one up.”

The winning crew included Watson, Ellis Roark, timer; Don Koda, Leroy Payne, and Don Burden, tire changers; Larry Shinoda, signals, and George Bell and Al Johnson in charge of refueling.

One of the chief factors in the Leader Card win was the complete concentration Watson and the racing team could give to preparing Ward’s car for the race.

“We didn’t have to worry about getting two or three cars ready to go here, and I think that helped us a lot,” Watson said.

Rodger Ward (IMS Photo)

Car owner Bob Wilke of Milwaukee only nodded his head as Watson spoke, saying, “No one can have two firsts, and you can’t win twice as much money. One good job is enough.”

Jim Rathmann, second place finisher, and Johnny Thomson, third, were generous in their praise of the Watson team.

Rathmann said, “That bomb of Ward’s will really go. I was running as fast as I could, and I couldn’t even catch him when he pitted.”

Jim Rathmann (IMS Photo)

Thomson, the race’s early leader, said, “They really deserve it. Roger is a fine guy, and he has an excellent crew.”

Johnny Thomson (IMS Photo)

Thomson, according to his chief mechanic Bob Phillips, lost the race due to abnormal tire wear. “We were grinding our rear tires off much too fast. I guess we just didn’t have our weight sprung properly.”

Thomson made four pit stops, taking one minute and 40 seconds. He finished approximately 39 second behind the winner. Thomson’s car was not equipped with the new air jacks, as were the first and second place cars

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