INDIANAPOLIS â€" Eddie Russo, the second-oldest living Indianapolis 500 driver, died Oct. 14. He was 86.
Russo had lived for the last few years of his life in a veteransâ€™ retirement home in King, Wis. He was tied with Chuck Weyant â€" the oldest living â€ś500â€ł starter â€" for having the earliest Indianapolis 500 start (1955) among living drivers.
The Chicago-born Russo, whose forte was midget car racing, passed his rookie driverâ€™s test at Indianapolis in 1954 and succeeded in qualifying for the â€ś500â€ł in 1955, 1957 and 1960 although he did not finish in any year. He also served as a relief driver in 1956.
A warrant officer in the U.S. Marines who spent 37 months in the South Pacific, Russo came from a racing family. His father was Joe Russo, who lost his life at Langhorne, Pa., less than two weeks after placing fifth in the 1934 â€ś500,â€ť while Paul Russo, of Novi fame, was an uncle.
Had rain not prematurely ended the final day of qualifying in 1956, Eddie Russo may have joined his uncle Paul in the lineup as a Novi driver. He was sitting in line with the second tail-finned V-8 supercharged monster when the weather intervened.
Eddie Russo made 21 National Championship starts between 1952 and the 1960 â€ś500,â€ť the latter event being the one which ended his career after an excursion into the outside wall in Turn 2 resulted in the loss of an eye. While never enjoying a top finish, he led the first four laps from the pole in 1955 at Du Quoin, Ill.
After his driving days were over, Russo couldnâ€™t stay away for long and resurfaced for a couple of seasons in the late 1960s as the owner of a USAC midget car.
No services were planned.