Johnny Rutherford's outstanding record includes three Indianapolis 500 triumphs (1974, 1976, and 1980) and victories in 24 additional championship races on other tracks, including the 1974 Pocono 500 (Pennsylvania) and the 1986 Michigan 500 (Brooklyn, Michigan). He started in 24 Indianapolis races, is a three-time pole position winner, and has won the event twice (1976 and 1980) from the pole position. Rutherford also earned the pole position in 1973 with a four-lap qualifying record of 198.413 miles per hour, narrowly missing the first official 200 miles per hour lap with a one-lap record of 199.071 miles per hour.
He drove 2,792 laps in competition and led the field for a total of 296 laps. In 1984, he set a new speed record for championship cars by qualifying for the Michigan 200 at 215.189 miles per hour. In addition to being the 1980 National Driving Champion as well as the 1965 United States Auto Club Sprint Car Champion, Rutherford gained notoriety before starting in his first Indianapolis 500 when he was assigned, as a virtual unknown, to a Smokey Yunick Chevrolet for the 1963 Daytona 500. Rutherford turned in the fastest qualifying lap and survived a spin to finish ninth.
Courtesy of Indianapolis Motors Speedway Museum