Indianapolis 500 veteran Christie dies at 85 Eight-time Indianapolis 500 starter Bob "Caveman" Christie, whose rather fearsome nickname belied one of the nicest and most mild-mannered gentlemen ever to pull on a racing helmet, died Monday, June 1. Christie, who turned 85 on April 4, had been in ill health for some time.
The steadily running and dependable driver from Grants Pass, Ore., who made at least one departure from the qualifying line at Indianapolis every year from 1954 through to 1967, earned a starting position for the eight consecutive "500s" from 1956-63. He finished 10th in 1960, and 13th in three other years, losing out on a potential eighth-place finish in 1958 when taken out by another driver with only 11 laps to go.
The third-ranking AAA Stock Car driver of 1953, Christie made 14 starts in USAC National Championship competition, by far his best performance coming in the blindingly fast 100-mile race at the then-brand new Daytona International Raceway on April 4, 1959. Christie, who was celebrating his 35th birthday that day, finished an impressive third behind Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward. Rathmann won in slightly more than 35 minutes at the extraordinary average speed of 170.261 mph.
Much of Christie's racing came in AAA and USAC stock cars, in which he placed within the top 10 in point standings three times, holding off the highly rated Marshall Teague to win a grueling 300-lap marathon in 1954 at the soon-to-close Carrell Speedway in Los Angeles. He also placed second in four others, including a 150-miler in 1953 at Milwaukee (shortly before the track was paved) and the 250-miler in September 1956 at Milwaukee (behind Jimmy Bryan).
While never quite a front-runner at Indianapolis, he absolutely loved the place, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more passionate spokesman and booster. Long after he had retired, he would spend much of the month of May at the track, holding court and telling stories. He was an excellent speaker and for many years would graciously escort special guests through the Speedway's garage area.
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