Joe Leonard made the successful transition from two wheels to four as a three-time American Motorcycle Association National Champion in 1954, 1956, and 1957 (as well as a three time runner up) who went on to drive in nine Indianapolis 500 races. During a brief run with a Ray Nichels Dodge in the United States Auto Club stock car series, Leonard finished fifth in the 1964 point standings, winning at DuQuoin, Illinois, and scoring eight finishes of seventh or higher. Three years later, he placed third in the Indianapolis 500 in 1967 and won the pole position for the 1968 Indianapolis 500 with new track records (171.953 miles per hour for one lap and 171.559 for four) driving one of Andy Granatelli’s turbine-powered four-wheel-drive Lotus wedge cars.
He was leading that race when forced out with nine laps to go. Four years later, in 1972, he again placed third in the Indianapolis 500. In 1971 and 1972, he won the United States Auto Club National Championship over his high-profile Vel’s Parnelli Jones teammates, Al Unser and Mario Andretti. Leonard’s United States Auto Club successes included wins in the 1971 Ontario 500 (Ontario, California) and the 1972 Pocono 500 (Pennsylvania), plus three at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and one at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.
Courtesy of Indianapolis Motors Speedway Museum