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Indy 500-winning owner Pat Patrick dies

Pat Patrick dies

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 1: U.E. ‘Pat’ Patrick, team owner of the #20 Patrick Racing Chevrolet Dallara, during practice for the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series Toyota Indy 400 on October 1, 2004 at the California Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Gavin Lawrence/Getty Images)

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Pat Patrick, a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 with drivers Gordon Johncock and Emerson Fittipaldi and a pivotal team owner in IndyCar history, died Jan. 5 after a long illness, according to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Patrick was 91.

Patrick is among seven car owners with at least three Indy 500 victories, winning in 1973 and ’82 with Johncock and in ’89 with Fittipaldi.

Johncock’s second victory for Patrick Racing came after a memorable duel with Rick Mears, winning by a then-record margin of 0.16 seconds. Patrick’s final Indy 500 triumph was the first of two Indy victories for Fittipaldi, who beat Unser in a No. 20 Penske-Chevrolet that was jointly owned with Chip Ganassi.

Working with fellow car owners Roger Penske and Dan Gurney, Patrick also was instrumental in the formation of the CART series in the late 1970s.

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“Pat Patrick was a shrewd businessman who had a great passion for racing and the people that work within the sport,” Penske said in a statement. “He knew how to put the right people in the right position to create a winning environment and he was a fierce competitor, in racing as well as in business. Winning series championships and more than 40 IndyCar races, including three Indianapolis 500s, Patrick Racing was one of the top teams in our sport for many years.

“Pat was a visionary and a true innovator. His teams won a lot of races with the Wildcat cars that his company produced and he took open-wheel racing in new directions by helping form Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and the Indy Lights Series. Pat was also important to the growth of our company as he served on the Penske Corporation Board of Directors for more than 15 years. He was a good friend and our thoughts are with Pat’s family and everyone impacted by the loss of one of racing’s great leaders.”

After starting his career as an accountant before founding the Patrick Petroleum Co. in 1963, Patrick formed his IndyCar team (with sponsorship from his oil company), which made its Indy debut in 1970 with Johnny Rutherford qualifying second. Patrick Racing raced for more than three decades, making its final Indy 500 start with Al Unser Jr. in 2004, finishing 17th.

Pat Patrick photo

Patrick also won two major-league championships with Johncock taking the United States Auto Club-sanctioned title in 1976 and Fittipaldi claiming the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) crown in ’89.

His team built Wildcat chassis, which were named after his successful drilling efforts at striking oil. Patrick Racing also produced some notable mechanics with George Bignotti running the team during the mid- to late 1970s and Jim McGee in the ‘80s.

Scott Pruett won twice for Patrick while driving for the team from 1995-98.

Patrick also had success with drivers Adrian Fernandez (who scored seven victories for Patrick Racing from 1998-2000) and Roberto Moreno (who won twice for Patrick in 2000-01). Fernandez and Moreno finished second and third behind champion Gil de Ferran in the 2000 CART points standings.

The last full season for Patrick’s team was in the 2003 CART Champ Car Series, finishing seventh in the points standings with Oriol Servia (who had two runner-up finishes among three podiums).

“Along with thousands of others from the racing community, I am saddened by the news of the passing of Pat Patrick,” racing legend Mario Andretti tweeted. “He had a great impact on our sport and on so many of us personally. My condolences to his family.”

Patrick is survived by three sons and a daughter.