Born John Sherman Rutherford III, this distinguished American racer made Texas his home and so not for nothing became nicknamed ‘Lone Star JR’ during a glittering career which saw him win the Indy 500 twice for McLaren, earning him a worthy position in our personal Top 50 team drivers even though he never so much as sat in an F1™ car, let alone competed in one.
From racing ‘modifieds’ at the Devils’ Bowl Speedway at Dallas, Texas, to what he describes as his ‘vagabond life’ as a driver for hire in the early 1960s, Rutherford demonstrated the tenacity and determination of a true champion. “All I ever wanted to do was drive a race car, any time, anywhere,” he would say as he struggled his way up the greasy pole to front-running success. All this was achieved during a career punctuated by a number of spectacular accidents, the most serious of which occurred at the Eldora Speedway, Rossburg, Ohio, early in 1966 when Rutherford’s sprint car somersaulted off the track and over the retaining barrier. He suffered multiple injuries from which he was very fortunate to make a complete recovery.
During 1974, not only did he post his first Indy 500 victory but also became the first driver ever to win two 500-mile races during the same season. When he won Indy for the third time six years later he became only the sixth driver in history to have won the classic American race on three occasions. He retired in 1994 at the age of 56.