Rolla Vollstedt, a long-time IndyCar team owner and entrant in the Indianapolis 500, passed away earlier this week in Portland, Oregon.
Vollstedt fielded entries in National Championship Car competition (what later became IndyCar) at dirt track events, beginning in the 1950s, before entering his first Indianapolis 500 in 1964. Using one of the first American-built rear-engine cars to have an Offenhauser engine powering it, Vollstedt’s driver Len Sutton qualified eighth and ran as high as fourth in that year’s “500” before mechanical gremlins sidelined the effort.
However, Vollstedt might be best known as the car owner who fielded an entry for Janet Guthrie, who became the first woman to try to qualify for the race in 1976. While persistent mechanical problems forced the team to withdraw their entry that year, they returned in 1977, with Guthrie making the field on the final day of qualifying.
Vollstedt became famous for being the first owner to file an entry for an upcoming Indy 500 every year, and his cars were often the first to take to the track when practice began every May.
Although his entries never won an IndyCar race, one of his cars did qualify second at Riverside, California in 1967 and even briefly led in the opening laps, with two-time Formula 1 world champion and Indy 500 winner Jim Clark at the helm.
Rolla Vollstedt was 99 years old at the time of his passing.