The life and career of Art Pollard, the Southern Oregon race car driver who graduated from local tracks to become a fixture at the Indianapolis 500, will be celebrated with a special day today at the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville.
Pollard’s daughter, Judy Dippel of Eugene, will give a 2 p.m. presentation about her father, who died on May 12, 1973, after a crash during time trials at the Indy 500. Also attending will be Brad Pollard, Art’s nephew who also races cars.
Art Pollard lived in Medford in the 1960s and early '70s. He was born in Dragon, Utah, and grew up in Roseburg. He raced modified hardtops locally and at Eugene Speedway before expanding to super-modifieds. He traveled to racing circuits throughout the West and won the Western States Championship in 1961. He graduated to the USAC Championship Car Series, earning two victories and 30 top-10 finishes. He competed in five Indianapolis 500 races; his best finish was eighth in 1967.
Art Pollard Day at the museum will be especially geared for children with activities for youngsters from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in honor of Pollard’s work with children. Visitors 12 and younger will be admitted free to the museum with a paid adult.
“He left a legacy, not only for racing, but because he made time for people wherever he went,” Dippel said. “He was especially good with kids, and always did things like sneaking a couple of kids into Gasoline Alley who were peering through the fence, attended their banquets, spoke to high schools on safe driving, those kinds of things.”
Pollard became involved with children with special emotional needs at Larue D. Carter Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis, where “Art Pollard Day in May” was held annually during Indy month. Drivers continued the tradition 20 years after his death, and a playground at the hospital is named in his honor.
“It’s such a gift to me to hear about people’s interest in dad all these years later,” Dippel said. “He was an easy-going, extremely personable man who touched people’s lives in many ways. As a racing celebrity, he also was called the ‘driver’s driver’ because he had the ability to unify the drivers to give of their time for good causes.”
He helped drivers organize such events as celebrity basketball games and a goodwill tour to Vietnam, she said.
There are annual races at the Southern Oregon Speedway and in Roseburg in his honor.
The World of Speed, at 27490 SW 95th Ave. in Wilsonville, is an educational museum with historic race cars, boats and motorcycles, and interactive exhibits and activities that tell the story of motorsports culture. Admission on Sunday is $10 for adults, with discounts for students and seniors.