USAC: Ronnie Gardner Realizing Lifelong Dream At Hoosier Hundred

RaceChaser Staff Featured, USAC 0 Comments

Ronnie Gardner will follow in his grandfather’s footsteps by racing in the Hoosier Hundred. (Mike Grosswendt photo)

INDIANAPOLIS — Half a century ago, Ronnie Duman was a mainstay on the USAC National Championship trail and the annual running of the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

The five-time Indianapolis 500 starter, who was twice a winner of the Little 500 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway, made five starts of his own at the Hoosier Hundred between 1962 and 1967, including a stint as a relief driver for George Snider in the J.C. Agajanian-owned No. 98 during the 1965 race.

Half a century later, there’s another accomplished racer who shares the same first name and arrives from the same bloodlines as Duman.

Corona, California’s Ronnie Gardner, the four-time and defending USAC Western States Midget champion, is set to make his USAC Silver Crown debut Thursday night in the 63rd running of the Hoosier Hundred.

Ronnie never met his famous grandfather, who was killed in a racing accident at the Milwaukee Mile in the 1968 Rex Mays Classic, but the 29-year old is well aware of his legacy.

“I know quite a bit,” Gardner said. “My uncle and mom told me many stories when I was growing up and I’ve researched some to learn more. Then, you meet people along the way who knew him and they tell me a story or two. It’s pretty neat.”

Despite intentions of making his Silver Crown debut at the Indy Mile, this won’t be Ronnie’s first appearance at the Hoosier Hundred. His uncle Jack Gardner was a very successful SCRA sprint car and USAC Silver Crown team owner based on the West Coast.

In 1997, the Gardner team migrated to the Midwest for the summer and the Gardner-owned Sprint Car won its first USAC National Sprint Car race with Bill Rose at Paragon (Ind.) Speedway. Meanwhile, the team’s Silver Crown car finished fourth at the Hulman/Hoosier Hundred that May with Cory Kruseman at the wheel.

Sitting underneath the covered grandstands that day was nine-year-old Ronnie Gardner. Though known primarily as a West Coast guy, Ronnie spent much of his childhood in Speedway, just about 15 minutes down the road from the Indiana State Fairgrounds mile and a stone’s throw away from the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I was born in California, but I moved to Indy when I was four,” Ronnie explained. “I lived in Speedway until I was ten, then I moved back to California. My Grandma owns two houses on Georgetown Road in Speedway. I think there are a few that are still standing. You could throw a rock from her porch and hit the turn four entrance gate.”

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