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Indy 500 veteran Mickey Rupp dies at 87

Mickey Rupp (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Mickey Rupp, who started the 1965 Indianapolis 500, died on Aug. 20 at the age of 87.

Rupp qualified 15th and finished sixth in the No. 81 G.C Murphy Gerhardt/Offy rear-engine car in 1965.

His sixth-place finish would likely have earned Rookie of the Year honors in just about any other running of the Indy 500, but the 1965 rookie class was extremely strong. Rookies Mario Andretti finished third and Gordon Johncock finished fifth, just ahead of Rupp. Other rookies in the race in 1965 included Al Unser and Joe Leonard.

Rupp only made five career INDYCAR SERIES starts in 1964 and 1965. He finished in the top 10 in three of those races though. His best result was a fifth-place finish at Milwaukee just a week after his sixth-place finish in the Indy 500.

Mickey Rupp was not only a race car driver though. He gained a lot of notoriety as a “recreational vehicle and sport fishing equipment entrepreneur,” according to a news release.

His responsibilities to his growing recreational vehicle empire pulled Rupp from his race car driver’s seat.

The following was included in the news release sent out by Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday:

“Rupp started building kart kits in his basement in the late 1950s and then began manufacturing his designs that included such innovations as step frames, improved braking systems and eventually four-wheel independent suspension. His Dart Karts immediately became very popular and were produced through the late 1960s, and his brother-in-law – legendary Indianapolis 500 chassis designer A.J. Watson – appeared in a magazine ad for the 1959 Dart Kart.

His company, Rupp Manufacturing (which was renamed Rupp Industries), also produced popular mini-bikes, snowmobiles, and off-road vehicles distinguishable by their performance and bright red color schemes.

Dart Kart also gained marketplace recognition due to racing sponsorships in the early 1960s, including a USAC sprint car owned by Watson and driven by A.J. Foyt in 1960 and the car that Don Davis drove in the 1961 Indianapolis 500.

Rupp Manufacturing reached new heights in 1963 and 1964 when its karts and minibikes were supplied to Sears, which successfully sold them through the company’s widely circulated Sears Catalog.

Rupp sold Rupp Industries in the late 1970s and turned his design and entrepreneurial skills to the water. An avid sport fisherman, Rupp designed and manufactured an outrigger system that also gained rapid popularity. Rupp Marine Inc. was formed in 1980 as demand grew for Rupp’s outrigger designs, and the company still produces sport fishing hardware sold globally from its base in Stuart, Florida.”