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Len Sutton RIP

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#1 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 23:05

Those of you who post/visit the Yahoo Racing History thread will feel they've lost a friend as well as a fine racing driver. Sadly, Len lost his brave & long battle with cancer this weekend.


He was still posting until almost the end.

:cry: RIP Len, you'll be sorely missed.


#2 Henri Greuter

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 09:20

To whom it may concern:

Len Sutton, 2nd place finisher at Indy in 1962 and well known for his exploits with Rolla Volstedt's first rear engined Indycar (and several other achievements) has lost his fight with cancer at long, long last.
The Indy frterny has lost yet another colorful personality.

Rest in peace Len, you gave the Big C a hard time, like you did on the tracks in your heydays..


#3 David M. Kane

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 14:22

Finished 2nd at Indy, no mean feat!

#4 David M. Kane

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 14:23

God bless, we'll miss you.

#5 raceannouncer2003

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 08:01

VERY sad to hear this...here are a couple of photos from the 2002 Portland Historics. When I asked Len to pose in the Vollstedt, he was very obliging, saying "Always a pleasure to sit in this car." I kicked myself later when I found out the guy on the right in the bottom picture was Rolla Vollstedt...another great photo op missed!

Posted Image

When I found out that Indy Roadsters were to be featured at Monterey in 2007, I emailed Len...here is his response, somewhat poignant now!

"Hi Vince Yes I know of the Montery meet and have thought how nice it would
be to be able to just mix it up again with the cars and people of my [our]
era. My health issues are and will be key to how much traveling I am able to
do. My Chemo treatments have me to here walking around the block is a chore.
Rolla and Don (Shervey, present Vollstedt owner), both my seniors are doing better than me.We can talk about
Montery again in the spring. Len"

More here:




Vince Howlett, Victoria, B.C., Canada

#6 eldougo

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 08:23

Much to my sadness i have never heard of LenSutton ,but anybody who get 2nd at the end of MAY has got my utmost respect.... :(

#7 szautke

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 13:17

from . . . . The Oregonian

Auto Racing Loses a Gentleman
Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Portland's Len Sutton, one of the greatest race car drivers of his generation and the second-place finisher in the 1962 Indianapolis 500, died in his sleep Monday morning at his Portland home.

He was 81, and his wife Anita, the love of his life for 59 years, was close by. "He's at peace now," said Rolla Vollstedt, the Portland race car builder and Sutton's lifelong friend.

Sutton suffered a heart attack in 2004, and bouts with lung cancer and prostate problems had slowed him, but as recently as last summer, the Northwest legend was behind the wheel of the 88-year-old Vollstedt's roadster, barreling past cars on the outside lane at Sunset Speedway in Banks -- after race promoters implored him to be careful for insurance purposes.
Sutton was a popular driver known for his outgoing personality. He cheated death many times in his career, starting out in an era when drivers wore T-shirts, coveralls and flimsy leather helmets. The cars had no roll bars and could easily burst into flames.

"We weren't going all that fast," Sutton said in a 2005 interview, "but fast enough to get killed."
Sutton worked at Oregon Air National Guard as a propeller mechanic before a chance meeting with Vollstedt in 1947 at the old Union Avenue Speedway in North Portland got him hooked on racing.

He and Vollstedt dominated the Northwest roadster and sprint car circuit before they ventured into the big time. Sutton drove Vollstedt's rear-engined, Offenhauser-powered cars in the 1964 and 1965 Indy 500. The two remained close long after their racing association ended, meeting for breakfast each Friday at Bill's Steakhouse in Parkrose.

"I knew something was wrong because last Friday, he didn't make it," Vollstedt said.
Vollstedt owned cars raced by two-time world champion Jimmy Clark and notable U.S. drivers Gordon Johncock, Johnny Rutherford, and Bobby Unser but he said Monday that Sutton, in his low key way, was "on a par" with those other drivers before he retired in 1965.
In 1961, Sutton lost his brakes chasing A.J. Foyt at Milwaukee, hit the wall, and broke several vertebrae in his back. Anita dutifully drove him home again.

He got through the inferno that took the lives of Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs at Indy in 1964, with Anita in the grandstands, anxiously searching the track, waiting for her husband's car to emerge from the smoke and flames.

Sutton's first appearance at Indianapolis, in 1958, was nearly his last: a wind gust flipped his car in practice. It landed upside-down and slid nearly 1,000 feet. The Indianapolis News story the next day noted, "Sutton was at first believed dead by observers on the scene."

When Sutton regained consciousness, he wondered what all the fuss was about.
"Maybe they were just looking for some headlines that day," Sutton said in the 2005 interview. "All I had was a skull fracture, a bunch of hide torn off my back and hand and a broken shoulder. It wasn't a big deal as far as I was concerned."

An ambitious young driver named Mario Andretti watched Sutton race in the late 1950s and they would become friends. Sutton's career was in its twilight when Andretti burst to stardom.
"I loved the man," Andretti said Monday. "I'm totally saddened by this. . . . I remember as a kid, seeing him in 1956, 1957, when he came to the East Coast. For some reason or another, I was always impressed by his demeanor. There was just something about him. And later on, when I got to know him, I always had a special feeling for him. He was truly, truly one of the gentlemen of our sport."

Donald Davidson, the noted Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian, wrote the introduction to Sutton's 2002 book, My Road to Indy. "Back then, you got the impression that race drivers were these intense, tough guys but I was amazed how truly nice a person he was when I first met Len in 1964," said Davidson, who worked Indy 500 radio network broadcasts for several years with Sutton in the booth serving "as the driver expert."

Chris Economaki, the world-famous motorsports journalist and TV commentator, said he first encountered Sutton when Sutton was racing midgets back east and Economaki was the track announcer.

"It was just amazing to me that a guy from the Pacific Northwest would be racing in New England," Economaki said. "Here was a guy who came from an era when you didn't get paid unless you earned the money. There was no salaries, no bonuses, no retainers. You got a percentage of what the car won, so as a consequence, you had to do a lot of traveling. Len had to hustle to make a living."

Economaki was impressed with Sutton's versatility. "Most drivers had their specialties," he said of 1950s and 1960s-era racing. "There were drivers who drove midgets, or drivers who drove sprint cars, etc., but Sutton drove everything. And he drove everything well."

Economaki remembered Sutton as a skilled driver, "but he was a much nicer person and human being."

Among his numerous honors, Sutton said he was proud to be a member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, joining ageless stock car racing legend Hershel McGriff and Portland sports car racer Monte Shelton, who noted simply of his longtime friend, "he was almost too nice to be in racing. You couldn't find a mean bone in that guy's body. And yet, when he raced, he was really good."

Sutton is survived by his wife and his two daughters, Christy and Hollie.
Funeral services are pending.

#8 Sandy M

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 15:15

Very sad news. Another great racer has passed. He was from a time when drivers showed up at tracks without lawyers and corporate public relations excutives and got down on the greasy floor with the car owner and a couple mechanics to get the car ready. His book is excellent and features a good collection photos from this great era. Recommended for any historian and especially fans of this era.

#9 Frank S

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Posted 08 December 2006 - 17:24

Len Sutton's illuminating book is still available for those
unfortunates who have not had the opportunity to meet
this remarkable man, or to hear his voice:

Frank S
San Diego CA