Justice Brothers, an Indy 500 tradition that predates ‘Back Home Again’ song

Company celebrating its 75th year as Indianapolis race car sponsor

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Justice Brothers
The Justice Brothers 'JB' logo is on the nose cone of the car driven byDavey Hamilton at Indy in 2000 | Justice Brothers photos

It wasn’t until 1948 that they started singing Back Home Again in Indiana before the start of the Indianapolis 500. But it was two years earlier when the Justice Brothers made their debut at the Brickyard. And now, 75 years later, the manufacturer of lubricants, additives and cleaners is still a presence at the historic event.

In its 75th year of involvement at Indy, the company is a sponsor of the two cars entered by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, for drivers JR Hildebrand and Sage Karam, and the single entry of Meyer Shank Racing, for driver Jack Harvey.

The first Justice Brothers-sponsored Indy car was driven by Bayles Leverett in the 1949 500
Johnnie Parsons (left) and Freddie Agabashian in their Justice Brothers/Wynn-sponsored cars in 1950

Ed and Zeke Justice grew up in Kansas and built their first race car in the mid-1930s. They moved to California, one working in the aircraft industry, the other in a machine shop. After World War II, they worked at Kurtis-Kraft building race cars, then opened their own shop, doing car builds, modifications and repairing cars damaged on the track. 

In 1946, Zeke Justice was part of the team working on the Sparks-powered Adams racer that George Robson drove to victory in the Indy 500.

The brothers invested in oil production and met Chestein Wynn and, with older brother, Gus, moved to Florida to become regional distributors for Wynn’s Friction Proofing oil additive. Among their customers was Daytona Beach gas station owner Bill France. When France launched NASCAR, the brothers became the first multi-car sponsor, supporting such famed NASCAR pioneers as the Flock brothers, Lee Petty, Red Byron, Buck Baker, Curtis Turner and Fireball Roberts. 

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The brothers returned to California for a distributors’ meeting, realized it was home and decided to stay, buying the local distributorship — and taking it global.

Justice Brothers was a sponsor on the Kurtis-Offenhauser driven by Bayless Leverett in the 1949 500-mile race at Indianapolis and since then the company has supported the likes of  Johnnie Parsons, Freddie Agabashian, Jim Rathmann, the Granatelli brothers, Johnny Rutherford, A.J. Foyt, P.J. Jones, Andretti Autosport, Eddie Cheever, Steve Kinser, Buddy Rice, Buddy Lazier and Jeff Ward.

Ed Justice Jr. (left), his uncle Zeke and father Ed at Indy
Justice Brothers not only sponsors cars, but its products are used in the pits and garages

“The family involvement has taken on a wide range of forms through the years at the Brickyard, from building cars for the race to being on the pit crews to team sponsorship,” the company said in its news release. 

“This year, the tradition continues with Justice Brothers sponsoring the two-car entry of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as well as the single-car effort from Meyer Shank Racing.”

Justice Brothers were sponsors of Frank Kurtis’s Indy racing effort, including 1950 when Johnnie Parsons won the race. The company also worked with the Granatelli brothers when their cars were driven by Rathmann and supported car builder A.J. Watson when his cars won the 500 six times.

The Justice family logo was on the car when A.J. Foyt won for the fourth time in 1977 and drove in his 30th 500 a decade later. 

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More recently, the company has  been a sponsor for P.J. Jones, Townsend Bell, Sage Karam and J.R. Hildebrand at Indy.

It also has been involved in other forms of American motorsports, including off-road racing, sports car racing, and drag racing, including being the first to sponsor Don Garlits. It has sponsored winning cars in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and in Global Rally Cross.

Buddy Lazier in the JB-sponsored racer at Indy in 2002

“It is amazing to consider that the Justice Brothers name has been a part of this incredible race for 75 years,” said Ed Justice Jr., president and chief executive of Justice Brothers, Inc.

“We’ve been fortunate to have Justice Brothers factory teams win everywhere from Daytona to Pikes Peak, but Indianapolis is really something special, as we’ve been a part of it for so long. 

“We’ve done a little bit of everything at Indianapolis through the years, and it is impossible to say how much this race means to our company and to our family. We’re really excited for this year’s race even though it is being run under such different circumstances.” 

The 104th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for August 23, but because of the coronavirus pandemic will be raced without spectators in the grandstands.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I remember pushing Justice Brothers products when working at “filling stations” as a teen. I forget exactly what it was about but I remember there being a “coin” in the bottom of Justice Bros. cans that were redeemable for something because we would collect them. When I grew up (so to say) I became a lineman for the Phone Company and one of our service areas was Duarte Ca. I remember getting a trouble ticket at Justice Bros. and boy, what a nice guy he was ! And their little showroom was so nostalgic with all the cool old historical stuff. It was a Man Cave dream !! Anyway, thanks for the story Larry, this brought back some great memories

  2. When I was 8 or 9 I met Freddie Agabasian at Chessie Cummings house in Mill Valley CA just before the 1950 Indie Race. He had just won the NARC Sprint Car Championship and was signed by Cummings to drive the Cummings Diesel Special. Talk about a thrill ! I’m 79 now and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

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