Robin Miller Indianapolis Star Art Pollard Eulogy
Indianapolis Star – Sunday, May 13, 1973
When a race driver is killed on the track the first thing everybody says is, “That’s too bad, he was a hell of a guy.” In the obituary the next day, his past performances are listed and any other worthy achievements are mentioned. Yesterday Art Pollard left us. Not Art Pollard the race driver, but Art Pollard the human being.
This is a personal eulogy.
I’m 23 years old. Art was 46 just last Saturday. But we had as much in common as any two people I know. We had a lot of good times together and in the three years I knew him, he showed me why he was different from most. At 46, he was just hitting fourth gear. For one, he was a grandfather but as youthful as any when it came to standing on a gas pedal.
His other uncommon feature was that Art Pollard actually cared, gave a damn if you please, about a bunch of people in this world.
Whether you raced against him, dined with him,laughed with him or barely knew him, Art Pollard came across as more than an autograph, handshake or wave. In the pressurized world of professional auto racing, most drivers, understandably have too much on their minds to stop and chat with everyone who calls their names.
But Pollard made time for nearly anybody.
Whether you were a Boy Scout, a crippled child, a pushy mother demanding an autograph or a drunk wanting to talk to “that old guy,” Art Pollard tried to tried to become a part of your world at least for a couple of minutes. He spent hours and his own money on the retarded children at La Rue Carter hospital here in Indianapolis. He saw to it they spent one day in May with him at the Speedway each year. And if you don’t think that means a lot to people, you are mistaken. Art enjoyed talking as much as he did driving and he was a master of the after-dinner speech. He was also a master at organization. Race drivers are as a group, almost impossible to organize-at or away from the track. But Pollard possessed a knack for getting on the phone and making things happen. Last winter he was at his best. He began a weekly Thursday night poker game at his apartment that saw Johnny Parsons, John Mahler, Cy Fairchild, Billy Vukovich, Art’s friends and neighbors, lose money and enjoy themselves. Then on each Tuesday and Thursday morning, Pollard would get up and begin rousing Parsons, Mahler, Merle Bettenhausen and me to go down to the Athletic Club and work out. It was a pleasure to watch Pollard muscle his way around the basketball court for two straight hours, knock a volley ball back and forth for another 90 minutes and finish it up with a weight-lifting exibition that usually sent the steady customers away shaking their heads. Just this past month, the competition had turned to golf and Art, though not the golfer Vuky or Mahler is, played every hole like it was Agusta.
But as competetive as he was, he was always vibrant, even-tempered and hardly ever moody.
After he helped me get started racing last summer he told me never to burn any bridges in dealing with people. “You’ve got to keep the right attitude all the time. When somebody spins and causes you to wreck, don’t fly off the handle and try to get back at them, ’cause sooner or later you’re going to make a mistake too,” he used to say. Most of all, though, Art Pollard never seemed to age. Last summer we went to a concert to hear the Carpenters and he knew almost every song they sang. He always dressed with style too.
But his mental frame of mind was truly a wonder.
A year ago, he suffered a broken leg in a crash after qualifying for the race. That crash probably would have made a lot of guys 35 quit. But Pollard was a tough cuss. Two hours after they put the cast on, he was scheming on how to get it off in time for the Pocono 500. He finally succeeded and ran strong at Ontario.
This May had all the signs of being his best since he drove Andy Granatelli’s turbine in 1968. He had a ’73 Eagle, two good mechanics and a new sponsor. All during practice he’d been one of the fastest. He kept telling me,”Man, when things start out smooth and organized like this operation, you know you’re going to do well.” He was running 191-plus when he crashed. The burns and broken bones he could have survived but it was a spinal cord injury that took his life.
So now he’s just another name in the Speedway record book, with an asterisk for being dead. They say, “well that’s too bad but you got to keep on living.”
But I can’t help feel a part of me and a lot of other people went away yesterday.
The Carpenters were one of Art’s favorite groups in the modern era. The Carpenters – Only Yesterday