Gordon Johncock

Gordon Johncock, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, was honored Monday in front of family, friends and former team members with a “Baby Borg” trophy to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his first victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 1973.

The trip brought together everyone from across country as kids, grandkids and great-grandkids celebrated the man known as “Gordy,” or “Grandpa Gordy” as he is more affectionally referred to by his loved ones these days. All were appropriately dressed in traditional red flannel shirts, which Johncock continues wearing these days while working in his lumber yard in his native Michigan.

Johncock, 86, maintained his quiet persona as everyone gathered for photos with him around his 1982 Indy 500-winning car, which bested Rick Mears by a narrow .16 of a second, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. A bus tour out on track to the Yard of Bricks happened afterward, and “Grandpa Gordy” delivered three words to the driver that brought a brief silence within the bus:

“Stand on it!”

The bus driver had his chance. After stopping for more photos and sharing stories at the famous start-finish line, everyone returned to the bus only to find Johncock had snuck away and already strapped into the driver’s seat. The regular bus driver was forced to take a back seat as the entire Johncock family was given a proper lap around 2.5-mile superspeedway, courtesy of one of only 20 multi-time Indy 500 winners.

Johncock drove the high line through Turns 1 and 2 before settling into the racing line of Turns 3 and 4, resisting the temptation to pass the bus ahead that was also providing a tour. A boisterous roar followed from his family as Johncock brought the drive to an end in front of the IMS Museum.

Then less than two hours later came the official moment, which saw Johncock presented with his very own “Baby Borg” – a smaller replica of the Borg-Warner Trophy – at Binkley’s Kitchen and Bar in Indianapolis.

“I've done most of my talking with a steering wheel,” Johncock said, holding the trophy, which he later admitted might require the construction of a new shelf.

Johncock’s wife, Sue, also received a lovely bouquet, courtesy of BorgWarner’s Steve Shunck.

Michelle Collins, global director of marketing and public relations at BorgWarner, was relishing the joy seen throughout the family, some of whom were too young to ever see “Grandpa Gordy” be one of the toughest drivers on the racetrack.

"BorgWarner is incredibly proud to honor Gordon Johncock with a retro Baby Borg to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his 1973 Indianapolis 500 win,” Collins said. “Gordon not only won Indy in 1973 but also in 1982, topping Rick Mears in one of the most thrilling, memorable finishes in racing history to join an elite club of two-time winners at Indianapolis.

“With 24 starts at Indy, Gordon's name is near the top of every category in the IMS history books. He's remembered on the track as a fierce competitor and hard charger that never backed down and who raced his fellow drivers clean and fair. Always a fan favorite, congratulations, Gordon, everyone at BorgWarner and in the racing community thank you for all you've done for the Indy 500 and motorsports."

George Huening, who was the chief mechanic for Johncock’s second “500” victory, was among the many former team members in attendance. Fittingly, there was an opportunity for them to also relish some time together and recapture some memories while making a new one.

“We got together Sunday, and it was mostly the crew guys,” Huening said. “It wasn't this big crowd of family, friends, and press, just for breakfast (at Charlie Brown’s restaurant in Speedway, Indiana). And we went over to the Speedway, and it was one of the most enjoyable days of my recent life.

“This this whole thing that Steve and BorgWarner put together, it's truly amazing. I would have never guessed that I’d get this emotional, be honest with you. A lot of years, a lot of stories, a lot of fun, a lot of work, a lot heartache; just all of those different emotions were wrapped up in that one industry, and being able to work with Gordy for so many years was priceless.”

Although Johncock is usually a man of few words, he delivered the most poignant remarks of the day and what it truly meant to him.

“This was very nice, a nice honor,” Johncock said. “What a pretty trophy. Thanks to Michelle and Steve for my Baby Borg. A fun day with so many people here. My family coming here to Indy from all over the United States, from the West Coast to the East Coast, California to Vermont; it was special to have everyone be part of the day.

“And thanks to all my old crew members. It takes a whole team to win at Indy or any race and they were right by my side for all those years, and I’m happy to see them, too. It takes a lot of luck to win Indy, it’s the hardest and greatest race to win in the world.

“It’s good to be back in Indianapolis and see everyone and have fun today and tell stories and share the good time again. I’ll remember it forever.”