Jim Hurtubise

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Ten-Time Indy 500 Participant

The racing career of North Tonawanda’s Jim Hurtubise is best defined not by his record in prestigious events, but by his reaction to a catastrophic crash in 1964 at Milwaukee that nearly cost him his life. Instead of forcing early retirement, the disaster ignited flames of competition and desire within Jim, who recovered to thrive on the track for many more years.

Hurtubise began competing in local stock car races with brother Pete in the early 1950’s, and later in Tampa as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. After a stint of racing modified stock cars in California, Jim became involved with sprint cars. A terror on dirt tracks, he was leading the IMCA points standings in 1959 when Art Lathrop of Indianapolis offered him a spot in the United States Auto Club-sponsored Hoosier 100. Hurtubise won his second USAC event in Sacramento, a race that set the stage for his 1960 debut at the Indy 500.

Hurtubise burst into the national spotlight by setting a single-lap speed record (149.601 mph) in his Indy qualifying run. Jim finished 18th in the race, earning rookie- of-the-year honors. Four more trips to the brickyard followed, and only mechanical mishaps kept him from better finishes than the 13th place he achieved in 1962.

A week after the 1964 Indy 500, Jim suffered a horrific crash at Milwaukee. He sustained burns over 42 percent of his body, and his very survival was in doubt. However, the indomitable Hurtubise not only survived, but vowed to return to racing. Jim ordered doctors to mold his severely burned hands to grip a steering wheel. Incredibly, Jim was back behind the wheel for 1965’s first championship race in Phoenix, in which he finished fourth. Jim completed his remarkable comeback with a triumph in the USAC stock car Atlanta 500 in 1966. Hurtubise continued racing into the late 1970’s, with six additional trips to Indy among his most impressive accomplishments.

A free-spirited maverick with a heavy right foot, Hurtubise became a fan favorite with his fearless, aggressive, and often-innovative style. A unique approach to cornering helped him set the speed record at Indy in 1960. Jim, in many other instances, insisted on his own methods in matters relating to the building and racing of cars. Likewise, his near-tragic accident at Milwaukee inspired innovations in safety equipment that benefited the sport in general.

Tonight, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame gives the late Jim Hurtubise a well-earned checkered flag.