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Roger Rager, 1948-2022

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Roger Rager 1980 Indy 500 competitor dies age 73 on February 16, 2022
Roger Rager, who started 10th in the 1980 Indianapolis 500, dies at the age of 73. Image courtesy of IMS Photo.

Roger Rager, who competed in the 1980 Indianapolis 500, passed away on Feb. 16 at the age of 73.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway sent out a tweet honoring Rager.

The Nebraska native began racing in 1968, making his mark in the 1970s with numerous sprint car victories. In 1978, he ventured to Indianapolis with his small, low-budget team for a shot at participating in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. He finally qualified for his only Indianapolis 500 in 1980, with his three-year-old Wildcat chassis featuring a stock Chevrolet engine block he found in a junkyard that once powered a school bus.

He started 10th in the race, highest among a rookie class that also featured the likes of Gordon Smiley and Tim Richmond. He shared Row Four with Jim McElreath and A.J. Foyt. Rager led two laps during a sequence of pit stops on Lap 16 and 17. On Lap 55, he crashed out of the race while trying to avoid the spinning car of McElreath. Rager finished 23rd.

Following his only start in the Indy 500, Rager returned to sprint car racing and became the only driver to win a feature at Knoxville Raceway in five decades (1960s-2000s). He was a three-time winner of the Masters Classic event at Knoxville for drivers over the age of 50.

Rager, who retired from driving in 2009, was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame the same year. He was also inducted into the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame, Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame and the Big Car Racing Association (BCRA) Hall of Fame.

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