by Dick Berggren
Clint Brawner was born on December 15, 1916 and survived 71 years before taken by cancer. Married to Kay for 38 years, Brawner's life was focused on racing, especially Indy cars.
He contributed enormously to the success of the many race car drivers who steered the cars he prepared, among them Jimmy Bryan, Bobby Ball, Troy Ruttman, Bill Vukovich, Bob Sweikert, Eddie Sachs, Chuck Hulse, Art Pollard, A.J. Foyt, Roger McCluskey, Jimmy Caruthers and Mario Andretti (for whom he was crew chief at Indy in 1969 during Andretti's only win in the 500 mile race). A great observer of racing talent, Brawner gave some of the greatest stars of his era their first shot at the big time.
His protoge, Jim McGee, learned his lessons well and has for many years been one of the top mechanics and team managers in Indy car racing. "Clint was the greatest mechanic to come down the road," said McGee. "He could do more with less than any guy I ever saw. He had a tremendous ability to fix things, forsee problems and know the limitations of equipment. "
As a kid, Brawner worked on the mechanical things that were uniquely necessary for life in Phoenix. A selftaught mechanical genius, he could do it all- build cars, build engines, set cars up and advise the drivers. "He understood how things worked," said McGee. "People like A.J. Watson, Jud Phillips and those guys, whenever there was something they couldn't do or didn't want to do, they'd leave it front of Clint's garage." Brawner's philosophy of "man made it, man can fix it" was appropriate to him alone.
In '64, Brawner, working with McGee, was a major player in the rear engine Hawks which ran through '69, including the car Andretti won the 500 with that year. Eddie Kuzma built the tubs and body work while Brawner and McGee did the rest.
A tireless worker, Brawner worked at racing from early in the morning until late at night seven days per week. For him, the essence of life was his wife, to whom he was very devoted, and his racing cars. His skill, work ethic and focus led to 51 Indy car victories and four poles in the Indy 500.
Brawner was so well respected, he was able to express himself freely without repercussion. McGee remembered, "He was not a politician at all. Ford sponsored us one year and he went up and chewed these guys out about what a [terrible] passenger car they had. They needed to do this, do that to the car. Then we'd go ask the same guys for three or four engines and they'd just shake their head at him." But, Brawner got his engines.
Skin cancer plagued Brawner for much of his life. He wore a bandanna and a straw hat as tools of survival against the disease. Although he thought he had it beaten in the early 80s, on December 23, 1987, it snuffed out the life of one of the greatest mechanical minds in the history of American auto racing.