Over his career, McElreath won just five IndyCar races. Still, his speed, toughness and consistency in often second-rate machinery propelled him to a remarkable 47 Top 5 finishes in 167 starts. Typical was his first Indy 500, which the Speedway described: "Driving a six-year-old Kurtis-Kraft, McElreath qualified seventh and caused quite a stir by passing A.J. Foyt and Rodger Ward to run second by lap 20. He ended up sixth, and many suggested he was hampered by pit stops performed less rapidly than those by the contestants ahead of him." McElreath was named 1962 Rookie of the Year for his efforts. His best finish in 15 starts was third (1966). In 1977, he and Jim Jr. attempted to become the first father and son to qualify for the same 500, but the younger man failed to make the field. Four times between 1963 and 1970, McElreath finished in the top three in IndyCar points, with a career-best second in ‘66 to Mario Andretti. He was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 2002.