Class of 2001
Jimmy “Cowboy” Bryan, who earned his nickname busting broncos before his racing career began, could, and did, drive almost anything with wheels. He won three AAA-USAC national titles, won the Indianapolis 500 in 1958, and was also considered one of the best dirt track drivers ever.
After four years of racing midgets and sprints, Bryan’s first big win came in 1951 when he surprised everyone by winning the Ted Horn Memorial at Williams Grove Speedway.
In 1954, his friend and mechanic Clint Brawner got Bryan a ride in the Dean Van Lines car. This combination would prove to be one of the most successful in racing history. He captured his first national championship in 1954, then won seven dirt races in a row in 1955, but lost the crown.
Bryan won the championship again in both 1956 and 1957. At Indy, he finished 2nd in 1954 in a dramatic run in an ill-handling car. After finishing third in 1957, he won the Indy 500 the next year. From 1954 thru 1958, Bryan amassed more points than anyone ever had in a five-year period in champ cars. Also, during that time, he won the Monza Race of Two Worlds in Italy in 1956.
In 1960, at the age of 33, Bryan died in a first-lap crash at Langhorne, where he had posted two of his most notable victories.