After retiring from racing, Jim McElreath worked on restoring vintage race cars in the garage of his Arlington, Texas, home. Darrell Byers Star-Telegram archives
After retiring from racing, Jim McElreath worked on restoring vintage race cars in the garage of his Arlington, Texas, home. Darrell Byers Star-Telegram archives

NASCAR & Auto Racing

Longtime Indy-car driver Jim McElreath dies

Star-Telegram

May 18, 2017 7:48 PM

Race car driver Jim McElreath, whose 23-year USAC and Indy-car career included 15 starts in the Indianapolis 500, died Thursday at his home in Arlington, officials at Texas Motor Speedway announced. He was 89.

McElreath earned Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors with his sixth-place finish in 1962, and recorded three top-five and six top-10 finishes at the track.

He started his career when he was 17, racing modified stock cars at the Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite in 1945.

McElreath was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2002, the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2014.

He posted five victories and 48 top-fives in 183 open-wheel races and made four starts in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“Jim was an instrumental part to the deep Texas heritage of Indy-car racing that included the likes of A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Jim Hall, Lloyd Ruby, Bobby Hillin Sr. and Andy Granatelli, among others,” Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said in a written statement. “When we opened the speedway, I had the opportunity to become friends with Jim and his wife Shirley, two wonderful people. He will be missed by the motorsports community and our thoughts and prayers go out to Shirley. along with all of their family and friends.”

McElreath is survived by his wife, Shirley, and daughter, Vicky Thornton. He was preceded in death by his son James Jr. in October 1977 and daughter Shirley Anne McElreath Bettenhausen in February 2000.

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