By: Spencer Neff
January 8, 2019| 8:40 AM
On Monday afternoon, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame announced its 2019 induction class, and alongside NASCAR legends Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Jarrett, two influential names from IndyCar’s past will also leave their mark.
Former drivers Wally Dallenbach and Jacques Villeneuve join Earnhardt and Jarrett on the list of nominees.
The inductees will be announced on March 20th (110th anniversary of the founding of Indianapolis Motor Speedway-Founder’s Day). They will be honored at the annual Hall of Fame/IMS Oldtimers Club dinner on May 23.
As a panel of nearly 150 distinguished members within the racing community deliberates their qualifications, here’s a look at the IndyCar careers of Dallenbach and Villeneuve.
Dallenbach made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1967, his third year in USAC. After starting 15th, he crashed after just 73 laps and finished 29th.
The following year, he started 12th, but engine issues dropped him to 17th as he completed 146 of 200 laps.
1969 marked the first time the East Brunswick, New Jersey native would lead the race. Despite running up front for seven laps, a clutch issue took him out after 82 laps, relegating him to 21st after starting 19th.
After a disappointing 24th-place finish in 1971, Dallenbach moved to the famed STP team with owner Andy Granatelli. An injury to Art Pollard put him back in the field, albeit starting 33rd.
From last on the grid, the veteran worked his way to 15th, despite being 18 laps down. It would be the first time Dallenbach was running at the finish.
Following a move to Oscar Olson’s team for 1973, Dallenbach continued to be plagued by car issues at Indy. This time, a broken connecting rod would be the culprit and he finished just 48 laps, bringing home a 24th-place finish after starting 20th.
The 1974 month of May looked to be Dallenbach’s most promising Indianapolis 500 run. Driving for Pat Patrick – the 1973 winning car owner – he started a career-best second. After leading two of the first three laps, a broken piston ended Dallenbach’s day.
A determined Dallenbach and Patrick Racing returned in 1975. Despite starting 21st, the veteran maneuvered his way to the lead and stayed there for 96 laps. Fate struck a cruel blow once again though, as a burnt piston ended his day 12 laps from the race’s rain-shortened conclusion on Lap 175.
Although he finished a lap down each of the following two years, Dallenbach recorded his best Indianapolis 500 finishes of fourth in each 1976 and 1977.
In 1976, he led for the final time at the Speedway for three laps. His final two starts at IMS were both in seventh-place.
In 1978, he ran out of fuel and finished fifth, five laps down. His last start at the “500” ended 43 laps into the race after a lost wheel, as he recorded a 27th-place finish in 1979.
Following his 1981 retirement, Dallenbach took over as CART’s chief steward, a role he held until 2004. In 180 IndyCar starts, Dallenbach earned five victories and one pole.
Villeneuve followed in the footsteps of his father, the late Formula 1 star Gilles Villeneuve, to a career in racing. Villeneuve’s uncle (also named Jacques) won at Road America in 1985, the first Canadian race-winner in CART.
Villeneuve made his debut in CART in 1994. Despite Team Penske earning the lion’s share of the headlines and success, Villeneuve made an impressive debut during his first Indianapolis 500.
The Montreal, Quebec native started fourth and led seven laps en route to a runner-up finish behind polesitter Al Unser Jr. Villeneuve, the only leader aside from the Penske duo of Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi, earned Rookie of the Year honors.
In 1995, Villeneuve would utilize the No. 27 his father had made famous in Formula 1, beginning with a season-opening win on the streets of Miami.
Later that season in his second Indianapolis 500, Villeneuve continued to show flashes of brilliance.
Despite being docked two laps for passing the pace car, what followed would be a stellar performance from the Team Green driver.
He took the lead with five laps to go when Scott Goodyear was black-flagged for passing the pace car under the yellow. Villeneuve went on to win by 2.481 seconds over Christian Fittipaldi.
He is to date the first and only winner of the race to hail from Canada. Villeneuve also holds the distinction of being the last champion of the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar before the CART/IRL split in 1996.
Villeneuve finished off his dream season by winning the championship. After an 18-year absence that saw him compete and win in several series, Villeneuve returned to the “500” in 2014.
In a one-off with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Villeneuve started 27th and raced his way to a 14th-place finish.
Open-Wheels would like to congratulate all 2019 nominees on this prestigious honor. We also would like to thank them for their contributions to racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Header Image by Joe Skibinski/INDCAR