Henry Banks

Distinguished Service Citation Award 1978

A former Indianapolis driver and AAA National Driving Champion in 1950, Henry Banks became Vice President of USAC Properties and was closely connected with auto racing for over 40 years.

Born in England, his family moved to the United States when he was very young. Having settled in Royal Oak, Michigan, it was inevitable that he would take an interest in automobiles. In 1932, he took a job as a test driver for General Motors and began driving race cars the same year. In 1935, he resigned from General Motors in order to go into racing full time. In 1936, he entered the Indianapolis “500” for the first time but his qualifying time missed the starting lineup by two positions. Two years later he made the race for the first time and qualified for five more before his retirement in 1954. He drove in three others as a relief driver, his best finish overall being sixth in1951.

A list of consistent finishes and a win in the 100-mile race at Detroit, Michigan netted him the 1950 National Championship, nosing out Walt Faulkner and Johnnie Parsons. He also ranked second to Tony Bettenhausen in 1951.

During World War II, Banks worked for the Ford Motor Company, working his way up to Western Area Supervisor of the Field Service Department, Ford’s Aircraft Engine Division. He resigned this post to go racing again in 1946 but was rehired after his retirement from the sport in May 1954.

In January of 1959, he moved from Compton, California to Indianapolis to become USAC’s Director of Competition, a position he held until his appointment in 1970 as Director of Industrial Relations and Safety Certification. Under his leadership at USAC, he brought to the job an ability absolutely necessary – he could work with the people to make the racing organization strong. His tough-mindedness toward the preparation of cars has been credited with substantial improvements in competition safety.

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