A RECORD INDIANAPOLIS SOME DETAILS OF AMERICA’S CLASSIC ” 500 “
There is something unusually attractive about a ,race which carries on, year after year, with the same track and distance. The Indianapolis 590-mile race, for example, has an almost legendary character, and it must now have the longest unaltered history of any of the present big races.
Actually, the surface of the track was greatly improved this year by the addition of a ” carpet” of rock asphalt over the bricks On the corners. Even towards the end of the race, when a Certain amount of oil was noticeable on. the ” groove ” taken by most of the cars, there was little tendency for them to skid.
Practice times revealed that the race would be run at a record speed. The regulations limiting the amount of fuel for each car had this year given way to a simple rule that only petrol obtainable from the ordinary pump should be used. Compression ratios came down with a thump from 10 to 7 to 1, but consumptions went up—and so did speeds. Most startling of all Was the phenomenal lap at 128.57 m.p.h. accomplished by Jimmy Schneider (described as the Chicago Milkman). The general high speeds took their toll of the less experienced drivers, and two serious crashes occurred. Prank McGuirk got into trOuble with his Be] angerMiller Special and crashed badly, killing
his mechanic, Albert Opalko. Then Overton Phillips had a sensational pileup in front of the stands. The cause was supposed to be a broken crankshaft, which probably started the trouble which followed. At any rate the car skidded wildly, crashed into the pits, where a number of people were standing, and burst into ‘flames.
After a week of practice came the first qualifying day, and the best average for the requisite 10 laps was the 123.525 m.p.h. clocked by Bill Cummings—thus giving a foretaste of the high speeds to be recorded throughout the race. The second fastest man was Wilbur Shaw, with a speed of 122.751 m.p.h. A handful of others qualified at over 116 m.p.h., which is extremely good going at Indianapolis.
On the second day the fastest man was George Connor, the Californian driver, who did 10 laps with his Marks-Miller Special at 120.062 mph. Other well known men to qualify were Billy Winn (four-cylinder Miller), Louis Meyer ( BoyleValve Special), Lee Oldfield (sixteencylinder Marmon, independently sprung), Rex Mays ( Bowes Seal Alfa-Romeo left behind by Ferrari after the Vanderbilt Race), and Babe Stapp (Topping Special Maserati).
The story of the race is well known. Terrific heat made conditions extremely arduous for the drivers and cars, and many retirements were due to this cause. Tyre trouble was frequent, as well as lubrication failures. As usual, the leaders at the start soon faded away, Jimmy Snyder with sheared transmission and Herb Ardinger with broken steering, which caused the car to crash. Snyder had taken over this car, but he was unhurt.
Meanwhile Wilbur Shaw, the ultimate winner, had been worried by an unduly low oil-pressure, but as nothing untoward seemed to happen, he opened up and forged ahead to join the leaders. Prom then on a terrific battle was fought between Shaw, Ralph Hepburn, Louis Meyer, Ted Horn and others, the lead changing hands frequently. The heat and the pace were gruelling, and several drivers complained of exhaustion. Floyd Davis got into a typical Indianapolis spin, and careered back
wards off the track. Both he and his mechanic, Dee Toran, were badly hurt about the head, Ralph Hepburn had to stop and hand over to his relief driver for a spell, but he was soon back at the wheel.
And so it went On until the very end, with Shaw and Hepburn bringing the crowd to its feet with the excitement of the last lap duel. Shaw just managed to stave off his rival, and scraped over the line with a 2.16 seconds advantage after 500 miles !
Both averaged over 113 m.p.h., thereby easily breaking the previous record of 109 m.p.h. So fast was the race, in fact, that the third and fourth men also exceeded the old record.
The race was a triumph for Offenhauser, the engine designer and constructor. Shaw’s winning car, of which the chassis was designed by the driver, had an Offenha user four-cylinder power-unit, as did Wild Bill Cummings’s car which made the fastest qualifying 10 lap dash.
1. Wilbur Shaw (Oficnhanser (iihnore Special), 113.48 m.p.h. 2. R. Hepburn (Hamilton Harris Special), 113.56:t
3. Tod Horn (Miller-Bartz Special) 112.07 m.p.h.
4. Louis Meyer ( BoyleVttive Special), 110.73 m.p.h. 5. Cliff Bergere (Midw,:t -Lion Special), 108.9
6.. Bill Cummings (BoyleNalve Special), 107.1 m.p.h. t. Billy Devote (Offenhauser Special) 106.9 S. Tony 0ttlotta (Burd Piston Ring Special) 10.7, P. (Namur (Narks-Miller Special), 103.A
h), I,ntis Tomei 101.8 in,p.h.