The Racing Capital
of the World
July 20, 2012 | By Bruce Martin
Hurley Haywood has long been known as the “Master of Daytona,” as the famed sports car driver won the Rolex 24 At Daytona five times during his legendary career behind the wheel. He also drove to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times and was twice the winner at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Haywood’s last race as a driver was in this year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, but he continues to guide the fabled Brumos Porsche GRAND-AM team at sports car races throughout the schedule.
“I retired full-time from the seat three years ago,” said Haywood, 64. “We had one year in the DP (Daytona Prototype) and two years ago when GT racing. They keep bringing me back for the 24-hour race, but this last 24-hour race was my last.”
And there is nothing better that Haywood would like to do than help orchestrate a victory in the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix GRAND-AM race Friday, July 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard.
“The Brickyard is a unique place, as we all know,” Haywood said at last month’s GRAND-AM race at the Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix.” It’s exciting for us to run there in GRAND-AM in both the DP and the GT situation. We are really excited about it. There was a lot of discussion about running a second car there for myself and another driver, but I decided that was probably not a good thing to do. We are going to have one car, focus on that and the championship, and hopefully do well.”
Haywood has high hopes not only for each of his drivers that will compete in both the DP and GT classes but for GRAND-AM making a mark at the most famous race course in the world.
“Daytona is such an iconic racetrack, and I’ve had a lot of success there,” Haywood said. “It’s like going home every time I go to Daytona. I love that. To be able to race at Daytona and Indianapolis in the same year is a big deal. Everybody is excited about it, and everybody really will try to do their best there with their best equipment and best drivers, so it will be top-notch.
“GRAND-AM has a really good package in the DP and the GT. It’s really close racing, and it brings a lot of manufacturers together and a lot of different drivers are racing in this series. For us to showcase that talent to an Indy crowd, to race at Indianapolis, is a big deal for GRAND-AM. It’s a well-publicized, well-planned event that is good for manufacturers, drivers and the series. I’m excited we are able to run there.
“For a driver to say I won at Indy, that’s a big deal because it is such a recognizable name. Everybody will try hard to win there.”
Although Haywood will be in the paddock and atop the pit box during the GRAND-AM race at IMS, 32 years ago he was behind the wheel of the No. 99 Sta-On Car Glaze/KISS99/Guarantee Auto Special in the 1980 Indianapolis 500. Haywood started 25th and finished 18th after dropping out of the race when his car caught on fire after 126 laps.
Johnny Rutherford scored his third Indy 500 win that year, and Tim Richmond was the Rookie of the Year after finishing ninth. Had Haywood continued in the race, he may have been in position to challenging Richmond as top rookie at Indy in 1980.
“Lindsey Hopkins, who I drove for, called me, and he and Peter Gregg were talking and said Hurley would like to try Indy,” Haywood said. “Lindsey stepped up to the plate and offered me the car. I came there in 1979 and didn’t get qualified. I had some problems in qualifying, and in 1980 I qualified. For me, that was a real big thrill, but I was never comfortable with the cars. Lindsey had a good team, but it was not a front-running team, so I thought my efforts would be better to focus on the GT stuff. I had probably 15 or 20 Indy-car starts over the years, but the Indy 500 was, of course, the big one.
“I’m very glad I did it. From a driver’s standpoint, to run in the Indianapolis 500 is a big thing. To be able to experience that and have the knowledge of whether it was something I wanted to do more of or if I wasn’t going to be successful at it was a valuable lesson for me.”
Haywood was born and raised in Chicago and intently followed the Indianapolis 500. He attended the race with his father as a spectator in the early- to mid-1970s before actually driving in the race for his one and only time in 1980.
“I liked watching Jochen Rindt and Mark Donohue, who turned out to be a really good friend of mine. His son (David) drove for our team. Mark was instrumental in helping me adapt when I went from true sports cars over to Can-Am racing. When I got to Indy, he had already passed away by that time, but I had a pretty good grasp of the things I needed to come to grips with.”
Haywood is a select group of drivers that has competed in the Indy 500, won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the most iconic events in all of racing.
“Each race presents its own set of problems,” Haywood said. “The Indy 500 was an endurance race where you had to pace yourself and do all the things that you do in a long-distance race. A.J. Foyt has won at Daytona, Le Mans and at Indy. He is one of those iconic names that win in anything he drives. It would be great for us to be able to win at Indy because that would be a nice trophy to put on the display case.”
And while Porsche was able to compete in CART and the Indianapolis 500 with Walker Racing in the 1980s, the famed auto manufacturer will return to IMS at the Brickyard Grand Prix.
“For a manufacturer to run at Indy is always great and to be successful there is a great feather in Porsche’s cap,” Haywood said. “I just hope we are the team that brings them that success.”