Joe Leonard, a 3-time AMA Grand National champion, 1932-2017

Joe Leonard passed away on April 27, 2017Joe Leonard passed away on April 27, 2017 in a San Jose, California, nursing home at the age of 84. A three-time AMA Grand National champion, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1991 and in 1998 he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

Leonard’s racing accomplishments were extremely rare, as the San Diego native won national championships on both two and four wheels.

He drove for Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones and earned the respect of anyone who raced against him or watched him race.

Leonard made an impressive transition from motorcycles to Indy cars that dazzled those three open-wheel legends.

“I can’t think of anyone who was any better,” said Dan Gurney, who gave Leonard his initial ride at Indianapolis in 1965. “I mean he was on the Super Team and beat Big Al [Unser] and Mario [Andretti] over and over, so that should tell you something.”

Joe Leonard passed away on April 27, 2017

Joe Leonard passed away on April 27, 2017

AMA. Grand National Championship Series in 1954, its inaugural year, and won it again in 1956 and 1957. His record totals 27 wins, including the 1957 and 1958 Daytona 200. He also resulted vice-champio, runner-up, in 1958, 1960 and 1961, third in 1955, and fifth in 1959.

Leonard retired from two-wheel racing at the end of the 1961 season and turned his attention to car racing, winning the USAC Champ Car series in 1971 and ’72.

Leonard made nine consecutive starts in the Indianapolis 500 between 1965 and ’73, finishing third in both ’67 and ’72. But it was arguably his ’68 performance for which he’ll best be remembered at the Speedway. In the Lotus 56 turbine, with which he’d taken pole position, he suffered a fate similarly cruel to Parnelli Jones in the original STP Paxton turbine car a year earlier, the Lotus grinding to a halt while Leonard was leading with fewer than 10 laps to go.

Leonard won six USAC National Championship Indy car races during his career, including three at Milwaukee and one at Michigan International Speedway, plus the second running of the Ontario (California) 500 in 1971 and the second running of the Pocono (Pennsylvania) 500 in 1972.

He also finished in third place at Indy in 1969 and 1972. After suffering crippling leg and ankle injuries at Ontario in the spring of 1974 and being unable to pass the physical for a comeback, he retired in 1975.

Leonard’s passing closely follows the death of another motorsports legend, John Surtees, who was the only racer to have won world championships on motorcycles and cars.

Latest Industry News

Builder Profile: George Stinsman of Chaos Cycle

George Stinsman is a well known face in the industry, always having a passion for taking things apart and rebuilding them even as a small child. After working for Unique Performance restoring some of the most beautiful muscle cars in the country, modifying and building all kinds of motorcycles for over a decade, he set […]

Builder Profile: Jeremy Cupp wins FreeStyle @ 2017 Ultimate Builder DC

Jeremy Cupp took 2nd in New York before the holiday break and then motored into the 1st at the Washington DC edition of the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike show. He beat all comers in FreeStyle with his custom Sportster called LC Speedster. The Grottoes, Virginia native took the National Championship last year and […]

Builder Profile: Pat Patterson of LED SLED

If you watch any biker television then you probably seen this cat – Pat Patterson – Pat showcased his bike on Discovery Channel Biker Build-Off Sportster debuting on TV June 2014. And a killer bike it was. Pat Patterson has risen to the top of the customer motorcycle world with his skills and eye for […]

Builder Profile: Ross Latimer wins 2017 Ultimate Builder DC

Rats Customs’ Ross Latimer took the win in DC Ross Latimer’s personal bike is a 2002 Harley-Davidson Sportster named Rats Hot Wheels and it took 1st place in MOD Harley. It features a Layer Custom Candy teal/ Hot Wheels paint scheme with a 1250cc Hammer Performance motor that makes 110+ HP.

Charlie Horse Dialogue – Episode 2 – 4

Charlie Horse Dialogues We like these episodes… but we don’t know how long they will last. So check them out now. Pound for pound the Smokeout Rally may be North Carolina’s most entertaining event. A weekend celebration of custom choppers, music, art & style lead the way, but what makes it unique are the people. […]

More Posts from this Category

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On Facebook