Noted Indianapolis 500 chief mechanic Oakes dies

INDIANAPOLIS – Danny Oakes, a champion midget car driver and chief mechanic for two Indianapolis 500 Rookies of the Year, died Jan. 13. Oakes was 95.

Oakes was one of the leading midget car drivers on the West Coast for more than 20 years, with many top finishes at the famed Gilmore Stadium. He also was a participant at the famed Legion Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles in the mid-1930s. Oakes was near the end of his driving career when he won the USAC Pacific Coast Midget title in 1959.

When Jim Hurtubise came within an eye-blink of turning the first 150-mph laps at Indianapolis as a rookie in May 1960, Oakes was his chief mechanic. Hurtubise was named Rookie of the Year.

Oakes had a second Rookie of the Year with fourth-placed Johnny White in 1964, while others who drove Oakes-prepared cars in the "500" were Troy Ruttman, Paul Goldsmith, Mike Magill and Bill Cheesbourg.

Never able to qualify for the "500" as a driver in attempts from 1952-55, Oakes was bumped from the field in 1954 and made an incomplete attempt in 1952 with a Ferrari which had been turned down by Johnnie Parsons. Oakes was befriended by two-time Formula One World Champion Alberto Ascari, who invited Oakes to stand by as a relief driver at Indy. Ascari's Ferrari was eliminated before a single pit stop could be made.

Oakes was passionate about racing to the very end and was still attending races in fairly recent years.

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