Hall of Fame: Bob Wilke



Bob Wilke led one of racing’s most successful teams, Leader Card, Inc., a veritable dynasty that won three Indianapolis 500s and six United States Auto Club National Championship car owner titles from 1959 through 1968. After many years as an occasional Indianapolis 500 race car sponsor and a distributor for Kurtis-Kraft midget cars, Wilke formed his own team shortly after partnering with Jim Rathmann and John Zink to win the 1958 Monza (Italy) 500.


With A.J. Watson as car builder/chief mechanic and Rodger Ward as driver, “The Flying Ws” won the Indianapolis 500 race in 1959 and scored a rare one-two finish in Indianapolis with Ward and Len Sutton in 1962. For several years, Leader Cards operated as two teams within one, with Jud Phillips overseeing a second unit for Don Branson and Bobby Unser, who won the Indianapolis 500 and the United States Auto Club National Championship title in 1968. Wilke’s son Ralph carried on the team’s legacy for many more years after Wilke died in December 1970.


Courtesy of Indianapolis Motors Speedway Museum

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