Saturday, August 5, 2017

In Memory Of Jim Crawford

February 13, 1948 - August 6, 2002
Jim Crawford 
(Photo credit: gillfoto via photopin cc)
Born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland
Jims first motorsport experience came behind the wheel of a Mini that he drove in several rallies. After an unsuccessful stint in Formula Ford he landed a drive with a friends Formula Atlantic team, after showing great promise in a couple of Formula Libre races at Croft. He went on to spend a number of years driving alongside Stephen Choularton at SDC Racing in Formula Atlantic and was spotted by Lotus Cars and offered a test drive by them. 

 Crawford participated in two World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on July 19, 1975 at the British Grand Prix. He was also the winner of the 1982 British Formula One Championship. He is notable for being the 500th person to start a Formula One World Championship race.

Jim moved to the USA in the early 1980s, finishing runner-up twice in the Can Am series. In 1983 he finish behind the Canadian Tire team of Jacques Villeneuve, and was runner up to Michael Roe of Ireland in 1984, a year when Roe and the strong Walker/Norwood team from Dallas dominated the series, winning 7 of the 10 rounds, setting a series record for wins in a season as well as poles in a season, taking the pole in all 10 rounds.

 He finished fourth on his CART debut at Long Beach in 1984 and went on to become a regular in the Indianapolis 500. It was there in 1987 that Crawford suffered a huge crash in practice which resulted in devastating leg injuries.

Incredibly he returned to the 500 in 1988, Crawford's most notable run at Indy. After nearly a year of rehabilitation from leg and foot injuries, he signed with King Racing as a teammate to Johnny Rutherford, driving a Buick entry. He was a last-minute addition to the team, joining just prior to opening day. He made little headlines during time trials, quietly making the field late on the second day. He was still recovering from his leg injuries, and walked the month with the aid of a cane. On race day, however, Crawford created quite a stir. The race was dominated by the Penske Team, however, Crawford was in contention all afternoon, and was the only driver other than the Penske cars to lead laps during the race. Crawford took the lead near the midpoint, and led 8 laps. He drove a highly aggressive race, dicing in and out of traffic at will, and frequently dropping well below the white lines in the turns. Crawford set a blistering pace during his stint in the lead, and was running second as late as lap 194. With six laps to go, he got sideways in turn three, and flat-spotted his tires. He ducked into the pits for new tires, but the crew had difficulties, and he lost several seconds. He lost a lap, and finished 6th. It was the highest finish at the time for the Buick V-6 Indy engine, and Crawford was praised for his strong effort.

Crawford returned to Indy in 1989 with high expectations after his 1988 performance. He qualified 4th, the highest of the non-Chevrolet teams, but dropped out with mechanical problems on race day. In 1990, Crawford joined the Menard team, and during practice, suffered a spectacular crash. He spun and hit the wall in turn one, then became airborne 10–15 feet above the ground in the south short chute. He was not seriously injured. He finished 15th on race day.

Crawford's final notable appearance at Indy was in 1992. Crawford re-joined the King Racing team, as a teammate to Roberto Guerrero driving once again the Buick V6 engine. Crawford and Guerrero led the speed charts all through practice, with Crawford setting an all-time unofficial track record of 233.433 mph. Both drivers were heavy favorites for the pole position, but on the morning of pole day, Crawford blew an engine. Rain pushed time trials into the next day, which gave the team time to install a new engine. However, on the second day, he blew another engine, and wound up missing his opportunity to qualify during the pole round. He qualified 6th fastest, but as a second day qualifier, lined up 21st. On race day, he was a factor early, but crashed out on lap 75 collecting Rick Mears.

Crawford's final 500 was in 1993, although he made unsuccessful attempts to qualify old cars in 1994 and 1985, and retired from driving.

After retirement from racing, Crawford lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he bought a fishing boat he used for charters. On August 6, 2002, Jim died of liver failure, in Tierra Verde, Florida. He was survived by his second wife Annie and his children from his first marriage, Geoffrey and Emily.

 I first became acquainted with Jim in 1984, while I was a member of Horst Kroll's Can-Am team. While on the track, Jim was always ready for battle, off the track and around the paddock, I got to know a man that was easily approachable and always ready to share a laugh or two. On this day in 2002, motorsport not only lost a true competitor, but the world also lost a great person. I thank the world of auto racing for so many great memories and the opportunity to compete and get to know individuals like Jim. Through this site I hope to keep the memories of people like Jim Crawford alive. If you have any personal stories or photo's of Jim, or other notable drivers, and would like to share, please forward to; canadianautoracing@hotmail.com or message me at Canadian Auto Racing on Facebook.

The following  message and photo's submitted by Dave Hutson of David Hutson Photography.
Jim was one of my best friends during his CART racing career. An great but underrated driver, one who showed spectacular car control, aggression and patience in his finishes. Not many people know how close he came to winning 1987 Indy 500. His two consecutive drives to 4th place at the Long Beach Grand Prix were the stuff of legend, piloting two older chassis, he was fast and consistent. Just look at the cars he out qualified !  Following his accident he was in constant and strong pain and the liver failure is, I suspect, a result of the many medications he used to simply get through the day. Sad day for all when he died.


(Photo credit: ©David Hutson)


(Photo credit: ©David Hutson)

(Photo credit: ©David Hutson)

(Photo credit: ©David Hutson)

(Photo credit: ©David Hutson)
                                                                               
DAVID HUTSON
hutsondavid@sbcglobal.net

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I remember watching him at Indy, I always thoughtthere was something special about him now I know there was.
    RIP Jim

    ReplyDelete