I thought this would be an interesting discussion.
Who were your Open Wheel Racing heroes growing up?

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Oh...So many. Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Juan Fangio. John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, Mark Donohue, Denny Hulme, Jack Brabham, Phil Hill.
and... A J Foyt, Mario Andretti, Peter Revson, Graham Hill, Innes Ireland,
i could go on, but I admired them all. In the late 50's to late 60's, this sport was a much more brutal sport in terms of driver safety and some of those I have mentioned paid the ultimate price. Their courage and total commitment to the sport were inspiring to me and probably influenced my decision to participate in this sport for so long.
Mike Alliison took the words right out of my mouth. The first road race I saw was the US GP at Watkins Glen in 1965 I think. I was just 14 and the weather was just terrible with rain and a little snow and I was in a small two-man pup tent. The racing was great and it was a special time for America because we actually had a handful of great drivers racing in F1 and throughout the world in endurance racing. Sadly it's been a long time since we had anyone that was competitive at top levels. Heroes (actually I don't like that term because it should be reserved for someone that has put their life on the line for someone else) also seem to be hard to identify today because racing sponsors seem to have prevented drivers from acting like real people. Since folks like Mansell, Lauda, Prost and Senna have left the scene racing has become far less competitive and no longer interests me like it used to. I now find the technology far more fascinating than the competition.
I would have to say a driver in the past that I was a big fan of was Emerson Fittipaldi. Not knowing what Paul Tracy's future is, I might have to add him to this list.
Since I go back much further than most members, my early open wheel hero was Rex Mays. It seemed he could win all the big races but the Indy 500. That, to him, was what the World Driving Championship was to Stirling Moss. Another open wheel hero was Troy Ruttman. I had the pleasure of seeing him race midgets many times at the Orange Show stadium in San Bernardino,Ca, before he graduated to Indy cars. Maybe one reason he was a "hero" to me was that he really wasn't that many years older than I was. I think he actually lied about his age to get into racing before he was legally old enough to.
That's an interesting story about Troy Ruttman. That's what legends are made of.
I had the opportunity to see a lot of the Indy stars of the 50's when they were just coming up in midgets in Southern Calif. Troy Ruttman,Sam Hanks, Johnny Parsons, Billy Vukovich, Walt Faulkner were just some of the names I remember who raced in the URA(United Racing Assoc.) on tracks all over SoCal in the 40's & 50's.
One of the coolest names I remember, who never made it to Indy was a driver by the name of Pietro Naccarato. Tha name just sort of rolls off your tongue. Also, Allen Heath raced in SoCal. As I recall he only had one arm, or one arm & only a part of the other one.


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