#TBT: Wally Dallenbach’s green Sprite car

Published On October 15, 2015 » 3198 Views» By John Schwarb » #TBT, Blogs, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500

Green isn’t a taboo color at racetracks – note the green flags, the old green folding chairs in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway penthouses and cold, hard green cash that drivers used to be paid back in the day.

Then why are green cars so rare?


Racing has its share of superstitions, with one being that cars should not be green. IMS historian Donald Davidson said that could date to before World War I, when a bad crash in a race at the New York State Fairgrounds included a green car. Another theory was that green cars were hard to pick out against foliage around racetracks at old county fairs. Maybe you’ve heard some theories too.

In the Indianapolis 500, there haven’t been too many green cars. Jimmy Jackson, a five-time starter from 1946-50, first arrived at the Speedway in ’46 in a Kelly green car – plus a green uniform, helmet and gloves. His crew wore green too. But Jackson had a hometown connection, he attended Indianapolis’ Tech High School, whose colors were green.

Of course, the British invasion of the mid-1960s featured green cars, with the most iconic being Jim Clark’s 1965 winner. No bad mojo there for a car that was the first to run the race at a 150 mph clip.

The next significant greens? The Sprite-sponsored cars of 1969-71. At first the cars were primarily white with accents that included green – like the old Sprite cans themselves – but in 1971 the look was all green, as shown here with Wally Dallenbach.

Alas, none of the Sprite cars finished in contention (the best was ninth by Roger McCluskey in 1971), so who knows? Maybe there was something about their green.


About The Author

John Schwarb

I joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway communications team in July 2014 and love sharing stories from the World Capital of Racing, particularly its rich history. Most of my professional career has been in racing or golf, so if I'm not in the IMS media center, the office at 16th and Georgetown or milling around Gasoline Alley, maybe I'll be standing over a birdie putt at Brickyard Crossing. Follow us at @IMS or drop me a line at @JohnSchwarb and come back to the blog often for more stories.

In addition to Clark's winning car, Gaston Chevrolet drove a green car to victory in 1920.  And Jimmy Jackson finished second in '46, so he didn't fare so badly either.