Joe Leonard

August 4, 1932 - April 27, 2017

Joe Leonard, the only driver to win back-to-back national championships in both the American Motorcyclist Association and Indy cars, died on April 27 in San Jose, California, at the age of 84.

In his career, he won 27 national AMA races and six Indy-car races. He raced Indy cars under the USAC banner from 1964-74. He won the national Indy-car championship in both 1971 and 1972 for car owner Vel Miletich. In '71, he drove a Colt Ford to the title, and in '72 it was a Parnelli Offenhauser.

Leonard won AMA national championships in 1954, '56 and '57.

He set a then track record and won the pole at the 1968 Indianapolis 500 (171.599 mph) driving a turbine car for Parnelli Jones Racing. He led for 31 laps and was out front when a fuel shaft broke in his car nine laps short of the checkered flag. Bobby Unser won the race, while Leonard wound up finishing 12th.

Leonard finished an Indianapolis 500 career-best third in 1967 and '72.

Leonard also started one NASCAR Cup Series race, finishing 31st in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona for Smokey Yunick and Ford in 1969.

Mario Andretti was a teammate of Leonard's, along with Al Unser, in 1972.

"Joe, what a great guy," Andretti said for a story published in USA Today. "We had a lot of fun together. ... That guy, he used to work hard and play hard with me and Al. The three of us just enjoyed the time that we had."

AMA and USAC champion, Joe was equally fast on two wheels as we was on four. Joe gained the AMA Championships in 1954, 1956, 1957.  Greater glory awaited as Leonard reached top of the Indy Car world in convincing style by winning consecutive USAC national season titles in 1971 and 1972.  He was a good friend and rider of JC Agajanian.  "That Agajanians Loved Joe, and will continue to past his passing." -

                                                                                                                                            Chris Agajanian