LOUIS MEYER (RING-FREE SPECIAL) WINS CLASSIC FOR THIRD TIME. PETROL RESTRICTIONS SLOW DOWN RACING AND GIVE TAME FINISHES
With the lifting of the ban on superchargers and the spending of some $100,000 on improvements to the track, it was generally expected that this year’s “Five-century Gasoline Derby” would be won at a record speed. However, what was not generally expected was that the winner would be someone who had received the chequered flag on two previous occasions. By piloting his “Ring-free Piston Special” across the line in 4 hrs. 35 nuns. 8 secs. at an average of 109.069 for the 500 miles, Louis Meyer, not only beat last year’s record speed of 106.24 but became the first three-time winner in the history of Indianapolis—his previous victories being in 1928 and 1983.
From the time the gates opened at 6.15 in the morning, spectators poured into the grounds, until eventually a record crowd estimated as varying from 165,000 to 180,000 was packed around the 23mile track—though one is apt to be rather dubious as to the whereabouts of such a large number I Old timers amongst the customers noticed at once great improvements carried out since last year’s race—all four corners resurfaced with concrete, retaining walls strengthened and heightened and a safety apron of dirt provided on the inside of the corners, to which drivers could take in cases of emergency—the latter an innovation which proved its worth a score of times during the course of the race. In order to keep the speed to a safe rate, and to counteract, as it were, these improvements, last year’s petrol limit was reduced even further to 373 gallons per car.
This certainly had the desired effect as at the end of the race most of the field slowed and the event developed more into an economy contest than a race against time. What it did not budget for however, was the addition .of a considerable number of words to the English language, coined by the drivers when they found their cars were doing less than the required 133 m.p.h. The usual musical comedy parade of a thousand bandsman over, various fireworks exploded and a flight of birds sent heavenwards, the cars were wheeled into their respective starting positions and the serious business of the day started. By virtue of qualifying at the highest speed of 119.6, Rex Mays held the pole position in the first row, alongside him being Babe Stapp and Chet Miller, who had qualified at 118.9 and 117.6 respectively, Behind them in ten more rows, positioned according to their qualifying speeds, glistened another thirty machines, some new, some old—mostly the latter—
and nearly all plastered with chromium plating and advertisements for commodities varying from piston rings and trailers to chewing gum. At 10 a.m. sharp, the pacemaking car, driven by Tommy Milton, old-timer and two-time winner, set off on its pacing lap, followed by the field of thirty-three— actually it was only thirty-two, as” Wild” Bill Cummings, unable to get his clutch to work properly, drew into the pits. In what seemed a very short space of time
a muffled roar and a clatter, such as only eighteen thousand clearances can make, heralded the approach of the pack, who crossed the starting line at approximately 70 m.p.h. Right from the start Rex Mays leapt into the lead—taking advantage of his pole position—and at 10 laps had set up a new record of 117.7 gaining an advantage of 11 seconds over the second man, Babe Stapp. On his next lap however, a stop at the pits to adjust a faulty throttle control let Stapp into the lead. In the meantime trouble had come the way of other drivers. Fred Frame, 1932 winner, retired with a broken spring on the fourth lap. The following lap Deacon Litz gave the crowd a thrill by hitting the wall on the south-west
turn and but for the track improvement would undoubtedly have gone for one of those little trips into the fields beyond. On the 13th lap Seymour retired with a slipping clutch.
At 20 laps Stapp still led, at the record speed of 116.1, with Wilbur Shaw a very close second and Chet Gardner third. For the next 20 laps the first two had a real dog-fight for the lead, until the 40th lap, when Shaw passed Stapp—who, incidentally was driving Shaw’s last year’s car— and went out in front, to stay there for the next 100 miles. Shaw’s speed at 40 laps was 115.7.
Casualties continued. Jimmy Snyder was out on the 20th lap with an oil pump which refused to produce any pressure. Both Ardinger and Chet Gardner retired on the 37th lap with clutch trouble.
The new dirt aprons had already proved their value, being used a number of times —notably on the 26th and 41st laps. In the first case Tomei and Williams had an argument as to the right of way in the south-west corner and both took to the dirt. In the other case, Stapp, finding himself approaching a traffic jam in the south-east corner at an unpleasantly high speed, in order to avoid a first-class pile-up, dived down on to the dirt and put in a few hectic moments, but managed to continue without hitting anything. Two laps later, Tomei ‘s engine came adrift, forcing him to retire and Frank McGurk got into a bad spin, when forced on to the dirt, continuing only to give up a little later with engine trouble.
By the 60th lap Shaw had increased his lead over Stapp to about half a lap and Caution worked his way into third position. A few laps later Matiri Rose, in his Four-Wheel-Drive Special, gave the crowd a thrill by trying to climb the retaining wall on the N.W. turn : a particularly fine piece of driving, however, brought the car back under control and Rose continued without damage. Next lap Billy Winn who was lying fourth, made ominous noises coming up the back stretch and stopped to retire with a broken crankshaft. Shaw still led at 80 laps— having earned some $1,800 in lap money—with Stapp,
despite a quick pit stop, hard on his tail. Ted Horn had come right through the field to displace Caution for third place. Shaw’s speed 114.5.
In the next few laps a big shake-up occurred. Shaw stopped for five minutes to fix his bonnet and scuttle cowling, loosened by internal wind pressure, caused by the new stream-lining on his car. Stapp moved into first place only to lose it almost immediately, when a broken rear axle forced him to retire on the 88th lap. Thus Louis Meyer, who had obviously been playing a waiting game, came right through from seventh position to the lead, with Hartz and Caution second and third respectively. These were the positions at 100 laps, the half-way mark.
1. Louis Meyer.
2. Ted Horn.
3. Shorty Caution.
4. Chet Miller.
5. Floyd Roberts.
6. Maur! Rose.
7. Al Miller.
8. Doe MacKenzie.
9. Ray Pixley.
10. Harry MacQuinn.
By now it was obvious that the faster cars were going to find it extremely difficult to regain their lost positions. Mays and Shaw were doing some very rapid motoring in the background, to make up for their pit stops, but the pace was so terrific and they had lost so much time, that they seemed unable to make any impression.
Deacon Litz and Cliff Bergere went out on the 108th and 115th laps respectively with engine trouble and Lou Moore, running out of fuel on the 116th had to push his car to the pits for further supplies —all of which led to a grand argument with the stewards, who penalized him one lap. On the 118th lap occurred the only accident of the day (surely a record). Al Miller, coming down the Home Straight, brought the crowd in the grandstands to their feet when a vital part of his steering broke. The machine immediately went out of control, spinning round as the front wheels spread. Hitting the inside guard-rail a terrific smack it came to a stop, with a piece of the rail sticking through its bonnet. The force of the impact hurled Miller out of the car, across the track, fracturing the upper part of his left leg. His mechanic remained in the car, unhurt. As it happened Miller lost a portion of this leg in a motorcycle accident several years ago, so this accident merely broke his “wooden leg.” Fortunately there were no other cars near at the time or a major crash might have resulted, as the home stretch
is one of the narrowest portions of the track.
Immediately the yellow lights came on, slowing the race to about 70 m.p.h. the drivers maintaining their positions, whilst the wrecked car was removed from the track.
There was no change in position amongst the leaders, until the 350th lap, when Meyer made a 43-second pit stop for fuel. 10 laps later he was back in the lead again, with Horn, driving a steady race, and Rose still second and third respectively. Mays and Shaw were still making frantic efforts to catch the leaders, but further pit stops delayed them more. Mays had managed to get back to sixth position, but Shaw was a long way behind. Kelly Petillo, last year’s winner, took over Doe lVfacKenzie’s car and by virtue of a standing lap of 116 m.p.h. and some
other fast motoring, moved up from ninth to sixth place.
About this time the fuel restriction began to have its effect. With one or two exceptions the cars were obviously slowing down to save their petrol, and the race lost a great deal of its interest. Meyer, in the lead slowed to about 95 m.p.h. The first unfortunate to run out was Frank Brisk° at the 179th lap. Floyd Roberts followed at 182 laps, Lou Moore at 185 and the bad hick that had dogged Mays all day finally overtook him, when he lay fifth, as he cruised into the pits with an empty tank, only nine laps short of his goal. Two laps later Shorty Caution, lying third and in a position to collect some good prize money-, exhausted his supply and was out of the race ; the same reason also eliminating Merril Williams a lap later. As a result of these eliminations, Rose moved back into third position and Petillo came up to fourth. In the meantime Meyer putting on a spurt, had crossed
the line to win at the record speed of 109.069, with his tank practically dry. Ted Horn was the next to receive the chequered flag, taking second place at 108.17 m.p.h., followed by Mauri Rose, third, and Kelly Petillo, fourth. However, owing to a mistake which occurred when the yellow lights were on, Rose had been credited with one lap too many and at the final re-check he was placed fourth, Petillo moving up to third position. Particularly unfortunate was poor Harry MacQuinn, who, with an old car and one obviously slower than the rest,
had managed to keep in the first ten for the last half of the race, only to run out of petrol within half a mile of the finish. Pushing not being allowed he was eliminated and unable to claim what would have been his just reward. We hope he was included in the consolation prizes.
The following is a list of the first ten across the line. ‘
1. Louis Meyer (Ring-Free Special) 109.069 m.p.h. $33,500.
2. Ted Horn (Hartz Special) 108.170 m.p.h. $13,825. 3. Doe MacKenzie (Gilmore Speedway Special) 107.460 m.p.h. $6,900.,
4. Maud (F.W.D. Special) 107.272 m.p.h. $4,000.
5. Chet Miller (Boyle Products Special) 106.910 m.p.h. $3,600.
6. Ray Pixley (Fink Auto Special) 105.253 m.p.h. $2,275.
7. Wilbur Shaw (Gilmore Special) 104.233 m.p.h $3,650.
8. George Barringer (Kennedy Tank Special) 102.630 m.p.h. $1,650.
9. Zeke Meyer (Boyle Products Special) 101.331 m.p.h. $1,550.
10. George Connor (Marks-Miller Special) 98.931 m.p.h. $1,425.