Johnny Rutherford has won the Indianapolis 500 three times. In his last two Indy 500 victories, he had also won the pole position. Those victories were an obvious indication that Johnny Rutherford likes to start first and finish first. Through the 1993 season he had a total of 27 Indy car victories and 23 pole positions.Johnny Rutherford ranks 5th on the all time win list. He had five victories in the 1980 season when he won the National Driving Championship for Indy Car competition.
Rutherford joined the elite “U.S. Millionaire Drivers” category in 1977 and has long since increased those winnings to over $4,500,000. While finishing in the top ten for 157 out of 318 Indy car starts, Rutherford has been in the victory circle at every major race track in the nation.
Johnny started driving modified stock cars at the Devil’s Bowl speedway in Dallas during the spring of 1959. Two years later he joined the IMCA sprint car circuit and led that series point standings for most of 1962, until he joined USAC and made his first championship start in the Hoosier Hundred.
Johnny Rutherford was the fastest qualifier for the 1963 Daytona 500 with a world record in his first-ever ride in a stock car. Also in 1963, he had his first start in the Indianapolis 500. He won his first Indy car race, the Atlanta 250, and the USAC National Sprint Car Championship in 1965. Lone Star Jr., as he is known in the racing world, was the Indy 500 pole winner in 1973 76 80, and the Indy 500 winner in 1974 76 80. In 1980 he was the Olsonite Driver of the Year. He set an all time Indy car qualifying lap speed record of 215.189 mph in 1984 at Michigan International Speedway. In 1986 Johnny Rutherford won the Michigan 500, being the first driver to win all three 500 mile events. Rutherford is one of 6 drivers in Indy Car history to have 9 straight seasons with a victory.
Johnny Rutherford has long been recognized as the greatest Ambassador of Auto Racing. He has represented many companies, and made many radio, print and TV commercials. Johnny has also been an auto racing TV Analyst for NBC, ABC, CBS and ESPN. In 1980 he was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. In 1987 he was voted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame and won the sportsmanship Award for the Corvette Challenge series. In 1998 Johnny Rutherford was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame in America.
1994 found Johnny Rutherford pursuing the elusive 25th start in the Indy 500. However, after a frustrating May, when a top of the line race car was not available, he took his final lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rutherford continues to serve the racing community and is a special events coordinator for the Indy Racing League as well as auto racing consultant to Team Pennzoil.