Gordon Johncock, Open Wheel, Class of 2002
Gordon Johncock stands out as one of American rear-engined, open-wheel, open-cockpit racing's most successful performers ever.
Best remembered for holding off Rick Mears to win the thrilling 1982 Indianapolis 500, the former super-modified standout from Hastings, Michigan won no fewer than 25 national championship events under the sanction of either USAC or CART between 1965 and 1983, accumulating enough points to rank 7th or higher in 14 seasons.
He had two wins at Indianapolis, both in STP-sponsored cars for the Patrick Racing Team. The first was the tragic rain-shortened and accident-marred event of 1973. His second victory was the extraordinary 1982 classic in which he heroically survived a late race challenge by Rick Mears to win by just about a car length.
The records show that he also had a pair of 3rds at Indianapolis - in the rain in 1976 and going the full distance in 1978 - for a total of 10 finishes of 6th or higher. However, what the results do not show is that he came within 16 laps of winning in 1977 (allowing A.J. Foyt his 4th win) and within six laps of placing 2nd in 1981. Ten years after his final start, he still ranked 3rd only to Foyt and Al Unser in terms of miles driven (7,895); tied for 4th in terms of total starts (24) and was 13th on the all-time lap leader's board with 339.