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As I See Him
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Coming at ya!
Cover of August 1969 Auto Racing Magazine in which following article appeared.
Art is shown driving the #20 STP Lotus in the 1968 Rex Mays 300 at Riverside.

Art Pollard
As I See Him

By Anthony (Andy) Granatelli

He's content only when he's running up front with the leaders
Article published in the Aug. 1969 issue of Auto Racing Magazine of the World's Greatest Sport.

    "Life begins at 40" may be a trite, time worn expression, but it fits race driver Art Pollard to a "T." At a time when most professional athletes have retired or are thinking about it, this native of Medford, Oregon was just getting started.

    Getting started, that is, in big-time racing. Pollard was 40 on May 5, 1967. Twenty-five days later he started in his first Indianapolis 500-mile race.
    Art, a graduate of the hardtops and the modifieds in his native Oregon, actually went to Indianapolis first in 1966 - when he was only 39. He qualified a rear engined Offenhauser car at 157.985 mph, but was bumped on the final day by Ronnie Duman. He did drive in seven Championship races that season and his best finish was a fourth in the Milwaukee 100. He was 23rd in the National Championship standings.

    The next year things were different. He qualified a turbocharged Offenhauser again, but this time at 163.897. He's not a bit superstitious, this fellow, because his 13th starting position didn't faze him. He was running third when he made his first pit stop and looked like somebody the front-runners would have to reckon with. But a spin on the northwest curveand a penalty lap for a restart dropped him to an eighth-place finish.

    This 40-year-old rookie proved to be a real comer, not just an over-age (for race driving) newcomer who was looking for some new kicks. Pollard finished 11th in the standings, even though he missed eight races because of a broken leg suffered during a tire testing program at Trenton, New Jersey.

    He qualified one of the celebrated STP-Turbocars in 11th spot in 1968 at Indianapolis, despite almost zero time at practice in the car. He raced his way to fourth place by the midpoint of the Memorial Day classic and held fourth until a tiny fuel pump drive shaft failed just a few laps from the finish.

    When the car quit, he was within shooting distance of third-place Mel Kenyon and second-place Dan Gurney.

    Pollard drove nearly every race on the United States Auto Clubs Championship Trail in 1968, most of them in the STP-Turbocar.

    Hard luck dogged him nearly everywhere he went. He led the first Milwaukee race until he was black-flagged.

    His brakes failed at Castle Rock, Colorado, and he was running in contention at the time too.

    At Milwaukee it appeared that it was Pollard's and the Turbocar's day. He won the pole position for the 200 miler and won that coveted spot with a new track record speed.

    Pollard jumped away from the field and for a time it looked like a runaway. Then bad luck hit - brakes again. He led it for the first 135 miles on the State Fair Park one-mile asphalt oval.

    Then came Trenton. He qualified fourth and ran second for a time, but suspension problems problems knocked him out of the park that day. He and Mario Andretti shared a new track record at Phoenix and Art led the race for 45 laps. It was a new problem this time. A universal joint gave way.

    He qualified 11th at Riverside, the concluding Championship race of the season-run on the famed California road course. Pollard whipped the Turbocar into third spot and was running stongly in that third spot until Andretti in a sister Turbocar smashed into his Turbocar and put him out of the race.

    When it came time for the 1969 season, Art Pollard was the first driver chosen for the STP team. He was picked to drive the STP-Super Wedge powered by a Plymouth engine, a novel experiment in major leage racing. The chassis was basically the same one he drove in 1968 when it was powered by a turbine, but now adapted, naturally for the Plymouth engine.

    "I had a great time with the STP Turbocar in sixty-eight," he says. "It was a new and novel racing experience and I wouldn't take anything for it. You must realize that the STP-Plymouth effort got a late start and was strictly a long shot chance."

    But he was willing to take the chance. He knew that the chassis design and the super-wedge body design would contribute much to his car's chances.

    Art Pollard could be desribed as steady, cool and thoughtful.

    He neither looks nor drives anything like his 42 years might indicate. He's a charger when the right time comes.

    Pollard is a stocky 5 feet 11 1/2 inches tall. He weighs 195 and has dark, curly hair, free of gray which sometimes slips in at his age.

    How has he kept his youth?

    "Maybe it's because I don't have too many tough miles on me," he says with that typical Pollard grin. "I spent a lot of my racing life bashing around in the Pacific Northwest, where you don't race very dangerously, you don't earn much money but you do have a lot of fun".

    Pollard, who has been married 23 years to his wife, Claudine and has a son Mike 21, and a daughter, Judy 19, still has time to have fun even though he spends a whole year racing. Off the track he is an expert water skiier and bowler (with a 170 average)

    I'm sure he'll agree that the famous ride in 1968 at the Speedway in the STP-Turbocar really catapulted him to fame.

    When he took his first ride in it, one headline writer wrote: "Ride in turbine really turns Pollard on."

    "It was really impressive," he said after his first ride in the Turbocar. "It's just like driving a passenger car."

    Pollard impressed more than himself when he took the famous number 40 for his first ride around at 163.5 mph.

    "It's amazing." he said. "It's really super."

    What made the turbine so competitive?

    "It just makes driving at Indianapolis easier. Actually, it isn't the turbine, but the four-wheel drive and the engineering and the chassis. It's different to drive too. You have to anticipate the throttle. There's a lag there. It's probably more psychological because of the instant response with a gas engine. You have to get on the turbine much sooner. If you wait too long, you bog down."

    But the rulemakers outlawed all that. Actually, they cut down the "formula" for turbine engines to the point that it was not feasible to run them at Indianapolis or on the Championship Trail. That's why we switched to Plymouth, hoping that we can develop a winning combonation before the season is over. By the way, it should be noted, in view of Pollard's remarks, that the four-wheel drive is going by the boards too after this season.

    Pollard drives dirt cars and stock cars with the same kind of determination that he exhibits at Indianapolis and on the Championship Trail. He's a proud man who hates to run at the rear of any racing pack.

    He hadn't had too much experience on the dirt, I remember, when he qualified for the Hoosier Hundred, a rich race on the Indianapolis Fairgrounds track. He never was in contention for first or second or third, but he was out there working himself and his car like crazy.

    Pollard was trying desparately to get around another car and into ninth place. It was a show fans will never forget. You would have thought he was racing for the $25,000 first prize.

    "Every lap was an adventure," he said later after the long grind. "I lost my brakes after sixty laps or so and it was all over then. I just had to stroke it."

    "Boy, is it galling to sit back there at the rear of the pack. I like to run with the leaders and be competitive. That's the only way."

    His own summation is about the way I'd describe him as a race driver-he's content only when he's running up front with the leaders.

    He's been that way, I guess, since he first started driving hardtops in Roseburg, Oregon in 1955. After only two years of driving he won his first title, the local hardtop championship. Art moved up to modifieds in 1959 and won the Oregon championship.

    Then it was super-modifieds. He won the Northwest title in 1960 and 1961. Sprint cars were next. He won every race he was able to finish in 1962.

    He won many big modifieds and super-modified races throughout the West in those years. But he thinks winning the Western States Modified title at Fresno, California in 1961 and winning atleast two super-modified races in eight cities throughout the Western States in 1961 were the highlights of his early career.

    Pollard is one driver who wasn't in a particular hurry to get to Indianapolis. He kept driving in so-called minor league races in the West until 1965 when he got his first break on the Championship Trail. His first Championship race was in the Milwaukee 200 in 1965. He finished an amazing fifth at Trenton later that season and by then was on his way.

    Art is more than a race driver. A couple of years ago he was hired to go out across the United states to "preach" safe driving to high school kids.

    He was one of a team of seven or eight race drivers who traveled from city to city appearing at high school assemblies. They'd show a movie which dealt principally with race driving at Indianapolis, but which also told a story about good highway driving habits.

    He was an instant hit with the kids. He spoke their language, and because he was a "500" driver they knew that he knew what he was talking about.

    Art Pollard is a rare exception in many ways. He can be both tough and gentle. He can dress as fancy as any "city slicker," but at work, in the pits or in a race car, he's as tough as nails and isn't interested in impressing anyone unless it's with some super speed on the track.

    Does life really begin at 40? It did for Art Pollard.

Art Pollard Tribute Site established April 2, 2002