Chuck Hulse, a four-time Indianapolis 500 starter who also excelled on dirt tracks throughout his career, died Monday, July 13. He was 92.
Southern California native Hulse started the Indianapolis 500 in 1962, 1963, 1966 and 1967. His best finish was seventh in his final start, in 1967 in the No. 8 Hopkins Lola-Offy. His best start was eighth in 1966 in the No. 12 Wynn’s Watson-Ford.
Hulse was one of just 11 drivers to record a top-10 finish in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in both a front- and rear-engine car. Besides the career-best seventh in a rear-engine car in 1967, Hulse also placed eighth in 1963 in the front-engine No. 10 Dean Van Lines Ewing-Offy.
With Hulse’s passing, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones and Gordon Johncock remain the only living drivers with top-10 finishes in cars with front and rear engines.
Hulse earned a starting spot at Indianapolis after a stellar career on the West Coast against stalwarts such as Jones and Jim Hurtubise. Hulse won the California Racing Association (CRA) sprint car championship in 1959 and then took on the USAC National Championship and Sprint Car trail.
His best year perhaps came in 1963. Hulse finished a career-best seventh in the USAC National Championship, including an eighth-place finish at Indy, and placed fourth in the USAC National Sprint Car standings.
Hulse’s forte was racing on dirt. Both of his career-best runner-up finishes in USAC National Championship races came on dirt, in the 100-mile season finale in 1963 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix and in the 100-miler in 1966 at Sacramento, California. Hulse recorded 11 top-five finishes during his USAC National Championship career.
An accident in a USAC Sprint Car race in early May 1964 at New Bremen, Ohio, forced Hulse to the sidelines for an extended duration due to a serious eye injury. That opened the door at the powerful Dean Van Lines team for a young rookie to step in for Hulse in 1964 – Mario Andretti, who went on to win the 1965 USAC Championship with tuning from legendary mechanic Clint Brawner.
Hulse was known as an articulate speaker, with a resonant voice, during an era in which many drivers were competitors of few words. He used that eloquence and intelligence to guide many rookie drivers around Indianapolis and other tracks.
The personable Hulse also was a bit of a showman, stepping forward and giving a big wave and a smile during driver introductions at tracks across the country.