Few Indycar careers have started so successfully and yet been so brief. Bob Carey was National Champion in his rookie year but died before the defence of that title could begin.
He was working for General Motors when he first competed in regional events as a 17-year-old. Little-known outside the Midwest, Carey decided to join the flourishing Californian circuit late in 1931, racing at the legendary Ascot Speedway in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena.
National Champion at the only attempt
He soon raced sprint cars and won feature races at El Centro and Oakland. It was Louis Meyer who gave Carey his Indycar debut in the 1932 Indianapolis 500. He qualified Meyer’s Stevens-Miller 14th and climbed through the field to lead for 36 laps before half distance. Chances of victory were thwarted by a puncture and subsequent spin. Carey rejoined after a lengthy pitstop to finish in an impressive fourth nonetheless.
Victories in rain-affected 100-mile races at Detroit and Syracuse proved Carey’s form was no fluke and he entered the last round at Oakland trailing just Fred Frame in the points. He finished that race in second position and so clinched the title at the first attempt – it had been some season.
Tragedy at Ascot
He entered 1933 as a favourite to repeat that success but it was not to be. Practising for the Easter Sweepstakes at Ascot before the Indycar season started, Carey crashed in Turn 3 when his throttle apparently stuck open. He was killed instantly to end a dramatic but short career. His six Indycar races yielded one championship, two victories and one pole position. It was some record.