The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Fatalities - May 14, 1966

Chuck Rodee - driver
(real name: Charles J. Rodeghier)

Chuck Rodee

Chuck had been coming out to the Speedway for years, he only lived a mile away, but he was originally from Chicago. While Chuck had tried to qualify for the race since 1959, he only managed to get in twice. He qualified 21st in 1962. On lap 14, he crashed into the NW wall to avoid an accident with Christie, Crowe and Turner. Chuck finished 32nd.

Rodee miraculously escaped injury in 1964 when he slid 1446 feet on the homestretch in practice after his right rear tire blew. A few days later his engine blew up and left him without a ride.

Rodee qualified in 30th position for the 1965 Indy 500. He had gear trouble and finished in 28th place.

Rodee in 65">
Chuck Rodee - May 1965

Chuck came back in 1966 with the unlucky and out-of-date non-supercharged Offenhauser. It was the only car Roger Ward ever failed to qualify for the race (last year in '65) and the same car that Rutherford spun into the pits with at Trenton, injuring two people. But surprisingly, Chuck got the old Offy up to speed with the competition (159.9 mph).

On the first day of qualifying, records fall with Mario Andretti recording a four lap average of 165.899 mph to win the pole. Jim Clark waves off a run of more than 164 mph in a daring attempt to top Andretti. Clark settles for 164.144 late in the day to line up second.

When Rodee came out to qualify, he was on his second warmup lap, when the nose of the car dipped into the infield on the sw turn. What appeared to be a slow spin into the grass suddenly changed into a fatal crash as the car suddenly headed 450 feet into the outside wall - tail first. Bounding another 100 feet it finally stopped on the track, after driving the metal starting shaft 5 inches into the concrete wall. Rodee told car owner Bob Wilke that a rag flew across his face. A piece of felt did come off the car, but chief mechanic Grant King did not think it caused the accident. Rodee may have pinced the turn too tightly, going in too low. In correcting for a skid, the car spun backwards. The entire rear end of the car was demolished, the chassis bent and twisted like cardboard.

Rodee was semi-conscious when removed from the car and died within 2 hours at Methodist hospital - the third driver to die during a qualifying attempt, the last time being Stubblefield in 1937. Rodee suffered multiple internal injuries, dying of a ruptured artery to his heart. Chuck's parents and his wife, Janet were watching in the stands as he tried to qualify that day. His sons, Chuck, Rickie and TJ, and his daughter, Julie, were not present.

Chuck Rodee was especially well known in midget racing. He had won the first two midget events in the '66 season and was leading in point standing. In 1965 he won 6 midget features finishing 3rd in points. He also drove to a 5th place finish in the 250-mile Atlanta race that year. In 1961 he was 4th in national midget racing standings, 3rd in 1955 and 2nd in 1956. He broke his arm in 1958 and doctors said he would never race again. A year later he passed his Speedway driver's test.

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