Wally Dallenbach at Pennsylvania’s Langhorne Speedway in 1965. (SPEED SPORT Archives photo)

Hall Of Famer Wally Dallenbach, 87

Popular Indy car racer Wally Dallenbach Sr. died April 29. He was 87 years old.

Dallenbach made 13 Indianapolis 500 starts and is also the father of former NASCAR Cup Series driver Wally Dallenbach Jr. and multi-time Pikes Peak Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach.

“The Dallenbach family regrets to announce the passing of Wally Dallenbach Sr. Wally peacefully passed away in his sleep April 29th almost 11 months after the passing of the love of his life Peppy “Annette” Dallenbach,” Paul Dallenbach posted on Instagram Monday afternoon.

Perhaps Dallenbach’s most memorable performance as a driver at Indianapolis came in 1975, again for car owner U.E. “Pat” Patrick. He led four times for a race-high 96 laps, losing the top spot only at pit stops. But Dallenbach was eliminated from the race by a burnt piston while leading on Lap 162, just 12 laps before the race was called due to rain, with Bobby Unser earning his second “500” victory. Dallenbach was credited with ninth place.

Dallenbach recorded five victories, 27 podium finishes and one pole in 180 INDYCAR SERIES starts. His best championship finish was second, behind Roger McCluskey, in 1973 despite not qualifying for the first two races of the season.

The most memorable of Dallenbach’s victories came in the 1973 California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway, the last of his three straight wins that season for Patrick Racing.

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Wally Dallenbach (IMS photo)

Dallenbach started his driving career in drag racing on the East Coast before switching to oval racing in midgets and sprint cars. He made his Indy car debut in 1965 at Langhorne Speedway, with his final start coming in 1979 at Phoenix.

In 1981, rain severely curtailed the first weekend of Indianapolis 500 qualifying, and Mario Andretti didn’t get a chance to make an attempt. Andretti had a clashing commitment to race in the Belgian Grand Prix Formula One race during the second qualifying weekend, so Dallenbach briefly exited retirement to put Andretti’s No. 40 STP Oil Treatment Wildcat/Cosworth safely in the field before turning the car back to Andretti for the race.

Dallenbach became the first competition director and chief steward of Championship Auto Racing Teams in 1980. He served as chief steward until 2004, easily recognized by his trademark cowboy hat and earning respect from all corners of the paddock for his even-handed officiating and humble, personable demeanor.

Dallenbach also made significant contributions to racing safety. He worked with doctors Steve Olvey and Terry Trammell and safety directors Steve Edwards and Lon Bromley to develop a trailblazing safety team including doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians that traveled to all CART races.

“Wally Dallenbach made a huge contribution to our sport for five decades as a driver and official,” a joint statement from IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway said. “He was a talented competitor behind the wheel, who always raced hard but clean. That sense of fairness and decency extended to his legendary tenure as chief steward of CART, where he was respected and liked by all for his steady, sensible officiating. Wally’s many contributions to racing safety, especially a traveling medical team, will resonate long into the future. He was one of the true good guys of open-wheel racing, and our thoughts and sympathies are with his family.”

Dallenbach has been inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Hall of Fame, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame.